Advancing Innovation With Design Thinking

In the age of transformation, when innovation is an urgent necessity versus a luxury, superior design, the kind that wildly enhances customer experience and creates new business models, must be well executed. In a recent Status Go Podcast Episode, Lou Lenzi, Professor of Practice at IUPUI‘s School of Informatics and Computing, and Jeff Ton, InterVision’s SVP of Product Development and Strategic Alliances, take listeners through the evolution of design thinking over the last 36 years, discussing the root of fundamentally good design and exploring the type of true collaboration among teams, and even adjacent industries, necessary to carry out a needle-moving product or solution.


The Evolution of Design: Useful, Usable, Delightful

Lenzi, trained as an industrial designer and who has led teams with the mission of connecting design-driven innovation to overall business strategies, describes how the focus of design has evolved.

Initially, simply making a product useful was the key challenge; it was a matter of capturing the complexity and developing a product that simply functioned. To illustrate his point, Lenzi recalls the days of the VCR, where no one could properly set the clock and also get MASH to record on a Saturday night at the same time. Over the years, useful morphed into usable. Consumers wanted design and function that was more relevant to them and went beyond executing a specific task.

Today, the demand of consumers and the challenge for a business revolves around making a product or service delightful; it must not only work, but bring additional benefit within the interaction and experience itself. It’s a highly competitive digital world where the bar is constantly being raised. The desires and expectations of consumers are advanced and progressive and as Lenzi states, “Yesterday’s answer won’t meet tomorrow’s requirements.”

The Root of Fundamentally Good Design

Lenzi believes any time you have an interaction with a product or service that leaves you feeling two things 1) it was a positive experience and 2) it delivered on its promise, you can be certain the design team thoroughly understood what the customer was looking for because the root of fundamentally good design lies within the initial discovery process.

To produce good design you must take a step back, truly understand your customer needs and design toward those specifications using a proper process — design, test, evaluate and design. When an IT organization is lacking this type of creative problem solving process, they often lean into the idea that creativity and ingenuity are lacking overall. However, Lenzi refutes this idea saying, “When you think about solving a problem, elegant code, efficient use of resources and the delivery of a product or service…that’s creative.” In fact, Lenzi takes it one step further asserting that the, “fundamental principles behind solid product development in an IT organization is all based on creative thinking.”


Keeping up with the pace of change

The digital world today is competitive, but it is also evolving faster than ever before. Lenzi suggests one way to stay current is by surrounding yourself with people from adjacent industries; collaborate, get a different perspective, pick up ideas, thoughts and common threads to apply to your work and the blueprints for your ideas and solutions. In the early 90s, Lenzi’s team was challenged with creating the set top decoder box that allowed end users to navigate content for 300 channels (when their previous experience had only be 30 channels). To kick off the project, Lenzi sent the team to Disney World because he wanted them to approach this project with a different perspective, “I didn’t want the team to think in terms of technology; I wanted them to think in terms of entertainment and what is a great experience.”

Lenzi also strongly urges businesses, product development teams and IT to examine how they are innovating, stressing not only that there should be more than one innovation model, but the importance of taking a broader look into new models involving open collaboration. He claims, “Sources of innovation are multiplying and the way those innovation pipelines take hold, the way you staff those pipelines are changing. Now you do have the design organization—the UX designer, the UI designer—IT, R&D, and Marketing all working together in an openly collaborative environment.” Lenzi urges organizations to take advantage of promising new resources such as innovation labs, business incubators and makerspaces; all environments focused on speed and fresh ideas.

Today’s consumer, whether an individual or a business, are savvy, discerning and expectant of high quality. Organizations must move swiftly, efficiently and design with purpose—a purpose that revolves around the needs of the customer and the overall customer experience. It is with this focus organizations are able to drive innovation through elegant design while also remaining connected to overall business strategies and goals.


Listen to the full podcast episode here.

The Full Podcast Episode

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