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4 Design Thinking Tools Which Any Company Can Use To Innovate [Podcast]

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On this episode, you’re going to meet Duncan Wardle. Duncan spent 30 years at arguably the best-known brand in the world – Disney. In his last role, he was a global executive in charge of something most companies don’t even identify as a function in the business. That function is innovation. As Vice President of Innovation & Creativity, it was his job to invent new ways to generate revenue.

We think of innovation as something that companies do, but in reality, it’s the people in those companies who innovate. The problem is most people aren’t given the time nor the tools to innovate. After 30 years in a global corporate brand, Duncan has started his own company – ID8&INNOV8 – where he travels the globe helping companies – many of which are household brand names – overcome the challenges associated with innovating.

Duncan shares 4 tools that foster creativity and enable companies to innovate.

  1. Start with your end user’s greatest need
  2. List the rules of your challenge as quickly as you can
  3. Take one rule and ask “What if this rule didn’t exist?”
  4. Imagine a world where that rule isn’t in effect

These tools are applicable whether your company is B2C, B2B, or non-profit because they are universal principles.

4 Barriers To Creativity And Innovation In Most Organizations

One of the most interesting things Duncan discusses is that very few people say that they have their best ideas while they’re at work. That means there’s a disconnect in the way companies are trying to encourage their team members to innovate, because they try to make it happen while the team is at work, without addressing the reasons creativity is hampered.

What is it about being at work that blocks creativity?

Duncan says there are four common barriers to creativity and innovation in most organizations:

  1. A lack of time. Policies, procedures, processes, and more keep employees busy, not allowing much time for creativity
  2. Companies tend to have no common definition of creativity or innovation, so those working together have a hard time rowing in the same direction
  3. Companies tend to be risk averse instead of risk courageous, which causes them to miss the opportunity to be customer-centric
  4. Ideas tend to get stuck or killed as they move through the organization toward implementation

Do you see any of these present in your workplace? The answer is not to get out of the office, but to learn new ways of approaching the innovation process.

Why We Need Design Thinking Tools to Help Us Innovate and Create

Every human being is creative in some way, but we struggle to believe it. That’s because from a very young age we’ve been told that there’s a special group of people who are creative – and we’re likely not among them.

Besides that, we’ve each built our own areas of experience and expertise. The strengths that come with expertise are predicated on the attainment of knowledge, facts, and certainty upon which we base our decisions and observations. That locks us into patterns and styles of thinking which are diametrically opposed to creativity. 

Design thinking tools enable us to turn problems or challenges into games that magically switch the brain to “What if?” mode rather than “It won’t work” mode. Duncan believes this kind of approach can help businesses and sales organizations discover new ways of serving customers.

How To Use The Words “Yes, and” To Get Creativity And Innovation Going

Many companies or teams organize “brainstorming” sessions to enable people to work toward innovative solutions together. The problem is that the work environment fosters a “stressed brain” condition that prohibits creativity. Duncan says that there are a handful of design thinking tools which can be used to move the team out of that state.

One of his favorites is this: Anytime a person has a new idea, or raises an objection to an idea, someone on the team should respond with the phrase, “Yes, and…” That kind of response opens the door to possibilities, rather than leaving the objection as a hard and fast obstacle that can’t be overcome.

As a bonus outcome, using this approach causes most teams to experience the success as a team effort rather than the result of one person’s contribution.

Duncan says this is an example of how being playful enables the brain to relax – which causes creativity to increase. 

How Design Thinking Tools Can Be Applied Specifically To A B2B Context

All through our conversation, Duncan insists that design thinking tools apply to a B2B context as well as any other. I wanted to hear Duncan’s specific reasons behind that assertion, and his answer was simple but powerful.

He pointed out that some business leaders have never physically gotten out of their controlled, comfortable environment to get into the shoes of their customer. That puts them at a disadvantage immediately, because they don’t truly understand their customer’s needs, or their experience with the product or service they offer. Duncan says that if companies are unwilling to take that critical step, they may innovate, but what they come up with won’t be relevant to their customers.

Featured on This Episode

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:31] How Duncan became the director of Innovation and Creativity for Disney
  • [7:44] Why we need tools to help us learn to innovate and create
  • [16:02] How does a company go through the process of innovating toward reinvention?
  • [19:06] Why do the best ideas not typically come to us at work?
  • [23:15] The power of bringing in a naive expert
  • [29:09] How design thinking and creativity can work in the B2B context

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