7th Issue: Innovation // Challenge 1

Design Thinking

“It’s not ‘us versus them’ or even ‘us on behalf of them.’ For a design thinker it has to be ‘us with them’.“
— Tim Brown

Innovation means something new and often complex — it can be quite overwhelming. But in our constantly changing world, companies need to be innovative to stay ahead of this change and secure their place in the market. However, innovation often fails due to the people’s natural resistance to and fear of change. Therefore, innovation needs a systematic approach and a planned process. This is not the easiest thing to do, but there are techniques that help to create innovation systematically.

Basics of Design Thinking

The basics of design thinking are bringing interdisciplinary teams together for creating innovations. In this approach, different opinions and perspectives are combined.

According to design thinking guidelines, innovation is constituted of Desirability, Feasibility and Profitability.
 The starting point is analyzing the needs of the target group. Ideas should be connected and tested from early on. They don’t have to be planned in detail — it’s more important to collect insights and experiment.

The People
The goal is to create an interdisciplinary team — this enables to see beyond the limits of just one discipline. It’s recommended to involve people in the process that have a so called T-Profile:

  • The horizontal bar of the „T“ depicts interest in other people, the environment and other disciplines.
  • The vertical bar of the „T“ represents specialization and expert knowledge.

The Place
The workspace is a large influence to the company’s innovation. The best place for creative ideas is an informal and flexible working environment. To realize this, there are many things you could do. Here are some examples:

  • Have a space that is only used to create innovation.
  • Get inspired by successful innovative companies.
  • Establish an open door structure.
  • Have your interior designed in a creative way. For example, the interior could be used freely to visualize thoughts or colorful elements could be placed in the room.

The Process
The process of design thinking has 6 stages and is characterized by room for making mistakes. Design thinking requires creative and sometimes abstract ideas — this can only be done if mistakes are tolerated.

  1. Understand
    To promote understanding of the field, team members should become experts and have insights into one another’s work.
  2. Observe
    In this step, the target group is observed and questioned to get to know them and their needs. It is important to leave the office and really get an idea of the environment of the target group.
  3. Point-of-view
    The collected information will be combined. With the help of „storytelling“ team members exchange insights and experiences to build one overall picture, This involves visualizations to identify patterns. The goal of this step is to create a common state of knowledge.
  4. Ideate
    The idea generation begins — every creative technique can be used. You want to collect as many ideas as possible that can later on be structured and summarized. The ideas will be measured according to their desirability, feasibility and profitability.
  5. Prototype
    The chosen ideas are now tested on prototypes. It is all about understanding and developing the idea.
  6. Test
    After concrete forms are formed, an open dialogue with the target group should take place. The feedback will provide further ideas for improvements and alternatives.

THE CHALLENGE

Having learned about Design Thinking, this challenge will be concerned with implementing the technique on a first project. To detect an area where design thinking can be applied to make improvements, you must first find out about the needs of your employees. Get them involved by asking them for feedback about their work. Are there any aspects that discourage them from being creative and coming up with innovative ideas and solutions? Evaluate the answers and select the issue that has been expressed most frequently.

Now the actual design thinking process starts with assembling an interdisciplinary team. Depending on the selected case, consider which expertise may be valuable when thinking about an innovative solution. However, also get people that may bring a helpful outside perspective on the subject into the team to support the flow of creativity. Having brought together your team, follow the design thinking process to meet the most frequently stated need of your employees in a creative way.


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Do not miss the next part of our #ManagerChallenge Innovation coming out in two weeks. Next time, you will learn some creative thinkings techniques.

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