101 Design Methods


I had been recommended the book “101 Design Methods” by Vijay Kumar a few times and finally got around to reading it over the holidays.  Vijay is one of the leading thinkers in Innovation and I have enjoyed everything I have read from him.

101 Design Methods was much more practical than I had thought it would be.  I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted with an easy to use and understand framework to follow the design process and also a very comprehensive set of frameworks, models and tools to use.  While some tools air on the side of obvious i.e. “Popular Media Search”, others are extremely detailed and almost scientific i.e. “Symmetric Clustering Matrix”.

Before he gets deep into the tools, Vijay highlights some key realities of innovation and some guiding principles.  This one stood out to me “Current Innovation practices don’t reliably deliver breakthroughs.  There is a lack of a set of reliable tools and methods for creating breakthroughs rather than incremental or random improvements,” and “Innovation Planning is not an oxymoron”.  I am always arguing that Innovation is not a set of Eureka moments but rather something you can control and guide, so I am glad Vijay and I are aligned on this 🙂

In each chapter (framework step), Vijay provides a set of “mindsets” to adopt when looking at executing the step.  Each step includes “What it is”, “How it Works” and an example case study of where it was successful.  This makes the book very tangible and gives you pretty much everything you need to know to use that particular tool/step.   Not only are the tools easy to use, but the tools are great, the book is filled with mindmap meets excel type tools which made me feel like I was in a candy-store.

Vijay breaks down his framework into four quadrants and 7 steps and I thought I would highlight some of my favorite tools aligned with each step.

  • Sense Intent
    • Buzz Reports – Collect information on a topic from a wide array of sources to catch Buzz on it
    • Innovation Sourcebook – Find successful examples of offerings, organization and people and create a book/excel listing of these with descriptive data.  You can then compare across them to determine similarities or things you might be able to incorporate.
    • Trends Expert review – Interview with experts focused on: 1) Seeds – What are the early, emerging tredns and innovations? 2) Soil – How are the fundamentals affecting growth 3) Atmosphere – How are the surrounding conditions affecting growth 4) Plant – How do innovations grow to become robust 5) Water – How are the catalysts affecting growth
    •  Ten Types of Innovation Framework – The Doblin model
  • Know Context
    • Eras Map – Map events and innovations by era to track progression, development and trends
    • Analogous Models – Look at models similar or adjacent to the one you are solving for
  • Know People
    • 5 Human Factors – Look at the physical, cognitive, social, cultural and emotional aspects of people as they interact with products/services/offerings
    • POEMS – Look at these 5 factors when observing: People, Objects, Environments, Messages, Services
  • Frame Insights
    • ERAF Systems Diagram – Assess systems based on entities, relations, attributes, flows
  • Explore Concepts
  • Frame Solutions
  • Realize Offerings
    • Innovation BriefAn innovation overview template for communicating your innovation

I would highly recommend this book, at the very least as a resource you can hold onto and pull out for when you need some inspiration or a new approach for your work.


Innovator’s DNA



The Innovator’s DNA is one of the best books on Innovation from some of the best thought leaders on the topic.  The book focuses on two key areas, how to be innovative individually and how to create innovation within an organization.  The findings are backed by a survey of CEO’s (both innovative and not) as well as interviews and general study of innovative CEOs and organizations.

In the study of Innovative CEOs as compared to general CEOs (ones who were less likely to disrupt and more likely to deliver), they found that “Innovators were simply much more likely to question, observe, network, and experiment compared to typical executives.”  The following are the key skills that make Innovators who they are and how to build them:

  • Associating – This is the underlying principle that allows the next four skills to realize their full potential. The next four skills build up a stock of “building block ideas” of which innovators can then combine and associate, like the Medici effect. “Put simply, innovative thinkers connect fields, problems, or ideas that others find unrelated.”  How to build: attend ideas conferences (TED, Aspen,WEF, etc.), keep an idea journal, set “idea quotas”, build an inspiration box (a box of items to jog your creativity).
  • Questioning – The study showed that Innovators constantly ask questions and challenge the status quo.  As well, questions can be used to appropriately frame problems as Einstein famously quoted “xxx”.  How to build: Ask “What Is”, Ask “What If”, Ask “What Caused”, Ask “Why/Why Not”, Engage in Questionstorming, Track your Q/A ratio.
  • Observing – Innovator’s observe the w0rld around them to find new inputs and ideas.  How to build: Observe companies, observe customers, observe with all your senses.
  • Networking – Innovator’s spend significant energy finding and testing their ideas through their networks (usually large and varied networks).  How to build: Attend conferences (in and outside your industry), expand the diversity of your network, “mealtime” networking, start a creative community.
  • Experimenting – Innovators “try new things, seek new information, and experiment to learn new things.” How to build: Live in other countries, read new content, develop a new skill, disassemble a product, build prototypes, trend spot.

Innovator’s also dedicate approximately 1 day more per week to discovery skills than their non-innovative counterparts and typically are most skilled in the Associating and Questioning skill sets.  If you are interested in learning more, you can visit http://www.innovatorsdna.com to take a test to learn how you measure on each of these skills.

“Fast-growth companies must keep innovating. Companies are like sharks.  If they stop moving, they die.” Marc Benioff and CEO, Salesforce.  The authors create their own ranking of the most innovative companies globally by determining an “Innovation Premium” added to a stockprice based on the expectation of shareholders for the company to innovate.  The authors then say the way to disseminate innovation into a company is to focus on the 3Ps (people, processes, and philosophies) and that innovation must be present at top leadership levels in order for the whole organization to adopt innovation principles.  At the risk of spoiling the rest of the book I will close off there with a strong recommendation to pick up the book to find more frameworks, models, and interesting facts to help you and your team innovate.

HBR “On Innovation”


If you are new to the study of Innovation, HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Innovation is a fantastic place to start.  Like HBR’s other 10 Must Reads, this book features the top articles on innovation from some of the field’s greatest minds.  The book covers topics ranging from specific methods for innovation development and management to how to drive more innovation within large organizations.  The articles are engaging and can easily be picked up over multiple sittings.

I’ve included the titles of the included articles and some of my favorite key points on each:

The Innovation Catalysts by Roger L. Martin 

The book starts out with this great article focused on how Intuit leveraged design thinking throughout the company to move from “satisfying customers to delighting them”.  There are a number of really interesting tactics that intuit put into play from creating a team of 9 design thinking coaches or Innovation Catalysts to create prototypes and learn from customers to a “painstorming” exercise to understand the customer to hosting a series of jams to quickly prototype solutions to customer problems.

Stop the Innovation Wars by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble

This article focuses in on the role of the “innovation team” and often the resulting conflict these groups have with the company at large, where often the Innovators as seen as undisciplined creatives and the rest of the business as ‘bureaucratic dinosaurs’.  The authors propose a simple test or set of questions to help companies decide the appropriate structure of an innovation team such as the capabilities, the composition and the governance/resources around the team.

How GE is Disrupting Itself by Jeffrey Immelt, Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble

This article highlights a case study by GE focused on reverse engineering from emerging markets back to developed markets that often seems counter intuitive to organizations but can actually result in large innovations.  GE reinvented product lines, established a new local growth team model to capitalize and identify these opportunities and challenged their basic assumptions on the role of emerging markets in their business.

The Customer-Centered Innovation Map by Lance Bettencourt and Antony Ulwick

This article introduced a tool for identifying new offerings aligned to customer needs.  The basic premise is to instead of using traditional ‘process mapping’ you instead ‘job map’ for customers to identify what jobs or needs they are trying to satisfy .  This can be a powerful tool for solving customer needs in novel ways.

Is It Real? Can We Win? Is It Worth Doing? by George Day

This article focuses in on the risk/reward profile of an innovation portfolio.  Up front the author mentions some startling facts such as the fact that only 14% of new product launches were substantial innovation but those accounted for 61% of profit from across all innovations.  In order to find this balance between risky disruption and reward the author outlines two tools, the first being a risk matrix and the second being the R-W-W test.  The risk matrix is relatively standard and can help ensure a portfolio is well balanced across disruptive and incremental innovations  The R-W-W test walks through the questions “is it real” or does it have a substantial market and a product feature set that is feasible, “can we win” or can the product/company be competitive, and lastly “is it worth doing” which highlights the profitability and strategic benefits.

Six Myths of Product Development by Stefan Thomke and Donald Reinertsen

This article highlights the biggest fallacies around successful product development.  The assumptions that are challenged center around not treating product development like a manufacturing process.  My favorite false assumptions include “The more features a product has, the better customers will like it” and “Projects will be more successful if teams ‘get it right the first time'”.

Innovation: The Classic Traps by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

This article starts with a fantastic sentence, “Innovation is back at the top of the corporate agenda. Never a fad, but always in or out of fashion […]”. The focus is on sustainable innovation and not falling into traps that have been found previously.  The traps include mistakes from strategy, process, structure, and skills as it relates to innovation and the author outlines a number of steps and lessons learned that can be used to avoid them.

Discovery-Driven Planning by Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian MacMilan

The Discovery-Driven planning method outlined in this article is one of my favorite methods.  It seeks to minimize risk in new ventures by reversing the traditional planning methods and to challenge basic assumptions.  The article uses Disney’s European operations as a case study of how poor assumptions and top down planning led to failure and how by leveraging reverse planning or a reverse balance sheet you can better identify assumptions and determine viability of an idea.

The Discipline of Innovation by Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker is one of my favorite thinkers within Innovation and this article does not fall short.  Peter argues that innovation capability is less based on traits or personality and more based on the “systematic practice of innovation.”  He outlines some areas you can look to have a ‘conscious, purposeful search for opportunities” that result in success.

Innovation Killers by Clayton Christensen, Stephen Kaufman and Willy Shih

This article focuses on why traditional financial tools kill innovation.  Specifically, the authors look at Discounted Cash Flows, fixed and sunk cost evaluations and impact on earnings per share as poor measures to use when evaluating new ventures..  They also explore stage gates and the negative impact these can have on innovation.

You can buy the book from Amazon here

HBR October 2013


Imagine my delight when I received my monthly HBR and saw “The Radical Innovation Playbook” displayed on the cover. There were two great articles/sections in this issue, one entitled “Putting the Breakthrough Back Into Innovation” and the other “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption”.

In “Putting the Breakthrough Back into Innovation”, HBR explores the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the use of Corporate Venturing. These topics were both explored in the context of how to make repeatable and sustainable innovation within corporations. Without spoiling the article (which I highly suggest you download), DARPA has been able to overcome the age old issue of balancing risk with disruption understanding that by taking a low risk approach you rarely get a high reward innovation. They assemble “task teams” of high performers from a variety of fields, and often on a contract basis, to solve tough and ambitious problems in a fairly autonomous manner. Many companies have tried to simulate this approach but to limited success, the “formula” and key success factors within the article lay out why DARPA has been able to consistently replicate disruption with their innovations. In terms of Corporate Venturing the explore the use of VCs and how they can help companies rapidly respond to outside pressures that fall outside the core company’s area of expertise. The article explores how to successfully set up an internal VC function and how to ensure the organization does not bog down the agile nature needed by the VC group. I have seen more and more corporations adopt this approach to finding new capabilities and technologies but often struggle with the execution, the success factors laid out in the article are good ones to follow.

The article “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption” definitely sparked my interest the most as I currently work for one of the firms mentioned in the article. Following the release of this article I have been a number of conversations about the findings and have seen people take fairly strong sides to the opinion presented. In essence, the article argues that new forces are changing the ways consulting companies operate and these firms are beginning to explore new service models. An interesting note in the article mentioned that when talking to key leaders in the industry they were very quick to dismiss the need of such disruption and state that the status-quo would remain. I find this interesting as this belief is a characteristic of most industries that don’t keep up and end-up being disrupted. I definitely see the lines between software and services and integration within the client’s business (i.e. Joint Service Development) being needed to keep the industry afloat. Whether services need to go broader, more niche, upstream or downstream there are changes that clients are requesting as more players enter into the market with unique service offerings (take IDEO’s or McKinsey’s new software offerings or GEs new service offerings). There is definitely a need for the consulting firms to do some innovation consulting/design thinking to differentiate their positions in the broader ecosystem.

In conclusion, great issue this month and one I would highly suggest purchasing!