101 Design Methods: A book review by Bob Morris

101 Design Methods101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization
Vijay Kumar
John Wiley & Sons (2013)

“If innovation is so important, why aren’t more organizations better at it? Why are innovation failure rates so high?”

Vijay Kumar is not the first nor will he be the last to ask the questions posed in the title of this review. Here’s another: “What to do about it?” This book is his response to that question. He suggests Four Core Principles of Successful Innovation:

o Build Innovations Around Experiences
o Think of Innovations as Systems
o Cultivate an Innovation Culture
o Adopt a Disciplined Innovation Process

Following an exceptionally informative Introduction, he carefully organizes his material within seven Modes 0f the design innovation process (summarized in Pages 10-13), each of which requires an organizational mindset that nourishes and supports the given enterprise:

Sense Intent: Where to play? What to offer? How to win?
Kumar explains how to develop a mindset that senses changing conditions in the competitive marketplace, sees overviews, foresees trends, reframes problems, and forms an intent for innovation

Know Context: What are the specific surrounding conditions in which changes occur?
How to develop a mindset that knows context history, understands frontiers, sees system overviews, understands stakeholders, and uses mental models

Know People: Commit to the “centrality” of users to the innovation process
How to develop a mindset that observes everything,builds empathy, immerses in daily life, listens openly, and looks for and recognizes unsolved problems and unmet needs

Frame Insights: Apply effectively various analytical frameworks to the data obtained
How to develop a mindset that explores systems, looks for and recognizes patterns, constructs overviews, identifies opportunities, and develops guiding principles

Explore Concepts: Now it’s time to “jump” from the world of inquiries into the world of possibilities
How to develop a mindset that clearly envision the desired future, explores concepts and symptoms at the fringes of the current reality, seeks clearly added value, and uses storytelling to make the future vivid

Frame solutions: Combine compatible and valuable concepts into reliable and systemic solutions
How to develop a mindset that conceives holistic solutions, can also conceive options and alternatives, makes value judgments, envisions scenaria, and structures solutions

Realize Offerings: Explore any/all plausible and appropriate ways by which ideas can succeed in real world
How to develop a mindset that reiterates prototypes, evaluates in reality (i.e. in context, within a frame of reference), defines strategies, implements in reality, and communicates vision.

Each reader soon realizes that the key word is indeed “how” as Kumar delivers what is promised in the subtitle of his book: “A structured approach for driving innovation in your organization” and, better yet, he provides the information, insights, and counsel he provides in abundance are relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. After explaining what each mindset must achieve, Kumar introduces several methods by which to do that. For example, for Mode #4 (“Frame Insights”), he offers and explains ten methods.

I do not know of another single source that offers more and better information, insights, and counsel with regard to success innovation through design thinking than does this one. If there is one, I would very much like to know about it. Meanwhile, congratulations to Vijay Kumar on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

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