Innovation by Design

Collection and Connection

If the last 5 years have all been about the collection of data, the the next period of time should well be about connection.  Connection with business outcomes, decisions, and deep insights.  Connection between organisations and customers and Governments and citizens.  To make this connection, creativity, innovation and design will be the foundation.

And this makes sense, as we have seen data and information be ‘collected’ on un-precedented levels (who ever would have thought you would need several 1 terabyte drives at home just store your personal data!), this growth in data has given birth to phrases like big data and bigger data!.  In recent years, the demand for insights and actions derived from this ‘big data’ has increased to fever pitch; to the point where business leaders are asking “was big data just a fad”. 

Without tangible insights, this data (knowledge) could represent nothing more than storage, and overweight cloud services.  But if you believe Daniel Pink, and the emergence of the Conceptual Economy, then we sit on the edge of a very exciting phase in human existence, where creativity, innovation and design skills will become essential ingredients to making sense of the big data. 

In its simplest form, drawing is like this. Many of us believe we cannot draw, resorting to stick figures to represent people.  However, anyone can be taught to draw; though small progressions, and the learning of techniques, anyone can be guided to master the art of drawing The key is to maintain interest and motivation, and to keep people engaged in the process of guided mastery, and building confidence.

Design is creation with intent.

Anyone can create output but a design process mindfully considers and determines every aspect of a final product. Creating with intent means decision making and design is a way to bring judgement and intent to the forefront. The resulting output isn’t calculated or modelled, it’s designed. In creative industries this is par for the course when there is no single correct answer and certainly no way to measure or predict where one might end up when they take on the task. What is known is that time and time again there is a method and approach to such a task and behold, there is a consistency in solving these issues and achieving an outcome.

Yes there is science to go with the so called art. An architect spends years learning structural engineering principles and construction techniques but his or her approach is fundamentally one of design in order to get to the final result. Very different to the builder, however skilled and experienced, who goes on to build the house.

The focus in business has traditionally been solving puzzles, problems where all the pieces are available (however complex) and need to put together. What hasn’t been tackled are the mysteries, those problems without any pieces (or far too many pieces) and in fact no single correct answer. Generally we’ve played around the edges, tweaking here and there, not questioning the norms and “the way we’ve always done things”. This leads to relatively safe and reliable yet minor gains, but ignores the biggest opportunities.

Innovation isn’t about minor gains. Innovation is the application of a new idea, or existing idea applied in a new context, in order to yield a step change in value. Innovation by nature tackles the new and unknown and therefore represents risk. It might not work. Nobody has done this before. But significant gains in value aren’t reliable or predictable are they? Certainly not by applying traditional risk-adverse business models. A new approach can mitigate this risk but it requires trust in a mystery-solving process and accepting that failing fast means insights sooner and getting closer to your destination without knowing what it looks like at the end of the tunnel until you’re there. These gains in value won’t last either, innovation also requires constant evolution. Wheels on a suitcase was revolutionary once but now, like many innovations, it’s obvious and very much commoditised.

Do you need to take a new approach to way you tackle your business problems? Continuous improvement on what you already have is fine but the gains taper off over time and the better you get at the continuous improvement the sooner you reach the inflexion point. Sometimes the close enough is good enough approach gets a result quickly and allows you to move forward but you’ll never achieve the full potential. There is a groundswell in the business world as leaders look for the new ways to achieve growth which means tackling the mysteries previously left untapped. Absolutely design is at the forefront of this movement as a way address this unknown. Yes it requires trust and a new approach to risk but with a upside that literally cannot be estimated. You can only get onboard and enjoy the ride…

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”

Patanjali, circa 2nd Century BCE

From The Blog