‘Design thinking’ is nothing but a ‘Process for innovation’

posted by Ravi Arora November 13, 2017

In one of my earlier posts I discussed that Innovation is generally understood as an end outcome – mostly as a product, sometimes as a service and rarely as a process. ‘Innovative thinking’ is best used as a synonym for ‘Creative thinking’ or a ‘Stage gate.’ Experts on innovation have tried hard to explain the larger scope of innovative thinking that included items like – finding current and changing customer’s needs and behavior, exploring technology trends, focusing on usability and intuitiveness and importance of organizational systems in enabling innovations. Unfortunately the understanding of innovation is so deeply rooted to outcomes – products and services that the managers could not accept the enlarged scope of innovative thinking. This led to leaders and managers focus on Creativity alone to drive innovations, which failed to deliver results.

This gap has been excellently filled by ‘Design thinking’, which was introduced much later. I see no difference between the two – ‘Design thinking’ and ‘Innovative thinking’. ‘Design thinking’ has been introduced as a verb – process steps to achieve the end outcome – innovation.

While the subject is gaining momentum rapidly, many companies are confused between designs, design thinking and innovations. The confusion is understandable and my recommendations is to encourage all three because they are complimentary and have no conflict whatsoever. If one has an end outcome (innovation) in mind, application of ‘Design thinking would make the process more efficient and the outcome more effective. Remember, the end objective could be a desire to have a simpler process (innovation) and Design thinking could be applied to it as well.

Design and Design thinking are two different things similar to Innovation and innovative thinking. When we think of Design it is about the design of end outcomes. It could be the design of a building, product, space, website, mobile-app etc. It is mostly used for physical items and rarely used for experience.

In the next few posts, I would make an attempt to clarify these differences in more details with some examples.