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Better innovation with better teams (and design thinking)

I recently got my statement of accomplishment back from my most recent MOOC, Leading Strategic Innovation in Organizations. I try to post about things I’ve learned in MOOC’s on the blog (although I wait until I finish them … so I won’t feel guilty later if there’s a course I didn’t finish). So I thought I’d write this week about my favorite week of the course (slides, not sure on permissions), on better innovation in groups, in particular, on the process of innovation.

When a new team is formed, it usually goes something like this:

“Well, we’ll need someone from business, someone from marketing, at least a few from engineering, a couple from design. What’s our target date?”

However, while it’s important to bring people of different skillsets together, it’s more important that their skills serve the innovation process, which is a set of divergence and convergence events. So isn’t it important to bring together different kinds of thinkers, not merely different sets of skills?

Interestingly enough, I was also reading about this set of divergence/convergence in The Design of Everyday Things. In the human-centered design pattern, there’s a system called the double diamond.

Double diamond thinking. Source:
Double diamond thinking. Source:

According to the course, when encountering this double diamond process, there are two kinds of thinkers (and of course, hybrids). Type “R” innovators are less disciplined, work in short bursts, and seek radical change.

Type “A” prefer precision, work steadily, and seek implementation. Type “R” people are the ones who challenge and introduce ideas, while type “A” reel things in. Divergent and convergent. Both are necessary – if you never choose a path forward, you’ll never pick any path (all R), if you only focus on implementation, chances are high you’ll choose the wrong solution.

I see myself in both of those lists, and I believe many people might aspire to both skillsets, switching as it becomes opportune.

This course was one of my favorite MOOCs, up there with HCI and Competitive Strategy. If you want to take it, there’s another version of it being offered at the moment, theoretically centered on arts organizations, but the material should be similar to the one I took.

Also recently sighted, in relation to human-centered design, is this Design Kit from IDEO. Interestingly, they don’t draw the design process as a diamond of discover, define, develop, and deliver, but instead as hear, create, and deliver, and draw it as an arc rather than a diamond (although the Y axis in unclear). I’ll have to read the document more deeply to understand if they’re saying anything different from The Design of Everyday Things, but I do like that their acronym matches human-centered design.


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