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February 14, 2022

Digital innovation in risk-averse companies is possible.

Over the course of nearly two decades of working with large scale companies, I’ve been fortunate to work with amazing people at the category leaders in the world, including people at Amazon, Google, GSK, Samsung, Airbus, Nike, and more — but there has been a common dilemma facing all these companies — the internal innovation chasm.

The design, product, and innovation leaders I’ve worked with have frequently been swimming upstream in their mandate — being told the company demands and supports radical, user-driven innovation, while the reality they face is that innovation of new products and experiences is mostly achieved in non-disruptive, linear approaches. This is not because linearity is what companies or the leaders desire, but because they don’t have the means to prove that taking a leap will pay off.

Their reality includes:

  • “We need proof from user research that this is valuable” — but it costs too much to get a meaningful sample size of feedback
  • “You’re asking for too much budget and too much time. Give me something I can ship next sprint.”
  • “These prototypes are just concepts, they aren’t really testable.”
  • “All the developers are assigned to shipping features on the existing product, just make a Figma prototype.”

Sound familiar?

Design and product strategies may help us establish goals of where we’d like our products to be and what problems they’ll solve, but, more often than not, our path is defined by setting a work-back trajectory of how to include features one at a time rather than visionary strategy. This forgoes a true leap to a version 2.0, and should be seen more as a perpetual march to version 1.x.

While serious resources can be spent on creative vision, rarely is anyone given the tools to properly test an idea in-market quickly at high fidelity. Even more rarely can teams figure out how to get their vision to market fast and continue to build and perfect it with the confidence of their company behind them.

This all gives context to the questions my team at Noodl and I have been asking ourselves:

  • How can we achieve design-driven innovative leaps in complex, risk-averse organisations?
  • How can teams build entirely new or V2 products driven by real insights continuously?
  • How can we ensure that companies in the midst of digital transformation don’t simply emulate sub-optimal approaches to innovation?
  • What if we could shed the weight that holds us down and float right over the innovation chasm?
  • What if we could empower a new creative class of professionals to create visionary software without the cost or bottlenecks of building expensive engineering teams?

If your team is ready, one part of the answer is adopting a design-driven processes to innovation.

The next step is equipping team members with design programming skills and methodologies. Cutting out the need for in-sourcing our outsourcing can steer resources (aka time and money) back to iteration with real users. When the most innovative people have the skills to create production-grade MVPs themselves that they can test with users, they can generate insights at light-speed and even take decisions on the fly where appropriate.

Together, design-driven mentalities and design programming methods can allow you to own your own vision.

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