Strategic Design makes meaningful innovation possible

Strategic Design as a Development Environment for Innovation

Strategic Design at iconstorm – With our development environment, teams explore the terra incognita of meningful innovation.

Designing the Future – Strategic Design as a Development Environment for Innovations

Today, ubiquitous mobile devices let services move right into the center of people’s lives. This also applies to medical technology: wearables, nearables, trackers, apps, AI-supported diagnostics and platform-based business models are discovered by customers as users. It will be possible to proactively organize one’s own health and interact with health care providers in new ways. The beautiful new world of customer centricity is just around the corner.

Innovation in a complex environment

Medical technology is part of a complex and strictly regulated system. Compared to other industries, the development of new products takes forever. Health systems are cost control systems, and the innovation culture of the industry’s companies so far hasn’t been characterised by a strong customer focus.

Against this background, an allusion to the innovation hype in Silicon Valley, with its user centricity, agility and creativity, seems almost naive. What is the point of Design Thinking if the requirements of the regulatory authorities are not known to the team? Does an agile corporate culture help to speed up approval processes? These doubts are justified, but do they, in turn, justify closing our eyes to the most serious cultural changes that are taking place in companies at this very moment?


Meaningful Innovation

One thing is clear: while business and technology converge quickly, the human factor is a major driver of complexity in the innovation process. Therefore, it is by no means certain that the use of technologies such as mobile health, robotics, genetics or artificial intelligence will guarantee economic success for a company. Only when the human context complements the dimensions of technology and business on an equal footing will a new, worthwhile search field for meaningful innovation emerge in the intersection.

However, the simple definition of this search field is not quite enough. Its exploration requires new ways of thinking as well as new ways of working. If we want to solve more than just complicated tasks (technology, business) but tackle complex problems (technology, business, people) we need more than “just” ingenious individual efforts. Team synergy is needed, and different areas of expertise must be linked, different personalities must be included in the process.

Iconstorm Meaningful Innovation
Meaningful Innovation takes place in the white spot of three dimensions: business, technology, and the human context.


Where are some good role models?

The aforementioned requirements are not really new, but if we look around, only very few companies have managed to build up a suitable structure to meet them. Some have invested in methodological knowledge such as design thinking, but often in a context detrimental to a modern innovation culture. Second, in the search for companies that can exemplify this new culture of innovation, start-ups have been looked at all over the world. And a third, less often considered source of ideas is the branch of digital agencies.

Only when the human context complements the dimensions of technology and business on an equal footing will a new, worthwhile search field for meaningful innovation emerge.
Felix Guder

As the founder of such an agency, I was personally unaware of this role model function for a long time. However, many examples from around the globe show that these businesses have an excellent understanding of the challenges involved in strategy and implementation competence, but often with a higher degree of maturity than startups. The solution of complex problems in the field between technology, business models and people is part of everyday life in these agencies. They have a large degree of innovative power and their culture is defined by shaping digital change on the personal and organisational level. Long-standing clients have asked me to make the work processes of the agency transparent for them and to share the existing methodological knowledge.


Strategic design is a holistic approach that can be used immediately

Together with a network of partners, we have designed a development environment for innovations. It takes into account processes and methods, but also cultural factors. With “Strategic Design”, a proven format is now available that can be integrated on the company side. It is a holistic approach with which you can start immediately. Strategic Design was not developed for designers, but for heterogeneous innovation teams in which designers can, but do not have to, play a role. It offers operational security through a defined process framework that is organized in sprints and assigns clear roles. A large number of proven methods are available for daily collaboration. The effect of Strategic Design on the team’s cooperation and the individual development of employees is regularly examined.

Practice shows that the strategic design approach delivers good results for product optimization (evolution), reconfiguration and new development. It can also cope with extremely narrow spaces of opportunity that are subject to a multitude of requirements. The use of sprints facilitates the process pattern change between innovation development and agile production. Employees benefit from newly acquired skills and the intrinsic motivation of the teams improves. Strategic Design gives innovation teams the opportunity to respond to the constantly increasing demands by upgrading skills and methods in order to actively shape the future of their companies in a rapid pace.


In the context of the CIP-Med project on cross-industry innovation in medical applications and technology, we presented our strategic design approach. I also introduced it in a talk at the final event of the project and summarised some principles of the approach in an article, which can now be found in a PDF guide to the project. (Be aware that the guide is available in German only.) Since the topic of Strategic Design has a special relevance for us, we also wanted to share the article on our blog. Although it is written for the context of the medical industry, the principle can be applied to any industry, too.

You can check the results of the CIP-Med project in our guide. In addition to my article, it contains many other interesting contributions as well as a framework that systematically addresses the topic of cross-industry innovation in companies.

Download the CIP-Med Guide here (only available in German)

Download: CIP-Med Leitfaden 2018 – Cross-Industrie-Innovation in der Medizintechnik
Download: CIP-Med Leitfaden 2018 – Cross-Industrie-Innovation in der Medizintechnik

Dieser Leitfaden fasst die Ergeb­nisse des vom BMBF geförderten Projektes CIP-Med zusammen und stellt das CIP-Med Frame­work zu Systematisierung des Cross Innovation Ansatzes im Innovations­management vor­. 15 Beiträge aus Praxis und Forschung illustrieren den Ansatz.

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