Design thinking #4; selection.


Design thinking needs to deliver actionable output. Without a meaningful plan from a project, there’s little point in doing it at all – unless you want to be seen as interesting but unrewarding. Selection of the best development concepts is by far the hardest part of the process to get right and the most critical. As Oscar Wilde noted, “It is better to have a permanent income than be fascinating”. It’s all about the money.

Following our slightly re-designed version of the original Design Thinking process, here’s where the rubber hits the road. If you’ve read our blogs on process steps #1, 2 and 3 you’ll know that we ideate with purpose using some directed thinking derived of stimuli created by new research.

We’ve also talked about directing your effort to an output that can materialise – not just be another report in a shared drive. How do we achieve this?

One of the biggest problems facing architects of change is getting peers and managers to buy into the same vision. Your justification for a plan, product, service or strategic direction is not easy. It must be convincing and, more importantly, worthy of investment.

Selection of innovation options is, therefore, in acute need of a rationale that makes ideas utterly compelling. We embrace the application of common sense (there’s not enough in innovation) and acknowledge the inclination of some CEOs to trust their gut instinct for a good idea (see our blog The role of the C-Suite in innovation), but we also focus on key selection criteria:

  1. Commercial factors: will it sell?
  2. Regulatory control: are you allowed to sell it?
  3. Technical feasibility: is it possible – and if not, what’s the solution?
  4. Timing: when will the market be ready for it?

It’s both really simple and really hard. You need to answer the questions in a way that will convince your colleagues; you need to help them see the whole vision of your future, and not assess ideas against their view of your market today. A job that’s made even harder if senior managers aren’t inclined to participate in the process.

Selection comes down to trusting the insight, generating your response with robust assumptions, ideating creatively and then being able to rate and compare what you propose. (Download our free guide to See Your Data Differently.) Scoring may feel like a step too far in a creative process, but this is a business enterprise and it will always come down to the numbers. Now’s a good time to start lining them up.

Rating ideas alongside each other, and against how you envisage your competitors behaving, is useful. Before we get to evaluating (testing) ideas in the market, we achieve a good idea of what will work – and we also create a sense of the right questions to ask when we do.

The diagram below can be viewed as a development plan or a timeline; the ideas that sit within the black box can happen now, whereas the ideas in the red box will happen later or after some work. As long as the target is identified and everything moves in that direction, you’ve got a strategy and a plan.

Future thinking. Future proofing. Innovation justified. It’s what we do.