What’s up with those principles, and a request for help

Diego Rodriguez metacool Principle

Over the past few months I've been writing up a series of 21 Principles.  We're now 16 principles deep, with more to come soon.  The feedback I've received so far has been very helpful, and has helped to push and improve my thinking in multiple dimensions (that would be Principles 4, 5 and 8 at work).  For those of you new to metacool, I have a running roster of these principles on the right side of this blog window.

These principles are intended to underpin a general theory of innovation.  They are not meant to be principles of design thinking, though some of them are obviously closely related to the theory and practice of design thinking.  Inspired by the simplicity work of my friend John Maeda, I'm trying to figure out what I think and know at this point in my life when it comes to all things innovation.  Hence my working through these principles in public in a messy kind of way (that would be Principles 9 and 10, with a little dash of 14).

So here's where I need your help, in triplicate:

  1. What is missing?  When it comes to innovating, what situations or dynamics or practices have I not touched on yet?
  2. What is wrong?  How am I being dumb, silly, foolish, pigheaded, idiotic, unintelligible… and just plain wrong?
  3. What resonates?  What matched up with something you've experienced in your life?  And if it did, would you be willing to share your story with me?

Please leave me a comment or shoot me an email. 

As always, thanks for all your help and for the conversations!

4 thoughts on “What’s up with those principles, and a request for help

  1. OK,
    prototyping: the “single question” bit really resonates. It’s so easy to neglect knowing what your question is (and thinking about what it should be).
    gregger also makes a good point, in that prototyping for the audience is important. There’s a real balancing act between too crude for people to look past the imperfections and too late to be useful. Unfortuantely the easy way round that is to either only show it to sympathetic insiders, or to only prototype for answers to the easy questions.
    breaking it: I’m a big fan of the philosophy behind HALT testing, which basically says “it doesn’t matter how you break it, it just matters how fast you can. Because the faster you can break it, the more chances you get to make it better.”
    time to innovate: De Marco put it well in “Slack”. Everywhere in nature, efficiency and flexibility are mutually exclusive. In innovation, flexibility wins every time.
    new ideas aren’t: the company I work for has been around for 23 years, and it was only a month or so back that someone pointed out to us that the “original idea” our products are based on was invented in 1871.

  2. One thought that is not necessarily missing but yet could be of value is how restraints or limitations can be helpful, not harmful in the innovation process.
    The thought that creative ideas randomly come from thin air or “outside the box” is far too popular. I think the best innovations come from restraints in space, time, budget, or any constraint that limits the realm of possibilities. Constraints give designers a framework to design from, inspiration to draw from, and necessity to act on. Thinking inside the right box sometimes gives us direction that space outside the box can’t.
    For example, my boss gives me the task of increasing response rates to a direct mail campaign. If in one scenario he allots a hefty budget to do so, and in another he allots a miniscule amount, which scenario forces me to be more innovative?
    Or, imagine if a product designer is asked to design a home gym. If in one scenario he is given no space constraints, and in another she is told that it must fit in a 6 foot high closet, which gym is going to be more noteworthy and remarkable?
    Constraints are a necessity. They inherently lead to more innovative ideas. And most likely, one will find that working within limitations or a given set a parameters, the design process flows and takes shape much easier than being given none at all. Ideas do not come from thin air. Some of them, some of the best, come from being trapped inside four walls.
    Here was my box for this post: http://tinyurl.com/m6yvav. It is a talk by Dan Heath, co-author of Made to Stick. If my ideas don’t seem to make sense, he explains this concept much more effectively and originally.

  3. Hi Diego,
    What happened to your discourse on happiness (or enjoyment) & innovation? I always believed you were really on to something there. Happiness leads to empathy. It doesn’t happen nearly enough in the ‘serious’ corporate world.

  4. Tony: I’ll be dealing with constraints in Principle 20. Thanks for bringing this up, as I will make sure to focus that one on constraints. Or maybe the topic merits its own principle…
    Otto: yes, you’ve hit on one of my favorite topics, and one that’s all the more important (but even harder to act upon) in 2009. Happiness is part of an upcoming principle. In fact, I think I’m going to change the title of the principle I have on my list to better address flow and happiness. Thanks — what a great add.
    I’ve received lots of emails, and those have been very helpful, too. Thank you, everyone.

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