Innovation has become one of the essential pillars of companies when it comes to developing their products, services or processes. One of the most widely used methods nowadays is Design Thinking. This approach to innovation is not just a matter of processes and tools for creating and conceptualizing, but rather it also focuses on people. In this web conference run by EAE Business School, we learned that, to innovate, you have to have fun.
Led by Ana Viñals, the Director of the School’s Minor in Design Thinking, we were introduced to José Antonio Gago, the Manager of Product Innovation & Design Thinking at Eurecat. Gago took charge of giving the students a transgressive yet realistic overview with respect to what is usually explained in relation to innovation systems in companies. As he explained, everything covered in the web conference “is the result of applying information on a day-to-day basis”.
In Jose Antonio Gago’s opinion, innovation means “resolving society’s needs, desires and frustrations using the company’s know-how to generate profit”. Faced with the current situation of a complex market that is constantly changing, predicting future trends is extremely difficult. As a result, the age of creating something of the company itself is over, as “advertising systems no longer work as effectively”. Gago explained that, nowadays, we have to listen to and study the consumer, as well as creating a differential value proposition.
Alongside the conventional formula of R&D&I, Jose Antonio Gago would add the user and differential value. The Product Innovation Manager at Eurecat considers this really important as “we need to create relations with the users”. Innovation nowadays is focused on the users, and this can be seen in the way that the big brands fulfil the users’ needs, desires or frustrations with their products or services.
At this point, Gago illustrated his point with a few instances of the best companies: a patch that monitors a baby’s body temperature, packed salads with all the ingredients, the logistics of Zara, Ficosa’s rearview mirrors, Uber, AirBnB, etc. These are just a few examples that highlight the fact that ideas that are successful resolve users’ needs, desires or frustrations.
We are used to innovation systems looking inwards but not outwards. Gago argues that “by looking outwards, you will define how to overcome the challenges that you have identified”. Another key factor in innovation processes is the timing, which “it is very important to manage for the teams”. In terms of timing, these processes must be fast and responsive, but also clear and bold. Moreover, right from the start, the company’s objectives and value proposition must be very clear.
The expert then went on to explain the structure of innovation systems. In the first, phase, we need to get to know the customer and, to do so, we have to observe them and identify their needs. The next step is an evaluation. It is very important to “identify and test out any new technologies that you come across and which may be useful, so that you can respond to what the consumer needs”. We must then identify the innovation opportunities. When we know what the market needs, we have to give personality to our creation and, to achieve this, we have to define our product. “If all the prior stages of the processes are completed properly, the stage of generating ideas should flow naturally from the team”. After conceptualizing the ideas, the innovation team has to test them quickly using prototypes or dummies.
After giving a brief overview of a consumer-centred innovation process, the Product Innovation Manager Eurecat went on to explain what design thinking means to him. The term refers to the working methodology of product and service designers. The objective of this methodology is “improving people’s lives to create business”.
At Eurecat, they apply Design Thinking in a similar way to the structure he had explained beforehand. First of all, the try to understand the context, “the social, business and technological trends”. To achieve this, they empathize with the customer simulating the real life of the consumer. They then define the value proposition because they need to “give it the company’s DNA”. Generating ideas at Eurecat is relatively simple because “the hard part is laying the groundwork”.
The guest then outlined the benefits of using Design Thinking as a methodology. “Design Thinking enables you to co-create with the consumer”, which is a great step towards achieving success. In addition, it lets you include emotions and adapt technology to people. In Gago’s opinion, Design Thinking enhances the creativity of the team that uses it. Within the context of this team work, a multidisciplinary approach is crucial, as it breaks down the barriers between departments.
As the Product Innovation Manager at Eurecat, he has been involved in the creation of various products and services. His most notable creations include Citrus Spray, Mini Cakes Decorables, Deco Mat, Cut and Wrap and Pocket Piano.
To finish off, he gave the students of EAE Business School a few tips. “It is important not to be afraid to make mistakes”, because getting things wrong is fast and cheap (at least in the conceptualization phases), as well as being the best innovation technology. “Ask your customers what they need, what frustrates them and what they desire”, because we often make the mistake of asking customers is they like what we have already done. Moreover, in terms of the product, the simpler, the better, as otherwise it will be hard for the customer to understand. In Gago’s opinion, we should never forget to load our proposition with personality, because it enables you to look at the potential problems your users face”.