One of my favorite blogs is Harvard Business Review, not because I wish I’d gone to school there, but because they discuss really interesting ideas that aren’t echoed in the social media chamber (as Mark Schaefer calls it).  A couple of weeks ago, Warren Berger, the author of GLIMMER and GlimmerSite, wrote a post about using design thinking during business planning, in order to develop innovative and uber-creative products or services (think iPad and Nike+).

The post, titled The Four Phases of Design Thinking, explores question, care, connect, and commit as ways to relate to our customers, but also as a way to give us the ability to “fail forward,” or take risks that could produce failure in order to make the idea even better.

In “care” he talks about how designers get into the minds of their customers by working with them as closely as possible. Growing up in the global PR firm world, this is the philosophy that was instilled in us and, because of it, I can walk into a cornfield and tell you exactly what kinds of weeds are growing there and how to control them. But after starting my own business, the budgets to do that kind of thing are non-existent and we have to find ways to achieve the same thing without spending all day in the fields with the BASF sales reps. How are you getting into the minds of your customers?

“Commit” is about taking your ideas and actually executing them. I had a very funny conversation with a friend today who said if you put her in a room and give her a list of problems, she can come up with great solutions, but don’t expect them to be executed because she’s not a do-er. We all need thinkers and do-ers. Do you have both in your business? How are you leading them to work together to create innovative products/services?

Read about question and connect in the post and explore Berger’s blog. You also should consider buying the IDEO (one of the companies he illustrates in his research) flashcards for brainstorming (they even have an iPhone app!) to create a culture of out-of-the-box meetings. If these things produce only one idea, it’ll be worth your time.

Photo courtesy of IDEO

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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