20 Principles of Innovating by IDEO’s Diego Rodriguez

Divergent convergent thinking
Diego Rodriguez is a Principal of international design and consulting firm IDEO. For the past 18 months he has been creating new ventures @IDEOFutures where the firm looks to marry entrepreneurship and design.

IDEO has a long history and track record of innovation. The company's founder, David Kelley, has been examining the question of how to build creative confidence and overcome the fear of judgment throughout his career.

He believes that by leveraging a process with “guided mastery” and through “self-efficacy” individuals and teams can build creative confidence. As they gain experience, people learn to think about themselves differently — they change the story they tell themselves about being creative.

Creative confidence comes into play when designing for innovation. Rodriguez is thinking about design principles for new ventures, which, he says, might lead to rethinking his Principles for Innovating. These are timeless ideas that form the frame for how IDEO approaches design work.

My favorite is Prototype as if you are right. Listen as if you are wrong. “A prototype,”  he says, “is nothing other than a single question, embodied.” The goal of prototyping is to get an answer, move things forward.

The Principles for Innovating (as in the act of, a verb vs. a noun) are:

1. Experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world

2. See and hear with the mind of a child

3. Always ask: "How do we want people to feel after they experience this?"

4. Prototype as if you are right. Listen as if you are wrong.

5. Anything can be prototyped. You can prototype with anything.

6. Live life at the intersection

7. Develop a taste for the many flavors of innovation

8. Most new ideas aren't

9. Killing good ideas is a good idea

10. Baby steps often lead to big leaps

11. Everyone needs time to innovate

12. Instead of managing, try cultivating

13. Do everything right, and you'll still fail

14. Failure sucks, but instructs

15. Celebrate errors of commission. Stamp out errors of omission.

16. Grok the gestalt of teams

17. It's not the years, it's the mileage

18. Learn to orbit the hairball

19. Have a point of view —

20. Be remarkable — for example, this is what remarkable feels like

We all wrestle with uncertainty and doubt to varying degrees. How we go about doing things anyway, trusting the creative process and giving ourselves permission help us build confidence. But also need methods, frameworks, scaffolding, as Rodriguez says, that can guide us in our decision-making.

In The Chaos Theory of Startups, Union Square Ventures Andy Weissman says:

In chaos systems, one of the challenges then is to determine what is random, or chaotic, and what is meaningful. One of the hard things about being in a startup in this state of chaos is to actually figure out what course of action leads to randomness or instead leads to signal to build upon and grow into and out from. In short, the difficulty is how to decide what to do.

If one believes this, it probably follows then that the decision making process itself that goes into startups is primary: it's less about the actual decisions themselves then it is about the process used to make those decisions. In any given scenario there are three potential outcomes. The best outcome is that you make the correct decision. The second best is that you make the wrong decision. The worst outcome is when you can't make a decision.

… “process” becomes a defining characteristic. Your framework for making decisions matters as much or more than the decisions themselves, because the "chaos" of the system makes most outcomes indeterminate (again, chaos theory: “long-term prediction [is] impossible in general”).

So you need a framework, a set of first principles. That then guide your decision making and problem solving.

Culture is part of that can help drive the choices we make. At Netflix, a culture of high performance, radical honesty, and the motto ‘we’re not family’ drives MarTech choices, for example.

Culture is a strategic tool. It sets the tone for what we stand for and how we go about doing things. On being strategic, IDEO CEO Tim Brown says:

Strategy should bring clarity to an organization; it should be a signpost for showing people where you, as their leader, are taking them — and what they need to do to get there. People need to have a visceral understanding — an image in their minds — of why you’ve chosen a certain strategy and what you’re attempting to create with it. Because it’s pictorial, design describes the world in a way that’s not open to many interpretations.

As more and more of us brand/digital strategists become involved in the creation of experiences, clarity of understanding is the difference between coherence and chaos.

Knowing the process we use to make decisions — whether we use simulations and scenarios, time box experiment using small feedback loops, build prototypes to visualize experiences — helps us retrace our steps and learn using evidence. 


[image via IDEOU]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *