innovation management

Innovation Management and Design Thinking in SME 

Design Thinking

Innovations = Competitiveness 

Innovations are becoming more and more important. Whether we are dealing with new products or services or whether we are dealing with new processes. Nowadays companies not only have to continuously improve themselves and their offers, but they also have to actively work on their innovativeness in order to stay competitive in the market in the long run. 


Tammo Ganders, managing director at the “Zentrums für Innovationsforschung und Business-Development, recently even told IMEC in an interview that companies will not survive without innovations in the long-run. His proof? The significantly reduced time a company spends in the S&P 500 Index. Since 1960 this time has gone down from originally about 60 years to only about 18 years. This should make companies think and it should motivate them. 


German Companies are Investing in Their Innovativeness 

And German companies seem to be aware of this trend. According to the “Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung”, the spending on innovation of the German economy grew by almost 9% in 2015. However, small and medium-sized companies (SME) are lagging behind a little bit. Even though SME also significantly increased their spending on innovation, their part of the total spending on innovation of the German economy as a whole is decreasing. 


In addition, VEND Consulting GmbH  says that SME have a lower level or professionalism regarding their innovation management compared to other company categories. VEND also says however, that only a small effort can lead to increases in innovation rates and innovation efficiencies and a decrease in realization risk. 


Design Thinking is a popular (and successful) part of innovation management 

According to Harvard Business Manager, the innovation management of the future is characterized by: 

  1. the growing importance of companies’ innovativeness & 
  1. the increasing openness of innovation processes. 


More and more companies rely on Design Thinking in order to achieve this. And according to astudy by the “Hasso-Plattner-Institut, companies are not only using Design Thinking more extensively and in a more diverse way, but they already achieve measurable successes when it comes to improving the work culture and the efficiency of innovation processes. So, maybe Design Thinking can also help your company to be more innovative and thus stay successful in the market for longer. 


What is Design Thinking? 

Design Thinking is alternatively described as a creativity technique, as a method, and also as an approach. Design Thinking can’t be traced back to the idea of a single person or group of people. In the 50ies and 60ies, it was used by architects and designers. In 1987, Peter Rowe published the first book about the topic. Since 1991, the company IDEO continued to develop their concept of Design Thinking, which is based on the curriculum of Stanford University, and introduced it to the world.  


In Germany, theHasso-Plattner-Institut  is one of the leading voices regarding Design Thinking. They define it as follows: Design Thinking is a systematic approach to complex problems from all areas of life. In the center of the process is always the end user. Developers are asked to include the end user and his/her behavior from the beginning on and to show him/her prototypes as early as possible. According to the Hasso-Plattner-Institut,innovations can be found where these three components meet: 




In order for a Design Thinking project to be successful, the team should: 

  1. consist of team members with different professional backgrounds and from different organizational functions, 
  2. have access to spaces that support the creative process & 
  3. should follow this Design Thinking process: 


Design Thinking

Source: adapted/translated from HPI School of Design Thinking 


Is Design Thinking a Good Fit for Your Company? 

Design Thinking seems – at least for nowto not have reached its limits. Only recently, Prof. Ulrich Weinberg, Director of the School of Design Thinking at the Hasso-Plattner-Institut in Potsdam, has been quoted in an interview with the zukunftsInstitut: 


We have not found a sector in which Design Thinking doesn’t work. We are working with large companies and small SMEs, public institutions, NGOs…“ 


Therefore, chances are good that it can help you and your company to stay competitive as well. Why not give it a try for one of your next projects! The Verrocchio Institute for Innovation Competence has put together a great list of practical Dos and Don’ts in one of their articles:  Design Thinking Ist Mehr Als Nur Basteln – Es Ist Kultur! [article in German]. 


And if you would rather be supported by one of our experts during your first attemptjust get in touch with us. 

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