Great new ideas – the sort that make businesses grow and make daily life better – can come from anywhere. But design-led innovation is coming to be seen as one of the faster, more reliable and less risky ways of generating them.
Watch this short video of designers and business people discussing how businesses who think design begins and ends with decoration are in for a bumpy ride. But the ones who use it to move forward are the ones worth working with, says Paul Bennett from design consultancy IDEO.
Why? Because the methods and processes designers use ensure that the people who will ultimately become the idea’s users and customers are always central to how it is developed. Also, because the possible form of the finished product, service or system starts emerging early in the design process, it can be tested early too, so promising ideas are identified early and weaker ones are discarded before large scale finance is committed.
The Redesigning Business Summit, which we staged with The Economist, looked in detail at how design can help good ideas get to market. This short film sums up views from the conference floor, from speakers and delegates.
Eddie Obeng, Director of Learning at the Pentacle virtual business school and a member of the Design Council, presented a sobering statistic – only one in 100,000 ideas ‘actually translate into something which is making money for real in the market two years later.’
It could be that more of those ideas need what Politecnico de Milano’s Prof. Roberto Verganti described as design’s ability to add ‘meaning’. ‘Through design, you can understand better what people want and mean when they buy things, but you can also innovate the meaning of things, because design is making sense of things. People don’t just buy technology and utility, they buy meaning and emotion and symbols.’
Alongside design, businesses need people skilled at interpreting shifting patterns in people’s lives if they are going to discover this meaning and profit from it - people capable of thinking beyond current trends and making new connections. When Apple wanted to design a new computer in the late 1990s, said Verganti, it didn’t hire the world’s most famous computer designer to do it. It went instead for Jonathan Ive, whose career had been in household and bathroom products. That was because the internet had turned the computer into a household product and Apple knew it needed a designer to interpret that change.
It might also pay businesses to take on board product designer Richard Seymour’s point that design is not just the link between creativity, innovation and successful commercialisation. ‘It’s more than that. Designing, creating things is not linear. It’s chaotic. If you bring that further up the food chain in what you do, you will understand how it works. It will scare you, but you’ll understand it.
‘Ideas are dime a dozen, but properly targeted, commercialised, exquisitely beautiful, compelling and addictive products are not, and the people who can do those things are the designers.’
For conference speeches, listen to our audio clips or read the transcripts.