What can design firms teach us about innovation and product development?

Manuel Sosa, an associate professor at INSEAD, wrote an interesting piece this week on the concept of design as an innovation catalyst for incumbent product companies.

He reviews the case of Samsung, a company that instituted a successful turn-around in the mid-90's when it began collaborating with design firms and created an in-house design school. How did Samsung leverage design in the process of rejuvenating its business?
Many firms developing new products or services carry out insighting, ideating, and iterating, so what sets design firms apart?
Design firms place a greater emphasis on setting a direction than adhering to organizational silos, and focus on shaping creative ideas to serve practical requirements.  Looking at the methodology these firms employ, Sosa identifies three distinct phases:
  1. Aligning process and organisational elements to encourage user-centricity when insighting
  2. Fostering the generation of many and distinct ideas during ideating, and
  3. Celebrating the creation of rapid and cheap prototypes during iterating.
Sosa argues that the challenge for businesses is to align their internal structures and processes to produce their own versions of insighting, ideating, and iterating in a way that does not disrupt the efficiency of their internal operations.
-- Segundo Saenz

The middle income trap

Entrepreneurship and growth