7 innovative mindsets news media companies can learn from design specialists


To succeed in today’s rapidly and constantly changing world, you need to be creative and have the ability to continuously realise new ideas.

Emi Kolawole, editor-in-residence at The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University, shared the Stanford d.school’s design thinking process during the first day of the INMA European Media Conference in Budapest, Hungary. This process is meant to help foster individuals’ creative confidence and capacity for innovation.

Kolawole came to the d.school from The Washington Post for a variety of reasons: to reset her understanding of what storytelling can be and to gain a deeper understanding of media design. She also wanted to discover what really drives profits around content creation, how those drivers can be changed, and, ultimately, how a renaissance can be born.

Launched by IDEOs David Kelley and started very small at Stanford University, d.school is about helping people realise their creative confidence. It needed the right space to work on creative capacity. There are whiteboards everywhere in d.school, and the learning space changes all the time. Students — who are always up and on their feet — are taught in open space studios.

And how does the school inspire creative confidence? Through innovation defined in unusual ways. For d.school, innovation is not a moment. It is not “lightning in a bottle,” Kolawole said. It’s more organic and gradual. It’s not an event; it’s a process.

There are five stages of innovation, and this entire process is called design thinking, she said:

  1. Empathise: Find your audience, advertisers, anyone – but it is important to know who is at the center of the problem.

  2. Define: Isolate the actual problem youre seeking to solve.

  3. Ideate: Brainstorm.

  4. Prototype: Do this quickly and cheaply, not spending too much time or money.

  5. Test: Hand it over to people and see how they react.

Design thinking isn’t just a five-step process from beginning to an end. It’s an ongoing process that doesn’t have to start with empathy; it can begin with testing or any other stage.

It is worth remembering that innovation is not linear, slow, and expensive. It’s cyclical, rapid, and can be cheap, Kolawole said.

She also noted there are seven D-mindsets toward innovation:

  1. Show, don’t tell.

  2. Focus on human values.

  3. Be mindful of the process.

  4. Collaborate across boundaries.

  5. Bias toward action.

  6. Get experimental and experiential.

  7. Create clarity from complexity.

Publishers should consider how they might bring design thinking to their organisation, realising it is necessary to start with people who are in the organisation. Think about how are they working and whether they are seen as creative problem solvers.

But, Kolawole said, there are few things to remember:

  • Everyone is creative.

  • Be mindful of the process.

  • Foster an open education environment.

  • It’s about problem finding, not problem solving.

  • Be patient.

Kolawole ended her presentation with a quote from Sam Yen, chief design officer of SAP: “Creative confidence is what design thinking brings to an organisation.... If you want to do innovation, foster creative confidence within your organisation. Focus on education and problem finding. The greatest innovations come not from process and execution but from finding the relevant problem worth solving.”

For people curious about design thinking, Kolawole recommends should Creative Confidence by David and Tom Kelly, and and Bernard Roth’s The Achievement Habit by Bernard Roth.

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