Apr 26, 2019

5 min read

The Innovators’ DNA in a Design Infused Company

Whether a company has ten or hundred thousand employees, it has access to an untapped resource of unique, diverse and broad perspectives and insights that employees of these companies don’t share effectively. Any company with a customer service has employees who make hundreds of observations each and every day, and generate new learnings, either consciously or sub-consciously.

ruly innovative companies don’t just design for customer experience. They also design their own journey towards creating maximum impact.

Design Thinking really resonated well with me and I felt an AHA-moment at Singularity University after I won the Global Impact Competition for Central-Eastern Europe in 2012 and as a first prize got the opportunity to be part of the 10-week Global Solutions Program of SingularityU at the NASA Ames in the Bay Area.

I learned from leading mentors of the globe how to use Design Thinking to eventually accelerate innovation and create a design infused company that achieves exponential growth and creates a significant impact on the world. We visited the biggest startups like Google, smallest tech garages sequencing DNA and even had workshops at IDEO meeting facilitators who once worked on Apple’s first products.

As a Psychologist — I loved the fact that they all used Design Thinking and said: The journey starts with Empathy.

This mindset of putting people in the center, understanding their feelings, thoughts, actions is what eventually will make us design meaningful and impactful solutions and make a difference in people’s lives. And that’s what we want don’t we?

The only thing I was missing is that usually using Design Thinking meant looking outside to our customers, to their environment, emphasizing going out of the building, exploring the market.But why do we do Design Thinking outside? Why don’t we Design Think right here within our organization as well? Let’s look inside our company and let’s discover how we can design for impact on any level, and in any department of the organization creating an innovation and design infused company.

What if you discored the same journey for your employees that you do for your customers? To know what makes them happy, engaged, motivated or challenged day by day? You can use a Empathy map or Employee Journey that shows how they feel, think what they do at every step of creating the solution for your target group and you can use Etnography to also observe them and gain insight from that. Even if we take Design Thinking inside, the journey starts with empathy. How well you get to know your employees at the bottom line will set you up for success.

Design Infused companies, such as Pixar, enable processes for collective creativity to thrive. Their quest is: “How we can find the best solution to a creative problem the fastest way so that we involve the entire team utilizing its full potential, which reflects on their diverse viewpoints and empowers them to validate this solution with the target group?”

Many companies say, they don’t have problems with finding ideas. They have problems with the acceleration and implementation of ideas. And the reason is because they expect the solution to come from the idea instead of from the question. 99% of startups fail because they come up with the solution first, and not the question on how to create most value for the target group. They spend too much time on perfecting a solution that noone has ever seen or validated.

The solution is to reflect on the Innovators’ DNA: empower people to spend more time on the discovery phase of problems — ask important questions and identify challenges on an everyday basis. And these design-infused companies, like Pixar, NEST, Apple, Amazon or Airbnb are the exponential organisations we all follow for innovation best practices.

They turn every employee into an Innovator, unlocking and constantly developing the skills identified as the Innovator’s DNA by Harvard professors analysing Fortune200's most innovative companies of the world. These most innovative companies empower people to make unique observations to identify pain-points and opportunities for improvement, ask questions (as they turn their idea into a challenge where they can involve their colleagues), invite their large network to contribute to finding the best solution sharing and evaluating ideas together using wide and surprising associations from other departments, industries or nature and experiment in small steps with multiple ideas from diverse groups they combine together in an agile process to eventually find the breakthrough solution.

The Innovator’s DNA — Christensen, Dyer, Gregersen

Why I find it fascinating that creative challenges, ideation and implementation started on so many levels within Pixar is because we also realized that being a challenge owner is like being an innovation champion. Inviting people into a challenge is also making a promise in a sense: You promise that something will happen with the ideas that you are collecting, and this something will make their work environment better or it will significantly improve their processes, products or services — and people invest their faith in the challenge owner that through their contributions they will create a positive impact together.

I believe this is the ultimate motivation of every one of us. Just because we still have a profile on social media and one of our biggest fear is a poor wifi signal, it doesn’t mean this era IS about connectivity. And neither is it just about the sharing economy. Although we all like to contribute and keep resources efficient, this is not the ultimate goal of the internet, nor the 21st century. They are good steps towards something bigger.

I think we are rather transitioning towards an era of creating impact together and being design infused. We will not only consume, but also create and design content. We connect and contribute and share, because eventually we want to feel we designed and created something meaningful with a positive impact on us, on others, on the world. We want to contribute to something that will leave a mark on this world so that we experience we can shape it in the way we like it. This is what the 21st century and this new era is preparing us for.

It is our responsibility to turn the focus inside and try to involve others in solving challenges that will make our everyday lives and processes better.

We can create maximum impact in a healthy body. And it is only us who can understand why we do the things we do, which ones we enjoy and how to multiply those together, to improve together. In a design infused company everyone is empowered to redesign processes, realize and get passionate about opportunities and create impact. And this journey creating impact starts with you…. it starts with us.