A brief introduction to our innovation vocabulary



The process of introducing something new - product, service, platform - that addresses a need and that brings value to the world.

Innovation teams must not just envision, but also evaluate, communicate and implement their ideas - otherwise, no impact is created.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking at its core is about humans. It's a mindset.

Design thinking is a system that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business can convert into consumer value and market opportunity.- Tim Brown, IDEO

Ironically, the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) nature of the 21st century is exactly the right time for organizations to embrace design thinking. 




A set of choices that an organization needs to make in order to succeed.

1. What is our winning aspiration?
2. Where will we play?
3. How will we win?
4. What are the capabilities needed?
5. What management systems are required?

Strategy is emergent. It’s not about perfection.

Streamlining flow

In the world of uncertainty, for any idea to create value (ROI and user value), it has to go through a process of problem definition, concept generation and testing through its evolution from idea to design to a marketable solution. That is what we refer to as flow of ideas and it is unique for every organization.

Understanding flow in your organization is critical if you want your ideas to become truly successful in the world.




A person who can make or break your innovation through their actions at the enterprise or the project level. Stakeholders can affect or be affected by the organization's actions, objectives and policies. There can be internal and external stakeholders. External stakeholders include your customers, consumers, and users. Internal Stakeholders include Executive Leadership, Administration, sponsors of ideas, implementors, developers, middle managers, among others.

Innovation teams must not only understand their stakeholders, but also map it visually. Mapping the aspirations, needs, and issues of each stakeholder in the organizational ecosystem will enable the ideas to flow easier and ultimately become successful.


Value webs map how two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected. Value webs map the value transactions between each stakeholder in your ecosystem. The key thing to note is that values are not always monetary.

Innovation teams need to understand what each unit, object, or person can give to the flow and expects to get back in return from the flow.




The initial definition of a challenge may not be accurate because of many different reasons. Re-framing allows teams to develop a new frame to understand what is the real problem, and define a potential new direction for a project. Re-framing is based heavily on abstraction and new insights gained through empathy with different stakeholders in the ecosystem. (Source: Design and Economy of Choice by Patrick Whitney 2016)

The problem as given is never the real problem . By bringing together diverse perspectives, innovation teams can re-frame the problem and understand what needs to be done to address this problem.


Discover the core value that can be created or enhanced. Projects often begin with an answer in mind. Continuing to ask “Why?” to discover the core value that can be created leads to meaningful, novel solutions.

Innovation teams are often forced to work in either transactional states through association with operation teams, or in abstract states through association with strategy teams. The truth is we need both of these to make innovations succeed. Innovation teams must streamline flow of ideas between these two states, if they want to see their ideas in the hands of the customer out in the real world.




The word 'Lean' comes from Lean Manufacturing which focused on reducing waste of both time and resource. We can apply the same philosophy to the innovation process by streamlining the flow of ideas and removing blinders and blockers in the process. Design thinking helps organizations to be lean by eliminating unknowns and reducing risk through continuous customer research and need finding.

Adopting lean methodology into the innovation flow empowers innovation teams to map out their ideas across the organizational spectrum and conserve time, energy, and monetary resources.

EXPLAINER: New lenses for innovation

Patrick Whitney, Dean and Robert Pew Steelcase Professor of Design at IllinoisTech Institute of Design describes new lenses for innovation that companies need to use to prepare for the future.



Popularized by David M. Kelley and Tim Brown of IDEO and Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Business, design thinking moves through three major stages. 

explainer: Design Thinking vs. The Lean Startup

In this Webinar, Bill Burnett at Stanford, describes what design thinking can learn from the Lean Startup model.

explainer: Design methods AND innovation frameworks

A structured approach to innovation as described by Vijay Kumar, Professor at IllinoisTech Institute of Design and one of the leading voices for design thinking in business.

Communicating the new

Kim Erwin, currently the Associate Director at University of Illinois Chicago's Population Health Sciences, describes how innovation processes require communication be a shared experience, not just a transfer of information.

Design in Tech Report 2017

The third annual Design in Tech Report by John Maeda examines how design trends are revolutionizing the entrepreneurial and corporate ecosystems in tech 

Listen to the SXSW presentation