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Steal This Idea: Knowing. Making. Doing.

As I said in my book The Designful Company, if you want to innovate, you have to design. Yet design is a foreign language to most business managers. This is because the principles of traditional business management principles evolved to serve the needs of the industrial age. They rely on a mechanical two-step process for making decisions: knowing and doing. You “know” something—from a past experience, a case study, or a best practice—and then you “do” something.

The problem with this process is that what you “know” is limited to either “what is” or “what was,” while innovation is all about “what could be.” It’s impossible to know what could be without the process of design. To generate new ideas, the design process inserts a middle step: making.

Through the act of prototyping—using sketches, models, maps, mockups, simulations—the “making” step puts options on the table that weren’t there before. It pushes back on what we think we know, and also changes what we’re likely to do. It shifts the emphasis from “deciding” the future to “designing” the future. In a business climate that requires perpetual innovation, industrial-age thinking is useful, but woefully inadequate. We also need design thinking.Here’s a simple pair of slides you can throw into your presentations when you build a case for a more innovative culture.

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