Understand the uniqueness of your organization’s culture to drive innovation.
Organizations are striving to get better at innovation. They know their competitors are doing the same. However, not everyone is having success with their efforts. One more recent popular approach is using Design Thinking, but like any innovation approach, it has to be properly integrated into the organization or it won’t have the desired impact.
A new book addresses this, titled Innovation by Design: How Any Organization Can Leverage Design Thinking to Produce Change, Drive New Ideas, and Deliver Meaningful Solutions. I interviewed both authors to find out more.
Thomas Lockwood has a Ph.D. in design management and is a thought leader at integrating design and innovation into business. Edgar Papke is a leadership psychologist, author and recognized expert in business alignment, leadership and organizational culture.
They decided to find out what highly innovative companies that were significantly utilizing design thinking were up to, and if what they were doing would provide valuable insight into how any organization can use design thinking to produce change, drive new ideas, deliver meaningful solutions, and influence their culture to be more innovative.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:52] Why is innovation such a challenge for organizations?
Innovation comes in incremental steps, and companies are often looking for more rapid change. There’s also a bias for scientific-based R&D and a tendency for silos within a company trying to out-innovate each other. This leads to more innovation, but not necessarily meaningful innovation. The use of data should support the creative process, not drive it.
[5:49] What kind of culture does an organization need to be innovative?
We define culture as “how we do things around here” — how we collectively create success. Organizations need to understand the uniqueness of their own culture and what about that culture gets in the way of innovation. Once you understand the culture, you can implement processes to achieve the outcomes you’re seeking. Process will change people’s behavior and help create new mindsets that break down silos that get in the way of innovation. In order for innovation to occur, you need a culture that wants to learn and wants to embrace change.
[11:31] How do you create a culture that embraces learning and change?
Executives set the tone; they need to be really looking to solve a problem rather than maintain the status quo. If the senior people are willing to speak last, it says a lot about a company’s willingness to be open-minded. Decision making is another important aspect — are executives holding onto that power, or are they empowering others within the organization? Other aspects that go into creating a change-minded culture are rewards, role definitions, and commitment to the mission of what the organization is trying to achieve. People also need to be able to openly communicate about their thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
[20:27] How does design thinking help organizations be more innovative?
Design thinking empowers people to participate in ideation or problem-solving sessions. These are people who are not necessarily experts on a product but are smart enough to ask why or why not. For example, salespeople might not be technically savvy, but they’re with the customers all the time and know what they really need. Design thinking is about solving the right problems with the resources you have available to you. It’s not sudden; it’s a gradual process of creating understanding, insight, and solutions. Every story has a context and a set of characters who face a gap between what they are doing and how to do it better; that’s the conflict you are trying to solve with your solution. Design thinking offers a path to resolving that conflict. Even in our own lives, we’re constantly prototyping as we try to achieve the things we want.
[28:45] What can someone start doing today to start down the path toward design thinking?
Someone can be open-minded about being curious and seek out healthy confrontation. Pixar has a great system for doing this when they review their movies. They leave the lights down low so they can speak to the screen rather than directly confronting their colleagues. Find a way to embrace confrontation that’s not taken personally. Embracing the idea of co-creation is also important. Product managers can take engineers out in the field to show them how competitors’ products are being used outside the lab. If people are being rigid about how they’re seeing something, ask questions and create an inquiry rather than trying to force an idea on someone. The same thing applies for yourself; be prepared to let go of an idea if it’s not serving innovation.
- Inno/Alignment: Thomas and Edgar’s website
- Innovation by Design: How Any Organization Can Leverage Design Thinking to Produce Change, Drive New Ideas, and Deliver Meaningful Solutions
- Thomas Lockwood on LinkedIn
- Edgar Papke on LinkedIn
“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” – William James
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on social media.