Follow us for a moment. We’re going to talk about design, innovation, evaluation, and how they all go together.
Design is really the discipline — the theory, science, and practice — of innovation. That means that if you are innovating, you’re designing. Innovating is about adding value through introducing something new to a situation — it might be entirely new, a twist on an existing idea, or an old idea placed in a new context. Innovation and design are about taking ideas and purposefully transforming things into making those ideas real in the form of services, products, or experiences.
Design and innovation are all about creating value.
Thus, understanding the value of design is partly about the understanding of valuation of innovation. At the root of evaluation is the concept of value. One of the most widely used definitions of evaluation (pdf) is that it is about merit, worth, and significance — with worth being a stand-in for value.
Value can only be understood by asking the right questions because it’s a relative question as many people will see the worth of something different from others.
One of the big questions professional designers wrestle with at the start of any engagement with a client is:
“What are you hiring [your product, service, or experience] to do?”
What evaluators ask is: “Did your [product, service, or experience (PSE)] do what you hired it to do?”
“To what extent did your PSE do what you hired it to do?”
“Did your PSE operate as it was expected to?”
“What else did your PSE do that was unexpected?”
“What lessons can we learn from your PSE development that can inform other initiatives and build your capacity for innovation as an organization?”
In short, evaluation is about asking:
“What value does your PSE provide and for whom and under what context?”
Value creation, redefined
Without asking the questions above how do we know value was created at all? Without evaluation, there is no means of being able to claim that value was generated with a PSE, whether expectations were met, and whether what was designed was implemented at all.
By asking the questions about value and how we know more about it, innovators are better positioned to design PSE’s that are value-generating for their users, customers, clients, and communities as well as their organizations, shareholders, funders, and leaders.
This redefinition of value as an active concept gives the opportunity to see what the return on investment — time, money, energy, commitment — can yield an organization in real-time. This means that value is fluid, dynamic and that can be generated on an ongoing basis. It’s not just what you report at the end of the fiscal year or project.
Imagine reporting real-time value at your next stakeholder, staff, or shareholder meeting? Imagine knowing what you’re creating now and having that focus your efforts on what you could create in the near and long-term future?
Evaluation is how you do it. It’s in the name itself.
If you’re looking to hire an evaluation to better your innovation capacity, contact us at Cense. That’s what we do.