(4 min read)
Recently, we talked about the fact that our greatest innovators might actually be right under our noses. In fact, the people who are closest to the problem, living and dealing with it every day, are often the ones who are best suited to solving it. They understand it like no one else.
But depending on their role or level within the organization, these potential innovators may never be given a seat at the problem-solving table. They may never even be asked what they think.
Despite their unique perspective and experience with the problem, they’re often overlooked or excluded from the process until it’s time to implement a solution that someone else has come up with—one that may or may not ultimately be desirable, feasible and viable.
And if the solution doesn’t work? Well, they’re often the only ones who aren’t surprised.
“Why didn’t they just ask me in the first place?” they wonder.
Innovation Tools for Everyone
The notion of DIY innovation is about opening up those seats to the people who have not just the up-close-and-personal perspective but also, in many cases, the biggest motivation and incentive to get the problem solved. After all, they’re having to put up with it every day. Who better to have at that table?
Of course, we have to give them some tools to work with once they get there.
Here are a few techniques anyone can try to start tackling a DIY innovation challenge:
1) Frame your endeavor with these four practical guiding principles.
Having the desire, a stated goal or even an executive mandate to be innovative isn’t enough to make your innovation initiatives successful. Even having a great idea won’t do it. In fact, the biggest hurdle is a much more down-to-earth, practical problem: getting that great idea out in the world.
Great ideas flounder when those who need to buy into the change required to execute on them aren’t ready, willing and able to support its success. This is a problem of change management, and it’s the point where all too many innovation initiatives stumble or flame out.
At a high level, here are four ways you can use design thinking as a powerful tool for change:
- Involving Stakeholders
- Reconnecting with Purpose
- Generating Evidence
- Discovering Stakeholder Interests
2) Sign up for a course from IDEO U.
An online school where anyone can unlock their creative potential through design thinking and collaboration, IDEO U offers two courses focused on developing the foundation for design thinking: Insights for Innovation and From Ideas to Action. To build skills to lead your team, there are also two leadership-focused programs, Leading for Creativity and Storytelling for Influence.
What’s particularly effective about these courses is that they include real-world examples from IDEO projects. You also get access to a global online community of innovation professionals as well as feedback from IDEO expert coaches and mentors.
For a taste of IDEO U, check out this video from the From Ideas to Action course:
3) Check out the extensive resources found in IDEO.org’s Design Kit.
Design Kit is IDEO.org's platform to learn human-centered design, a creative approach to solving the world's most difficult problems. The site offers resources around three key areas: Mindsets, Methods and Case Studies.
- How you think about design directly affects whether you'll arrive at innovative, high-impact solutions. Mindsets allows you to explore and uncover the philosophy behind IDEO’s approach to creative problem-solving.
- You can think of Methods as a step-by-step guide to unleashing your creativity, putting the people you serve at the center of your design process to come up with new answers to difficult problems.
- Finally, IDEO.org’s Case Studies showcase inspiring stories of innovation and impact to show how human-centered design gets real results. Each phase of the process is broken down so that you can see what the design teams did, what they learned and how it all adds up to surprising solutions.
4) Think about design thinking at scale for your organization with OI Engine.
OI Engine is an innovation software product developed by IDEO to help organizations engage their people and networks in creative problem-solving online. By leveraging IDEO’s design thinking methodology, OI Engine aims to help organizations grow a creative culture by engaging in collaborative innovation.
5) Dive into pre-built innovation challenges from the Stanford d.school.
The d.school has put together a collection of methods for people new to design thinking. From step-by-step instructions on how to run four-hour design sprints with your team to a 90-minute activity to get your creative juices flowing, the d.school has made useful resources available for both students and newcomers to design thinking.
Innovation doesn’t have to be some lofty exercise that requires special talents and years of training. With the right creative tools, anyone, regardless of their background or function in the organization, can tackle tough challenges and come up with some great solutions. It’s central to the design thinking approach.
After all, in a world where you can look up a YouTube video to find DIY tools for everything from creating wall art to installing a dishwasher, why shouldn’t we be applying a DIY approach to innovation as well?
So, now that you have some tools, what challenge will you tackle next?