Part 4 Innoliteracy – Close-Up – Innoliteracy


Innoliteracy – Close-Up

To start with, and before we embark on a detailed close-up of the model, I may need to present the reader to a “disclaimer.” In many projects where the task at hand is to develop “another” product or service within an already overcrowded category, a product which the consumer may decide to pick off the shelf or let it be, following what I in an article in 2002 labeled “soap dish design,” a term adopted by at least two national newspapers in a number of following articles, a process like the one described might appear as overkill, unless, of course, you want to challenge whether or not to actually develop such “another” one. I guess that the precondition for meaningfully using the INNOLITERACY model as a guide, the project at hand needs to be characterized by a certain degree of complexity.

One Iteration at the Time

While the previous chapter described the iterative stage-gate model in light of the models by which it has been inspired, this chapter will take you through the model, round by round; in part to add some more detail and perspective to the model’s individual elements, and also to open up for the design methodical approaches built into it.

First Round – Understanding the Problem

The foregoing gate presumes that a problem has been defined – either a specific and isolated, but more often than not, a complex and multifaceted problem. The process now starts by understanding the problem and its complexity, its character and scope (Figure 4.1).

The core activity of this round is to frame and if needed, and very often the case if done properly, reframe our understanding of the situation at hand. This understanding is achieved by engaging relevant stakeholders in workshops with brainstorming sessions and one-to-one dialogue, supplemented by time and space for both individual and collective reflection among team members. After this round, we will possess a much clearer picture of which elements the problem or challenge consists of and the insights needed to actually articulate one or several challenges that we assess to be significant enough to address, but also to discard those challenges that will have to rest for now.

Figure 4.1 The first round of the INNOLITERACY model – from problem identification to a problem thesis

Brainstorming, Reflection, and Discussion

There are several ways of going about brainstorming, such as IDEO’s already mentioned “The Rules of Brainstorming” and Edward de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats.” Which approach you choose is not the most important, as is not whether you choose to run one or a series of workshops or brainstorming sessions. It all depends on how many people you intend to involve, the complexity of the situation, and the time and resources available. What is more interesting is the fundamental principles of brainstorming; to ensure an environment of openness and inclusiveness, which inspires all the individuals invited – introverts as well as extroverts – to contribute as much as possible and with what you need to fill in the gaps. Not all people are used to speaking up in crowds, and it is crucial that the session does not become a stage for those who love to hear their own voice. This can be ensured by composing the groups with care and with regard to internal relations between the group members and by facilitating the discussions in ways which gives everyone equal chances to contribute, by being precise when posing questions and by setting up rules for everyone to observe. Equally important is that both overall strategic, political, and intellectually demanding questions as well as operational and tangible experiences are addressed and recorded. Unless already experienced at planning and moderating such sessions, it might be a good idea to hire someone who has specialized in facilitating conversations and in animating maximum engagement by the participants.

Besides the managed and structured part of the process, the brainstorming itself – individual and collective reflections and the conversation that entails – is of equal importance and value. This is often where the most sincere and uninhibited observations are shared. Thus, it is important to see this as a process rather than an event, to make sure that ideas can mature and that the time between the structured sessions can be used constructively. Some people just need time to process and linger, while others are more spontaneous and better at shooting from the hip.

The overriding idea of engaging as many individual resources as possible at this stage is, of course, to be presented to as many angles, experiences and questions as possible, and to make sure that all the individually vested capacity you have actually access to is exploited to its fullest. The outcome from this stage is twofold; on the one hand, it ought to produce a long-list of issues to consider and look into, and on the other, it will anchor the project broadly, ensuring ownership among as many implicated parties as possible.


Not all the information needed to make sure that no stone is left unturned is available internally or among close allies, even though their input should not be limited to internal affairs. They may have valuable knowledge of possible conflicts of interest and other show-stoppers, both internally and externally. However, your stakeholders are made up of a wide range of different players. In principle, a stakeholder is any person, group of individuals, organization, company, authority, or other entity, which may have direct or indirect influence on your project, or which may be directly or indirectly afflicted by it. That, of course, sounds massive, and a stakeholder map may also look quite overwhelming, but again, there are tools and methods available to handle this too. One such tool to map and analyze one’s stakeholders is Professor John M. Bryson’s matrix, in which individual stakeholders are clustered in a diagram, based on their influence on and their own interest in your venture (Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.2 John M. Bryson’s matrix

Depending on where a particular stakeholder or group of stakeholders fits into the matrix, the model offers guidance with regard to how and to which degree this “player” needs to be informed, actively engaged, or monitored, and to which extent there might be possible conflicts of interest one needs to observe. According to R. Edward Freeman, a corporation’s stakeholders encompass any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives.1

The concept of stakeholder engagement does not only encompass users and others who are intimately involved in the process or who have an obvious interest in it. A thorough mapping of interests having a potential impact on an organization’s priorities will most often be significantly more comprehensive than what would result from a quick and superficial glance.

Moreover, research by, among others, associate professor at University of Southern Denmark, Alex da Mota Pedrosa2 shows that a meticulous mapping, analysis, and strategic processing of an organization’s stakeholders add value to the organization in four different ways: with regard to the development of new knowledge, the development of new skills, building new relations, and reducing risks. International research within each one of these four areas confirm that this significance is valid across organizational sizes and structures.

In other words, a thorough analysis of which effect a project or a specific solution might have on the world around us is a central part of this stage. Included here – in particular – is the environmental and social impact our project might possibly have.

John Thackara, who is one of the most acknowledged “provocateurs” in the design and innovation community, writes in an article that:

Design – in general – is subject to a curse by obsolete metrics like quality and performance. Most of what comes out of the endeavours of designers contributes to wasting astronomical amounts of energy and natural resources. Most products, services and systems with adverse effects on our development – including the energy consumption and emissions they entail – would never have existed without the contribution of the creative industries, and designers in particular.3

Internally, the same kind of mapping is also important. Besides the aforementioned capitalization on the knowledge already existing in the organization, these internal exercises will also disclose who actually contributes and who possesses the most valuable insights, important criteria for being recruited to the project team, reference groups, or expert panels, thus actively engaged throughout the project, and for some in connection with the assessments taking place in each one of the four gates, in particular.

Choice of Scenarios

The third element of the first round is to organize and process the knowledge gathered in the two preceding “operations” into a limited number of scenarios – three is a good number – to support the reframed thesis, which is the output and delivery of the first round, and on which the first big decision will be made; consensus on a precisely articulated problem is important because it determines and guides the next rounds of development. A thesis is an assumption and starting point for discussion; in other words, it is not by any means carved in stone, still leaving opportunities to reframe and refine the project matter in the round to come. On the other hand, it serves as an argument to actually define and establish a project and why it makes sense to allocate resources to establish a project team or to commission the necessary expertise to take on the challenge.

The outcome of this first round, thus, is a thesis based on insights and an understanding of the problem at hand – acquired through engagement of all relevant parties, dialogue, and reflection, followed by mapping and processing into a recommendation for which problem or problems to actually address.

Second Round – Relevance

The second round, thus, will be based on the decision made in the second gate, focus on moving from a point, where we all see the same problem to a point, where we, based on the chosen scenarios, agree on a concept for how to address the problem (Figure 4.3).

Figure 4.3 The second round of the INNOLITERACY model – from thesis to proof of concept

To get to a point where we can deliver a comprehensible concept for how to deal with the articulated problem we all agree on, it’s worth taking the time needed to discuss and challenge the problem once more and to make sure that we’re actually solving the right problem. It may sound familiar and as a tedious repetition of what we’ve already done, but it will most probably pay off handsomely in the end. This “right” problem will, after the round, be more facetted, more precisely cut, and angled than what we started with, which was “merely” a validated starting point for articulating a conceptual approach, on which decisions will be made in the third gate.


Needless to say, this round is also based on reflection and discussions on a team basis as well as with individual stakeholders, but it also requires a great deal of desk research and devotion to detail. After the first round, we now need to be more targeted to find out which resources and means need to be allocated to address the problem and which one out of the presented scenarios make the most sense after analyzing costs and benefits and long-term consequences.

To get to such a stage of clarity, we divert from the creative process as we now know it and indulge in data collection and benchmark analysis, calculations and cost benefit assessments, value and risk analyses to qualify each one of the presented scenarios and to add flesh to the bones of the outcome of the previous round.

This stage of the process will most certainly reveal factors which alter and call for reassessment of the thesis we started with. Most probably, one or two scenarios will suddenly appear significantly stronger or weaker than the others as a result of these new insights, perhaps to a degree and with such conviction that we suddenly know for sure which path to choose. Other times, another level of complexity is unveiled, or factors which seemed complex from the start suddenly prove to be of lesser or no significance. The whole exercise aims at disclosing all factors needed for a final test of the project’s validity and of the viability of each individual scenario presented.


More often than not, the test will be passed if you have already invested the amount of time and resources recommended to the front end, but probably in the form and shape of a “problem 2.0” – a revised and refined version of the original problem. This revised version is probably a much better starting point than the first one, but it needs to undergo a last check to ensure coherence with the original analysis and the solidity needed to stand the test in the forthcoming gate, the scrutiny of “proof of concept.”

The most significant element of the two first rounds is the idea of repeatedly framing and reframing, as described in the second part of this book, and as a means to do so, individual and collective reflection, as described in the first, applied as a recurring element in a range of methodical processes, leading toward clarity and assurance that we are actually solving the right problem.

Third Round – Viability

After the second round, you have now successfully reached a “proof of concept” – an approach for how to address the challenge in question, which in itself can most probably serve as a brief for the work onward. When choosing the heading “viability” for this round, it is because this is where we find the most viable, the most effective solution, perfectly in line with the principle of “form follows function” (Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.4 The third round of the INNOLITERACY model – from proof of concept to joint point of view

This round, in other words, is all about making a solution work, to codevelop and cocreate together with users and other stakeholders, to prototype, test and analyze ideas and actual solutions in workshops, through role-playing and other qualitative methods. The key at this stage is to create a framework, which as realistically as possible represents the collective “point of view,” and inspires the best possible propositions for solutions or for elements which could be part of a solution to the articulated problem.

Idea Generation

Some call it “ideation”; others idea development or idea generation. In any case, the method resembles those applied in earlier phases, such as brainstorming and ideation workshops, however often more targeted, and with a different profile of participants than before. The reason for this is that now, it’s not merely a question of generating new ideas as such, but ideas which directly support the concept agreed, and to further develop, cluster, and combine ideas, something that takes both certain skills and a certain degree of experience. The idea generation gradually develops into an iterative process, where ideas are not only developed, but also materialized as prototypes, as tangible as possible, however simple at this stage, to allow testing by and dialogue with users and other stakeholders.


Traditionally, prototyping has been used primarily when developing physical objects and artifacts. There is no reason, however, not to prototype new services, a new procedure or transaction, an environment or an integrated solution, combining any of the above with technologies or digital interfaces, as the fundamental idea is to test the functionality – and functionality only, at this stage, of parts of or an entire solution. As an example, a new service can be prototyped by constructing a number of fictional users – whether clients, patients, or citizens – by help of so-called personas, archetypes described and portrayed in detail. The level of detail of the prototype itself can evolve over the course of a project, from simple sketches in the early phases to life-like representations of a new product or interaction when we approach the crucial time of delivery. In any case, the purpose of it all is to establish a unanimous “point of view,” a mandate to finalize the solution in detail.

Point of View

The point of view, as stolen from IDEO, serves the purpose of making the final principal changes to the chosen solution, before an often costly round of making the solution as attractive as possible. This is also the last call to challenge whether the solution responds adequately to the challenge we set out to address. If there are still alternative solutions or versions of a solution on the table, now is the time to make the choice. And yet, we’re still discussing the solution in principle, its ability to meet functional demands and perform as required, while the process of styling and making sure that the solution resonates with its audience emotionally is yet to come. So, we’re approaching the fourth gate with a solid and viable “point of view” – the best principal solution we’ve been able to come up with, one that everyone believes in as the one to bring forth to implementation and beyond.

What happens, one might ask, if there is no consensus, or if everyone agrees that “we’re not quite there, yet”? Or, even – which happens from time to time – the team is not able to make a choice. If a situation like that incurs, it is crucial that there is a certain contingency in the budget and project plan, so that an extra iteration can be built in; back to “proof of concept,” bring in a couple of new “eyes,” and go over the alternatives once more before a final choice is made. Pursuing a solution for which there is not full support increases the costlier risk of failure after one has passed this “point of no return,” either by someone intervening between now and launch, or by simply experiencing that the doubt was actually a mirror of real reservations in the marketplace or among the users. So, one owes both members of the team and the project owners to keep on developing – not until perfection, if anyone believes that perfection exists, but until all involved parties believe enough in the solution to fight for it and until all indicators point toward success. Because we’re now getting awfully close to a point that may incur both financial investments in prototypes and molds and in both individual and collective prestige and reputation.

On the other hand, if the resources and activities prescribed until now have been observed, the likelihood that uncertainties at this stage cannot be overcome is rather slim. The whole idea behind the meticulousness from the very beginning and up until now is to make sure that everyone has the same vision for what the solution is, just like we managed to establish consensus on what the problem was earlier in the process. Very often, when people fail to agree on the solution, it is merely a reflection of the fact that they do not agree on the problem.

Fourth Round – Aesthetics

After having chosen which solution to go for in the fourth gate, the time has come to deal with all the small, yet important details, moving our focus from function to form, to ensure that the solution resonates aesthetically (Figure 4.5).

There is no way around, at this point, to clarify what I mean by aesthetics. For many people and in colloquial use, aesthetics describe the beauty of things, however beauty as perceived and decoded by our eyes. The original Greek word “aisthetike” means “the sensuous.” Professor Morten Kyndrup from Aarhus University in Denmark describes it in his book The Aesthetical Relation as “something, which exists in the relation between a subject, experiencing and judging something in a particular way and an object, which may be calculated to have an aesthetic effect.4 Aesthetics, as he understands it is, in other words, a record of how a person as a whole experiences and connects to or establishes a relation to any product or situation, whereas the term has previously predominantly been used in connection to the arts.

While focusing on aesthetics is most certainly a matter of intellectual interest and of delivering an end result of which we can be proud, the most important reason is to ensure that the final solution resonates with and is embraced by its intended users.

Figure 4.5 The fourth round of the INNOLITERACY model – from choice of solution to a final GO

Detailing and Design

Pursuing the logic of “form follows function” – although I do not in any way regard it as a more valid dogma than so many others – we have not really embarked upon the many challenges of understanding what it takes for a solution to resonate aesthetically. Surely, most of the people who have been involved in the process from the beginning have a pretty clear picture on their irises of what a solution should look and feel like; if a physical output, be perceived and related to. However, this too needs to be developed; the solution needs to be given a form or expression, an appeal that that spurs its audience to embrace it and regard it as being attractive – or cool . . .

Stakeholder Engagement, Analysis, Iteration and Prototyping, Test and Validation

As indicated by merging two iterations into one, we fundamentally do in this round as we have done in all the former: we engage users and other stakeholders in the process, we prototype and test, and we make sure that our solution is given a form or expression, which attracts instead of distracts, which appeals rather than appalls. At a stage of the process as late as this, we can, to a certain extent, choose to be more exclusive with regard to when we invite stakeholders in, and how we take advantage of their advice. One opportunity is to invite people who have already been part of the process and use them as a wall against which alternative expressions are played, and then, to catch the feedback and use it as a guide for your choices. Even experts on their own lives are not necessarily experts at typography or colors or patterns, but they respond – as we all do – rather intuitively to sensory stimulation, and being able to record and process such response can be quite valuable. Quite effective tools and methods for doing so have been developed over the last decade or so, and it may be a smart move to engage professionals to actually get the most out of such confrontations.

On the other hand, it seems quite unlikely that a design process such as the one described does not involve professional designers, and more than at any other stage of the process, one can rest assured that the designers will make sure that their influence and contribution is not underestimated. We’re now quite clearly maneuvering in a field which has historically been the sovereign domain of design professionals, so with all due respect for user engagement, make sure that you allow those who know their craft to contribute with their expertise, just like we have depended on others’ expert knowledge throughout the process.


The outcome of this round is something resembling, or as a matter of fact, being a final solution, or in some cases – perhaps most – any number of slightly alternative solutions. It may have taken some time, but on the other hand, we now rest quite assured that the solution is a meaningful response to a thoroughly processed and precisely articulated problem, almost no matter which of the alternatives we choose. However, often a choice has to be made. Sometimes, the choice can be to go with five different versions of a product or service, an assortment, while other times, there is no need for or room for more than one ultimate solution. What matters now is that the choice is made with care, whether based on own intuition and intimate knowledge of the audience, or based on metrics and facts and figures, and that all responsible parties rest assured that the journey has ended in the right destination.

The last gate in the INNOLITERACY model – the last decision to be made – is to give the chosen solution a “GO,” a green light and a tap on the shoulder. This by no means implies that from now on, the solution should be left to its own devices. There might be several considerations to be made. One should – if not already taken care of at an earlier stage – assess whether the solution in part or as a whole needs to be protected by any available immaterial rights mechanisms. The solution will most probably need to be supported by communication campaigns, a visual identity, and other support relevant for the specific solution may need to be developed, instructions and training might be needed, and so on. However, my recommendation would be that each and every one of these are developed as independent projects and on their own premises, merely entailing a number of new processes, starting with asking the right questions, reflecting, and reframing, just like the solution that they will all proudly support.

A Few More Words on the Five Gates – The Decisions to Be Made as You Go Along

The INNOLITERACY model aims at enabling a combination of cyclic design iteration and the linear processes that many organizations work by, instead of seeing the two approaches as adversaries and as incompatible.

In the walk-through of the process, I have focused, quite deliberately, on the four rounds of iteration, more than on the gates separating them from each other. It is in the fourth round that better products, services, or ways of doing something are conceived, and which are more likely to resonate with an unattended-for need in the marketplace, with a desire or demand in society, or with an aspiration to cater for a more sustainable and resilient future. And yet, it would seem wrong to totally disregard the decisions, which need to be made as the project progresses. Partly, the model calls for a different set of decisions than many other processes do, and partly, some of the decisions you may already be accustomed to making will have to be made at other points of time than what you would otherwise do in a pure-bred stage-gate model.

Provided a project is developed in strict accordance with our model, five instrumental decisions have to be made.

Problem Identification

If we look closely, and if identifying problem is a goal in itself, we can find problems anywhere and anytime. Using “problem identification” thus is not a matter of finding as many problems as possible, but of identifying the most relevant or most serious problem at hand and one in which investments to address the problem makes sense, whether regarded through corporate or societal lenses. Identifying a problem does not require or imply that we know anything about what needs to be done, what needs to be changed, or developed. It merely means that we have a vision for which outcome we desire – whether measured in market shares or revenue, or in desired BMI for 10- to 15-year-old kids.

Articulate Problem

The difference between this gate and the former is that we have moved from acknowledging which overall problem it is that we want to address, to being able to articulate which problem we intend to solve. If that sounds like gibberish, there’s not so much more to say than; I really tried. The foregoing chapter tries to explain the rationale behind each one of the two decisions, but just to exemplify, if the problem identified in the first gate is falling market shares (and where the reason for opening up the gate is a need to recover market shares), the problem in this gate may be narrowed down to whether the falling market shares are caused by the wrong assortment or product mix, by an unfavorable price-quality ratio or by old-fashioned packaging design or point-of-sales material, thus guiding us to which problem to actually solve. And, while the parallel problem with overweight 10- to 15-year-olds is a statistically measurable matter in the first gate, the problem in this gate has been boiled down to resulting from either malnutrition or lack of physical activity or after-school facilities or lack of meaningful dialogue with parents or any combination of the above.

Proof of Concept

This decision is perhaps the most important one, in the sense that this is where the original thesis has been challenged, facts and figures collected and processed, and stakeholders drenched of insight and relevant knowledge. This is where the green light is given to start a development process or not, which would most often just mean that the project team will have to go back and recalculate and dig up some more facts and figures or reframe the concept to make it more credible or understandable or sharper, whatever the reason for rejection at the gate proved to be.

Choice of Solution

This gate is somewhat self-explanatory; this is where the solution to the problem is chosen – in principle and based on whether it functions or delivers the effect needed, not based on what it looks or feels, or how it is presented to the user. The actual “styling” of the solution comes next, so all we can do is to assess the solution, based on the facts recorded and observations made, as to whether it corresponds to the “point of view” that we all agreed to earlier. The importance of this decision should not be underestimated, as it also constitutes a de facto point of no return with regard to what it is that we want the solution to do for us. From here on, provided green light is given, the only thing that remains is to make sure that the solution is given an appeal and appearance, which resonates with its audience.


Having failed to find other words, which seem to work transversally across products, services, procedures, and environments in all sectors and regardless of size and complexity of the project itself, the last gate is all about giving the solution a final GO. At this stage, the decision is made on the basis of a true representation of what the solution is, what it looks like, or how it feels or appears, down to the smallest detail. Hence, a GO is not only a mandate to roll out or push the button or launch or release, it is also an acknowledgement that the identified problem has been addressed in a manner in which everyone believes. In most cases, it also means that we are prepared to take on the new processes it entails – alongside and in support of implementation of the solution as such. These may be individual design projects in their own right, and are often crucial elements in making sure that the solution actually fosters success, whether measured in higher market shares or lower BMI.

Quite often, and in particular, in projects of a certain magnitude such as a new nationwide public service or a new banking service scheme or a flagship store or service center, it would make sense to implement the solution as a “pilot” to start with. By establishing one or a limited number of pilot projects in full scale and fully operational, but in controlled and monitored environments and for a limited period of time, needs for minor adjustments as well as both positive and negative user experiences can be recorded. This allows for an extra round of optimization before the next 50 or 100 facilities are rolled out. In the example of the flagship store, it can be a rather banal observation, such as the cash register being placed in a fashion, which requires an extra and perhaps uncomfortable movement by the employee, thus influencing negatively on the quality of the transaction, and in the example of the service center, an observation may show that by lowering the counter by a few inches, the perceived experience is improved on both sides of it. The costs, however, of this extra round and of recording and of adapting the solution to take such real-life insights into consideration is marginal compared to making the adjustments in a hundred different locations. We know the principle from website development, where a “beta-version” will always be tested by an invited audience before the final version is uploaded.

Time and Money

No two processes are identical, thus every single development process will be experienced as unique to the challenge at hand – its complexity and extent, and to the project team and stakeholders involved. For the same reason, it is impossible to prescribe how much time and which resources are needed to undertake the process. The most effective way of finding out is to start by drafting the process according to the model already being used in your organization, and then, challenge each individual part of the process in light of the INNOLITERACY model and the project at hand. The better you know your own process, the easier it will be to assess which changes are needed to take on some inspiration from this book. Thus, it is not only a recipe for a successful development process. It can also be used as a checklist from stage to stage as you progress through your own project and process to assess where and how it would enhance and which consequences it would have in terms of calculating extra or saved time and resources, internal as well as external (Figure 4.6).

Figure 4.6 The INNOLITERACY model


It is allowed to be inspired, and thankfully, also to apply the knowledge and insights that others have spent years, perhaps a lifetime, to acquire. Instead of reframing my own model into a checklist, which would probably come across as a third – and even more tedious than the second – repetition of the model itself, I have chosen to edit and reframe a checklist found in the previously mentioned book on design management by Brigitte Borja de Mozota. In the book, she refers to three levels of design management: operational, functional, and strategic. I choose to see the three levels as symbiotic in my own model, and therefore, find it natural to merge the most significant elements from her three checklists into an overview of which decisions have to be made as a direct consequence of choosing to work with design as a methodological starting point.5 The following list is my own compilation of essential elements to be aware of, however inspired by the more elaborate checklists found in her book.

Define target: Define qualitative targets for every single touchpoint: products, services, communication and physical environments – depending on the objectives and activities described in the mission, and evaluate the direct correlation between the use of design and user experience.

Prepare: Allocate resources to develop thorough and precise design briefs, identify internal and external stakeholders, possible conflicts of interest and the potential of each staff member to engage actively in the design process.

Coordinate: Coordinate the project and the activities entailing from the design process with day-to-day activities, other ongoing development projects, action plans, and overriding strategies.

Adapt: Adapt the scope and size of the development process to match the resources and complexity, as well as other ongoing activities in the organization to ensure that all members of the organization support and embrace the project.

Embed: Spend some resources on explaining the correlation between the use of design methods and existing targets for quality and innovation, and make sure that all parts of the organization understand that they also have a role in ensuring the success of the project. Encourage cross-disciplinary relations and tasks between product development, business development, design, marketing, and new technologies.

Anchor externally: Communicate new design projects and solutions to external stakeholders and invite them to be part of the project through social networks as well as actual engagement processes. Establish relations to design schools and universities when embarking upon the development of new ideas and concepts.

Anchor in top management: Make sure that the senior management of your organization understands and endorses the use of design methodologies and tools, and allocate an active role for them in the process, wherever their input can benefit the project and wherever such engagement could further their understanding of design thinking.

Source smartly: Define exactly which skills and competences you need to successfully undertake each phase of the project and balance the benefits of using in-house and external resources, both of design and of any other skills or competence needed to support the process.

Manage: Develop KPI’s and detailed budgets for each phase of the design process to enhance both the planning phases, but also audits and evaluations. Allocate resources realistically – divided on internal and external resources, materials prototypes, and communication – and do not underestimate the time a design process takes.

Monitor: Establish a protocol for monitoring the process, focusing on decision-making gates, progress and efficiency, and benchmark these with previous design projects as well as other processes undertaken in the organization.


A process like the one described is probably idealized and more exhaustive than what one would see in real life – just like most other recipes. They work as intended under optimal conditions and will always need to be subjected to scrutiny and common sense and to be adapted to the individual situation. I want the INNOLITERACY model – just like Cooper’s and IDEO’s – to be regarded as a valuable source of inspiration and as a guide to how design might fit into your specific process.

It also needs to be said that numerous highly successful companies and organizations represent both creative cultures and design-driven solutions – without working as prescribed by IDEO or by anything resembling the process I suggest. Lots of organizations have either tried and rejected, or never even tried, collaborative methods based on user engagement; even iconic design-driven companies such as Apple or “typical” design product suppliers such as Alessi or BODUM. They work in radically different ways. The Italian professor Roberto Verganti6 challenges the overwhelming focus on user-driven or user-centered innovation. His thesis is that radical innovation can never originate from user-driven processes, and that such innovation can only be driven by technology and the designer themselves. They define a product’s meaning, thus also new standards for products and services within any given category. He does, though, acknowledge the role of user engagement when it comes to incrementally improving on existing products and services.

This is just to acknowledge that we discuss a field of many variables and opinions, and of professional and academic discourse. I hope that this book will be received as another qualified and valuable, however by no means conclusive proposition for how to work with change and innovation, or as I choose to regard it – for how to find the right solution to the right problem.


1R.E. Freeman. (1984). A Stakeholder Approach to Strategic Management (London, UK: Pitman).

2A. Pedrosa. (2009). “Motivating Stakeholders for Co-created Innovation” Open Source Business Resource, December 2009.

3J. Thackara. (2011). From an Interview in Inform 1/2011 (Copenhagen: Danish Designers).

4M. Kyndrup. (2008). “Den æstetiske relation - Sanseoplevelsen mellem kunst, videnskab og filosofi” (The Aesthetical Relation – sensorial experiences between the arts, sciences and philosophy) (Copenhagen, Denmark: Gyldendal).

5B. Borja de Mozota. (2003) “Design Management – Using Design to Build Brand Value and Corporate Innovation”: pp. 213 ( Operational Design Management Checklist ), ­236–237 ( Functional Design Management Checklist ) and 255–256 ( Strategic Design Management Checklist ) (New York, NY: Allworth Press).

6R. Verganti. (2009). Design-Driven Innovation – Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press).