Design thinking is a process for creative problem solving

Design thinking is a term coined by David Kelley, founder of IDEO and the Stanford It utilises elements from the designer’s toolkit like empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions. By using design thinking, you make decisions based on what future customers really want instead of relying only on historical data or making risky bets based on instinct instead of evidence.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” says Tim Brown who is now CEO at IDEO.

Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which has become known as design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.

Consumer Packaged Goods


Financial Services








What is innovation?

Sounds like an easy question. Or should be. But we still stumble over phrases like making ideas happen, solving problems, doing it profitably, or at least with a positive impact.

And of course its easy to resort to Apple, or more specifically, Steve Jobs. Whilst you’ve heard everything about him already, there is one moment worth recalling from that magical Stanford commencement speech he made in 2005. Whilst he talked about life, and making the most of your time, he captured the spirit of innovation in three sentences:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Leonardo da Vinci was a great one for making new connections. His greatest breakthroughs came from connecting the unconnected, and in particular, the insights gained by bringing different perspectives together. His expertise in anatomy helped him to create better portraits and sculptures, and also helped him make sense of mechanics and engineering. He himself defined innovation as connecting the unconnected.

Another great disruptor, Albert Einstein was often challenged for making what seemed like absurd connections. Like the connection between energy and mass. Of course, there was no existing logic which suggested such a connection, it needed to be shaped through imagination. Almost every great scientific breakthrough has come about through hypothesis and then making sense through practical demonstration.

Back in the business world, I explored innovation with Sir Richard Branson, and the culture which he seeks to create across his Virgin companies, he reached for a pencil and paper and jotted down his equation of life … A+B+C+D (Always Be Connecting the Dots). Its not about creating newness, but making sense of what you have, maybe in fragments and different places, but can be shaped in new and interesting ways.

We spend much of our time collecting dots – seeking new insights, reading more books, generating more ideas – but too little time connecting dots. This requires confidence and creativity, to think bigger and laterally.

“The magic of connecting dots is that once you learn the techniques, the dots can change but you’ll still be good at connecting them.”

Indeed we live in an incredible world with so many great sources of ideas, insights and inspirations. I spend my exploring the world’s most innovative companies, the new markets which they shape, the business models which they develop, the new experiences they deliver to customers. There are so many ideas out there.

So many dots to connect …

  • Connecting ideas with different ideas to create new and unusual concepts
  • Connecting diverse people to combine talents, experience and perspectives
  • Connecting customers with business to gain insight and engagement
  • Connecting partners with business to gain capability and reach
  • Connecting customer needs and wants, to solve bigger problems
  • Connecting ideas from different places, across geographies and sectors
  • Connecting products and services, into richer customer experiences
  • Connecting markets in new ways, to operate different and better
  • Connecting business with new business models to be more profitable
  • Connecting media, channels and market networks to amplify the impact
  • Connecting customers with customers to build richer communities

The real skill is to see the bigger picture, the bigger space in which you can make the new connections – and then to make new connections – interesting, unusual, distinctive, better. Even if at first you question how will it work, how will it make money, don’t be disheartened. By adding more connections you will soon find ways to implement and sell your uniqueness, often in ways you never imagined.

And so innovation in every aspect of what you do.

And as I googled for more clarity (as you do), I came across this video:

It finishes with a great few lines, worth remembering for when you’re asked that question about what really is innovation:

So what is innovation?

Those other dots. The ones others miss.
And having the certainty to know that the dots you see are not only valid, but necessary if the world is to move forward.


Explore more from Peter Fisk about innovation:



“Robot Makers” focus on the most exciting growth markets of robotics and drones.

Whilst it might seem a long time since the golden C-3PO and cute R2D2 appeared in the first Star Wars movie back in 1977, the technical capabilities, intelligence and applications of robotics are about to explode into every day life. These include the much-hyped role of drones, supporting everything from unmanned combat to Amazon parcel deliveries.

Like other “Market Makers” these Robot Makers create and shape markets in their own vision.

They are not content to play the game of marginal gains – competing on small differences or price discounts, in mature and stagnant markets. They see the future world, they look for the new growth markets, and in particular those which are still emerging, which they can shape to their own advantage. They are “gamechangers” in the biggest sense, in that they create new games (markets), with new audiences (customers and needs), new rules (process and behaviours), and new possibilities (perceived value and profit potential) for business success.

Here are some of the most phenomenal Robot Makers who are creating and shaping the fast-emerging robotics markets to their advantage. Whilst there are many others developing sophisticated AI and robotics, these are examples of companies who are already out there, making money and shaping the attitudes and behaviours of customers right now:


Smart toys are just the beginning

Anki Drive, debuted during an Apple press conference back in 2013, lives up to the hype. Rather than using a Scaletrix-type track, Anki embeds cameras and IR sensors into the toys, and lets them steer themselves. Even the human-controlled racers smooth out user input, turning commands into more precise on-track movements. Anki toys have clocked up more than 800,000 miles. If this sounds like a lot of tech just for a little racing game, Anki CEO and cofounder Boris Sofman says “We want to eventually leave entertainment, to go into other areas where these approaches would apply, like the home or sports or even transportation.”

Bossa Nova Robotics

Making home a better place

Bossa Nova is developing a fulling autonomous mobile robot that could transform everyday tasks in the home.  Their 2016 launch, developed at Carnegie Mellon University, seeks to create emotional connections so that tasks become intuitive and empathic- seeking to add value in new ways, rather than just automate the mundane.

Daewoo Shipbuilding

Exoskeletons as giant industrial workers

One of most promising players in the growing field of wearable robotics is also the most unexpected. DSME, the shipbuilding arm of the South Korean Daewoo Group is developing exoskeletons for use in its sprawling shipyards, to help workers carry heavy loads by hand. The hydraulic, battery-powered systems deployed in a successful pilot test could run for three hours at a time and lift 66 pounds on their own. The company’s current goal, however, is nothing short of superhuman—effortless handling of loads weighing roughly 220 pounds.


The world’s largest maker of consumer drones.

The Shenzhen-based company is opening a Silicon Valley research and development center in hopes of harnessing the wealth of robotics talent in the area, and identifying potential new partners and investment targets. The Phantom range of consumer drones have captured the world’s imagination – for everything from mapping landscapes to herding sheep. Phantoms are relatively inexpensive (about $1,300) remote-control quad-copters that are made for filming, some with stabilized HD cameras built in. The small and light drones are fairly user-friendly and extremely high-performance. They fly at speeds of up to 35 miles an hour and up to 400 feet. They also have GPS and stabilizing sensors to idiot-proof them as much as possible, with features that allow them to automatically return to where they launched should they lose contact with their remote. The company was founded in 2006, but in just the last three years, its sales have grown by a factor of 150, making it the fastest-growing drone manufacturer in the world.

Gamma 2 Robotics

Intelligent and autonomous security

G2R have developed the “Cybernetic Brain” – artificial intelligence that enables the robot to operate independently whilst detecting and making judgement relating to any “invaders” – fire, water,  or suspicious objects. The robots learns about its environment, becoming fast and accurate in diagnosis, and ultimately more reliable and lower risk than humans.


Autonomous drone delivery

Matternet One is the first smart transport drone – in particularly focused on the challenge of “last mile” logistics to homes. The company is building an automated delivery network for goods based on a fleet of autonomous UAVs/drones. Initial tests with Swiss Post delivering parcels to areas which were difficult to reach by traditional methods (everything from mountain tops, to apartment blocks, and remote islands).

ReWalk Robotics

Exoskeletons that will replace expired limbs and wheelchairs.

The ReWalk Personal System is the first exoskeleton to be cleared by the FDA for use at home and in the community. No longer stuck in laboratories or rehab facilities, these robotic devices can now help users move about the world, restoring some of the lower-limb mobility lost to injury or disease. ReWalk Robotics’ model essentially walks for its wearer, balancing and adjusting its gait as it steps forward, and proving a first glimpse of a future where exoskeletons are as commonplace as wheelchairs

More ideas

I am currently working with Odense, Denmark which has become Europe’s “robot city” and seeks to change the game in the way in which it works with start-ups and corporates in accelerating the technical development and market growth of robotics and drones.

I am also currently researching my next book about Market Makers:

  • Gamechangers … introduction to my recent book on disruptive innovation
  • Market Makers … new strategies for creating and shaping markets
  • Innolab … fast and collaborative strategic innovation process

If you’d like to suggest ideas for inclusion in my next book, please email me at