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Six lessons in design and innovation

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Innovators can learn lessons from Previz, eBay's recently created internal design consultancy, writes Cliff Kuang on Fast Company's Co.Design blog.

Kuang explains that Previz's remit is to "stir the creative juices" and bring their design- thinking process to eBay teams creating new products. He insists that this has already produced some valuable insights into the creation of better products.

The author breaks down these into six "bite-sized" lessons, as follows:

1) Most of your work lies in identifying the right problems. Kuang explains that Previz takes people from each unit involved in a new product, and asks them to compile a list of problems that need to be solved around them.

"Eventually," he says, "the group decides which problems loom largest, and whose solutions would represent the biggest breakthroughs."

2) It's a numbers game. Previz involves around ten or 15 key members of relevant departments when creating a new product. These are then separated into groups of four to seven because if there are fewer then one person tends to dominate, and if there are more then chaos will reign.

3) Set the time frame of your would-be innovation. Previz says: "Innovation means nothing if it's detached from a time frame. If that time frame is too short, then you're back into the grind of minute changes that don't push your product further. Too long, and you're in the realm of science fiction that you'll never be able to realise.

Therefore, Previz normally targets innovations that are one to three generations from being brought to reality.

4) Start designing before you've totally settled on what you're looking to produce. "Usually," says Kuang, "product managers would create a 60-page book of requirements they'd like to see for a product.

"Only then would it be passed off to the design teams. But with Previz, the design teams are involved before any of that, and before the product concept is set in stone."

In fact, the designers will have working wireframes or mockups to present to product teams in as little as four days, compared to the usual four months.

5) Understand who benefits most from the work. It's important to involve key people in the process because the managers responsible for seeing the project through really need to buy into the product.

6) Involve would-be users early. Previz puts prototypes before users as early as possible to see if the basic mechanics and information flow actually make sense.

"By the end," Kuang explains, "they have as many as four iterations of initial concept, each of which has been validated by users."

Six Bite-Sized Innovation Lessons From eBay's New Design Think Tank
Cliff Kuang
Fast Company


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