Understanding and adopting digital innovation is becoming increasingly important for a wide variety of organizations and institutions. Banks need to keep up with financial technologies to match changing customer demands, universities need to transform the way they stimulate and educate their students, and consulting firms need to remain up-to-date about digital innovations and services that they can offer their clients. But how do you engage in digital innovation? There obviously is no clear-cut answer to that question, but one important element in identifying and cultivating digital innovation is by stimulating creativity. Organizations can for example choose to hire external creative agencies, but there are also ways in which organizations themselves can become more creative.
Why digital innovation requires you to start thinking differently
Most importantly, digital innovation requires professionals within traditional organizations to start thinking differently. It requires innovators to truly grasp what digital innovations are and what they can do in different types of contexts and organizations. As with many new developments that have happened in the past, people can rush to jump on the bandwagon without considering how a new technology or innovation matches with existing processes, ways of working, business models, or culture. For example, the blockchain and cryptocurrencies are all over the news nowadays, but it makes little sense for any random type of organization to think: “we need to be on the blockchain!”
Rather, it makes much more sense to think creatively about developing digital innovations that match the reality of a specific organization. To do so, organizations have adopted different approaches. IBM for example hired 800 design thinking to establish their Design Thinking department. Philips also has a full Design department that is dedicated to use creativity & design processes to guide their engineers and managers in ideation workshops. Accenture on the other hand, has embraced creativity by acquiring Fjord, a creative agency. Even though creativity may seem a fuzzy process, it can be managed. For example, Fjord uses the widely spread ‘double diamond approach’ (iterating between divergence to convergence): four steps that contain clear goals and deliverables that help people move from initial idea towards clear innovations that create value for their organization. This approach is typical to other creative agencies and design firms as well. See for example the work of Tim Brown and Roger Martin, the CEO’s of IDEO, wrote an interesting HBR paper about their take on the importance of design thinking for innovation. You can find the paper here.
Structured processes for embedding creativity
Hence, thinking in creative ways about digital innovation is not about randomly adopting and developing certain innovations. In a sense, igniting creativity to cultivate digital innovation is really about a guided approach to get people to think differently by recognizing both the possibilities and impossibilities of new technologies. Digital innovation requires a shift from linear to iterative innovation processes, where creativity is not only needed in the first fuzzy ideation phase but throughout the whole process. Effectively embedding creativity and design is necessary for organizations to think and see in different ways to identify new opportunities and risks and leverage new possibilities.
Workshop on Creativity & Digital Innovation @ KIN Center for Digital Innovation
At the KIN Center for Digital Innovation, we have a lot of experience with different approaches to digital innovation and creativity. Natalja Laurey, for example, currently studies the different ways in which service designers and other creative professionals work with people from more traditional organizations to help them create a so-called “liminal experience”. By taking people out of their comfort zone and helping them see things differently, creativity becomes a service in itself and can help people identify new opportunities for cultivating digital innovation in their organization.
On the 24th of January (’18) we will organize a workshop on Creativity & Design for Digital Innovation in which participants will learn how to bring in creativity and design to prepare for digital innovation. We will discuss different ways in which creativity can kickstart the digital transformation journey, and we will bring together professionals from the creative and design sector (Fjord & Accenture) as well as insights from the latest academic research on digital innovation and creativity (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam).