It’s official: design thinking as a trend has outpaced agile, lean, and many more other frameworks for helping companies create innovative products — at least according to Alchemist Accelerator (AA), a venture-backed business incubator in San Francisco.
In its 2019 Innovation Trends report, AA asked respondents “which innovation frameworks do you believe in and preach within your organization?” Of the 10 options they were given, design thinking ranked number one, winning 46 percent of the vote. Agile and human-centered design rounded out the top three.
Luck Has Nothing to do With it
The emergence of design thinking as a leading framework indicates that designers and executives recognize that innovation doesn’t happen by chance. It is the result of a carefully crafted environment where creativity, risk taking, iterative design, and customer centric thinking are required, encouraged and celebrated. “Most innovation leaders I interviewed believe that proper methodology can turn innovation into predictable process,” Bret Waters, an author of the report, wrote in a blog about the research. He noted that, in an interview he conducted for the report, an executive from Berkshire Hathaway told him: “Warren Buffett doesn’t make ‘lucky’ investments and neither does our innovation group.” In other words “properly-used methodology wins the day.”
The report noted that a variety of frameworks have emerged in recent years to help companies create more structure around their innovation processes, but they all have one thing in common — putting the user at the center of decision-making. “Human-centered approaches are no longer a curiosity or a ‘nice to have’ — they are the future of business,” said Teaque Lenahan, national director of design and innovation for Fjord at Accenture, who was interviewed for the report.
Waters and his co-authors concluded that transformative innovation must be driven by the combined goals of meeting customer needs and tackling problems that are worth solving.
Along with offering compelling stats, the Innovation Trends report is full of thought-provoking quotes and comments from business leaders like Karen Iveson, director of innovation at Duracell who said: “Most great innovation is customer-driven, not technology-driven,” and Ejnar Schultz, CEO of SEGES who reminded readers: “The goal is to find the best solution, not just a solution.”
These leaders are clearly speaking the language of design thinking, and they are doing it because it’s delivering real business value. Read the report, then consider what frameworks you are using to drive innovation in your own organization. If it’s not design thinking, maybe it’s time for a change.
Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Kickstart Innovation: A Guide for Organizations.