“Insights for innovation” – review of IDEO class

There are so many innovation trainings available, it’s hard to decide which one to choose. This is my take on a short review of the “Insights for Innovation” training by IDEO.

I took the “Insights for Innovation” IDEO class in 2016, during my first year at Bayer. At that time, I was pretty new to the whole innovation thing – I had just assisted in my first Design Thinking workshop, and I was curious to learn more. Here’s the course description from their website as linked:

Insights for Innovation is at the heart of what IDEO is known for—human-centered design. This 5-week course, an in-depth focus on the first phase of design thinking, will ground you in the needs of the people you’re creating for. In this course, you’ll develop empathy for your customers and surface insights for creating products and services they want and need. You’ll gain practical design thinking skills and mindsets that will help you turn your customer needs into human-centered solutions.

The course is offered on an online platform, and IDEO recommends that you find a group, either local or online, to do the work. As we were a couple of people taking the class locally, we naturally formed a group. I have tried other IDEO classes without a local group and I definitely prefer having someone around for discussions, but it works either way. Their content is well-produced and bite-sized enough to fit in busy days. The class is divided into several parts, focusing on observation, then looking at extremes, followed by interview techniques and immersion into the customer experience.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too impressed with the observation part – it sure is a good starting point, the exercised are well-designed and useful, but it didn’t really click with me as much as I had hoped. However, I loved the part that focused on extremes. Looking at your target segment and thinking how the most (and least) extreme version of your customer looks like was a lot of fun and opened up new perspectives. I have not used this technique as much as I thought I would – probably because I haven’t done a whole lot of design work since then. But it’s still useful to cover the extremes, e.g. when thinking about new processes, or to identify sub-segments within your chosen customer group.

The interview techniques, as far as I remember, teach you a pretty solid skill set. From what I recall, there was a huge focus on empathy and asking open-ended questions. I fear I have mixed up the knowledge from this class with what I learned about interviews later from other sources, so I can’t really say how much I took from the class in this regard. The immersion however was eye-opening. The technique they teach puts you into the customers’ shoes, and it really does give you a new perspective on their challenges and what they need from good product design. If I had to take only one learning from this class, I’d say the value of immersion definitely wins.

All in all, I’d say this class is awesome if you are designing new products or processes and have a bit of creative freedom to convert customer insights into features. For me, it was an especially good appetizer towards the Design Thinking mindset.