Why Design Thinking is Crucial to Innovation with Vijay Kumar

Why Design Thinking is Crucial to Innovation with Vijay Kumar

In this episode of the ideation podcast, innovation consultant Vijay Kumar discusses how organizations and individuals can apply design thinking when developing creative solutions to problems.

How to Overcome the Obstacles of Executing Human-Centered Design

Kumar discusses common challenges that arise when developing product and service innovations and how human-centered design is crucial to success.

Avoid Blind Spots.

Organizations must careful not to develop narrowed thinking when creating innovations to solve problems.

Build Innovations Around People’s Needs or Experiences.

Rather than focusing on the problem, innovators should have a clear understanding of the end user.

Practice Empathy.

Innovators must have to have a high level of empathy in order to understand how and why a customer will use a product or service. Develop a clear understanding of the end user and avoid making decisions based on assumptions.

Consider Context and Environment.

“We must ask ourselves, ‘Who is using the product or service?’” says Kumar.  Understanding the entire context and environment in which a product or service exists is key to developing a successful innovation.

Breeding a Culture of Innovation at Your Workplace

“Cultivating an innovative culture is the most difficult challenge any organization faces, and [it’s] the biggest challenge to being successful in your innovation,” says Kumar.

To meet this challenge, Kumar offers several solutions to help organizations apply design thinking to company projects.

Empower the Individual

Empowering individuals to be champions of innovative actions will help organizations succeed as a whole. Kumar uses Proctor and Gamble as an example of a company that embodies empowerment.

Make Innovation a team Effort

Organizations should practice teamwork and approach innovative thinking as a collaborative effort. Projects should be a multi-disciplinary effort that connects individuals across departments. Innovation is often sparked when seemingly unrelated ideas intersect.

Integrate Processes

Because individuals have unique processes to approaching an issue, it is important to develop a process that all members can agree to. Collaborative discussions that facilitate open mindedness can help companies integrate individuals into a cohesive team.

Measuring Success with 10 Types of Innovation

Kumar says that there is no single measure to an organization’s success. Rather than focusing on quantitative measurements, organizations should review and measure innovations based on qualitative data. Using the 10 types of innovations as a framework, organizations can map how successful the company has been in each area of innovation.

Resources for Further Discovery

Listeners can use the following resources to learn more about design thinking for innovation:

The Design of Business by Roger Martin

The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley

Claudia Kotchka

101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization

About Vijay Kumar


Vijay Kumar is a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design in Chicago. He is an innovation consultant, coach, and adviser to global organizations for the use of structured methods for conceiving reliable human-centered innovations and turning them into strategic plans for organizations. His interest in design thinking was sparked by his interactions with famous American designers Charles and Ray Earn while attending design school in India. Kumar was fascinated by the way the designers approached innovation, realizing how the human mind makes connections for creatively solving complex problems. Kumar has dedicated his entire career to the study of strategic design planning and methods. Kumar has consulted to global organizations such as Autodesk, McDonald’s, Motorola, Pfizer, P&G, SC Johnson, Shell, Steelcase, T-Mobile, Target, Texas Instruments, and Zurich Financials among others. Kumar is the author of the book, “101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization.”  He is an Honorary Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council.