How design and discovery flow together

Innovation, process, and the role of ‘Discovery’

What is innovation?

I mean, for real, not just as a buzzword on a grant application or something for a CV. I mean, for real. Yes, I said that already. Realness is highly important to me, and in this era especially, so I don’ tmind underscoring it.

I didn’t know this but it was an organic process that led DK to become an innovation consulting boutique, around 2013 or so. Before that, DK was kind of hacking it as a design outfit. No one we worked with, except for our three lovely interns, that is, was formally trained in Graphic Design, yet, magically, people paid us tens of thousands of dollars to come up with smart, clean, modern and classic designs.

They trusted us to make it happen, and deliver strong results that encapsulated the essence of their ‘brand story.’

Why did we know how to do this? Why did we get commission after commission in Seattle, leading to a flourishing studio, a world-class set of people who came and went through our doors sharing their knowledge and stories as collaborators, co-creators, subcontractors, fellow designers, and more? (Realness, I bet that’s why. DK stands for meaning things that DK says it will do, or that we care about. Me, personally, I don’t make promises lightly, nor commitments, and I do what I say I will.) The whole thing was really lovely, now that I reflect, all these years later, here, from this perch on the other side of the world. It was a party, kind of.

Actually the buoyant atmosphere that you could see if you walked by our giant window during a client meeting was exactly the reason we got hired, sometimes, by neighbors who passed or saw our sign or saw that I was curating and hosting a popup art show or party. Stuff like that. Stuff that I love to do even today.

One client had said, ‘It just looks like you guys are having so much fun,’ he said. ‘I want to hire you and see what it’s about.’ This was 2006, in Seattle::

Design Kompany’s first office in Seattle, shared space with one of our our clients D+A Studio. Photos by Laura Totten, this was a setup for ‘Dazzle,’ a show of her work at our space. Great moment. Great memories. // Seattle, 2006

‘I’ll have what she’s having’..

So let me come back to innovation consultation, now, because that is what our Phnom Penh story has been about, largely, since 2014. The brand identity design we had created for NUK was the last chapter of design in that old way, in many ways it just felt like time to stop making things in the old modes since the world was quickly shifting.

Who needs ‘a logo’ in 2020?

You need clarity about who you are, and what you stand for. That hasn’t changed. And that is what we are the best at helping people figure out. ‘Who am I? Like really, for real, when I take away all the mirrors and stop listening to what society says I should be?’

Sound familiar? Well, yeah. You wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t somehow resonating with what we are interested in: self-actualization. Not. For. Everyone.

So let me share with you something I found that has to do with ‘discovery’, and how it relates back to ‘innovation.’

Lots of people are talking about ‘innovation’ right now and I’m going to venture a guess to say the reason why is because, as some of you may know already, the way things are always done is not always the best way.

Sometimes its ineffectual but no one can really say so because of standing hierarchies or hard-baked beliefs.

Sometimes it’s just boring.

There is more to say about all of that, and part of the reason we are writing this blog now (it’s changing, this year, quite a lot) is to look, listen, share, and inform those who are interested in what discovery learning can be, how there’s an actual theory here, behind these movements here at DK and the ways we are bringing people whose paths might never have crossed to intersect, by design.

But briefly. In the moment. There is the poetic moment, of course, that is part of it, but more and more it’s becoming clear that there is way more to the picture than meets the eye, even to us. Because innovation needs to happen if we are going to solve, together, completely listening and learning from one another, to solve, I was saying, quoting and paraphrasing J. Krishnamurthi, who knew this and tried very hard to tell us all to stop being so caught up in our ways of thinking and break free of old patterns and see things fresh, every day, anew. If we can, we can hear each other. If we can do that, we can ‘solve, completely, all our problems.’

Really.

Today, an excerpt… it’s from Northeastern University’s  blog post on ‘Innovation Process’. I had reached out to the author to do a more full Q&A, but there wasn’t enough follow-through on both ends so I’ll just leave you with this. This bit is what started me off reaching out to the author to ask more…..

 

The discovery phase is the one companies should spend more time and resources on.

It’s during this phase that ideas are generated and vetted by potential users, and where teams work to discover whether they’re tackling the right problem.

“Where you have a gap right now is to do the upfront better,” Tucker Marion says. Marion directs of the Master of Science in Innovation program. “That entails giving employees the skills to better understand opportunities, to apply different methods of getting information from potential customers, and to achieve better ideas. Simply put, you want to vet more of the best ideas and kick their tires, so to speak.”

This is where ideation techniques, such as brainstorming and prototyping, can be used to a company’s advantage. Ideation—the creative process of generating new ideas—is an important part of the design thinking process, in which organizations focus on uncovering the non-obvious pain points their customers are experiencing and developing new products, services, and business models aligned to their needs.

We are encouraging firms to put early prototyping back to where it belongs: in discovery,” Marion explains. “By the end of the discovery phase, if I did my homework right, I’ve already tested early prototypes with customers and have a good idea of what my business model is. That’s going to better set me up for this development phase.”

Note: DK have no association with the university, nor are we endorsing them. 

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