The Framework

The Process of Design-Driven Innovation

The process of design-driven innovation therefore entails getting close to interpreters. It leverages their ability to understand and influence how people could give meaning to things. This process, described in detail in this book, consists of three actions.

The first one is listening. It is the action of gaining access to knowledge about possible new product meanings by interacting with interpreters. Firms that listen better are those that develop privileged relationships with a distinguished circle of key interpreters. These are not necessarily the most famous in the industry. Rather, successful firms first identify overlooked interpreters, usually in fields where competitors are not searching. They search “outside of the network”. Key interpreters are forward-looking researchers who are developing, often for their own purposes, unique visions about how meanings could evolve in the life context we want to investigate. Firms that realize design-driven innovations are better than their competitors at detecting, attracting, and interacting with key interpreters.

The second action is interpreting. Its purpose is to allow a company to develop its unique proposal. It is the internal process through which the firm assesses the knowledge it gains by interacting with interpreters and then recombines and integrates this knowledge with its own proprietary insights, technologies, and assets. This process reflects the profound and precise dynamics of research rather than the speed of brainstorming. It implies sharing knowledge through exploratory experiments rather than extemporaneous creativity. It resembles the process of science and engineering (although it targets meanings rather than technologies) more than that of a creative agency. Its outcome is the development of a breakthrough meaning for a product family.

The third action is addressing. Radical innovations of meanings, being unexpected, sometimes initially confuse people. To prepare the ground for groundbreaking proposals, firms leverage the seductive power of interpreters. By discussing and internalizing a firm’s novel vision, these interpreters inevitably change the life context (through the technologies they develop, the products and services they design, the artworks they create) in a way that makes the company’s proposal more meaningful and attractive when people see it.