Recently, I spent time at the most international and diverse university of Germany, the Jacobs University in Bremen with Prof. Steven Ney. I did a seminar on entrepreneurial design. The students were trained already to use the canvas and the course was great. However, their inability to leave blanks on the canvas was striking. What do I mean by this?
We do not like blanks. Long pauses in a conversation confuse and stress us. And since we do not like blanks we fill them. In a conversation, we do small talk. On the canvas, we just fill in the blanks with a kind of small talk as well.
Small talk on the canvas is to just fill in something which sounds good, but has no base, no facts supporting it, not even being a smart idea. If we do not know exactly who our customers are, we wirte Business-to-Business customers or advertising in the box to communicate with our customers. B2B sounds sophisticated but for an entrepreneur who wants to build something on top of her canvas, this is useless at best, dangerous at worst.
During the last dozen years, his role involved writing, editing, speaking, and teaching about design thinking and the company’s history, culture, and processes. Scott is not IDEO’s spokesperson but a person with insights into the design thinking process. I would like to share his insights with you on the importance of the problem
definition phase and of challenging the assumption of your thinking. Below, you find what Scott wrote in his comment. I have added some emphasis to what Scott wrote.
Scott Underwood, formerly with IDEO, on Design Thinking
Patrick, I can’t give an answer that applies to all of IDEO; I’m not a spokesman, so this is my opinion: Despite definitions that we see in books and websites, design thinking remains a fairly fuzzy and dynamic concept — the phrase “nailing Jello to a wall” comes to mind. However, the problem definition phase of a project is a key component, and this is where not only big corporations but individuals like me fail. Continue reading Design Thinking revisited: A conversation with Scott Underwood
Open innovation is a big trend today in innovation management. Where are its strengths and limitations? A discussion with Atizo.
Today, I had a long chat with Isabel Steiner and Sabine Hofer from Atizo, an entrepreneurial platform for open innovation. Atizo is a platform where companies can post a question to a crowd to get more and better solutions. This is called open innovation since you are not looking inside your own firm for ideas but to a broader spectrum of people. Some call it crowd sourcing for ideas.
The idea behind open innovation is fascinating. With Atizo, you can address more than 8.000 people with ¾ with academic background to look for fresh ideas. The biggest advantage besides the size of crowd of the “innovators” is the fresh viewpoint on the problem. You take advantage that the innovators do not know the way you always have solved the problem in the past; they are not stuck with your dominant logic.
Atizo’s platform allows companies to generate ideas, evaluate ideas and develop the ideas into marketable concepts.
Depending from your scope you want to use, you can use either the whole crowd, a subsection of your customer and clients if you are a business or you can just invite your closest community for the innovation project.
Due to these strengths, open innovation became a huge success in the last years. Well-regarded firms like Swisscom, Mammut, Google or BMW have used Atizo’s platform for open innovation to find new solutions.
So, is Atizo a success?
Success Story Atizo
Yes, since most customers were positively surprised about the quality of the solution. The open innovation idea works. The open innovation platform is fast and cheap to generate idea.
However, as every innovator knows, having even great ideas is not enough.Ideas have to be implemented in the firm AND adopted by the customers. First, implementation in the firm is already difficult since so many impediments like lacking resources; different priorities of top management, wrong corporate culture, Not-invented-here syndrome etc. can and will mostly likely kill the idea.
Secondly, an innovation is not what you think it is, but what the customer adopts. Therefore, from the many great ideas only few have seen the market. The classic dilemma of all innovators.
It is the question, stupid!
Moreover, what Atizo also figures out is how important it is which question you ask. Quite often, the question is very closed and so narrowly defined that the ideas are typical MOTS ideas (more-of-the-same). Nevertheless, do not criticize the ideas and solutions. The problem is with the questions. These questions are so framed by the dominant logic of the current business that really break-through ideas cannot be found. This is the same criticism I have already raised in the case of “Design Thinking”. If you ask the wrong questions, you get irrelevant answers.
So we discussed how better questions can be asked. One option is to amend the open innovation process with a phase where the crowd can deliver insights into unsolved problems they see with a current solution. They could deliver insights in the jobs that are still unsolved. Moreover, with these fresh insights even better solutions and ideas could be found. Any other idea?
To be honest, I get a bit bored about the mantra that design thinking will solve the problems of large corporation. Well, when I go through the case studies at Ideo I am extremely impressed by their client list but not about the output. I have seen several design thinking sessions and I am not impressed at all with the output. The results are very often: More-of-the-Same but with fancier design.
Where is the invention from design thinking that changed the industry? Where is the iTunes or the Kindle of Ideo? The problem with design thinking starts very early in the process with the problem definition phase. And that is where large corporations fail. They define the scope too narrow and than you get nice new things that sustain your current business but not new business models that rock your industry and yourself.
Ideo is a very good (self-) marketing & design firm but not an industry rocking firm. Large firms just love Ideo because Ideo just offers such a well designed process to solve the big problem of “being not innovative”. You hire Ideo for comforting yourself for not using your own common sense and your own customer insights. You just outsource your understanding of the customer to Ideo.