“In 2005 I attended a lecture delivered by a famous Dutch politician. To be honest, he made me angry,” Guido says. “He was explaining how difficult politics are, talking about the dilemmas he faces every day. But he did not present solutions. Not one. And not even a plan to get one.” In his anger Guido, a designer with many years of experience, suddenly understood he had an entirely different way of thinking. Designers always explore new ideas. Problems are challenges for their creativity. His anger became wonder. “I asked myself what makes design thinking so different. And above all what it might contribute to teams and companies. And even politics.” Together with the Technical University Delft he made movies of product development teams in the wild, and analyzed these with 7 researchers. They discovered how ideas arise in teams, captured the origins of innovation and revealed what designers contribute.” It’s all about teamwork”, Guido says. Designers show what might be, catapulting teams forward. As Guido remarks, smiling a bit: “how can we know what we want, until we see what might be possible?” A decade later, the study has resulted into several scientific papers. Guido got his PhD and is writing a book to explain his findings. Guido: “The funny part? I actually owe this politician big time!”

“Innovation, we love to talk about this. It’s about new things. It’s all about innovation. Most companies don't have a clue how to organize innovation development. Caught up in a so-called Catch-22”, says product designer Guido Stompff.

The ‘Catch-22’ of innovation. Contradicting rules and questions kill good ideas.
How much money will it make? How much people does it need? What people does it need? You can’t answer these questions, because at this point you have no clue. This is what keeps us from innovation within organizations.

How do multidisciplinaire team come up with ideas then? How do they align work? There are a lot things we can learn here. Observe innovation in the wild. People working in multidisciplinary teams.

Guido brought up the coffee filter challenge. The what?

“Well, be an innovator. This is not a coffee bag, but what is it? I don't care about the solutions”. And I have 3 relevant questions for the outcome, or rather the process”.
1. Did anyone of you knew it in advance?
2. Who invented it?
3. Did you play with it?

New ideas arise on to go, in between us and while playing with it. Not individually and not beforehand. It’s learning by creating. How can we possibly know what we want until we see what the options are? Let’s start wayfinding options. Thinking in multiple options and visualizing multiple options (the visual language is one we all understand).

In your innovation teams you need people who think in options and can visualize them. So start moving, team up, think in options, not in problems, learn on the go and visualize!