FUTURE INNOVATION AS CHANGE IN THE MAKING (442 words)
When I think of the future of innovation, organizations and their abilities to limit and nurture innovation come to my mind. Organizations, one might say, provide the framework for the kinds of innovation that can take place within its boundaries and on their fringes. For long, it has been accepted that fundamental assumptions, values, norms and beliefs held by people within an organization have to change in order for the organizational framework to change. Yet, only recently have design thinking and design methods been linked to planned organizational change. We now see many different design areas emerging that specialize on this key ability of design to effect changes in how people perceive of things and problems and as a consequence, how they behave and act accordingly. These include Service Design, Transformative Design and Design Thinking. I argue that across all these emerging (and existing) design specializations, it is product development based on specific human-centered approaches that is the key to suspending existing organizational values, norms and beliefs–which often form the barriers to innovation. I am saying product development because no matter what the aim is, no matter who engages in it, no matter when or where it takes place: design is always engaged in the conception, planning, making and delivering of a product in one form or another. Once we are clear that a product is synonymous with the outcome of a deliberate design inquiry, it is no longer of importance what this product is–a technology, a system or an object. Instead, we can focus on why a product comes into being, for whom it is intended and how it aligns with an organization’s vision and purpose (or does not!).
Most people recognize design as the art of change and we tend to view the design outcomes (products) as manifestations of these changes. What we have not paid merely enough attention to in the past is how the activities of designing themselves allow people to uncover fundamental assumptions so they can be examined and challenged if necessary. If we were to understand product development as a core design activity and if we were to shift our notion of product from a good for sale to the outcome of a deliberate design inquiry, we would not only open the boundaries of innovation but we would likewise bring in design thinking and design methods in areas we have yet to discover their applicability. We would think of a product no longer as the end or the answer but as the starting point that generates the questions we need to ask to arrive at future innovations.