Book Review | Design-Driven Innovation, Roberto Verganti

Design-Driven Innovation: The Power of the Elite Circles
Roberto Verganti, Professor of Management of Innovation, Politecnico di Milano

Verganti … tells how design innovators add “unsolicited meaning” that consumers don’t even know they’re craving – and they create products people can’t live without. – BiZed, November-December 2009

Consumption-driven wealth and status are being replaced by identity, belonging, and a strong desire to contribute and do something “meaningful” rather than just acquire things. Roberto Verganti, in his new book, Design-Driven Innovation, argues that there is a “Third Way of Innovation,” driven by meaning… give existing things new meaning — and thus create new markets. – Design Mind, September 2009

How should a company devise new meanings and create the designs to embody them? Mr. Verganti suggests that companies form relationships with “interpreters”—individuals and organizations looking at settings similar to the one in which the company’s products would be used.  – The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2009

Verganti … tells how design innovators add “unsolicited meaning” that consumers don’t even know they’re craving – and they create products people can’t live without. – BiZed, November-December 2009

One of the best books of the year is undoubtedly “Design-Driven Innovation”. –how can a company successfully create a product that is a radical break from the past, and which shows the way to a new future? – John Caddell on The Customer Collective, August 12th 2009

No secrets are left about how design can help create innovations that better suit existing user needs. As many firms are increasingly adopting the same approach to innovation, user-centered design is losing its differentiation power. Yet, we still know almost nothing about how design can create radical innovations that do not come from users; that may even confuse them initially, but eventually convert them and make them passionate advocates. Roberto Verganti illustrates the results of a decade of studies in his book, Design-Driven Innovation: How to Change the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean, published by Harvard Business Publishing.

First, he shows how radical innovation often comes from circles of talents, who have powerful interpretations of the evolution of society, culture and technologies.

Second, he illustrates how corporations may identify and attract those radical talents earlier and better than their competitors.

Another take on Verganti’s book by Bob Morris which summarizes it perfectly. And he starts the book review by posing the following question:

Does design drive innovation or does innovation drive design?

The answer is “Yes.” The success of each approach depends almost entirely on what Roberto Verganti characterizes as “radical research” and those who either conduct it or support those who do. In his introductory Letter to the Reader, Verganti explains that this is a book on management. More specifically, “it’s about how to manage innovation that customers do not expect but eventually love. It shows how executives can realize an innovation strategy that leads to products and services that have a radical new meaning: those that convey a completely new reason for customers to buy them. Their meanings are so distinct from those that dominate the market that they might take people by surprise, but they are so inevitable that they convert people and make them passionate.” Or what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba describe as “customer evangelists.”

Verganti calls this strategy “design-driven innovation” because design, in its etymological sense, means “making sense of things.” Therefore, think of design-driven innovation as the R&D process for meanings. This book shows “how companies can manage this process to radically overturn dominant meanings in an industry before their competitors so and therefore rule the competitors.” Throughout his lively narrative, Verganti responds to questions such as these:

  1. How to innovate by making sense of things?
  2. How to integrate design-driven innovation with an organization’s strategy?
  3. How to initiative and then sustain productive interplay between “technology-push” and design-driven innovation?
  4. Why do some companies invest in design-driven innovation and others don’t?
  5. What are “interpreters” and what is their role in the design-driven innovation process?
  6. How to locate and then attract key interpreters?
  7. How can an organization develop its own vision?
  8. How to leverage the “seductive power” of the interpreters?
  9. When establishing what Verganti calls the “Design-Driven Lab,” where to begin?
  10. What is the “key role” of an organization’s senior managers and their influence on the organization’s culture?

However those involved are identified (e.g. “interpreters”) and their functions are defined, whatever a given organization’s goals and resources may be, questions such as these suggest critically important issues that must be addressed by its business leaders. If I understand Verganti’s core thesis, it is that the process by which to do that must itself be design-driven. That is to say, a competitive advantage can be achieved and then sustained only by innovative thinking about innovation. Only then can those who are involved “make sense” of what to do and how to do it for their customers.

Inspiration: DMI Conferences, Bob Morris

About dianhasan

Brand Storyteller, Travel Writer, Speaker, Creative Writer & Thinker - avid observer of randomness in everyday life - Sustainable Business, Eco Matters, Sustainable Urban Issues, Architecture, Heritage Conservation, Innovation & Brand-Strategy, Cross-Cultural Communications, Travel, Tourism & Lifestyle.
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