Innovation has been the cornerstone of human progress - it has catapulted us from living in caves, to the technology craze of today.

Any invention you take had an element of design and user experience in it that propelled that idea forward.  From the crucial invention of the car to the mundane proliferation of the short-lived fidget spinner. The car for instance involved challenging and reenvisioning the way people commute, away from horse-driven carriages. It pushed us to design countless new interactions: steering wheel, doors, seats, horns, to the way buildings were made to the way cities were laid out.

Steve Jobs once said  “design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works” and this is an excellent point to raise when trying to explain to business owners why innovation is linked to design. It is a common misconception among some corporations that design is merely a superficial thing, detached from the actual product and that it is fundamentally untethered from the core of the business. To some degree for some business design it’s more of an afterthought that the marketing team can take care of. But in reality your product, your service is linked to the design of it and the user experience it creates.

But if you take some close attention to some of the most successful companies, you will see that they actually have embedded design in their core and strongly paired with their strategies. Think of Apple and Nike without design. One can certainly predict they wouldn't’ be the massive successes they are without it.

Design is not just a final outcome but a framework that must be applied from the early stages of a product or service inception and that requires the collaboration of different experts across disciplines.

So now the question is? Are you doing enough when it comes to design and innovation? How can you and your company put in a metric the level of investment in design and innovation? Out of the different ways to measure it, we will today use the Danish ladder, a system created by the Danish Design center to measure the level of maturity of a given entity in regards to the use of design.

Stage 1: Non-design

The company invests zero in design.

Stage 2: Design as form-giving

Here design is just aesthetics and styling applied at the end of the process.

Stage 3: Design as process

Design is not a result but a guiding force from the beginning of the development process of the product or service. In the process, a wide variety of experts from different backgrounds works together to solve the problem with a human-centered approach.

Stage 4: Design as a strategy

The designers are on equal foot with the rest of the team. Design is integral in the business strategy.

Where is your company right now?

More info:

Danish Ladder: four steps of design use