Industry Commentary

Innovation Insights: Using Design Thinking Insights to Drive Innovation

January 18, 2021

Jack Miles
Senior Research Director

Welcome to the Northstar Research monthly series of insight communications, where we look at technological innovation. The series is based on recent surveys with Arm Holdings, one of the world’s most influential technology companies.

In this series, we cover:

  • Security: will technological and product innovation be stifled by security concerns, or will products simply be more secure?
  • Insight-driven innovation: what process can we use to turn insight into innovation, and how such insights into how young people interact with technology, be used to prototype software that helps and empowers them to tackle cyberbullying?

A Quick Rewind

Last time, we looked at how a ‘Jobs to Be Done’ approach can turn consumer insights into innovation.

This time, we’re looking at Design Thinking. Like Jobs to Be Done, Design Thinking is insight-led, making it relevant to us all. But unlike Jobs To Be Done, Design Thinking is an end-to-end innovation framework that goes past exploratory research and delivers real product prototypes.

What is Design Thinking?

Used since 1950, Design Thinking explains the design process from start to finished. It’s used by big names such as Google and Nike when they develop products.

Design Thinking involves four stages :

1. Discover problems and opportunities in your innovation area via primary and secondary research

2. Define the innovation challenge you’ll solve and frame how you’ll solve it.

3. Develop as many ideas as you can to solve your innovation challenge

4. Deliver the best idea back to your business

Part of its success is attributed to its simplicity.

The Role of Insight in Design Thinking

We know that Design Thinking is led by insight, and this happens at the start, middle and end of every project. Let’s look at how:

The Start

This is when innovation opportunities are discovered through insights, and the innovation challenge is identified.

The most important part of any innovation is at the start. Even a small misdirection can potentially derail the changes of your innovation succeeding, resulting in unrectifiable problems later on. That’s why it’s essential that insights at this stage are robust, unbiased and actionable.

That’s why the Discover stage of Design Thinking uses a mix of primary and secondary, qualitative or quantitative research. Such a hybrid approach can often lead to the best results.

The insights from this market research focus on current user problems and opportunities and are centred on the chosen innovation.

Next, the most critical part: prioritising and reframing insights. It’s when you define your innovation challenge or “problem statement”  that outlines the problem you’re trying to solve.

The Middle

This is when insight develops and chooses innovation ideas.

The middle stage of Design Thinking is when, using insight,  different product ideas are developed to meet the challenge of the “problem statement.”

Using the initial research, insights will inform the criteria, guidelines and thresholds that the product ideas must meet. It is these that reflect where the biggest innovation opportunities lie.

However, these opportunities will also be influenced by commercial realities such as what factories can build and which brands can credibly deliver your product ideas.

Many of Design Thinking’s creative idea generation techniques deliver many ideas quickly. This means there’s often a need to choose the best idea to take forward to the end. This choice can be aided with simple polling, concept testing and even prediction markets.

The End

This stage of Design Thinking is when insight is used to deliver the best product idea back to your business. It’s when your innovation should be in great shape, having been steered throughout by insights.

Your product idea is delivered either as a prototype or proof of concept. Prototypes are made using a process of:

Testing: This could be as simple as using research and insight through feedback on an early-stage prototype from a handful of colleagues and friends. Or you can test your prototype’s commercial viability with a large sample group.

Iteration: Repeated analysis of your prototype using insights, ensures your prototype stays on track to deliver maximum commercial benefit to your organisation.

The Role of Insight Professionals in Design Thinking

Design Thinking maybe a framework for designers, but because it relies so strongly on research and insight, it’s also a framework for insight professionals.

The ideal situation is when Design Thinking is used by both design and insight professionals in collaboration with each other.

That’s why in the final instalment of our insight communications, we’ll explore a case study that did just this. We look at a collaboration between designers and researchers who used Design Thinking to create a mobile app that helps and empowers young people to tackle cyberbullying.

Stay tuned.

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