Innovating Solutions

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here are several different development processes currently in use around the world. Depending on the industry and product or service, developers may use any of the following:

• “Waterfall:” A step-by-step, phased ap­proach that finishes one phase before start­ing another. This often results in slower development but more complete specifica­tions and more successful interfaces and solutions. This development, however, can lead to disconnection and compartmental – ization of teams and inefficient use of some resources while prior phases are being com­pleted. [66] concurrently as well, usually resulting in interfaces that inadequately meet customer needs. Because of the pace of development, decisions are often not always strategically driven but instead are tactically driven. This development approach requires close com­munication and coordination among the team and constant team-wide check-ins.

• Skunkworks: An approach to separating a team from the “normal” developmental process and the rest of the organization, in order to innovate where innovation has been difficult otherwise. This works best with multidisciplinary team members repre­senting all aspects of development, includ­ing marketing, operations, manufacturing, human resources, service, and so on.^ [67] [68] One drawback of a skunkworks approach is that once the team project is completed, the

team’s organizational learning is often dis­sipated when its members are reintegrated back into the rest of the company. Also, if this is the only way for a company to in­novate, it says something significant and troubling about the organization’s present culture.

• “Genius Design:” This is a common ap­proach that is comfortable for designers, engineers, and marketers alike (because it doesn’t rely on customer research), but it is the most risky and least successful (because it doesn’t rely on a deeper understanding of customers’ needs discovered in customer research). The most famous and successful practitioner of this approach is Apple, Inc., but without a leader like Steve Jobs (with his uncanny and unusual sense of what cus­tomers want and need), it would have been a failure (as most organizations who develop this way eventually discover). While it can be highly efficient and fast, it often leads to overly technical solutions that don’t match what customers want.

• User-Centric or User Experience: Mod­ern user/customer-driven processes make

a point to research customer needs before solutions are specified. They use a variety of quantitative and qualitative research tech­niques and tools to integrate and express what is found via customer profiles and scenarios. They make use of user testing throughout the development process (before technical specs are decided and not merely for troubleshooting interfaces after the solu­tion is mostly completed). It is often criti­cized for being more expensive and time­consuming for development, and even with substantial time spent understanding users, the trouble in identifying and translating customer needs—and the support for doing so at leadership levels in an organization— can still lead to solutions that miss impor­tant aspects of the customer experience. [69] and increase quality throughout the devel­opment process. While it has seen gains in manufacturing and other parts of opera­tions, it’s not suited to strategic innovation, concept-generation, or understanding the customer experience.

• Hybrid Models: Most organizations use a mix of techniques from many of the previ­ous processes in order to develop in a way that works for their culture. Obviously, some are more successful than others, and there’s probably no one “right” way to de­velop anything. However, none of the pre­vious techniques is inherently sufficient for incorporating sustainability easily into an organization. While it is possible to inte­grate all of the principles and strategies in this book into most processes, I’ll illustrate this point using what I consider a more complete development process, because it incorporates both strategic and tactical de­velopment.

Updated: October 7, 2015 — 8:21 am