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16 January 2019 | By Jake Larsson Community

What are your business resolutions for 2019?

Whatever you're looking to improve, the Knowledge Transfer Network's Jake Larsson argues there's a better way to innovate

Many businesses will be looking for new approaches and new ideas to help them to grow or be more resilient. For those looking to do something innovative, something disruptive even, the journey is never straightforward. Businesses stand to lose more than their financial investment if the new idea does not work, or if returns fall short.   

But while the risks associated with the uncertainty in innovation are well understood, approaches that can manage them are less so.

Design could be (and we would argue, should be) that new approach to growth and resilience that you are looking for in 2019.

Generally speaking, design is often mistaken as a styling activity in the product development process. It is perceived to be concerned with aesthetics and usability, whether it is graphics for digital products or packaging for a consumer product.

Instead design in innovation is a method to ensure you’re solving the right problem, especially in the early stages of innovation, whether you’re looking to launch or improve a product, service or even a process.

It’s essentially about working at an early stage with users, so you’re not making any assumptions about what they want or wasting money as a result; working iteratively to hone the final solution; and opening yourself up to potentially unexpected collaborations to provide the best solution. 

The business benefits

Design in innovation has been recognised by Innovate UK as an important approach for the delivery of new innovations that may benefit the UK economy. And by looking at the companies that have received the organisation’s support in applying it, we’ve determined five of the main business benefits it can bring:

●      Identifying the right opportunity

Design can be used to find ways of solving broader economic, societal or environmental challenges to help businesses and organisations identify viable opportunities, rather than ‘solutions looking for a problem’. Designers develop a contextual understanding of human behaviour and motivations, of complex stakeholder networks and future market drivers to best inform the features and attributes of the final solution.

●      Providing clarity

Design can be used to break complex concepts, processes and issues into core components, and to communicate them simply and clearly to customers, colleagues and investors.

●      Getting buy-in and driving collaboration

Design can be used to facilitate collaboration between sectors and disciplines, bridging language and other gaps within the innovation process. Designers help unite teams behind a clear, compelling vision and roadmap.

●      Managing risk

Design can reduce the risk and cost of failure of innovation by taking time to understand and articulate the problem, observing and involving users to gain deep insight to inform to solution. Any ideas are prototyped and tested early to avoid spending huge amounts of time and money on potentially the wrong idea. Designers will hone a concept’s viability by quickly simulating and testing new propositions.

●      Boosting innovation capability

Design can be used in strategy and business development and can act as a disruptive process for innovation across sectors. They can ‘design in’ business objectives, like sustainability or corporate social responsibility. Designers help increase adaptability of an organisation by making sense of perspectives across an innovation process first-hand, embedding learning and adopting new processes.

The Knowledge Tranfer Network’s Design & Innovation Effectiveness team is a free resource to help support you and help you achieve your business resolution. If you would like help achieving your innovation goals or would like to know more about design in innovation may help you achieve them, do get in touch.

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