Innovation Process at design firms


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Examination of three companies (IDEO, frog and GravityTank) that have positioned themselves at the crossroads of industry change. They are leaders in applying innovation to the altered landscape of business strategy.
Review of the frameworks they use when helping their clients and how they differentiate themselves from traditional consulting organizations.

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  • Primary Research:Phone interviews with:* TeaqueLenahan: Executive Director at Frog Design. Also a Kellogg Alum and ex-Gravitytank employee* Arielle Deane: Associate of strategy at Gravitytank. Kellogg AlumInterviews were focused on Process and Framework of innovation within these organizationsCulture, People and spaceKey Features of innovationSpeakers were enthusiastic about speaking with usSecondary Research:Using the company websites for fact sheetsAcademic material from MKTG 465, along with material from Northwestern LibraryArticles and Learnings from Tom Stat’s presentation, along with IDEO publications such as + ‘Design Thinking’ by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO+ T-shaped stars: the backbone of IDEO's collaborative culture: Interview with Tim Brown of IDEO- Books such as Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson
  • Learning TheoryBased on research by D.A. Kolb, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and DevelopmentCharles Owen, Design Research: Building the Knowledge Base and Design, Advanced Planning and Production DevelopmentGrasping ExperienceConcrete experienceAbstract conceptualizationTransforming ExperienceReflective observationActive experimentationQuadrantsObservation – Contexts: Deep, concrete understanding developed through ethnographic research (use, ability, and meaning)Frameworks – Insights: Based on research extracts patterns, reframes data, and focus on important central details from observationsImperatives – Ideas: Using frameworks creates a value proposition defining the goals to be accomplishedSolutions – Experiences: Development of concrete concepts based off of goals generated through the imperative phase
  • IDEO FrameworkAs presented by Thomas Stat the IDEO framework maps very closely to Kolb and Owen’s Learning frameworkIDEO draws the line for abstract vs Concrete higher in the process than Kolb and Owen but the similarities are striking
  • Frog FrameworkDiscover: From conceptual/concrete to conceptual/abstractDesign: From conceptual/abstract to experimental/abstractDeliver: From experimental/abstract to experimental concreteShaped very much like a gated system but with heavy focus on discovery
  • Gravity Tank FrameworkObservation – Discover what is MeaningfulFrameworks – Frame the OpportunityImperatives – Create compelling experiencesSolutions –Define Valuable Solutions (focus)
  • Source : T-shaped stars : the backbone of IDEO’s collaborative cultureEveryorganizationwants people. How do thesecompaniesdeveloptheirassets ?
  • We’ve seen firms move from:Traditional R&D where innovation was within the confines of the company’s boundaries  Technology brokered solutions where firms with access to different industries were able to bring together the best of many worlds  EXTENDING the idea of brokering to broader cultures and industriesHow does OpenIDEO work?After a challenge is posted at, the three development phases – inspiration, concepting, and evaluation – are put into motion. Community members can contribute in a variety of different ways, from inspirational observations and photos, sketches of ideas, to business models and snippets of code. Sometimes this can be in the form of a comment; other times, it’s building off a previous person’s work.How might we design an accessible election experience for everyone?How does frogMob work?Our practice is always pushing the boundaries of design to find ways to gather insights that fit our project and client needs. We recently pioneered a new methodology called frogMob™, which allows us to tap into our global network in a matter of days to take the pulse of consumers worldwide. frogMob is an innovative approach grounded in social media that can help us quickly identify promising directions before investing in more rigorous, in-depth studies.Examples: Childhood memories – where users were asked to “snap a photo and tell us the story behind the object, why it is or was meaningful, and the age of the child (or how old you were). If possible, let us know who purchased the object (e.g., parent, grandparent, friend, etc.).”How does Creative Commons work?Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.Allows for brokering across broader industries and cultures making richer design solutions
  • Innovation Process at design firms

    1. 1. Innovation Process
    2. 2. Your Presenters: Julia Letuchy: Global Insights Manager at Takeda Pharmaceuticals Kaye Cheung: FT MBA student at Kellogg William Edmondson: Software Tech Lead at Riyaz Vazir: Health Benefits Client Manager at Aon Hewitt Quentin Navellou: Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company
    3. 3. TEAQUE LENAHAN: Executive Director, Business Development THOMAS STAT: Innovation realist and provocateur (ex-IDEO) ARIELLE DEANE: Associate, Strategy, gravitytank Our Process
    4. 4. Strong Differentiation from Traditional Consulting The Traditional Consultant The Innovation Consultant “Formal and rigid” “The traditional MBA” “Spread sheets, frameworks” “Flexible and open” Multifaceted Thinks outside of the box Analogous to:
    5. 5. Frameworks (Assimilation) Imperatives (Converging) Observations (Diverging) Solutions (Accommodating) Abstract Conceptualization Concrete Experience Reflective Observation Active Experimentation Learning Theory Kolb and Owen
    6. 6. Abstract Conceptualization Concrete Experience Reflective Observation Active Experimentation framework opportunities design principles insights concepts observations inspirations IDEO Framework Thomas Stat Abstract Concrete
    7. 7. frog Framework Teaque enahan Discover Analysis Becomes Insight Design Insight Becomes Ideas Deliver Ideas Become Reality
    8. 8. Gravity Tank Framework Arielle Deane
    9. 9. Value Proposition Brand Expression Function Benefit: Applying technology brokering to effectively meet client needs The Story: - Books and publications (Gravitytank leverages a local start-up / incubator story) • Open workspaces, Casual attire - MBA program collaboration “We imagine the ideal and make it real” “Fail often to succeed sooner” “Strong opinion loosely held”
    10. 10. Successful people at these companies are known to be T-shaped, unconventional and open-minded • T-style shaped • Very open- minded • Differences ? Gravity Tank people put more emphasis on “getting things done”
    11. 11. • “We drive innovation for the connected world” • Focus on engineering projects, in particular in the consumer electronics and medical industry • Realized projects in other fields where their connected approach brings superior value • “We help clients grow their businesses, define new products and services, enter new markets and change their organizations” • Retail, CPG, Food companies and non profits Creating a visible sought-after private label Different client focus reveal each firm’s strength • “[We] take a human centered approach designed-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow” • Wide range of clients in every sector and internationally IDEO FROG GRAVITY TANK Green strategy & visualization for general services administration Remote monitoring of post-operative cardiac patients
    12. 12. However, Little Differentiation Among Each Other “It’s really shades of grey…” The Tech-Savvy Follower The Respected Founding Father The New Kid on the Block Tech-capability and prototyping Creator of the category, oldest and largest The baby of the family, newest and smallest Archetype Shade
    13. 13.  Technology brokering is getting Crowdsourced  frogMob and OpenIDEO (nothing at gravitytank so far)  However. Innovation is not in the idea  Creative Commons has allowed a community based on group creativity for years  Innovation is in the context setting. Model seeks to broadly leverage technology and design solutions by including more people in the inspiration and concept phase i.e. the hardest parts