In our ‘connected’ world, where technology is developing with astonishing speed, the bonds between disciplines and departments, between businesses and stakeholders, and between producer and consumer, are what allow innovation to flourish. Innovations don’t happen in a vacuum, they need a broader platform where different kinds of people with different perspectives, skills, insights, personalities and sensibilities can collaborate and co-create.
This is why the process of design thinking, in combination with an agile and lean approach, is especially powerful in our digitally-fuelled, data-rich era. . As designers we can help in bringing together and connecting the dots between these different perspectives to create truly meaningful innovation. And we are able to work fast and iteratively, capturing multiple insights and translating them into viable solutions and working prototypes.
The Digital Accelerator laboratory at Philips is working proof of this kind of agile methodology. We are able to connect and build products that we can test and develop in real time, bringing innovations to market – and scaling them – with incredible speed. And that’s because we have such a multi-disciplined approach within the lab, working together towards a more holistic user experience.
That sense of many parts making the whole is central to what we understand by ‘meaningful’ innovation. It’s based on a deep understanding of people’s needs and desires, not simply the desire to innovate for technology’s sake.
What is the problem, what are the possible solutions, who can we bring to the table to present some alternative thinking, how can data be utilized to improve our products? That is what innovation means. To create solutions that can profoundly improve the lives of people, we need to be able to instinctively empathize with them and explore deeply the entire user experience.
At Philips we’ve developed a tool we call Experience Flow to maximize this way of thinking. It represents a customer’s journey, focusing on the practical and emotional needs of end-users over time. So we start by understanding their context and expectations, then progress to first impressions about products, through discovery of their usage and finally to memory and what becomes most meaningful to them. This ‘flow’ helps our designers and development teams to think from a customer, end user, patient or operators perspective and identify solutions that really matter to these people.
And with that, comes a new way of thinking about innovation. Rather than individual items, we look to embrace entire eco-systems of interconnected products and services so that innovation becomes as much about the experiential as the technological. For example, smart homes, where connected lights, TVs, or kitchen devices can communicate with one another according to the time, temperature and your personal needs. Or smart healthcare, where data from Imaging machines can be shared with experts around the world to support faster and better diagnoses and patient outcomes.
But of course the roots of true innovation lie even further back from being able to identify and react to a problem. Truly meaningful innovation comes from being able to identify unmet or latent needs before consumers even realize those needs are not being met. To predict and provoke, inspire change and not just react, to imagine rather than simply create.
That is the challenge we set for ourselves every day at Philips, to ask the question: where can innovation take us to deliver truly meaningful solutions that provide better experiences and outcomes?
That’s what innovation means to me.