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Innovation By Design

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, the feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

 Steve Jobs, Apple Computer

“The heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation.”

 Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, fast and nimble companies survive. Increasing speed to market leads to many financial and non-financial benefits. The benefits of speed include:

  • Faster Innovation

  • Lower Development Costs

  • Larger Market Share

  • Better Predictability in Sales Forecast


When companies can quickly innovate and be creative at the same time, they develop sustained differentiators and the competitive advantage. Fashion retailer, Zara epitomizes fast “time-to-market”. Zara gets new styles to market within mere weeks by using an integrated, cross-functional organization to accelerate decision-making and by organizing design, procurement, manufacturing and delivering into effective “virtual teams” that work closely with each other. The company’s focus is on fast “time-to-market” and rapid lead times. Zara is one the few companies that can innovate faster than anyone else and yet be profitable.

In his book “Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean”, Roberto Verganti identified 3 innovation strategies – market-pull (user-centered) innovation, technology-push innovation and design-driven (design push) innovation. Market-pull innovation starts with an analysis of customers’ needs and the searches for technologies that can better satisfy user needs or updates the product or solution to respond to contemporary market trends. Market-pull innovation is about the need for a new product on th market that innovative designers need to create. The mobile phone was the result of a need for a new type of phone that could be carried around easily and you could call other people on their phones while on the move.

Technology push innovation rides on technological breakthroughs that often have a disruptive impact on industries to be a source of long-term competitive advantage. Smartphones on the other hand have come about due to new technology being produced and made available to make these innovative products available. The iPhone and Android smartphones pushed innovation to the masses and more and more features are made available even though many smartphone users don’t even know such features exist. The same technology push innovation is happening in the LED television market where screens are getting flatter and curvier at the same time.

Design-driven Innovation is about how companies like Apple, Samsung, Nintendo and Alessi build an unbeatable and sustainable competitive advantage through innovation that do not come from the traditional markets. Instead, these companies create new and extraordinary markets in iTunes, interactive Wii gaming/recreational market and enabling new “sharing economy” business models like Uber and Airbnb. Social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are also creating new markets by creating new use cases of their product on a daily basis.

Successful companies who create design-drive innovations often change the business paradigm that radically redefines the meaning of things. Apple redefined the music distribution industry with iTunes. iTunes is now a media player, media library, online radio broadcaster and a mobile device management application. Companies that repeatedly master design-driven innovation are repeatedly successful in their pursuit of new business. According to Roberto Verganti, such companies often leverage on “interpreters” to unravel and envision what customers are looking for and how people give meaning to things. Two groups of interpreters exist. One group of interpreters are involved in the production and investigation of social meaning and include artists, cultural organizations, sociologists, anthropologists, marketers and the media. The second group of interpreters are those who, with their discoveries, technical innovations and new products and services, change the world of things and propose new meanings.

What is S.C.A.M.P.E.R.?


S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is a great yet simple idea generation technique. It is an acronym for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other use, Eliminate and Reverse. S.C.A.M.P.E.R. was proposed by Alex Osborne in 1953, and was further developed by Bob Elerle in 1971 in his book; SCAMPER: Games for Imagination Development.

The S.C.A.M.P.E.R. technique can help a Product Designer generate more ideas more quickly using the following framework.

S – Substitute: “Who or what can be substituted without affecting the outcome or product?”

C – Combine: “Can we combine multiple steps, processes, components or technologies to create a better product or solution?”

A – Adapt: “What can we improve, adapt for a better outcome or to make the product more flexible?”

M – Modify: “What can I modify to improve the product or process?”

P – Put to another use: “What are some other ways that we can put it to use?”

E – Eliminate: “What will happen if we eliminate some parts, process or resources?”

R – Reverse: “What if we reverse the product or interchange the process or product sequence?”

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. for Innovation by Design?


The SCAMPER techniques is one of the easiest, direct and yet comprehensive method for creative thinking and problem solving for creating innovation. It provides for a framework to explore problems from different perspectives and it can help organizations innovate in product design, service design and experience design.


We can use S.C.A.M.P.E.R. to accelerate product design and development and to create new products out of existing products.


Throughout the years, McDonald’s has evolved from a barbecue restaurant in 1940 to a leading American hamburger and fast food restaurant chain today that continues to innovate its menu to include new tastes and ingredients that customers are looking for. Besides menu innovation, McDonald’s is focusing on store renovations, digital ordering and delivery in 2017.


If we were to look back at the history of McDonald’s menu innovation, we would see hints of the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. technique being used. The ongoing question on the minds of the McDonald’s management would be “How can we increase the quarterly sales of our business by creating new products in our menu?” What products can we create by asking the following questions?


SUBSTITUTE: “What elements of my product or service portfolio can I substitute with to sell?”.

  • When McDonald’s in Taiwan introduced the immensely successful rice burgers in 2005, McDonald’s used the SUBSTITUTE method by substituting the bread buns with two pressed rice cakes.


COMBINE: “How can we combine existing products/services with other products/services to sell?”

  • When “Breakfast at McDonald’s” was introduced in 1975, it COMBINEd eggs with burger bread to make Egg McMuffin as a breakfast option. When McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal in 1979, toys were COMBINEd with a Kid’s Menu that was sized for Children.


ADAPT: “What idea can we adapt from other industries to increase sales in our own industry?”

  • When McDonald’s introduced McCafe in 1993, it was ADAPTing by opening its own chain of coffee houses. McCafe was conceptualized and launched in Australia and it became very successful and now offers coffee like lattes, cappuccinos and mochas and a variety of cakes.


MODIFY: “How can I magnify my sales effort or my solution to create an impact in the marketplace?”

  • In their efforts to provide healthier food options to their customers, McDonald’s continue to MODIFY their menu to include fresh salads that were introduced in 1987 and further tweaking their menu with healthy food.


PUT TO OTHER USES: “How can I put my product to other uses by selling into adjacent markets?

  • When the Hamburger University opened in 1961 to educate its students on the various aspects of restaurant management, McDonald’s was effectively PUTting the McDonald’s training and development facilities TO OTHER USES by offering schooling and education for its employees.


ELIMINATE: “What steps can I eliminate in my sales process so that I can be more efficient?”

  • When McDonald’s menu was reduced in 1948 perhaps to lowers the costs and reduce the production time for food, McDonald’s ELIMINATEd processes and less popular food items to give rise to the concept of fast-food.


REVERSE: “How can I reverse or change the order in which I sell?”

  • Unlike traditional restaurants, McDonald’s REVERSEs the order of customer payments. McDonald’s customers have to pay before self-collection of their food.

Research has shown that companies with design-led strategies continue to outperform their competitors. Building your competitive advantage starts with immersive professional workshops that teach methodologies with implementable tools and techniques to help solve business challenges quickly and with impact.

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