Continued from the last post, this is part II of the series on innovation tools. Most of the innovation tools included on our survey are not rocket science but all require some level of training to use them properly.  Most of the really interesting and effective tools and techniques for innovation, are fairly simple, they allow people to gain new perspectives and to look at its products and services in a completely new light. The challenge is synthesizing the information and make them actionable.

Take the most common tool - customer experience journey mapping.  This tool documents the lifecycle of a customer as they become aware of your offerings, become a customer, use your products, services etc.  Mapping their emotional state of mind as well as needs for information or other functional support sounds simple. It is a fairly complicated process but does require the collaboration of different functional expertise and representation. It is not a mechanical exercise, the quality depends on how much deep insight you can input into the process.

IMMERSION DAYS:  Immersion Days are the meat and potatoes of innovation inspiration.

They are semi-structured and semi-guided “journeys”, designed to expose team members to the kinds of people, places and experiences that can help make a concept richer, more real and more relevant. Immersion Days range from products and services in use, to local restaurant scenes and exotic markets around the world, they are meant to expose stakeholders to the social, interactional, sensual and human side of products, services and experiences.

When to use it:
Immersion Days sit at the front-end of the innovation process and can be conducted in tandem, or as part of, ethnographic research.

Why use it: Immersion days serve two primary purposes. First, as a part of projects where contextual inspiration can drive concept ideation and development. Experiencing authentic contexts and gathering artefacts from them can provide invaluable raw material for innovation, in brand design and positioning, packaging design and emerging markets.

Second, Immersion Days can be a highly effective way to communicate opportunity spaces to clients and to socialize ideation and development. Helping to communicate the richness of experience generates the excitement required to get all stakeholders invested in an idea, there-by garnering additional support for early stage concepts.

Customer Journey Mapping is the process of mapping out the steps; stages and moments customers go through when they engage with a brand, product or service.  Customer Journey maps many times look and map the entire arc of engagement, beginning with a customer initial state of need or desire, through exploration and use, to the end of the experience with a product or service.

Journey Maps are also used to construct entire brand narratives, storytelling the emotional ups and downs consumers experience when engaging with a brands products and services.

When to use it: At the discovery phase, when trying to understand the customer experience, and as a way to socialize and share journey findings with the design team. Customer Journey maps can also be used as a visual narrative when communicating with clients and stakeholders.

Why use it: Gaining an understanding of the customer experience with a brand, product or service is crucial to improving upon and making those experiences better. Because Customer Journey Maps expose the full spectrum of use, interactions, and emotions with products and services, salient touch points can be discovered and identified, thereby providing an invaluable tool for optimizing the experience. Additionally, because of their synchronic nature, Customer Journey Mapping helps generate design solutions that address specific touchpoints, as well as identify opportunities for the entire experience platform.

At its most basic level, Rapid Prototyping is about trying your ideas out as quickly and as tangibly as possible. Maximizing the rate of learning over time through repetitive and cumulative cycles of design, build, test, and refine. As an explorative tool, rapid prototyping is employed to discover, define and refine concepts with guided precision and speed to identify and mitigate risks early. These ‘rehearsals’ are done in order to avoid down-stream costs while also building up critical assets for internal and external communication and socialization.

When to use it: Rapid iteration is a product of innovation processes, specifically the practice of ideation or concept development.  The progressive steps of visual and physical fidelity cue different types of constructive dialogue, yielding value across the project timeline.  We continually use images and objects as communication and sense-making tools at every stage of the plan. The concurrent interplay of rapid visualization and prototyping as end-to-end process is critical to reaching inclusive, elegant and well-considered designs. 

Why use it: To learn fast, Learn Cheap and Learn Early – visualizations and prototypes are low cost de-risk mechanisms for exploring multiple options quickly. They are also used to dramatize interactions and actively anticipate and advance improvement.

To Socialize & Level Up – reach a richer caliber product through accelerating the pace and quality of design conversations by placing ideas within a visual or physical language everyone can understand, engage with, and contribute to. This allows us to track and evaluate through the progressive use of versions.


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