Home
Deutsch space Search  Search
IMP THINKTANK    CONSULTING    IMPULSES    NETWORK   
IMP
space
space
space
 
space
 
space
 
space
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
space
 
space    
space
space
   
space
space
space
OCTOBER 2015
 
Simon Tumler on ...
 

DESIGN-DRIVEN INNOVATION

Or: Why, when innovating, we need to think beyond products and try to find the underlying meaning behind them.
____________________________________________________________________

Simon Tumler is driven by design. You can see that not only in his propensity for aesthetically demanding and "peculiar" things (anyone who has seen his bike will know), but also in his career path to date. After finishing school, Tumler went to study at the Free University of Bolzano where industrial and product design, visual communications, graphic design and production technologies became part of the day-to-day routine. During his semester abroad at Goldsmiths University of London he then got involved in prototyping and sociology before unexpectedly "topping it all off" with a course at the Manchester Business School, where things like new product development, business model innovation, technology transfer and high technology entrepreneurship are very much in focus. If you had bet him that after all this he would end up working at a business consultancy you would have surely won the bet.

As things in life often turn out, though, the sum of the parts is most definitely greater than the whole – at least in this case. The result was DESIGN-DRIVEN INNOVATION and that is what truly motivates Simon Tumler. But what exactly does that mean and what is the relationship between DESIGN THINKING and OPEN INNOVATION? Peter Gerbrands wanted know…
____________________________________________________________________

Peter: I recently read Roberto Verganti's book "Design-Driven Innovation" and I'll try to summarize how he interprets that concept, in which he sees two things as essential for differentiating oneself from the competition while inspiring customers to buy your new products: first is a departure from thinking just in terms of technology advancements when doing radical innovation work, and second is placing more focus on the significance of the products. What does he mean by all of that?

Simon: He basically means that products, in addition to their functionality and purpose, also need to fulfill emotional, psychological and sociocultural prerequisites. It's about recognizing an underlying (!) significance for a product. This message isn't new, but many companies lose the battle for customers because they refuse to change their mindset that the significance of a product only plays a role once the MARKETING and SALES begins, or at least is primarily defined by that phase. It is commonly thought that customers first infuse products with meaning as a RESULT of marketing efforts – and that is just not true.

Peter: Design-driven innovation takes a completely different approach here ...

Simon: Yes, we try in advance to properly understand the entire context of the immediate customer environment, in order to give the use of everyday, existing products new meaning with the help of unconventional users and so-called "interpreters". Verganti writes about the "innovation of meaning" in this context.

Peter: And you? As a "trained" designer what is your understanding of design-driven innovation?

About observations, analyses and concepts – and reasons for the "innovation of meaning"...

Simon: My feeling is that the first step is to OBSERVE and ANALYZE how people use certain objects and what problems are related to them. Let's take the example of a chair. You watch how people sit, why and when they sit, etc. What needs must be covered? What problems are solved by sitting down? And what problems first arise at that moment? You also observe what happens around that chair.

After the observation and analysis phase comes the CONCEPTUALIZATION portion in which you work with other people – ideally from a variety of industries – on solving the problems that were identified and the (interpreted) significance of those problems. The important thing is to get away from thinking purely in terms of products. Perhaps the problem can't be solved with a chair, even if the chair has been adjusted ergonomically to suit the needs of people and has a great aesthetic design. In other words, maybe the solution is a service, an infographic or an association. That may sound strange at this point, but if you imagine a waiting room, for example, it could be that you only sit down in order to not be just "standing around" becoming increasingly tense, bored, annoyed, etc., which makes the waiting unbearable. Sitting down is therefore only interpreted correctly by certain people: those who have tired legs and are "well served" by a chair.

Depending on why people decide to sit down, it may make sense to think about the "innovation of meaning" approach. It could be that a particular service, an interactive information board, an employment initiative, a fitness machine…might solve or eliminate the problem of sitting down because it gives them something else to do. This way of thinking often leads to so-called radical or disruptive innovation based on a user-oriented approach to solving problems.

About design thinking, open innovation and iterative processes…and constant "field research" ...

Peter: You have always talked about how it has become part of a designer's everyday process to work with as many different people as possible on the results of these observations and analyses. The point is to include people from diverse areas in order to pollinate the results with a wide range of perspectives, thoughts and approaches and, in turn, ultimately find new approaches to solutions. In the business world people are talking increasingly about OPEN INNOVATION: opening your organization to the outside to develop new ways of thinking and new perspectives. Is the OPEN approach part of this "design thinking"?

Simon: Yes, but as you already mentioned, only PART of it. For me, design thinking is a holistic approach that includes an entire PROCESS. In my opinion, any innovation department needs to be constantly (!) carrying out "field research" where it's about observe, observe, observe in order to identify problem areas for (potential) customers, all within the context of one's own product or service, but also beyond that. The purpose is to question everything. All UPSTREAM activities for the "innovation of meaning" as well as all DOWNSTREAM processes must be observed, analyzed and questioned to then find a solution in an iterative process with a colorful blend of lateral thinkers. It is important here to approach the issues in an impartial way.

Peter: And what was your personal favorite among the projects you did during your "designer" days?

About prototypes, trial and error…and an "ongoing" spillage

Simon: That would have been the prototype development of a drinking cup for marathon runners. I had to observe and analyze the "development" of a cup, from the delivery and filling by helpers to the "handoff" to runners for a drink and the throwaway after it was empty. One of the things I noticed was that the runners could hardly drink and a lot of spillage occurred. Based on this I drafted a folding cup that made it possible for helpers to hand it off with just two motions. The cup was also equipped with a "folding spout" nozzle so as little as possible was lost along the way.

Peter: How can we get a better idea of the design process here?

Simon: Well, it doesn't happen in a day. It was a nonlinear process in which one step feeds another. It's a lot of trial and error, constant improvement, and then observation and further analysis. New designs have to be developed and refined constantly. Prototypes have to be tested. It is a learning and adjustment process that is the result of both direct and indirect feedback, whether it comes from surveys, observations, analyses, your own tests or tests from others. And of course it is all based on the associated interpretations.

Peter: I could only hope the prototype goes to market one day. Far too many of us know the problem too well of "constantly" spilling our drinks! Thank you for talking with me, Simon!

 
space
space
space

 

 

On a regular basis, longstanding IMP employees are introduced by other IMP employees in an interview format. Have a look at our web site for the latest. In addition to its entertainment value, the information revealed is always insightful ...

 

OCTOBER 2015

 

SIMON TUMLER

... speaking with Peter Gerbrands about Design-Driven Innovation. 

space
space
spaceHomespaceContactspaceTerms & conditions