Design Innovation is about generating ideas that are humanly desirable, technologically feasible, and financially viable. It is an idea that applies to all fields and people of all backgrounds. As simple as that might sound, in reality, it is the contrary. In this article, we will be exploring essential principles related to Design and Design Innovation. Let us explore some of the essential principles related to Design and Design Innovation.
In the endeavor towards Design Innovation, we have to define what we refer to with the term Design with a capital D. Design refers to building human understanding to solve a problem. It is a reference to the relation between things and humans. With this understanding, the outcome of Design varies with the variance in human cultures and lifestyles. In different contexts, design can refer to the hard design practices like product design, engineering design, graphic design, fashion design, and others. However, we will be addressing Design as the means to generate innovations in any field.
The goal of Design Innovation as a process is to sustain life in a system with continual renewability.
The specific methods and processes supporting Design Innovation can ensure relevant renewals supporting the system's survival and thrivingness.
Design is all about people. Thus, the foundation of good design is Empathy. Only when you have deep empathy with your stakeholders will you be able to identify the right problems to tackle or the right opportunities to take advantage of. That established empathy will then guide you to generate desirable solutions for them.
One of the commonly circulated innovation terms is Design Thinking (DT). DT is a process of building human understanding and building solutions. The design thinking process inherently pushes the human element to the center of solution-finding endeavors. Design Thinking is one of the prominent and most common tools used to achieve Design Innovation.
We define Design Innovation as the large umbrella of approaches and methodologies to achieve relevant and viable innovations. Design Innovation encompasses Design Thinking and many other innovation methods like Innovation Tournaments, Frame Creation, Value Creation Framework, etc. Focusing on Design Innovation allows more space to find the right combination of tools that work best for a specific situation.
We define Design (capital D) as a means of building human understanding to generate solutions or opportunities. It is a field that is relatively new when compared to established fields in the sciences and engineering. Over time, Design training became more and more important as it proves its value towards building a competitive advantage.
This called for non-designers to get involved in design training. This is not for them to be designers but rather to be more human-centered in their endeavors. In one way, this made design thinking workshops rise in popularity, attracting individuals from different backgrounds.
The idea of equipping non-designers with some design knowledge and skills helped push an essential factor towards the success of Design Innovation. That factor is the participation of multidisciplinary teams in the process of innovation.
Design is not more important than other fields. However, Design has been missing from a conversation long dominated by business and engineering backgrounds.
Design Innovation has been growing as its own field for the last half-century. With that came the development of many supporting tools, methodologies, and schools of thought. This growth gave birth to individuals who are more specialized in the processes of Design Innovation. However, behind all those is the mindset of caring for human needs as much as business ones. Specialized individuals can play a crucial role in facilitating and guiding the process of design innovation within organizations. This is while specialized Design Innovation firms can lead the generating innovations or insights outside the organization. Many different methods are used to enable Design Innovation. These include Design Thinking, Open Innovation, Innovation Tournaments, Biomimicry, Frame Creation, Design by Decomposition, etc.
One of the old misconceptions about Design Innovation is that great ideas can come at random or in the form of revelations. While this might be true in rare instances, it is far from being a sustainable source to continuing innovation. This is one of the most common misconceptions organizations fall into when looking to grow their innovation capacity. Generating continuous innovative capacity requires both intention and investments. More importantly, it requires a change of mindset for many. Not putting the suitable investments in growing Design Innovation can grow an Innovation Theatre instead of building actual innovative capacity.
Just like other skills, Design Innovation is a skill that can grow with more practice and exposure. Attending a workshop or class can give you a good understanding of the established processes and practices. However, the more one gets exposed to them, the better one becomes. A good reference point is the game of chess. While it is easy to know all the rules, gaining mastery of the game can take years of practice, experimentations, and reading.
Whenever Design Innovation processes are taught, they are often explored linearly, often divided into different stages. This makes the most sense while explaining or teaching those processes. However, in practice, a journey can go back and forth between the different stages and iterates as a whole as a process. This is normal in seeking improvements of outcomes and also to help include newly discovered insights and requirements. While this might frustrate individuals used to streamed processes, those iterations are essential to generate proven innovation.