Ranked as one of the most innovative companies in the world, IDEO is an innovation and design firm, founded in 1991. Its client list include heavy hitters such as Microsoft, Intel, Nokia, Nestle, and Proctor and Gamble.
According to their website, they specialize in helping organizations to “Visualize new directions for companies and brands and design the offerings - products, services, spaces, media, and software - that bring innovation strategy to life.”
Harvard Business Review, June 2008, has an article by their CEO and President, Tim Brown.
First, how IDEO defines innovation:
“Innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported. “
“Leaders now look to innovation as a principle source of differentiation and competitive advantage; they would do well to incorporate design thinking into all phases and processes.”
“Rather than asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better meet consumers’ needs and desires.”
The three phases of design:
- Inspiration—the problem or opportunity that is driving the creative design process.
- Ideation (brainstorming)—“the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas that may lead to solutions.”
- Implementation—“executing the vision or how we bring the design concept to market.”
How you can be a design thinker?
A people first approach—based on keen observation and noticing things that others do not, you can use insights to inspire innovative ideas that meet explicit and implicit needs. This is similar to a user-centric enterprise architecture approach, where we drive business process improvement and the introduction of new technologies based on genuine user/business requirements and a strategic understanding of the performance, business, information, systems, technologies, security, and human capital aspects of the organization.
Integration—To develop innovative solutions, you need to integrate “sometimes contradictory-aspects of a confounding problem and create novel solutions that go beyond and dramatically improve on existing alternatives.” Integration is an important aspect of EA, not only in terms of enterprise architecture synthesizing business and technology to enable creative architecture plans that drive the organization into the future, but also in terms of breaking down structural and process silos and building a more holistic, synergistic, interoperable, and capable organization.
Experimentation—there are “endless rounds of trial and error—the ‘99% perspiration’ in [Thomas] Edison’s famous definition of genius.” Most great ideas don’t “pop up fully formed out of brilliant minds”—“they are not a sudden breakthrough nor the lightening strike of genius,” but rather, they are “the result of hard work segmented by creative human-centered discovery process and followed by iterative cycles of prototyping, testing, and refinement.” While enterprise architecture is not generally-speaking a disciple based in experimentation, part of the EA planning should focus on market and competitive research, including best practices identification and sponsorship that will be used to drive modernization and transformation of the enterprise. Additionally, the EA should include research and development efforts in the plans to acknowledge the ongoing innovation required for the organization to grow, mature, and compete.
Collaboration—“the increasing complexity of products, services, and experiences has replaced the myth of the lone creative genius with the reality of enthusiastic interdisciplinary collaborator.” As an enterprise architect, I am an ardent proponent of this principle. In the large and complex modern-day organization of the 21st century, we need both breadth and depth of subject matter experts to build the EA, govern it, mange change, and drive modernization in our enterprises. As any half-decent architect knows, ivory tower planning effort are bound for failure. We must work collaboratively with the business and technology experts and give all our stakeholders a voice at the table—this give change and innovation the best chance of real success.
Tim Brown says that “design thinking can lead to innovation that goes beyond aesthetics…time and again we see successful products that were not necessarily the first to market, but were the first to appeal to us emotionally and functionally…as more of our basic needs are met, we increasingly expect sophisticated experiences that are emotionally satisfying and meaningful.”
I believe this is a lesson for EA as well:
For enterprise architecture to be successful, it is not enough to be functional (i.e. to set a good plan), but rather it has to have design thinking and be useful and usable to our end-users (i.e. User-centric). By incorporating innovative thinking into not only the EA plans, but also into how we reach out and collaborate with our stakeholders to build the plans (i.e by sparking the innovative process and creative juices with constructive challenging of the status quo to a broad array of subject matter experts), and the way we employ design to portray and communicate these plans (i.e with profiles, models, and inventories for example), we will have a architecture that truly represents the organization, is understood by it, and serves its needs and aspirations.