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Design Thinking: The Key to Innovation

Design Thinking: The Key to Innovation
February 10, 2017

“Right team with an agile leader, Start Early, Think Innovative” – Pillars of Design Thinking.

Innovation is the crowd pulling factor. Having the right skill-set in a team driven by a strong leader will cultivate innovation in design. Along with innovation, time to market is another critical factor in today’s competitive world, and one of the catalyst to achieve that goal is to start the design phase much ahead of the market launch time.

Wheel Spoke Approach

The whole wheel of design & innovation is held together by key spokes. We will discuss what factors can play the role of spokes in the design wheel.

Let’s classify those key factors into 2 aspects - Phases and Differentiators.

Wheel Spoke Approach

Phases of Successful Design

Design thinking has to involve the following phases. If we post-mortem design failures, it will point to not giving enough focus to either one or more of the phases. This is the reason for going through each phase diligently for a good and robust design.


There have to be 2 distinct parts:

  • Understanding on current design, limitations, constraints etc.
  • Understanding the scope of the new opportunity.

The team should have skills in understanding the current product architecture and its limitations and should have enough exposure the various technologies used in the current product. In addition, the team should be up-to-date on new technology trends and tools, in order to come up with an innovative and robust design.


The first and foremost challenge is in defining the below aspects and get these baselined:

  • Detailed design requirements based on scope.
  • Deployment scenarios.
  • Acceptance Criteria.


Once the requirements are baselined, brainstorm on the design and testability approach for each of the requirement. There has to be a moderator during this phase to ensure the following:

  • Identify and invite the right set of Subject Matter Experts.
  • Designers have done ground level study of requirements and current design.
  • Participants are provided enough freedom to debate on the requirements and design aspects.
  • The discussion ends with a common view on
    • Requirement impacts on the current product.
    • Grouping of requirements to make the delivery in a phased approach.
    • The design approach and technology to be followed.


Review is backbone of the entire design approach. The quality of the review can be ensured by enforcing the following:

  • Identification of the right set of reviewers and Subject Matter Experts for the reviews.
  • Providing the early indication to the reviewers about the review.
  • Providing sufficient time for the reviewers
  • Updating the product live documents

Key differentiators


Refactoring of the existing design while incorporating new changes is the phase which the teams generally miss to follow. By refactoring, we reduce the complexity of design. We also increase the lifetime of the product by ensuring that it handles more complex requirements in the future without compromising on the Key Performance Indicators of the product.


For complex products, it’s good to start with prototype. The obvious advantages we get from doing this are:

  • The team gets an early feel on the suitability of the design approach.
  • Can quickly adjust design/requirements at this stage.
  • Acts as a confidence booster for the team.

Attributes of Design Thinking

  • Modular approach
    • Best suited approach for complex design and saves a lot of debugging time during the sustenance phase of the product. It also aides in parallel development.
  • Design alternatives explored
    • Pros and Cons have to be documented and the reasons behind selecting one of the approach have to be documented.
  • Scalability.
  • Performance.
  • Interoperability aspects (both internal and external to the product).


Quality is a mind set and an axis around which the wheel of design revolves. The key things to take care in this context are:

  • Traceability.
  • Testability.
  • Debug ability.
  • Backward compatibility.
  • Extensible.
  • Above all, documentation.