Innovation. At PlusD2 it’s a word we pride ourselves on.

It goes into our work with great care and expertise in the hopes of providing you with an end result that is just that…innovative.

We’ll be sharing over a series of eight articles PlusD2’s theory and process of innovation as it relates to the product development and industrial design world as written by PlusD2 principal Stephen Melamed.

Part two – Insight

Innovation is a process. Hopefully we can all agree on that; we have found it is a difficult journey to create new value where it did not previously exist.

There are no guarantees or promises when we search for new land, certainly there are few true visionaries out there truly capable of creating something that no one has ever seen or experienced.

The outcome of successful innovation may be a new product, a service, a digital interaction, or any combination of these elements. Innovation is typically derived from a single unique insight. Our approach to the innovation process is human-centered. Uncovering latent needs or raising awareness of human values to improve upon a user experience in any given situation is our objective. This is the primary goal of an empathetic user-centered solution.

Oftentimes, a simple observation may be confused with being an insight. Observation is generally one of the first the steps in the process, but insights must then be extracted from what was noticed or observed in order to place it into a meaningful context for innovation. Noticing something, perceiving something, is but one part of this difficult process of discovering deeper meaning. It’s hard work to synthesize, and then analyze, the field research to extract insights. Initially, based upon: field-work, we all most likely will begin to make inferences.

By inference, I mean, the act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true; and/or the act of reasoning from factual knowledge or evidence.

While conducting field research in an OR (Operating Room), it was quickly observed that the surgeon was using a hemostat (a common medical instrument used to prevent the flow of blood from an open blood vessel by compression) to hold a number of cables in the bed sheet atop the patient. This observation is commonly referred to as a ‘work-around.’ Witnessing a work-around in the environment is usually a gem of information and can often lead to an insight. The observation pointed out the challenges of cable management in the OR, but upon deeper investigation, also revealed another problem. Once clamped, the cables could no longer move or slide, offering no slack to be repositioned as needed throughout the course of the surgery. Only through a more mindful analysis of the observation, did the full insight become revealed.

The key to turning an inference based upon field-work into a workable hypothesis driven by a key insight in order to create an innovative solution is ensuring it is grounded within a specific context (i.e. OR). If this approach was written as a formula, it might read something like –

observation + inference + context = insight

So what may be considered an insight?

An insight is a substantive interpretation of the why behind human behavior that can be translated into a unique design/development opportunity.

An insight should be the fuel for idea generation. An insight should be specific and bring clarity and greater visibility to a previously hidden meaning. An insight should be a revelation: unexpected things that make the target audience take notice; and lastly, an insight should enable that user group to see the world (or some small part of it) in a whole new way.

Any practitioner who has worked in this industry knows well that deep insights are not easy to achieve and tend to be hard-won conclusions that are usually drawn out only after careful consideration and interpretation of what has been observed. It’s also completely unpredictable and may come at any time.

That’s part of the fun but also part of the frustration of the innovation process.

PlusD2 is an innovative product design/development firm based out of Chicago and Columbus.

Our motto – The Art of Creation and the Science of Imagination.

If you’d like to speak to us about a product development project we’d love to hear from you. Post a comment below or email our team at info@PlusD2.com.