The Art of Innovation – Part 1: Building Experiences

In The Art of Innovation, IDEO’s founder Tom Kelley writes his lessons in creativity from years of success through innovation. In this three part series, I will take you through key takeaways from the book. This first part is about how IDEO builds product experiences.

IDEO uses a Five Step Method. First Understand the market, client and technology. Then Observe for gaps in the market and difficulties that customers face. Visualize how a solution can solve these difficulties with roll plays, storyboards and prototypes. Evaluate this solution and refine over several prototypes. Implement and market the solution, turning it into a commercial product.

Step 1 – Design

Focus on verbs not nouns, and design experiences not products. Optimize the common case first and focus on the points where people interact with the product.

Create five designs in the first week and present these to the project stakeholders to request feedback. Use their comments to refine the initial designs before making a prototype.

Step 2 – Prototyping

Never go to a meeting without a prototype. —Dermis Boyle

The process of creating a prototype sparks innovation, which is crucial for success. The project course can be corrected earlier and more often. Pitch the product in stages as the it develops. First show a rough sketch, then a cheap foam model.

When presenting a product, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures, and each picture is worth a thousand words. Prototypes are harder to reject but still need a good performance to have impact. Make trailers for each visual prototype and combine them with a great entrance.

Step 3 – Refinement

Once you have the first version of a product, test it as if you had never seen it before. It should be easy to understand, aim for the simplicity of tear-open tissues.

Once customers start using products you need to refine them. Refinement is asking what you do not need in the product and then removing it. The second version of a product should be simpler than the first. Always beware of the feature creep that happens when real innovation stalls.

Many products can be improved when observed in action. Get observers with in-depth knowledge of the product to watch potential customers interacting with it.

Step 4 – Marketing

If you can’t make a t-shirt about it, maybe you don’t have a compelling story

The energy and effort put into marketing the product can be the difference between it being a hit or miss. Adoption can take forceful marketing. Transform the way you are perceived and become sanctioned by the market. Do not advertise failures because it can prevent market acceptance.

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