Keep in touch, subscribe to our newsletter
We are committed to protecting and respecting your privacy, and we’ll only use your personal data to provide the info requested from us.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Innovation from A—Z
From A for Agility to Z for Zurich the world of Spark Works is diverse! Get to know our everyday linguo of innovators.
Agile is a product development approach based on continuous iterations and feedbacks. It differs from the traditional logic of planning and project management methods as agile require teams and organisations to continuously adapt to new conditions. A detailed project plan might not exist in the beginning. It thus allows them to work iteratively towards, for instance, user needs which are continuously being explored.
Agility is the ability of an individual, team, or organisation to move, think or understand quickly, with flexibility and ease. Most importantly, it is an attitude that reacts constantly in a dynamic manner to, for example, changes in the market or user needs.
Assumptions are all the relevant desirability, feasibility or viability factors that are - at the beginning of a project - considered as certain or true without having data to back them up. Challenging these assumptions and believes is key for successful projects and done by (in-depth user) research and experimentation. The validated or invalidated assumptions then serve as a foundation to generate new ideas and to innovate.
Co-Creation is a way to develop a product or service by bringing multiple entities – like customers, departments, suppliers, startups, business partners, or other stakeholders – together and include their input in the product or service development, and/ or jointly build the solution.
Collaboration is the act of working together, either with internal or external stakeholders, to solve a problem or achieve a shared goal. The benefits of collaboration are found in the application and inclusion of different kinds of knowledge, skills and perspectives inherent to each collaborator.
Continuous Iteration is the ongoing effort to refine and improve ideas and solutions based on multiple interactions. The iteration is repeated until the quality and outcome that is desired is achieved. By engaging with Continuous Iterations one does not require full know-how at the outset of a development process.
Convergent thinking is the ability to find the one correct unambiguous answer to a question in a direct and rational manner. It includes narrowing down all potential options and data with an analytical, systematic and focused rationale, rather than explorative reasoning. For instance, within education convergent thinking is required when answering a multiple-choice question. As only one answer is correct.
Creativity is an act of creating something new by using your imagination. It is a process that involves the generation of original ideas, solutions, or approaches, or the development of new combinations between already existing ideas, solutions, or approaches.
A Customer Journey is a customer’s full experience of the interaction with a product or service. It can be illustrated as an engaging and graphical storyline that provides a vivid but structured visualisation of the many - internal and external - steps a user has taken before, during and after the interaction.
Design Frameworks are visual representations of a model and a good tactic to make sense of data. They are used to highlight key relationships of ideas and insights. As a result, you can synthesise learnings and bring clarity in often highly complex sets of data. Some examples of Design Frameworks are Customer Journeys, Persona’s, Floor Plan, and Geographic Map.
Design Metrics are those measurements you set in place to measure the success of a design. The importance of these metrics are based on the ability to quantify the goals of the design project. These metrics are thus the quantifiable goals of your design project and they can be measured by both quantitative and qualitative data and information that results from user testing. Time is for instance a Design Metric when you measure if people need less than 10 minutes with the app to finish the task.
The Design Sprint is originally a five-day process to build and test a prototype rapidly. Typically, it starts with an identified problem and profoundly aims to understand the users related to it. The next steps build upon their identified needs, pains and received insights to be able to ideate solutions. Last, the most promising ideas are made concrete by the development of one or multiple prototypes, which are tested the actual users until a tested solution is the outcome.
Design Thinking is a non-linear process and creative problem solving method, which guides a team to truly focus on the needs of the people who experience the problem. Design Thinking is in particular a beneficial method for ill-defined, unknown and complex problems as it challenges assumptions, redefines problems and creates innovative solutions via prototyping and testing.
Desirability departs from the human needs and is a property of the solution that departs from the human needs, even though these needs are not consciously desired. So, rather than asking the people directly what they want, it assesses whether your solution actually fills their need. By understanding your user, a desirable solution thus solves the key needs and/or problems of your user. The desirability of a solution is ultimately balanced with the Feasibility and Viability of the solution, product or service.
Divergent Thinking is related to the ability to think in novel and unusual ways, without worrying about limitations. It welcomes openness and broad thinking without any judgement. In short, the brain is in an exploration mode. Divergent Thinking is used when entering an ideation session.
The Double Diamond is one comprehensive and visual description of the Design Thinking process. It visually represents four phases with the aim to find a solution for a problem or challenge. Or simply put, it illustrates the process of moving from divergent to convergent thinking. The Double Diamond includes:
1. Empathise, a phase characterised by divergent thinking that focuses on receiving a deep understanding and connection with the target group.
2. Define, through convergent thinking the data and findings gathered during the Empathy phase are analysed and synthesised into actionable insights.
3. Ideate, based on a well-defined problem statement and through the application of creative techniques and tools, you aim to result with a large quantity of wild ideas and innovative solutions.
4. Test, in this phase you build and test a prototype directly with users through several iterative feedback loops. These loops will generate unique insights that will refine your final proposed solution.
Empathy means feeling what another person is feeling him or herself. It is the richest and deepest understanding of a person’s situation, problem(s), or circumstances, as it includes hidden information and emotions. To empathise you look and try to feel something from his or her perspective by “getting in his or her shoes.” It is particularly important for User Research as it truly allows you to understand the user’s needs. Yet it is a skill that requires a lot of practice.
Ethnographic Research thoroughly studies the relationships between the problem and the user. This research method is fully focused on people and the human interaction, and is for instance done through observation. With the aim to better understand the users’ behaviours it is one of the first steps of the Design Thinking process, or of any good new product or service development process.
Exploitation relates to improving what is already there and thus makes efficient use of existing processes and routines to achieve certain outcomes. Within the ambidextrous organisation it therefore refers to exploiting or going in-depth into the promising options, knowledge, areas or ideas of the organisation. As a result, rather incremental improvements of the organisation’s existing processes, products, or services are considered as exploitation.
Exploration relates to embracing an open mindset and the search for new knowledge. Within the ambidextrous organisation exploration therefore has the primary goal to unleash the creativity of a team to result into a wide spectrum of new options, ideas, knowledge and/ or areas, no matter the viability or feasibility of these.
The Extreme User is a person who acts at the outer boundary of a group of users. When identifying an Extreme Users you can take into consideration their demographics (age, gender, ethnicity), behaviours (experts vs. newbies) or motivations (what drives someone to do something). Looking at extreme users will often lead to surprising and actionable insights.
Feasibility assesses whether the practicality or proposed plan for developing a product or service is possible. It questions whether you are able to implement the (technical) solution in an affective manner with the (operational) capabilities and resources available in or necessary for your organisation. The Feasibility of a solution should, as part of the end goal of Design Thinking, be balanced with the Desirability and Viability of the product or service.
HCD / HCI
Human Centred Design or Human Centred Innovation is a creative problem-solving method that finds its origin within Design Thinking. The development or refinement process for a product or service is started from the user’s perspective and not from a market or technological perspective. Keeping the human or the actual user continuously and throughout the entire process at heart guarantees that the solution is actually solving someone’s problem.
An idea is a new approach or solution to an existing problem or recognised opportunity. It is a conception that exists in the mind as a result of a mental understanding, awareness, or activity.
Innovation is the application of ideas that are novel and useful and meet new requirements, market demands or unarticulated needs. Creativity, the ability to generate new and useful ideas or solutions, is the foundation of innovation. The difference between an invention/idea and innovation is, that the innovation is successfully adopted by customers and scaled with a viable business model.
The Innovation Roadmap is a useful tool for managing stakeholder expectations, communicating a plan and coordinating the resources necessary for an innovation project/ process. The roadmap ensures a clear focus and direction through a simple representation of the strategic goals and themes along a comprehensive timeline.
Jobs to be Done or JTBD is a framework through which you can better understand the functional, emotional and social dimensions behind users’ choices and behaviours. Via this understanding you uncover unmet user needs and open up a wide spectrum of new innovation opportunities for your product or service. This framework is based on the fact that people don’t just buy or use products or services; they hire them to get a job done, in which a job is the progress a user tries to make in a particular circumstance.
Lean Startup is a methodology for creating a business or product by means of short and rapid product development cycles. In short, the cycle is based on the build (turn ideas into products/MVPs), measure (see how customers respond), learn (integrate feedback) loop and thus includes multiple iterations. The Lean Startup methodology is similar to the Agile methodology. However, where agile tests its products against the users, lean tests the product against the market.
A Minimum Viable Product or MVP is the simple version of a new product or a service that solely includes the basic, most valuable features necessary for the early adopters. As a consequence it delivers just enough value for a potential paying customer to provide feedback and it allows the developer to receive a maximum amount of learnings about the customer interaction. This can result in further improvements of the product or service.
Open Innovation is the use of ideas and knowledge from individuals outside the organisation or from partnering organisations, for the development of new products or services. Through the combination of internal and external ideas and knowledge (either via a process of retrieving the ideas from inside-out the organisation or from outside-into the organisation) organisations can accelerate the development of new technologies or other innovations. In addition, they have the ability to solve problems they probably would not have been able to solve with internal knowledge alone.
Participatory Design, also called Co-Design, is a creative approach that actively invites stakeholders - clients, users, employees and community members - into the design process of a service or product. This guarantees that the outcome meets the needs of those who interact or are impacted by it.
Personas are human-based models, synthesised from multiple
customers into a single valid composite, evidence-based character. The resulted fictional person is a representative of a type or category of users who share common attributes beyond collective demographics. These attributes can be, but or not limited to, needs, goals and other aspects related to your challenge area or the use of your product or service.
A Proof of Concept or PoC concerns the implementation of a certain method, idea, or solution using specific technologies. The main purpose of a PoC is to demonstrate and evaluate the functionality and feasibility of the aforementioned concepts and serves as a means to decide whether further investment is to be made or not.
A Problem Statement is the re-framing of your design challenge into an actionable point-of-view that will guide you during the ideation phase. A good Problem Statement will allow your team to ideate in a direct manner, by creating questions based on your user’s identified needs. The statement should therefore not be too narrow or too broad.
Rapid Prototyping is building about enough to make an idea or solution tangible and receive feedback from the end-user. Rapid Prototyping should encourage creativity and have the practitioners embrace failure as a means of learning. This quick testing method will save time and money and it requires you to mainly focus on testing the core value of a idea or solution.
Service Design helps organisations to understand and orchestrate their end-to-end processes - both internally and for their users - through collaborative methods and a human centred approach. This enables the design and improvement of seamless, holistic experiences for both users and service providers. End-to-end embraces the full user interaction of a service, so before, during and after use.
Stakeholders are all the interested parties in a project - the relevant people who affect the project, as well as those who will be influenced by it. Stakeholders can be divided into internal, connected and external stakeholder groups.
STEEP is an acronym for Social, Technological, Economical, Ecological, and Political. These are five dimensions that can guide an external analysis. As a result, you gain insights into past, current and/or future advancements of the external environment in which your organisation, product or service operates. This is an ideal point of departure for a future foresight study to better understand the opportunities and challenges ahead of you.
Synthesis, also known as sense making, is a process of collaboratively making sense of data gathered during user research. This process is guided by three steps; Unpacking the data, clustering it into themes and/ or categories, and summarising the input into clear and concise concepts. Thus, Synthesis is bringing clarity into an often complex set of information.
A User is an individual who ultimately uses a product or service, is interacting with it and/or is directly impacted by it. In this regard, your customer might not always be the same as your user.
User Experience encompasses every aspect, like attitudes and emotions, of the end-user's interaction with a company, its services and/or its products.
User Research has the objective to understand the needs, behaviours, motivations and pain points of target users. This user exploration generally includes observation, interviews and other evaluation techniques. Whereas market research studies consumer behaviour and is aimed at retrieving quantitative data like demographics and other statistics about a particular industry. User Research is rather qualitative and specifically focuses on understanding the user in the environment they act.
User Testing is a method to gather feedback from your users. It is a valuable way to validate or invalidate your assumptions and evaluate a product or service by testing it with and/or on your users.
Viability departs from a business perspective and looks at whether a product or service has a sustainable and repeatable business model. In short it asks “Does this contribute to making money?”. Thus, viability does not only look at profit, but truly looks at whether the business model aligns with what the user is willing to pay. The Viability of a product or service should be balanced with the Desirability and Feasibility of it.
A wicked problem is a problem that at its origin is highly ambiguous. It is a problem that is extremely complex and has many unknown aspects.
Zurich is located in one of the most innovative countries in the world: Switzerland is leading several innovation-rankings for centuries. Mostly, as world-class universities foster impressive inventions, which after a while generate economic value. But also, because it is home to Spark Works, an international strategic innovation company, founded in Switzerland.
Keep in touch, subscribe to our newsletter!