What does it mean to have your ideas challenged?

Posted on: 18/07/2018

Third article in a series looking at five key insights from KTN’s recent Break Through Innovation Event.

At a day-long conference last month designers and entrepreneurs involved in the Design Foundations projects were invited to share their experiences of working together with a wider audience. KTN presented this event specifically as a way to ‘Break Through Innovation’, a space where businesses could continue the momentum of collaboration and start planning how to get their products to market.

This article is part of a series of articles looks at five stand-out insights of the day, which illuminate both the perceived challenges of going through a human-centred strategic design process and the lucrative results it can produce.

In part three of this series we asked, what does it mean to have your ideas challenged?

Charlie Guy, from a vertical farming technology start-up LettUs Grow, demonstrated during his talk how pivoting a business idea can suddenly enable it to scale successfully. Originally, the LettUs Grow proposition was a consumer product that would allow people to easily grow their own food in their kitchens at home with the aid of new aeroponic technology.

However, this focus changed when, through Design Foundations, LettUs Grow worked with Crux Product Design to research new markets. They discovered their unique technology could have a greater energy and water saving impact by pivoting to a B2B model. By developing technology for farmers to grow and supply large quantities of vegetables and salad, LettUs Grow were able to establish Europe’s first aeroponic vertical farm in Bristol, which, Charlie claims, is currently the most advanced use of this nutrient dense mist technology in the world.

This radical change of direction worked out well for LettUs Grow. It is not easy, however, as a passionate entrepreneur, to have your ideas interrogated and challenged. People are dedicated to their business ideas, they work hard to become an expert in their field, and they work hard to become a director in a company. Although it can be uncomfortable, all well trained designers know their first job on a project is to question the question. Designers never work on assumptions, they want to dig in to what underlies a potential business idea.

However, a great designer is also a great diplomat. Rather than directly challenging someone’s authority, ideally, as Lucy Stewart says, this process should be one of collaboration rather than confrontation. It is important that the entrepreneur or company director feels like the designer is on their side, working towards shared goals. Establishing trust in the process is a huge part of the job of the designer and building collaborative relationships is vital to a successful outcome.

Read More about the Insights:

1. Does following a design formula help or hinder?

2. Does success depend on the size of the business?

3. What does it mean to have your ideas challenged?

4. Why does transparency matter in the design process?

5. What is the true benefit of an external perspective?

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