The Key to Breakthrough Innovation – Design Thinking or Steve Jobs?

by | Apr 29, 2014

breakthrough innovation

Here's the logic. 1. Steve Jobs did not empathise/engage with consumers around what they wanted, because if they had, they would NOT have said they wanted a small personal music player. 2. Design Thinking is all about engaging and empathising with consumers 3. So if Steve Jobs had used Design Thinking, we would never have had the iPod/iPhone/..... AND we would never have had the breakthrough innovations that Steve made for us, as we would have had what the consumer wanted.

Logical? Well, sort of. But I hear this all the time.

My view is that Steve was an anomaly - a genius who could project his mind forward to visualise what the consumer could/would want into the future, and then bring the vision into the present and make it real for himself and his Apple team. While we would all like to be like Einstein or Steve Jobs, we can't. Design Thinking in many ways gives us mere mortals the pathways to follow to attempt to go down the route that Steve did so effectively on his own, with no external aids or processes. Indeed, we can view Design Thinking as an insight into the Steve Jobs mindset - so indeed, if we follow the process, we may very well come up with the same sort of breakthrough innovations that Steve did.

And remember, not all of Steve Job's breakthrough innovations were successful. Some he thought were great but just never took off. So lets not beat ourselves up too much. Will we be Steve Jobs? Probably not. Can we come up with breakthrough innovation? Absolutely. Will we do it sitting in the bathtub on our own? Unlikely. What we can do is empathise with the user as much as possible, live and breath what they breathe, and then apply the Design Thinking principles to take us through a process, even if it is in our own minds, to get to the "Ah Ha" moment we are all searching for.

Whats your view?

Jeffrey Tobias

About Jeffrey Tobias

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well-known startups.

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Managing Director, The Strategy Group

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well known startups. Jeffrey’s corporate background includes leading global innovation strategy at Cisco, working with large corporates such as Adobe, Westpac, Telstra, Woolworths, and Perpetual.

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