There are a lot of disruptive products in consumer market, and many of them are driven either from technology or business. (Kinect vs. Netflix) However, it is harder to see design-driven break-through products. Design has been a good contributor of incremental changes (so as design research as Don Norman speaks), making things more usable and desirable.
Are we set up ourselves right for cultivating and integrating disruptive ideas? The complexity is that it is hard to make good ideas survive to all the way through product release because the constant battle between alignments with the existing product and the need of reinventing. (There is fine line between crazy idea vs. break-through idea)
Then, how can we create process, team and culture that help design can drive break-through products? We should consciously try different models to how it cultivates the culture and process in a way that can balance alignment and disruptive ideas.

Integrated Design process

Design process is structured, waterfall model. It is model of “narrowing down” the options and synthesizing to “scoped” chunks. While you are going down to the funnel, your criteria can be easily ‘how much does this make sense to be integrated to our current brand and product?’ or ‘how measurable the success is’? , then a lot of good ideas are tossed away on the journey, even they are good candidate of break-through ideas. In contrast to design process, engineering is heading for agile, quick prototyping process for the web era with faster product cycle. Shouldn’t we re-think about our design process?

Team setup that is sustainable and actionable

The team needs to be structured in a way it cultivates out-of-box thinking. There are many conscious experiments among various teams and companies. A good example is Google’s 20% personal work model. (Doing this within design team might be challenging considering Enric’s article on the designer ratio below)In contrast, Apple takes very top-down approach on this. I’ve seen also many cases that there are setups which separates incubation and product team. Brining outside perspective by partnering with consulting firms is a common example. All has pros and cons in terms of sustainability and alignment to existing portfolio.

Culture that cultivates out of box thinking and constantly integrate

Team needs to realize there is different approach to come up with ideas. It may seems to be some crazy, “out-there” ideas, but the culture needs to support where there are coming from and how we can integrated it smartly without being irrelevant. (Balance between discovery culture vs. synthesis culture) It can’t live one or the other. The reason why there are many failures in incubation teams and big projects with consulting firms are there wasn’t enough effort or set up for integration. If we focus too much about integration and existing portfolio, it becomes Borders example that couldn’t adopt the e-book era and reinvent themselves.

How can we change in a way that it makes sense for the product and the existing team? Is there any good examples that other companies are trying? Who are the great partners for this thinking? I have still a lot of questions that I want to update on future entry.

p.s. Thanks for albertS for food for thought.


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