Excellence at Speed: Re-tooling for Innovation.

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Some of the most inspiring and interesting business transformations of late have been in the manufacturing sector. Stories like Ontario manufacturers retooling to produce much-needed healthcare equipment (PPE) and life-saving ventilators, or the French perfume manufacturers who retooled to produce hand-sanitizer to fill a need in the global market. These companies reacted nimbly to enable the good and let go of the unnecessary. These are hallmarks of innovative organizations, most notably their ability to reshape and reimagine their core business and to be responsive throughout.

From outside the manufacturing sector, these stories can seem both inspiring and discouraging. They’re inspiring because these companies were able to quickly decide to do something very different, sometimes off-brand. They were able to respond quickly and fill a market need that also contributes to the common good. It’s a great story. Yet, it can be discouraging for folks who may be thinking “I deal in time and knowledge and ideas. I don’t have a factory for what we sell. How do I re-tool?”


Pivoting with purpose.

The good news is that re-tooling doesn’t have to be so literal.

Outside of manufacturing, organizations across this country are “re-tooling” or re-thinking the way they serve their communities. They are able to shift into new modes and offerings so quickly because they have clear decision-making structures in place alongside a clear purpose, or mandate, that acts as their north star.

Perhaps my favourite example of re-tooling expertise is in healthcare. Casey House, a Toronto HIV/Aids hospital and The Moment’s client transformed their dining room into an additional in-patient bed unit to help a neighbourhood hospital manage the overflow of non-HIV patients due to COVID-19. In this change, they were serving a new kind of patient and serving a powerful community need. As a hospital focused on caring for HIV-positive patients, this was the first time in 32 years they had admitted non-HIV positive folks. It was no small effort to re-jig space and purpose and yet, they transformed in that way, when the need arose.

Casey House was able to transform so quickly because they had a newly reimagined philosophy of care. This new strategy was so well designed—specific enough to illustrate their core values, and broad enough to offer guidance in newly emerging contexts—that they were ready to adapt to the needs of a changing world, creating excellence at speed. Inspiring stuff with a very real and immediate impact during a global crisis.

The good news for those of us in the product and service game is that there is one very trusted methodology to get you to your own “re-tooling.” Those who know The Moment won’t be surprised that I’m talking about Human-Centered Design, generally, and Innovation Design, specifically.


The key to re-tooling.

Re-tooling in this context is all about embracing new ways of working, discarding old habits, and learning as you go. It’s having the bravery to try, and the humility to learn. It’s not just about getting new skills, but about applying those new skills to old problems and new problems alike.

The key input to your own re-tooling effort is to understand the problem you are trying to solve, know what’s in your “idea factory,” and be savvy enough to embrace the right methodologies to create the most impactful solutions.


How do you get from here to there?

Two key factors will help you deliver excellence at speed:

  1. Start tackling projects differently. Address the very real concerns you and your team face today one-by-one. Using Innovation Design methodologies, you can build up, project by project, a new way to tackle problems and find innovative solutions while bringing real value to your organization. If you want innovative solutions, you have to approach projects in new and meaningful ways.
  2. Look at how your team works. Ensure you have quick, iterative cycles that will help you test, learn, and iterate on each project. Understand how different stakeholders are working together (or not!) Are you all focused on the same problem? Do you have the solution in mind before you even start the work? Do you understand how the outcomes of that project will live within the wider organization or system?

Innovation Design will help you address the very real concerns you and your team face today by tackling complex projects in new ways. But it will also set you up to excel in the future, looking at the broader system as a whole in which those innovation projects will thrive. Service Design is not enough; we must look beyond the project itself and consider where it will live within the wider system.


The proof is in the (innovation) pudding.

And if you’re looking for proof (which you should be) here are some heavy-hitters weighing in with evidence that demonstrates why adopting a design-driven practice is the key to helping you and your team re-tool:

In her research study, Exploring the Impact of Design Thinking in Action, Jeanne Liedtka of the University of Virginia/Darden School of Business concludes: “When looked at as an end-to-end system for problem-solving, design thinking offers an integrating process and toolkit that incorporates both creative and analytic approaches to problem-solving, and that has the potential to significantly improve innovation outcomes.”

And in July 2019, Forbes Magazine published impressive quantitative results of design thinking, concluding that Design Thinking can deliver 85% ROI or greater.

McKinsey’s Design Index, measuring the business results of employing design within organizations, revealed several striking findings in a 2018 report: “We found a strong correlation between high MDI scores and superior business performance. Top-quartile MDI scorers increased their revenues and total returns to shareholders (TRS) substantially faster than their industry counterparts did over a five-year period—32 percentage points higher revenue growth and 56 percentage points higher TRS growth for the period as a whole…The results held true in all three of the industries we looked at: medical technology, consumer goods, and retail banking. This suggests that good design matters whether your company focuses on physical goods, digital products, services, or some combination of these.”

Achieving excellence at speed is on the minds of many executives we’re talking to these days. If your organization has yet to commit to serious work on employing design to become a future-ready business, here are two critical ways to begin setting yourself up to move fast toward your goals. Re-tool what you have to work with by using Human-Centered Design to:

  1. Re-imagine current products and services to make them both ready for the current climate, and understanding customers so well that you’re ready to rapidly adapt to the future (near, mid, and far)
  2. Re-design the way you work and how you are organized. Become the organization that is fit for the future: nimble, responsive, equitable, ethical, and brave.

The last thing I’ll say here about why Innovation Design is at the heart of what can help build a future that’s better than the before times is that at the heart of it, we seek to understand people. People you sell to, people who work for you, and people out there who are underserved or badly served by the current state. By employing Innovation Design to address the current situation, and reimagining products, services, and the ways you work, you can start to make space for larger goals for your business, your community, and our society.

We believe in a thriving future for all, and Innovation Design can help us transform thinking at the individual level, the organization level, and the systems level to get to that thriving future.


Re-tool your team.

Respond and adapt quickly to changing market conditions by mapping disruption and getting to action. Prioritize the most impactful projects, knowing how they will impact the larger system.

The Disruption Canvas is a tool that helps you connect your Innovation Skills to creating more impact for your organization. Fill out the form below to receive the Disruption Canvas, or click here for more information.