In the first part of this series I examined the case for, and some of the key aspects of Design Thinking.   In Part 2 of this series, I distinguished between “Core” and “Edge” Capabilities and made the point that Design Thinking typically is heavy on Edge capabilities, whereas most businesses, and certainly, most corporate IT organizations are highly biased towards Core capabilities.  Now let’s drill into the Web 2.0 implications of Design Thinking.

The easiest way to do this for IT people is to think in terms of a process, the steps in that process, and how information technology might enable those steps.

Tim Brown‘s “Three Spaces of Innovation”

A good place to explore the Design Thinking process is in IDEO CEO, Tim Brown’s excellent HBR article from June 2008.  In that paper, Tim presents a model of how Design Thinking happens.  Tim’s model describes “Three Spaces of Innovation” – Inspiration, Ideation and Implementation.  What I like about this picture is that it’s not a simple linear process – it is somewhat chaotic, full of little feedback loops and more concerned with how things connect and flow that with a rigid process.

How Web 2.0 Might Enable Innovation Activities

In the figure below I have added simplistic examples of how different types of Web 2.0 capabilities might play into the major activities contained in Tim Brown’s model.  Consider this a simple illustration – there are a zillion possible variations on this theme!

Move Edge Activities to the Cloud

I believe that Cloud Computing in its various forms presents a relatively attractive way to quickly develop Edge capabilities.  Given that Design Thinking requires that we become more comfortable with experimentation, at the very least we should be experimenting with the Cloud, and Edge capabilities present an ideal case for cloud experiments.  We can keep them relatively isolated, implement them very quickly with little to no capital outlay, and everything we do in the cloud is inherently collaborative (e.g., think Google Docs, Google Wave, Mindmeister, etc.) just as just about everything we need to be doing around Design Thinking is inherently collaborative.

A More Traditional Process View

For those that prefer to take a more traditional process view, Wikipedia suggests a simple 7-Step Design Thinking process, rendered as a loop below.  Note, please don’t take this process too literally.  Design Thinking is more about ‘iterate and converge’ than the more typical IT process.  These steps are rarely going to be linear and sequential.

Collaborative Intents for Each Step

A couple of years ago, working on a multi-company research project with my colleague Tammy Erickson at nGenera, we identified 10 distinct types of ‘Collaborative Intents’ to be considered when planning any type of collaboration initiative.  For each collaborative intent, we can be quite explicit about the business outcomes to be achieved.  So, for example, in the Design Thinking step “Define” we are interested in ‘connecting ideas’ that might not typically be connected in order to amplify knowledge and identify innovation opportunities.

Web 2.0 Technologies for Each Step


We can map the types of Collaborative Intent to each step in the Design Thinking process.  In the table above, as an illustration, for each type of Collaborative Intent, I have identified the types of technology that might be useful to enable that intent, and provided some examples of actual technologies in each space.  Please note, mention or lack thereof for any specific technology does not imply any endorsement (or lack thereof!)

Does this make sense to you?  Do you have experience in applying Web 2.0 to Design Thinking?  Please weigh in – let’s generate some dialog on these ideas and their reality in practice.

Image courtesy of Red Jotter

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