The beauty of Lego is that it is a collection of various shaped blocks that can be assembled into objects the shape and function being limited only by the imagination of the creators and their skills in utilising the function of the blocks and the ability to acquire other blocks that are emerging of different shape and function... of course we can add Mindstorms to the mix and really open-up even more possibilities Those creative and executive skills enable our organisations to envisage ways to delight the user/consumer and using technologies (building blocks) familiar to us, and other technologies understood by collaborators, By assembling those technologies and then packaging them in ways that delight the consumer we can deliver a winning experience. In the 90's, as a design technology and process exploitation group we spent a great deal of time working on delighting our clients... the project teams that we were invited to partner. This book
"Design-Inspired Innovation" helps articulate what we were up to as collaborators with multi-functional teams. A reviewer of the book writes:
"This book defines design-inspired innovation in terms of three different, equally important aspects. Two of these, technology and needs (i.e., satisfaction), are well known in current practice. The third, however, summed up as language, is either disregarded or neglected. Language in this instance refers to the meaning of the product in the sociocultural milieu in which it is perceived and used: It is the product's emotional and symbolic value. An aim of design-inspired innovation is to achieve success through a high level of sociocultural fit.
A recent example described by the authors is the iconic iPod music player by Apple: a product that has revolutionized the way we listen to music. The creation of the iPod was, essentially, the combination of existing technologies in new ways. It was developed for Apple by Portal Player, a firm with design expertise in portable music players. Working with Apple's suppliers of five key off-the-shelf components, Portal Player developed a reference model that, with additional design input by Apple, became the iPod. However, it is not merely a music player in conveniently compact form. It has developed meaning and has become, virtually, an expression of its user's sociocultural fit in the same way that a BMW is not merely a car but is an expression of its owner."
A slide by McKinsey (in German) encapsulated the innovation dilemma. I can't find the source but adapted a few years ago to look like this
Basically this matrix nudges you in the direction of new products (and services) that have the potential to disrupt the market by deploying the building blocks of organisational infrastructure and technology you and your partners are familiar with.
To make this activity (seriously playing) more structured (and more challenging and fun) we created a tool called Design Space, a conceptual, mental, virtual and physical space to ensure that project teams take into account all significant factors in their creative collaborations. It never ceased to amaze me what we uncovered as cultural barriers to "doing the right thing", let alone "doing the right thing right". For instance, in one "Design Space" session we were trying to get a feel for costs of two or three different cap designs... the consumer group had ranked them on visual appeal from digital renders.. and thay were closely ranked.. so we were looking for other differentiators to help in our narrowing down of concepts to work on. The buyer (in charge of procuring this particular class of component) was extremely reluctant to even voice an opinion.. no matter it was time for dinner and then another session tomorrow. Over dinner I was chatting with the buyer and as the drink loosened all our tongues he told me the story of how as a trainee buyer he had costed something at x and it turned out when the actual order was placed it was 1.25x, and his boss had never let him forget his "failure". First thing next morning the team created a 'concept costing' that had no validity outside the meeting and gave relative costs for comparison only. Within an hour we had our 'costs' and it turned out that the concept rated second (just!) was 15% cheaper than number 1. As we were in a cost-sensitive market sector we knew which one to go for. Another time we were doing the same exercise on a less price sensitive sector and we chose concept number 1 as it was only 1.1x the cost of concept 2 but it was significantly preferred by consumers. So 10% was worth investing in. There is also a challenge if it was 100% more than concept 2 which may have meant the trad-off would go the other way... but in the absence of cost information at the initial decision it becomes incredibly difficult to stop the train and switch concepts...confronting the 'tyranny of trade-offs'; that is why the way we build conceptual models plays a key role in determining how we perceive and play with our building blocks..as Michael Schrage says in Serious Play:
Because previously there was a lack of a 'concept costing' building block buyers were regarded a cynics because we felt that any deviation from what we already produced to something new and conceptual was always met with reluctance and to misquote Oscar Wilde, buyers had the reputation of knowing
"the price of everything and the value of nothing".
A Design Space conversation changed that view for ever and opened up possibility in the minds of the team members. They knew that their ideas and opinions would be listened to...it would not be treated cynically. In the words of Ovid...
Picture uploaded by berzowska. used with thanks under CC.
I was leafing through my old notebooks and came across this, written in January, 2006 (thought... did I write it or copy it... creative or karaoke?):
"The odds of success of a concept, but on the variety of methods used to investigate and promote the concepts. The rapid discovery and rapid design techniques move concepts along the process faster, but unless we constantly evolve new methods for executing the process we will not reap the benefits. Innovating faster means learning faster; somewhere at the beginning of the project we need an idea for the product or service, driven from an insight about the consumer and a story about how it (the product or service) would work, and what it would do to change the life of of that consumer."
Picture uploaded on by jurvetson. Used with thanks under CC.
So start playing (seriously) and have fun with your (and other people's) building blocks. The story can promise much; and that promise is delivered by the result of serious play.