The White Spaces

I’m increasingly intrigued by the ‘white spaces’ in the innovation process. The spaces that land between the more recognized (and glamorous) stages everybody likes to talk about. The brainstorming and all the rest are fun and necessary to the design process. But looking back over these past years I’ve been working in this space, I see what comes after the ‘fun’ stages as being far more critical than the raw ideas.

We can get excited about the newness of the ideas and the escape from the daily routine when we join in a well done ideation session. And rightfully so I think. These tools are immensely valuable. Particularly in today’s corporate environments that seem devoid of creative thinking most days. But if all we generate is a nicely curated and formatted list of ideas, what have we really done? Are these exercises only about ‘team building’ and ‘fun’, or are they about building real world solutions from those ideas? Obviously, I’m leaning towards the latter.

As a design thinking community, we do a disservice to the rest of the business world when we get them excited about new ideas and possibilities only to let them flounder in the steps that follow. Many times I’ve heard organizations tell about how “we tried ‘innovation’ and it just didn’t work…” That’s a major frustration for everyone involved and yet I don’t think it’s entirely true. They might have tried pieces of an innovation process but simply(?) haven’t landed on a larger process that addresses the big picture of execution.

Processes like Design Thinking (and the many related variations) can be fantastic tools for connecting to user needs and generating insightful ideas for how to meet those needs. But like most things, it still boils down to execution. So yes, dig deep and find those great ideas, but also care enough about them to sweat the details in the execution phase that follows.