As I take on the role as a true Sparkie, I thought it would be important to break down these three key terms I keep hearing → Innovation, Human-Centered Design, and Design Thinking. When researching for this blog post and in my continuous effort to understand the work Spark Works does I soon began to realise that there is no exact definition for these terms. From this point, I tried my best to summarise how I interpreted these keywords and how an outsider like myself, could better understand the fascinating world of innovation.
Innovation is a broadly used term - it encompasses many aspects and includes different types of innovation. At the very basic level, innovation is about addressing and finding a novel solution to an actual, relevant problem. With that being said, after hearing this definition my first thought was “well isn't innovation just another word for problem-solving?” The answer is no!
Innovation is more than just problem solving - it doesn’t only only offer solutions but also ensure that people adopt them. Through my reading I recognised that innovation also encourages you to expand your thinking and move away from what you've always done. Instead, it helps you to apply methods that allow new ideas to grow.
The following three lenses are known as the “Sweet Spot” of innovation. In order for an effective innovation process to take place it needs to include the trifecta shown below. In other words, your idea must meet all three of these criteria :
Feasibility - is there technology to make this possible?
Viability - as a business can I make money from this?
Desirability - is there a problem to solve? Are people willing to use the solution we are offering?
In line with these three dimensions of innovation, the starting point is desirability. We first begin and see if there is an actual relevant problem or need that requires addressing. The early stages of what we do are not about feasibility or viability - it's more about whether we can find a problem worth solving. What makes Human-Centered Innovation special is the focus on desirability. Innovators ask: is there truly a problem to solve or a need to meet? If yes, then let the process commence!
Human-Centered Design is more of a mindset, a creative and unique approach to problem-solving where the user is at the heart of any solution. The process is designed to get you to learn directly from people, open yourself up to a breadth of creative possibilities, and then focus on what’s most desirable, feasible, and viable for the people you’re designing for. Human-Centered Design or HCD is especially important in the wider perspective. You can for example, try to make your organisation more human-centered. In this case it means you want to change the mindset of your people to empathise and always consider the perspective of the user/customer. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody is using the Design Thinking process, it means that you are changing the mindset of employees, putting the user first. This sounds easier than it actually is. The goal for HCD is to create products, services and solutions that understand and then address real human needs, often the key part that many businesses are missing.
Finally, in very simple terms: Design Thinking is the actual application of Human-Centered Innovation. It is a methodology, a process, and a perspective. Usually, it encompasses 4-5 phases and uses specific tools. Thinking like a designer can change the way organisations approach problems, develop products, strategies, and new processes. How do you apply methods (such as testing) in a human-centered way to solve problems? The way to actually carry it out is through Design Thinking. As Idris Mootee says, “Design Thinking powers strategic innovation”. Schools like Stanford d.school which Spark Works’ founders Alan and Linda attended, is an academic centre pioneering and developing Design Thinking. Ultimately, Design Thinking provides the logistics to carry out Human-Centered Innovation.
It’s clear that the world of innovation is a multifaceted industry however, my biggest takeaway from researching for this blog post is that it is always promoting and driving positive change. I’m certainly nowhere near mastering the world of innovation but I’m definitely one step closer to understanding the basics.