Innovation is a buzzword which is widely used in the actual business context. Not seldom, we hear the specialist’s claims according to which the success of the companies depends on their capacity to innovate. Before getting deeper into the subject it is usefull to get a grasp of what exactly does this term mean.
A little bit of help is offered by the Business Dictionary (2019) from which we find out that innovation is the process of translating an idea or an invention into a good or service that creates value and for which the clients would be willing to pay. Of course, this process is not limited only to products and services, therefore many companies, also known as industry disruptors, used innovation also at the business model level, action that assured them the leaders position in their market segments. For those kinds of situations we have the already classic examples such as Uber, the taxi company that does not own cars, or Airbnb, the company that provides accommodation services, but which does not own properties.
Even though many times the innovation process looks like an abstract one, being based on the moments of enlightenment of some creative people, the process also has a very specific dimension with the budgets being allocated by the companies for research and development (R&D) being on the rise, rearching even 7% share of the company's expenses according to Harvard Business Review (2019). Based on the same study of HBR, it can be observed that in the case of many companies the advertising expenses have decreased, fact that can take us to the conclusion that indeed the companies started to understand the importance of researching consumer behavior and their frictions, as opposed to the traditional approach, of just “pushing” the product.
Now that we have the context in which the innovation process takes place, it is well to be known the fact that the practitioners have even developed methodologies through which the creative side can be easily implemented by the analytical approach in a structured manner. For that reason, it resulted methodologies such as:
Lean Six Sigma – used mainly for optimization and boosting efficiency;
Agile – methodology that is used especially for software development, but which is also implemented as a new way of working at the organizational level thanks to the increased flexibility that it promotes against the changes from the industry, regardless of their profile;
FORTH – where the innovation process is seen as a discovery journey of the end client, while the entire flow being structured on a map in which every step has a well defined checklist;
Design Thinking – which gains bigger and bigger scope among both marketing and product development specialists.
When it comes to Design Thinking, the focus is on empathy and the capability of putting yourself in the shoes of the product/service user, also known as persona, that will be placed at the center of the innovation and development process. Another important principle of the methodology is the starting point which should be always based on a real issue that the potential user is dealing with. Therefore, after observing the users and clearly defining their profile, the process continues with the ideation, prototyping and testing phases, as they can be seen below, together with the activities that lays at the ground of every step:
Of course, in the end every business will look for the justification for implementing such a methodology in terms of gains or ROI that come along with its adoption. In a Forrester study about IBM Design Thinking, one of the pioneers in the development and adoption of this methodology, there are highlighted the following benefits:
Delighting customers and increasing profits by designing solutions that meet user needs;
Identifying and investing in the most impactful projects to reduce risk and improve outcomes;
Decreasing time-to-market to reduce costs and gaining competitive advantage;
Discovering redundant or wasteful processes to streamline efficiency;
Energizing employees to be creative, to collaborate, and to do better work.
Another advantage worth mentioning is the fact that the use of this methodology can be quite funny creating the feeling that the entire process is a game, and when the learning experience meets the joy, we all know what the result is.
If the article made you curious about this methodology and you would like to find out more about how this is applied in practice, it is well to be known there are various options for getting in contact with Design Thinking.
Where and how?
There are numerous organizations which can be found in almost every country that promote the adoption of Design Thinking by providing both beginner and advanced level courses for those interested in developing their knowledge on the methodology. For those that do not enjoy a schedule that allows them to access physical courses there is no need to worry, since there are also online options for studying Design Thinking that are provided through platforms such as coursera and udemy.
In conclusion, if you are interested in the innovation process, there are plenty of methodologies that can provide you a starting point as well as a structure to build on. And that’s not all, since innovation is a team based process, these methodologies come with loads of collaboration related tips and tricks, which will make the entire journey not only a productive one but also an enjoyable new way of working.