Innovation design is the most interesting job in the world.
But what is it, really?
The truth is, it’s not really a job. Well, I mean, it can be. My “official” job description is an innovation designer.
However, you don’t need to get hired as one to start using its methods and become more successful in anything you do.
But let’s start with a definition. That’s my favorite part.
Innovation design is a process for solving the right problems in the right way.
This means finding problems worth solving and approaching them in the most effective way to either quickly create a solution, or find out that the problem isn’t worth solving at all.
So it’s not about designing some mysterious thing called “innovation.” It’s about being able to solve any problem in a way that takes the least amount of resources (time, energy, money).
And if that sounds like a superpower to you, that’s because it is.
How is that useful to you?
You can use design methods to start a profitable business, create a persuasive marketing campaign, build a new app, run an effective non-profit company, or design a fully sustainable house. In other words, you can use it to find solutions to any complex problem.
And the good news is, it’s easier to do so than you might think. The problems sound difficult, but the methods are simple. It takes practice to become good at it, sure, but it’s not about innate talent or secret knowledge.
Anyone can become an innovation designer by adding a handful of tools into their workflow.
Imagine you had the skill to find a solution to any problem. What would you do with it?
What makes an innovation designer
An innovation designer thinks and acts like a scientist.
- They look at problems as opportunities for progress
- They aren’t afraid of failure because they know that’s the only way to learn
- They embrace ambiguity and complexity of difficult problems
- They know how to talk to people to understand their needs better than they do
- They are economical in their process (lazy but in a good way). They always look for the most effective way to achieve the next step.
- They see everything as an assumption (hypothesis) that shouldn’t be argued about but tested for data that will help them understand how things really work
We could say that:
Innovation design is the scientific method applied to building new products, services, and businesses.
It’s not as rigorous and precise as the scientific method, but it uses many of the same principles to achieve something no one has ever done before.
It’s a method the same designer (me in this example) can use to design a hydroponic garden, a web application, and a new business model for IKEA during the same year. Innovation design is a universal tool that isn’t bound to just one discipline. It’s useful everywhere.
Whether you are an architect, a programmer, a chef, a graphic designer, a team manager, or anyone else who needs to solve difficult problems in their daily work and life – the methods of design will turn you into a more effective problem solver. I’m certain of that.
The next step for you
If you’re an experienced professional in your craft who would like to level up their game, explore some of these frameworks for doing good innovation design. They will improve your creative process.
These methods have differences but the core of how they work remains the same. They’re ways to find a problem worth solving and then build the best possible solution.
Now, if you’re at the beginning: whether you’re a student thinking about innovation design as a career, or anyone looking to get better at making useful things people actually want, the best way to start is to learn by doing. Start like I did when I was 18 and build something that doesn’t work.
It would be better if the things you make are working, that’s for sure. But to be honest, it doesn’t matter. We all have to make the same mistakes to truly understand why they’re mistakes. The success of what you are creating is secondary when your primary goal is to learn.
Creating something from scratch is a priceless experience no one can provide you with words or fancy design methods. The only way to become a good maker – to work as an innovation designer – is to make things poorly until they aren’t bad anymore.
And I’m here for anyone who has the courage to try. I’m here for you.