Industry experts have a lot of ideas about how to make companies more innovative. Many tout the benefits of collaboration—when people from disparate disciplines with different ways of thinking work together they will solve problems in new and innovative ways.
Others argue that artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics will transform their innovation environment. When companies can mine and analyze vast sets of data they can uncover previously hidden trends, identify new solutions, and meet customer needs in ways that delight and inspire.
Then there is our personal favorite: design thinking. Executives from across industries and regions have been rapidly adopting and publicizing the benefits of design thinking strategies because they see it as a way to get closer to customers, which is helping them streamline their projects, derisk investments, and drive innovation into everything they do.
All of these approaches have merits for any business strategy, so why pick just one? McKinsey and Company recently published an article about the merits of fusing data and design to supercharge innovation in a collaborative setting, and we couldn’t agree more.
Together is Better
The authors argue that, while many organizations invest independently in AI and design initiatives, when they create collaborative teams that weave the strategies together they see far bigger and better results. Organizations need to enable the two to “effectively work in lockstep” if they want teams to create groundbreaking products and drive better business outcomes.
McKinsey data shows that companies that achieve this pairing experience a 10 to 30 percent performance improvement in solving all business problems—not just those having to do with core product design. This is an important point. When companies promote these techniques across the company everyone will begin to solve problems in more collaborative and innovative ways.
They also offer advice on how to achieve this melding of brilliant strategies:
Create “squads”. Combine design and data experts and have them partner with business units to tackle complicated problems that have no clear solutions (in other words, create cross-functional teams). The idea is that each set of experts brings their own knowledge, skills and problem-solving approach to the process, leading to more innovative inquiry and more profound results.
Work together. This is the collaboration part of the transformation process. Data and design people are inherently different and can easily break themselves into like-minded sub-teams who tackle each task in their own way. This is how silos happen. To generate the most value from this innovation trifecta, everyone needs to work on tasks together; whether they are interviewing customers, brainstorming ideas, or developing prototypes. Each team member may have a certain set of skills that make them better at certain tasks over others, but it is the diversity of thinking across the project that generates the most novel solutions.
Look beyond product design. Combining data, design and collaboration will deliver huge benefits for your product design team—but the value of this approach can go so much further. If you introduce everyone in the company to these concepts, provide them with the training they need, then encourage them to use all three in concert, they will be able to tackle whatever big hairy problems stand in their way.
Don’t let silos, design skeptics, and introverted IT teams get in the way of your innovation efforts. The more you can bring these cross-functional teams together, and challenge them to approach old problems in new ways, the more value you will generate as a business.
Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Kickstart Innovation: A Guide for Organizations.