Design Innovation: Step 3 Inventing New Product Solutions

Diagram of the design innovation continuum: Step three - inventing a new product solution
The design innovation continuum: Step three - Inventing a new product solution

Design Innovation: Step 3 Inventing New Product Solutions show cases the creation of a new type of cookery book. You might have been expecting a mobile or web design innovation, but I experienced such delight receiving an innovative new cook book, I chose to make this post about “The Family Meal” by Ferran Adria to illustrate the invention of a new product solution in a crowded field.

People have new ideas for products all the time. If you live in a creative melting pot like Silicon Valley it is not uncommon to see something you thought of coming to market by someone else. As Steve Vosniak said “As a tinker and inventor my whole life I have learned that getting to market place as as difficult as inventing the thing itself. “

Culinary innovator Ferran Adria is not shy about inventing new culinary product solutions. He closed his three star Michelin restaurant, elBulli to spend two years focusing exclusively on culinary innovation, specifically exploring the relationship between physics and cooking and developing an entirely new restaurant format.

Farran Adria is famous for inventing new food solutions with his “deconstructionist” approach to food preparation and producing signature dishes like freeze-dried foie gras, atomized martinis and edible hibiscus paper. His goal is to “provide unexpected contrasts of flavor, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems.”

The process Ferran and his team go though to deliver these innovative creations reminds me of the business development processes taught by the likes of Founders Lab, Steve Blank and Eric Ries. He takes a step-by-step strategy, informed by customer insight to successfully organize and invent a new product solution.

With the release of “The Family Meal” documenting the food his staff eats whilst inventing the future of gastronomy, Ferran Adria takes his deconstructive approach and re-invents the cookery book.

Cookery books, like cars, have been around for a long time, but it took Henry Ford to see something no one else did – “lets make a car for everyone”, was his great contribution that led to the Model T Ford and the assembly line. With the arrival of “The Family Meal” we have a cookery book for everyone.

Like a car assembly line, “The Family Meal” takes the components of making a meal and puts them in the right order and makes it possible for anyone to perform all parts of the cooking process from menu planning, shopping, prepping, cooking and plating. There are seven design innovations I particularly admire about this cookery book

7 Design Innovations of the “The Family Meal” Cookery Book

  1. 31 complete three course menus are provided so menu planning is not required.
  2. Shopping for lemon grass in London’s China Town 20 years ago, it took me a long time to find what I was looking for since the signs were in Chinese and the ingredient was new for me. Once at home, the recipe I was following made no reference to how to prepare lemon grass, so it ended up in the rabbits cage. In “The Family Meal” all the ingredients are photographed which makes shopping a breeze and encourages the adventurous to try cooking with unfamiliar ingredients.
  3. Photos of all the completed meals plated on white flatware helps you to ow what you are aiming for. Food plating wasn’t taught at my school.
  4. A visual story board of the entire cooking process is provided making it easy to refer to and pick up techniques during the cooking process. No steamed up reading glasses required.
  5. A visual timeline from start to finish solves the problem of knowing what to do when to ensure the meal arrives on time.
  6. Ingredient quantities are provided for cooking for 2, 6, 20 of 75 people, which is an incredibly generous detail for amateurs and chefs alike.
  7. The recipes consist of simple, affordable every day Mediterranean  dishes – no physics degrees, bank loan or molecular gastronomy techniques required.

I may never eat in his restaurant but I can nourish myself and my friends from this book. I have just read the recipe for Romesco sauce and I could taste it in my mouth by the time I had finished looking at the photos on the page. Now that’s design innovation of a new product on the virtual and physical plains.

Design Innovation Step 2: Creating New Levels of Performance

Where my blog post design innovation step 1 focused on improving existing products for greater efficiency or profitability, Design Innovation Step 2; Creating New Levels of Performance focuses on product evolution.

Evolution can be about adding new features, refining an existing product that has outgrown its usefulness or it can be about applying what is learned to a new product in the product family. An example of product evolution is the mobile game developer Rovio. Based in Finland, Rovio are the creators of the globally successful Angry Birds franchise.

The company started in 2003 as a game development studio creating games for mobile devices. In 2009 they put Angry Birds in the market as a casual game to run on touch screen smart phones. It became a worldwide phenomenon and became the #1 paid mobile application in the world.

Described by game reviewer Bonnie Eisenman as “a wacky castle-destruction physics game where you fire birds through a slingshot in order to kill piggies. The art is funny, the difficulty curve is great, and the levels are clever.”

Much of the success of Angry Birds was the fact that they were already an accomplished mobile game developer with 51 published games before Angry Birds launched. After 7 years in business, like many companies who focused hard, they became masterful at what they did. They achieved a level of understanding of how to do business, how to operate, how to deliver and who to partner with.

If you are committing heart and soul to designing a new product or service, you need to be fully committed to the business beyond all logical reason. You need to be able to stand up for it in the face of rejection and negative feedback. If your soul yearns to invent the next great product, recognize that sometimes you don’t know you are doing it until the market tells you.

In the case of Angry Birds, try, try and try again, is what led to the design innovation that took the world by storm. Sometimes invention takes time, patience and lots of practice. The story of Rovio and Angry Birds is the story of our own evolution. By continuing to refine, polish and practice who we are and what we do, we evolve ourselves and our work, to new levels of performance.

Design Innovation in Four Stages: Step 1 Improving Profitability

Design Innovation Continuum : Four Steps to Product Design Innovation

Design Innovation in Four Stages: Step 1 Improving Profitability

This post focuses on step 1 of the design innovation process, improving profitability of products for new and existing businesses. In its original context, the diagram from Cheskin Research, was probably conceived to illustrate how Cheskin might help an established business along the path to innovation. Today I look at this diagram and think how an entrepreneur might transpose this information and use it to dream up ideas for a new company.

The diagram shows four stages of design innovation along a continuum. The continuum starts at making improvements that increase profitability and extends to radical invention and the birth of a new market or organization.

Planning the design of innovation, in any size of company, is a modern day strategic imperative. In a world where change is a constant, what serves as a viable, desirable and feasible product one day may change the next. Sustained business growth demands a ruthless commitment to innovation. So lets look at stage 1 of the design innovation continuum.

Stage 1 Improving the Bottom Line

The goal of improving an existing product or service is to create greater efficiency and profitability. Its about building and sustaining the heart of a business by keeping it in a state of continuous market innovation.

When web portal Excite@Home improved its online registration with a customer informed redesign of the new user sign up form; more new users were able to join the service drawing new incremental revenue.

Design Innovation of Excite Registration Form. Before and After.

For an entrepreneur without a product to improve, the design innovation would be in finding an existing service, product or process they felt they could improve upon. For example, coupons and collective buying power are well known established business practice.

The entrepreneurs at Groupon innovated the practice to solve the problem city dwellers have knowing what they want to spend their time and money on. Three years after its launch, Groupon’s shows city dwellers the best stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in 43 countries. Who says taking an established idea and innovating it can’t grow your bottom line.

So if you an established business looking for a way to improve efficiency and profitability, walk in your customers shoes for a day. Take the funnel you built for them and look at how well your process for educating, engaging and enlisting new customers might be improved.

If the redesign of a new user sign up form could move the bottom line for Excite@Home, what improvement might you make for your new users to make the process easier? How do you greet them? What tone of voice do you use? What small thing could you improve to make a positive difference to the customer experience?

If you are an entrepreneur wrestling with a desire to build the next great thing, spend a day thinking about the things in your life that you truly deeply care about. Ask yourself, “what do I care about, that I am fully committed to beyond all logical reason?” As the guys from Venture Hacks wrote this week “Before product-market fit, find passion-market fit.”

Discovering your passion may lie in something you really care about. In the case of Groupon, what the founder really cared about, was improving fund raising through group action. Its called the Point and it helps people raise money, organize people, or tries to influence change for the better. From the Point, Groupon was born.

What is your true passion?

Can you visualize yourself telling the story of how the idea for your company came into existence to a panel of prospective investors. Can you describe with clarity, confidence and conviction what problem you are solving? What opportunities it affords and why investors should care to back your ideas?

Practice discovering your passion, because if it involves improving something you care deeply about, chances are it makes life better for all of us.

Along the design innovation continuum, improving a product, service, or process for profit, is the perfect place to focus your work whether you are an established business or just starting out.

Look out for my next post which is on step 2 of the design innovation continuum and discusses how to apply design innovation to evolve your business or startup.

4 Steps to Building a Better Product

In her lecture at the Watermark Forum in June 2010, Sara Beckman presented a model of the product development process built on design thinking and innovation. She began with an overview of the learning theory behind product design best practices, then went on to describe in detail, the 4 steps to building a better product. The talk provided a good insight into the teaching curriculum she offers students in her product design class at the Haas School of Business Management at UC Berkeley.  Continue reading “4 Steps to Building a Better Product”