Embracing Slow Innovation: A Pacemaker for Design Thinking
The inspiration for this article came from a fantastic piece published by The Board of Innovation (TBI). The article talks about the impact Slow Innovation can have on overall decision making, particularly in the early phases of a project. They call this the ‘innovation process’. We love a bit of innovative thinking at KOMODO, and it got us thinking about how the concept behind Slow Innovation can apply to Design Thinking practices.
The Concept of Slow Innovation
We know what you’re thinking: This is crazy.
How is it possible to slow down in a world that is driven by the pace of constant change? Where one minute you’re happily listening to a hip pre-recorded podcast, only to be told the next minute you’re doing it wrong if you aren’t listening live *cough* Clubhouse *cough*.
Clubhouse is an interesting example because it shows the often counter-intuitive nature of innovation. Is it just radio with extra steps? Perhaps. Will it stick around beyond 2021? Not a clue. Is it revolutionary? Quite possibly. Has it applied Slow Innovation concepts? Absolutely.
The Three Tenets of Slow Innovation
TBI demonstrate Slow Innovation by breaking it down into two phases. The ‘Slow’ and ‘Fast’ phases (see image below). Usually the fast and the slow are back to front, with businesses spending less time ‘innovating’ and more time ‘solutioning’. This can lead to breakdowns later on when early planning isn’t given its due diligence. Think ‘make haste, slowly.’
Slow Innovation can be broken down into three ‘tenets’, here is a quick summary:
Slowing Down for Decision Making
We are usually forced to make speedy decisions to get a product to market without stopping to consider whether the needs of users have changed. They suggest that when it comes to slow innovation, the key is to create space in your process to pause and reflect on changing context.
Slow Down for System-Wide Thinking
Systems thinking is broken down into two types. Type 1 Thinking is based on our intuition, whereas Type 2 Thinking focuses on rigorous logic and analytical thinking. Employing the two modes, particularly Type 2 Thinking will help account for all the needs of a project. Especially by taking into consideration the ‘ripple effect’ high-level decision making can have across the whole ecosystem of a business.
Slow Down to Think More Proactively
The final tenet is the most difficult. It requires you to take the time to regularly scan for signs of change to identify opportunities as they emerge, not just reacting to them when they’ve become too big to avoid. A behaviour shift like this requires a different perspective but will allow you to move from the defensive to the offensive.
Innovation Vs. Design Thinking
So how does Design Thinking fit into all this? Design Thinking is certainly a creative process, much like innovation. Both are types of abductive reasoning. They are used to create novel approaches to problems. Although, they do have different goals.
Taking this iterative approach to design helps product designers arrive at solutions tailored to the user. Therefore, Design Thinking is a user-centred process.
Innovation employs a similar type of thinking, but from a different angle, by exploring disconnected ideas to form new ones. Much like Design Thinking, it requires skills such as creativity, agility and experimentation. However, innovation takes a more business-focused approach. Innovation is generally more aligned with strategic thinking to tackle complex business problems like lowering costs, reducing risk and discovering new solutions.
Innovation is interested in providing better products and services to a business’s customers. Therefore, if Design Thinking is user-centric, innovation is customer-centric.
Integrating Slow Innovation & Design Thinking
Although the two may have different goals, Design Thinking and Slow Innovation do work hand in hand.
Looking at the Slow Innovation model above, the so-called ‘innovation phase’ of brief, research and solution is comparable to the initial stages of design thinking. While the ‘execution’ phase works alongside the latter phases of design thinking. You can break it down like so:
Communicating Innovation: Empathise, Define & Ideate.
Executing Innovation: Prototype & Test.
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