Design Thinking: The Shiny Silver Dollar Of Innovation

Thinking differently means tapping into many talent streams: the inventiveness of a startup, the engineering of a platform, the hope of an incubator, and the imagination of an agency.

Design Thinking: The Shiny Silver Dollar Of Innovation

by Jim Hertzfeld

Posted on 08-28-2017

This article is part of’s October series about creativity and design-led thinking. Click here for more.

The lines between agencies, platforms, startups, incubators, labs, and garages are so blurred, clients have given up trying to figure out the differences. In fact, they don’t care. What they care about is meeting their customers’ needs—specifically their unmet needs—and they have more options than ever to innovate on a great customer experience.

If innovation is the new currency of customer experience, then design thinking is the shiny silver dollar of innovation. Design thinking has settled into the hearts and minds of innovation teams of all stripes, bringing diverse teams together to figure out that how it works is just as important how it looks, keeping the digital agency top of mind for discerning marketers.

End-To-End Is Just The Beginning

The last best experience that people have anywhere becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere.

Where price, product, and promotion (plus a clever campaign) were the driving forces behind a great brand experience, today’s customers want more. In fact, they expect more. The standard for innovation is set by customers, and even the technologies that brought us price-matching, same-day omnichannel delivery, and Bluetooth toasters are just not enough.

High-performing brands are delivering on the entire customer experience from end to end: from awareness to advocacy, from supply chain to customer service, from the cloud to the click. It all matters.

Even The Disruptors Are Being Disrupted

The digital agency was conceived to meet the disruptive innovations our clients have created over the past couple of decades. At this inflection point, we cannot just be better than what we were good at; we need to be different. We need to think differently.

Getting into the minds of consumers and marketers is not enough. Creativity and inspiration alone cannot get the attention of hyper-aware, media-saturated consumers. Adopting the next great technology only means that our clients are finally catching up. Thinking differently means tapping into many talent streams: the inventiveness of a startup, the engineering of a platform, the hope of an incubator, and the imagination of an agency.

Free Your Mind And The Rest Will Follow

Business models and methodologies come and go—en vogue one year, passé the next. But one thing I’ve noticed over the many years of business process engineering, six sigma, and lean development is that these movements are really adaptations and derivatives of one another. (Isn’t all art a derivative?)

In many ways, design thinking is one of those evolutions. Not limited to design and more inclined to doing rather than thinking, design thinking is a loose federation of methods and tools to help us think differently with our clients about the complex, non-linear, human-centered problems that blanket their customer-driven world.

Think Big, Start Small, Act Fast

Thinking big is more than having a big vision to change the world. It also means casting a wide net of diversity and inclusion to build as much empathy as we can about our clients’ customers.

It’s looking at the business, the experience, and the technology from all the angles and points of view. Starting small is the tapas to the curbed appetite for big corporate programs and long release cycles. We love the minimum viable team: the hipster, the hacker, and the hustler. Acting fast means we’re doing, sharing, and learning sooner, and ultimately giving customers so much more than price, product, and promotion.

Innovation and customer experience are inextricably linked, and the digital agency is in a unique place to bind them together. Platform, startup, incubator, lab, garage. Engineer, entrepreneur, designer, customer advocate. Design thinking is driving the end-to-end thinking and doing to solve the unmet needs of our clients and their customers.

This article is part of the “2017 SoDA Report.”

Topics: Experience Cloud, Insights Inspiration, Digital Transformation, Creative Cloud, Creativity, Marketing, CMO by Adobe

Products: Experience Manager, Experience Cloud