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The Directed Innovation Framework – A powerful new business innovation tool: blending customer-centred analytics with design-led techniques

Posted on: Monday 26th of November 2018

Sophisticated analytical techniques are widely used to support business decision making and problem-solving, helping companies forward plan, manage risks and grow markets. However, there are changes too complex, wide-reaching and unknown to comprehend through analysis alone. Nowhere is this truer than in the fast-moving digital economy. To meet this challenge, new ways of working are needed which are more creative, faster, and less prescriptive.

Recognising this need, design-led approaches have emerged over recent years which have brought more agile and open ways to grasp and explore complex business issues. These have introduced new design-based techniques that bring together diverse talents to shape and align understanding of new business challenge and opportunity, innovate new concepts, and iterate prototype solutions.

However, because of their conceptual nature, the outputs from solely design-led initiatives can be difficult to translate into executable solutions.

To help organisations embrace strategic opportunity in the digital economy a new approach is needed that blends focused analytical methods with the freer thinking enabled by design-led techniques. In effect, a framework for ‘directed innovation’ that, whilst not constraining the creative process, augments and guides thinking within a focussed problem space towards compelling, targeted and deliverable solutions.

In a recent global study of Personal Data Mobility, commissioned by UK Government, strategic innovation consultancy Ctrl-Shift, in collaboration with Normally, the data product and service design studio, successfully demonstrated a new Directed Innovation Framework.

The growth in personal data, fuelled by the ubiquity of personal digital devices, is explosive. The intelligent use of this data can offer an unprecedented new opportunity for business growth, consumer value, and public good in a fast-evolving digital economy. But for this to happen, the personal data must become reliably accessible.

Building on the new legal requirements for personal data portability introduced in the GDPR legislation earlier this year, personal data mobility envisages a world where the data flows safely and efficiently, under the consent of the people it concerns, to where it can create maximum value.

If this vision for personal data mobility is realised, it has the power to change our future to such an extent that it would be meaningless to assess it from the perspective of today. Analysing the past, or situating ourselves in the present does not prepare us for the exploration and assessment of these kinds of complex and profound potential futures.

The challenge of personal data mobility, therefore, provides an excellent use case for the new Directed Innovation Framework.

The Directed Innovation Framework blends and builds upon two proven structures: the Ctrl-Shift Consumer Life Department and Customer Value Opportunity (CVO) methodology; and the Normally Collaborative Speculation design-led approach. This combination creates a powerful tool for the structured engagement of multi-disciplinary expertise in the synthesis of potentially ground-breaking solutions, that is based on clearly understood challenges, and focused innovative thinking.

In the first stage of the Framework the ‘field of play’ for the directed innovation is established. This is defined by the Challenge Focus and the Value Focus. In the demonstration carried out in the study, the Challenge Focus was based on two major challenges to personal data mobility (safe data sharing, and consumer data burden). The Value Focus was defined by the ‘Home’ Consumer Life Department and five selected CVOs within it. These included: move home; home insurance claim, and childcare.

This ‘field of play’ enabled the challenges to personal data mobility to be brought vividly to life in the context of people’s daily experiences and needs.

At the heart of the Collaborative Speculation approach is the Design Jam, which brings together multi-disciplinary teams in a series of high-energy workshops. In this demonstration the workshops explored, designed, and prototyped new digital service concepts.

A key tool in the Directed Innovation Framework is the Intervention Stack. This ensures that all relevant types of intervention are considered in prototyping service concepts that emerge from the Design Jam. The Intervention Stack highlights that solutions can, and should, exist across a range of mechanisms from small labels or discrete features to full services, industry standards, open infrastructure and governing frameworks. Whilst some challenges may be served by a single layer of the stack it’s likely that many will require the interplay of several mechanisms.

The third stage of the Directed Innovation Framework is synthesis and development. In this stage, the output from the Design Jam is analysed to determine the underlying themes emerging from the workshops. In the demonstration carried out for the study, cluster analysis uncovered six themes which represent a set of principles around which data mobile services should be designed to ease consumer data burden and enable safe sharing of data.

Following the synthesis, hypothetical services are selected from the paper prototypes that were built in the Design Jam, to explore risks and responses in greater detail. The services are selected to ensure that an effective range of circumstances related to the Challenge Focus can be examined.

Each of the hypothetical services are developed into ‘clickable’ digital prototypes, using the Intervention Stack to guide thinking on the most effective types of response to the challenges and risks, whilst maintaining customer value focus. The prototypes are then tested and iterated within the group and with users to further validate the concepts, design and structure.

The demonstration of the new Directed Innovation Framework in the context of personal data mobility has shown how it can enable purposeful exploration of the opportunities, challenges and risks in bringing innovative trusted digital services to market.  By embracing agile thinking in concept development, whilst maintaining focus on real-world value delivery and risk mitigation, the framework produced innovative outcomes that could readily contribute to practical operational solutions.

David Pickering is a Director at Ctrl-Shift, the business innovation consultancy that specialises in the strategic value of trusted personal data.
Ctrl-Shift helps organisations realise the unprecedented growth opportunity in personal data by creating strategic, sustainable and practical solutions that deliver new value in peoples’ lives.