Design is on the cusp of altering many of today’s innovation practices and approaches. It is moving toward offering a business competency that innovators can no longer ignore.

Recently I was talking to the Marketing Director of one of the leading consumer goods companies in Europe and we began talking around the question: “Where does design fit in innovation and consumer goods?”

I started this discussion with him by posing the question, “What do things really mean?”  For example we need to have a clear vision of what good food means for an example. We need to seek out and define a new meaning though, perhaps, design. So the question then became “how do you give meaning to things?” We innovate by making sense of these things; people don’t just buy products, they buy meaning.

That stopped him in his tracks. He had not given this the necessary thought it required. I then went on and suggested that people are searching for ways to re-invigorate their experiences. The emotional experience, especially in cooking or preparing a meal becomes increasingly the relationship – a moment of affection, a memory or statement. Designing this into your product can happen in multiple ways.

How do we trigger emotions? How do we evoke emotional attachment? One really significant route is through design. We see this in many products or services we want to “own” or “experience,” and design is a critical factor. We can separate ourselves from our competitors through this association of a uniquely designed product or service. We tend to compete as everyone in our market does – utilizing the same distribution methods, routes to market and similar product features and benefits. products or service offerings. Emotional design breaks through this parity and can help you to create the winning difference in your industry by appealing not only to the minds, but also the hearts of your key customers.

Today, design is on the cusp of altering many of today’s innovation practices and approaches. It is moving toward offering a business competency that innovators can no longer ignore. Design can really differentiate your products and services; unfortunately, far too many innovators have not yet seen its enormous potential to differentiate their offerings. Excellent design can do this.

Research tells us that design-driven companies are more innovative than others. We may not have found a universally agreed-upon definition of design, but so what? Let the customer define it by rewarding those companies that do it well with more sales and their public acknowledgement. That beats any definition we might agonize over.

Design as a tool for innovation has developed rapidly in recent years and can be seen in strategic design consideration, design management considerations and design thinking of the final product or service. Policy, education, knowing who to turn to are all lagging behind at present, as many organizations lack this broader experience of design. We need design-driven, user-centered innovation understanding.

The really good thing has been the recent positive proliferation of design books coming onto the market that can move us quickly forward. Design is starting to muscle its way into my library of innovation books lately. Take a look at these recent books:

These four excellent books will help to open up your thinking to encompass the broader meaning of design.

Check them out; they may stop you in your tracks as well as prompt you to re-think how you go about innovation and where design can help set you apart in unique ways that your competitors may find hard to follow.