This article summarises the principal methods that can be employed for bringing into being new creations that generate value for customers, users and other beneficiaries.
Some of these methods, such as Theory U, span the fields of innovation (create a new something-or-other) and change (bring about a shift from the existing state of affairs to a desired state). However, I have excluded those that are used solely for accomplishing a change. Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change and the Interchange Research approach named Minimalist Intervention have been omitted for this reason.
Please send me a note if there are other create-the-new methods you think should be included. Your contribution will be gratefully received and publicly acknowledged.
End-to-end methods — open source
End-to-end methods — proprietary
Co-creation meeting methods
Type 1 meetings and methodsWhole-Scale® Change
Type 2 meetings and methodsOpen Space Technology
Type 3 meetingsTypes 1 & 2 in series
Not end-to-end methods
TerminologyTo keep things as straightforward as possible, in this article I am using the word method as an umbrella term covering:
End-to-end methodsThese methods underpin the entire create-the-new project from need or aspiration to actualisation and full-scale introduction.
The specific term “design thinking” was coined in the 1990s by David Kelley and Tim Brown of IDEO, with Roger Martin, and encapsulated methods and ideas that had been brewing for years into a single unified concept.
Design Thinking 101, by Sarah Gibbons, on Nielsen Norman Group website
Design thinking is both an ideology and a process that seeks to solve complex problems in a user-centric way. It focuses on achieving practical results and solutions that are:
- Technically feasible: They can be developed into functional products or processes;
- Economically viable: The business can afford to implement them;
- Desirable for the user: They meet a real human need.
What is design thinking, and how do we apply it? on InVisionApp wesite
The design thinking process consists of five non-linear, iterative phases: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test. Nielsen Norman Group adds a sixth phase, Implement. Others use different labels, or include additional phases, or both. IDEO’s process has just three “core activities”: Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation. Brainstorming is the default method employed for ideation work.
Traits that are common across design thinking processes:
- Starts with empathy. A deep focus on the humans involved will ensure you stay on track and follow the course of action most likely to bring about preferred solutions for individuals, business and society.
- Reframes the problem or challenge at hand. This helps you gain new perspectives and explore different ways to think about the problem, and allows a more holistic approach towards reaching a preferred solution.
- Initially employs divergent styles of thinking. This allows participants to generate and explore as many solutions as possible in an open, judgment-free ideation space.
- Later employs convergent styles of thinking. This will allow your team to isolate, combine and refine potential solution streams out of your more mature ideas.
- Creates and tests prototypes. Solutions which make it through the previous stages get tested further to remove any potential issues.
- Iterates. You will revisit empathic frames of mind as you progress through the various stages and may redefine the challenge as new knowledge is gathered.
The process is all done in a collaborative, multidisciplinary team that leverages the experience and thinking styles of many folks to solve complex problems. It can feel quite chaotic at first, if you’re not used to it—however, if done correctly, it can result in emergent solutions that are desirable, feasible and viable.
Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Yu Siang, 10 Insightful Design Thinking Frameworks: A Quick Overview, on Interaction Design Foundation website
Google design sprints
The five stages of a Design Sprint are Understand, Sketch, Decide, Prototype, and Validate.
Design sprints are an intense 5-day process where user-centered teams tackle design problems. Working with expert insights, ¹ teams ideate, prototype and test solutions on selected users. Google’s design sprint is the framework to map out challenges, explore solutions, pick the best ones, create a prototype and test it.
What are Design Sprints? on Interaction Design Foundation website
1. Working with expert insights almost certainly means Informed by briefings from relevant experts.
Newcreate is a way of enriching the world, or a particular piece of it, with value, meaning and joy. It is the fruit of my long-running inquiry into how the new comes into being, beyond models and methods, backed up by extensive experimentation and real world application. Newcreators prize creative imagination above combinatorial creativity, brainstorming and other mechanical diverge–converge idea generation methods that simply reuse existing ideas and concepts.
View the article Why brainstorming does not form part of Newcreate work
Osborn Parnes Creative Problem-Solving Process
Alex Osborn and Sid Parnes introduced their Creative Problem Solving Process in the 1960s. An early version consisted of five steps: Fact-finding, Problem-finding, Idea-finding, Solution-finding, and Acceptance-finding. In 1994,
Around 2010, Creative Education Foundation, established by Osborn and later led by Parnes, reduced the process to four steps: Clarify, Ideate, Develop, Implement.
Creative Problem Solving Timeline by Roger Firestien (pdf)
Creative Problem Solving Resource Guide by Creative Education Foundation (pdf)
The originator of Theory U is Otto Scharmer, a senior lecturer at MIT, founding chair of Presencing Institute and author of Theory U: Leading from the Future As it Emerges.
VoJ is Voice of Judgment, VoC is Voice of Cynicism, and VoF is Voice of Fear | Click on image or here to enlargeTheory U is informed by the work of W. Brian Arthur, Joseph Jaworski and Bernard Lievegoed, among many others, and has its roots in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner.
I have much respect for Otto Scharmer and am reluctant to say anything negative about Theory U, which is artfully conceived and superbly articulated. There is a strong resonance between Theory U and Newcreate: neither relies on brainstorming or other mechanical diverge-then-converge ideation methods, and both acknowledge the fact of Source — which I mostly call the unmanifest.
Theory U draws its name from the U-shaped form that appears throughout the book [Theory U: Leading from the Future As it Emerges]. The form is, of course, familiar to students of Rudolf Steiner as the curve that traces the human soul’s descent into matter and its eventual ascent to the spirit in the course of a single lifetime. In Scharmer’s hands it takes on myriad meanings, all of them emblematic of the transformative experiences that organizations—and the human beings who shape the organizations and are in turn shaped by them—must undergo to become viable entities.
Eugene Schwartz, Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education: Of Prophets and Profits, A Review of Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges, by C. Otto Scharmer (the review is no longer available online; please contact me if you would like to receive it as a Word document)
However, I find the U figure unhelpful as the connection to Source would, in my view, be better depicted as an upward motion towards the heavens (“ascent to the spirit”) rather than a downward one towards terra firma (“descent into matter”). Metaphors convey meaning, visual ones included, and I contend that people in the western world typically situate ‘heaven’ in the sky and ‘earth’ beneath their feet. But this is a minor quibble and even if Otto Scharmer wanted to invert the U, the ramifications would render this close to impossible.
Leading from the Future: A new social technology for our times, by C. Otto Scharmer, on Systems Thinker website
u-school: our tools — highly recommended
DesignShop is an immersive, multi-stakeholder co-creation method originated in the 1980s by Matt and Gail Taylor, and proprietary to MG Taylor Corporation.
Then, in 2019, Dee Brooks, a Toronto-based DesignShop practitioner, published her Masters dissertation, Towards a Practice of Collaborative, Sustainable Innovation Design (pdf, 157 pages), focused on the DesignShop method — indicating that it is very much alive and well.
Before originating DesignShop, Matt Taylor was an architect and Gail Taylor a Montessori teacher. They were not organisation development (OD) academics or practitioners, so they were unencumbered by OD theories from the 1950s and 60s that underpin Whole-Scale® Change, Real Time Strategic Change, Future Search and some of the other large group intervention methods (see below). Their respective backgrounds, allied with knowledge and insights gained from cybernetics and other fields, enabled them to develop a fundamentally different approach.
The underlying structure of a DesignShop is Scan–Focus–Act. Guided by the DesignShop philosophy, the collaborative design team draws from an ever-growing collection of modules to fashion a DesignShop that addresses the specific innovation, change or problem solving requirements of the sponsoring organisation. The co-design process appears identical the one used by Real Time Strategic Change (RTSC — see below) practitioners, although the respective philosophies are different, and, despite what you might glean from Robert Jacobs’ book, an RTSC meeting does not follow a set structure.
What is a DesignShop? A concentrated, creative 3-5 day intense collaborative design activity to help teams design solutions to strategic, operational or systemic problems, or to explore opportunities for change in depth. The process is particularly well-suited to addressing problems that cannot be solved definitively, are unique in nature, have considerable uncertainty and ambiguity, have political, organizational or economical constraints, and possess consequences difficult to imagine. The DesignShop methodology, developed by Matt and Gail Taylor, was designed to succeed where standard linear problem solving techniques fail.
What is a DesignShop? on Tomorrow Makers website
Accelerated Solutions Environment
Image: Capgemini | EnlargeAccelerated Solutions Environment (ASE) is an immersive, multi-stakeholder co-creation method previously offered by EY and now proprietary to Capgemini. ASE is a DesignShop derivative, sharing its Scan–Focus–Act underpinnings.
A Design Forum is an immersive, multi-stakeholder, co-creation method. Each Design Forum is designed and facilitated by a PwC team named The Difference. The method is proprietary to PricewaterhouseCoopers and, in common with ASE, is underpinned by the Scan–Focus–Act design template and resembles DesignShop in other ways. Please let me know if this apparent similarity is incorrect.
Outcome-Driven Innovation® (ODI) is a strategy and innovation process developed by Anthony (Tony) Ulwick. It is the intellectual property of Ulwick’s consulting firm, Strategyn. ODI leans heavily on Jobs-to-be-Done theory, which was conceived by Ulwick and subsequently named by Clayton Christensen before being popularised in his bestselling book The Innovator’s Solution, co-authored with Michael E. Raynor.
Co-creation meeting methodsA co-creation meeting is a collaborative gathering taking place over half a day, an entire day or several days, and usually forming part of a broader programme of work aimed at solving a pressing problem, effecting a desired change or bringing into being something new that will generate value for customers or users and other beneficiaries.
Such a meeting brings together diverse stakeholders, often in large numbers (the upper limit being constrained only by the capacity of the preferred venue) and with widely-differing agendas and perspectives, in order to discuss issues of heartfelt concern, share ideas, pool knowledge, explore possibilities and devise plans for sustained collaborative action.
In the world at large, the terms meeting, conference, event, gathering and intervention tend to be used interchangeably. In my work and on this website I mostly talk about meetings, indicating that people get together to do real work. They are not passive audience members, nor are they attendees at a big bang event that goes nowhere. The co-creation qualifier denotes the broad purpose of the meeting and the manner in which the work happens: the participants are bringing something new into being, and they are doing it together.
The three main types of co-creation meeting are:
Type 1 Pre-planned, facilitator-led, outcome focused, everyone together.
Type 2 Impromptu, unfacilitated, freewheeling, dispersed groups.
Type 3 Types 1 and 2 arranged in series, typically T1—T2—T1.
Type 1 meetings and methods
Type 1 co-creation meetings are tightly orchestrated. Participants are drawn from different stakeholder populations and sit at cabaret tables, typically eight per table, which enables them to work alone, in pairs, in fours and as a group of eight,
The facilitator (sometimes there are two) leads participants through a sequence of pre-planned work sessions aimed at bringing about a desired outcome, such as a shared vision and a bare bones action plan that everyone is ready to put into operation.
Whole-Scale® and Real Time Strategic Change employ flexible meeting formats that the design team tailors to meet the needs of the particular create-the-new or change programme.
Future Search has a fixed format but this can easily be modified by an experienced intervention designer.
Whole-Scale is a registered international trademark of Dannemiller Tyson Associates. The method grew out of the Large Group Interactive Process developed by Kathie Dannemiler, Chuck Tyson, Al Davenport and Bruce Gibb in the early 1980s on behalf of their client, Ford Motor Company. It is informed by theories and practices developed by Fred Emery, Eric Trist, Ron Lippitt and certain other organisation development pioneers during the 1950s and 60s.
Dannemiller Tyson Associates (DTA) was founded in 1984 by the late Kathie Dannemiller and Chuck Tyson to help organizations achieve fast, long-lasting change. DTA’s first work was with the Ford Motor Company as it sought to move its culture from “command and control” to a more participative style. Those early Ford Participative Management Seminars marked the first time that large groups of executives from different levels and functions were brought together to think and plan in what was known then as the Large Group Interactive Process.
In the 1990’s, DTA expanded its work by engaging whole organizations in creating “preferred futures” that would shape strategic action. We were known originally for our ability to design and facilitate meetings for very large groups (up to 2,000) that achieved results which had never been seen before. Many of our large group concepts are now part of mainstream organization development thinking.
When organizational development was just maturing as an academic discipline in the mid-90’s, DTA pioneers Roland Loup, Sylvia James, Paul Tolchinsky and others worked with Kathie to document the models and processes that “worked every time,” and to create a set of concepts that could produce replicable results. Former DTA partner Robert Jacobs authored a book called “Real Time Strategic Change” that brought these ideas to a wider audience, especially in Europe.
As the 21st century dawned, the partners of Dannemiller Tyson published two seminal books [Whole-Scale Change: Unleashing the Magic In Organizations, and The Whole-Scale Toolkit] that remain in use to this day. By then our emphasis had broadened from simply creating transformative large group meetings to designing and implementing long-term change journeys with those meetings still playing a central role.
Excerpted from DTA History on Dannemiller Tyson Associates website
Whole-Scale™ Change (pdf — 15 pages) by Kathleen D. Dannemiller, Sylvia L. James and Paul D. Tolchinsky, Ph.D. The chapter forms part of The Change Handbook. Note that Whole-Scale™ Change is now Whole-Scale® Change.
Real Time Strategic Change
In essence, Real Time Strategic Change (RTSC) is a non-trademarked version of Whole-Scale® Change. It is a principle-based method and does not have a prescribed structure — the agenda presented in Jake Jacobs’ book Real Time Strategic Change is an invented example. In reality, each meeting is custom designed, informed by the RTSC principles.
RTSC co-developer Robert W. (Jake) Jacobs, the founder of Jake Jacobs Consulting, no longer writes about the method and is now offering his Leverage Change approach (pdf — 39 pages).
Developed by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff and introduced in 1985, Future Search is a two or three day meeting in which a multi-stakeholder participant group creates a shared vision and develops a preliminary plan for making it reality.
A Future Search meeting has five stages: 1) Review the past from several different perspectives. 2) Map the present. 3) Create a range of future scenarios. 4) Identify common ground. 5) Develop action plans.
Type 2 meetings and methods
This kind of meeting is usually convened for one or more of the following purposes:
- Explore an issue of common concern.
- Suface thoughts and feelings about a contentious issue or a proposed course of action.
- Initiate a programme of collaborative work.
Open Space Technology
Open Space is a type of meeting in which participants create their own programme of self-facilitated sessions in response to an thought-provoking question or overarching theme of mutual concern.
The method was devised by Harrison Owen as a way to hold a better conference — initially, the Third International Symposium on Organization Transformation, which was held in Monterey, USA in 1985.
Open Space was nothing more than a conference format until 1989, when it was renamed Open Space Technology and used as an organisational intervention for the first time by polymer chemists at DuPont to consider the future of Dacron, a polyester fibre.
Open Space spread far and wide during the 1990s. As that decade began, the most common output from an Open Space meeting was a set of session reports containing recommendations for senior management’s assessment and possible implementation.
Later in the 1990s, Open Space was adopted by a wide range of corporates and nonprofits for projects dependent on system-wide collaboration and co-creation. Common applications included whole system change, complex problem solving, accelerated innovation, strategy implementation, and project startup. The output from Open Space meetings convened for such purposes was a set of planned actions or a portfolio of projects.
Since the start of the millennium, the use of Open Space as an innovation, change or problem solving intervention has declined, which I believe can be attributed to the following factors:
- The poor consulting and intervention design skills displayed by some Open Space facilitators.
- The unwillingness or inability of Open Space facilitators to deviate from the Harrison Owen playbook, for example by combining the periods of self-managed sessions with periods of Type 1 work (see Type 3 meetings below).
- Their ignorance of the Max4 principle: the maximum group size for a proper conversation is four. The structure of Open Space breakout sessions can be modified to address this issue — see here.
- The sponsors’ failure to embed the Open Space meeting in a wider programme of work.
Bucking this trend is OpenSpace Beta, an organisation transformation method developed by Silke Hermann and Niels Pflaeging at Red42. The method incorporates their concepts of Very Fast Organizational Transformation and Change-as-Flipping, as well as aspects of Daniel Mezick’s OpenSpace Agility method.
BarCamp is a stripped-down version of Open Space, convened for the purposes of knowledge sharing and networking. There is no facilitator leading the opening and closing sessions, no Open Space principles and no Law of Two Feet. I once took part in a BarCamp, expecting it to be mechanical, sanitised and lacking the vitality of an Open Space. In fact, it was an enjoyable and worthwhile day and an effective process, given its unambitious purpose.
Type 3 meetings
A Type 3 co-creation meeting consists of Types 1 and 2, sequenced in a way that is most appropriate to the matter under consideration.
Each type — Type 1 and Type 2 — is best suited to a particular purpose. If this is to initiate sustained collaborative action, then a Type 1 method will probably be the preferred option. If, on the other hand, the predominant need is for participants to explore, in depth and without constraint, an issue of common concern, then Type 2 is likely be the method of choice. By combining Types 1 and 2, the strengths of each compensate for the shortcomings of the other, and the best of both worlds is achieved.
This is the generic structure of a Type 3 meeting:
The overall duration of the meeting is one, two or three days.
Download Creating Collaborative Gatherings Using Large Group Interventions (pdf, 9 pages), which forms Chapter 28 of Gower Handbook of Training and Development. I outline five methods: Real Time Strategic Change, Future Search, Open Space Technology, Participative Design and SimuReal. The book was published in 1999 but most of what appears in the chapter remains relevant.
Not end-to-end methods
- Jobs-to-be-done — page located elsewhere on this website
- Knowledge Cafe — a structured conversational process originated by David Gurteen
- Liberating Structures — a collection of 35 methods (the preposterously named TRIZ is unrelated to the original one listed below)
- Synectics — a workshop-based method, widely used in the late 20th century
- TRIZ — a pattern-based approach to technical innovation and problem solving
- World Cafe — a structured conversational process originated by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs
Innovation Methods Mapping: DeMystifying 80+ Years of Innovation Process Design
by GK Van Patter and Elizabeth Pastor, co-founders of design firm Humantific
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