Oct 4, 2016

Design thinking on rails



Moodi Mahmoudi

Travel from insight to market with the NEXT Business Design template

Reading NEXT’s blog posts, chances are you’ve come across various phrasings of the idea that “innovation is not art, but science.” Everything we do at NEXT hinges on this fact. Otherwise, we’d be stuck, idle, waiting for a visionary genius to come along and help us innovate.

It wasn’t, however, until relatively recently that the science of innovation was considered as such. Like the sales process, innovation was for a long time believed to be — and, perhaps, actually was — an art form. Of course, sales is now considered a science, thanks in a large part to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, a term coined in 1993 by Tom Siebel when he created Siebel Systems.

Siebel Systems focused on automating sales, from contact to contract. That is, organizing marketing and sales best practices into a structured and logical step-by-step process that salespeople could follow in order to identify, pursue, convince, and close new business opportunities. This structure had since been lacking, leaving individual salespeople to play their own game, each creating their own art.

Today, companies such as have further democratized the science of sales by offering cloud, mobile, and social CRM software that allows clients to embed, replicate, and scale the best practices of sales to everyone in any given organization.

Innovation is undergoing a similar transformation. Once thought reserved for the truly visionary, the “art” of design thinking — practices, activities, and methods that can be applied to jumpstart innovation — is being structured, organized, and subsequently automated. Which means that innovation is a discipline.

Innovation can be taught.

Innovation can be learned.

Innovation can be replicated and scaled.

Ride the line

At NEXT, we are spearheading innovation’s transformation from art into science. NEXT offers many templates from leading partners, such as IDEO, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, This is Service Design Doing, and many more. Over the years, we’ve gathered a lot of experience codifying best practices into NEXT templates. In this way, we’ve also created a NEXT Business Design template. This template helps users develop a Challenge into a fully-fledged Value Proposition and Business Case. The template ensures teams never become lost, and, once on their way, that they are never confused as to what, when, or why they should be performing a certain task. The process acts as both guide and map, fueled by best-practice tools teams can use to design their proposition.

We call it the NEXT Idea-to-Market template.

The Business Design process is a step-by-step approach to developing fully-fledged business cases — the best practices of design thinking on rails.

It functions in exactly the same way as a map of, say, the Paris Metro, helping you move from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, with no room for confusion.

The Business Design process takes teams from an initial insight to a fully-validated business case (which is covered in NEXT’s Business Design process). It offers users a bird’s eye view of how the steps of the innovation process fit together and become actionable.

  • Sensing — Explore the topic from a multi-dimensional perspective, combining rational analysis with an intuitive gathering of insights to hone on the right problem to solve.

  • Visioning — Create a user Value Proposition to answer the defined problem by thinking big, reframing beliefs, and using analogies.

  • Prototyping — Perform rapid user testing to collect feedback and improve key aspects of the value proposition. Iterate.

  • Scaling — Design a viable and scalable solution while remaining adaptable to an uncertain future by leveraging proven scaling frames.

When the innovation process is structured and organized, it becomes simple, which in turn causes the notion of innovation as art to dissipate. It instead becomes painfully obvious that the innovation process is a science.

OK, innovation is science. So what?

The Business Design process transforms innovation into a seamless process for everyone, every day.

Innovators are able to shift focus away from attempts to discover the innovation process. Instead, they will spend their time creating, actually innovating. And that’s where the art comes in.

The road to innovation is one rooted in science, paved with the structured best practices of design thinking. At the end of that road, however, lie artful results. All you need are directions.

We have a map.

Let us show you the way.

Contributing editor: Adam Kohut