A while back I received Design-Driven Innovation by Roberto Verganti in the mail. Design-Driven Innovation is an approachable 230 pages, and is an easy, and pleasant read.
Roberto Verganti is Professor of Management of Innovation Politecnico di Milano and the founder of PROject Science.
If you’ve read books on innovation, they’ve probably been treatises or essays on the topic from a traditional process or strategy angle. Design-Driven Innovation is something different. The book is focused on the idea that businesses have the opportunity not just to create innovations that are technology push or market pull (user-centered), but also to create innovations that make meaning.
Design-driven innovation is more about understanding the real meanings that users give to things then about understanding their needs. This is not some new jargon for needs-based or jobs-to-be-done innovation, and while for some people the distinction that design-driven innovation offers may be too subtle, for others it will seem like touchy-feely poppycock. For me it was pure bliss because it is all about insight.
The book is broken into three main sections:
- Building Capabilities
Here are some of the core principles from the book to spark your thinking:
- Every product has a meaning and design helps to make sense of things
- Innovation is achieved not just by achieving a new level of performance but also by achieving a new level of meaning
- New meanings must not just be anticipated, they must also be educated
- New meanings don’t come purely from user observation or interrogation
- New meanings don’t come from identifying what people would love in the existing scenario, but from seeing what people could love in a yet-to-exist scenario
- Radical innovations in meaning spring from identifying and leveraging new cultural paradigms
- Technology epiphanies occur when companies utilize new technology to not just replace existing technology, but to create new meaning
- When top executives ask for financial analysis before they decide something, they are are not convinced. When this is the case, no amount of financial analysis will convince them.
- A valuable product with personality will have greater longevity than one without a personality
- You must do experimental innovation to test and find the borderline – If your offering is too safe or too aggressive it won’t find its optimal success
- Finding and securing the best interpreters of meaning will determine whether you can succeed at design-driven innovation
- Building, listening, and participating in a design discourse of the right interpreters is a key to design-driven innovation success
- It is possible to integrate design-driven innovation together with user-centered design and traditional industrial design if you use the outputs of one as inputs into the next
- The relational assets of the design discourse need to be actively cataloged and managed
- Top management has an important role to play in attracting, selecting, and directing
Taken all together I found Design-Driven Innovation to present a clear vision for how organizations can use design to drive innovation, but I wonder how many organizations not already pursuing this path will actually have the courage to pursue this riskier but potentially more rewarding approach to innovation. But is it riskier? If all of your competitors start pursuing innovation , and do so in the same exact manner that you do, will you actually achieve competitive separation?