01/13/2012 11:36 am ET Updated Mar 13, 2012

Build Dynamic Capabilities Through the Use of Design

Successful organizations master continuous self-renewal by constantly building competitive capabilities. To mold their environment to their advantage and avoid being merely reactive, they have a mindset for planning and proactively upgrading their culture, architecture and routines. Change is essentially built into the organization's fabric. What is their secret to integrating dynamic capability building into their everyday life?

Top-tier new product development organizations are ideally situated to implement dynamic capabilities. They hail and thrive on change and capability building is an integral part of how they set up and manage development projects. Besides projects creating new products, their deliverables include providing the organization new perspectives on the world, formulating new opportunities and enable continuous learning. It all starts with a dynamic inspirational design brief.

Top management communicate the direction to the design team through the business strategy, which informs the business plans and provides design criteria for the design brief. As the design team progresses through the phases of defining, designing and developing the product, new knowledge from experimentation is built and documented in the design brief. The two keys to building capabilities is exploring creative new concepts and capturing new knowledge. Creativity is sparked by the insights the creative team receives through the brief and gets during concept ideation and detailing of the concepts. Initial translation of marketing and user insights into useful design criteria continues to be a challenge. Here, the Design Quantification Criteria method is useful to ensure that the most relevant information is included.

The essence of the Design Quantification Criteria method is to inspire the creative team. By being brief, relevant and focusing on the 20 percent of the criteria that dictate or contain 80 percent of the value, it focuses the idea generation of the creative team. In one to three pages the idea of the design challenge is relayed. The Design Quality Criteria cover corporate strategy, the corporation's environment and the users' performance targets. Stanford auditing of design briefs from top performing companies shows that the right balance of Design Quality Criteria is strongly linked to project performance.

Capturing essential learning can be achieved by using one common document. The dynamic inspirational design brief captures in real-time the evolving specifications, decisions and learning. A further advantage of the dynamic brief is that this document effectively keeps the design team and decision-makers aligned. Reading the brief can -- in about five minutes -- bring everyone up to speed on where the team is, and why and where it is going.

At the end of the project, the development team uses the dynamics inspirational design brief to share insights with the rest of the organization. What did the team do to improve the culture, architecture and routines? What worked and just as importantly what did not work in affecting the corporation's surroundings though new product development? Regularly sharing brings people together, inspires and motivates everybody and creates momentum to keep questioning and looking for new ways of creating opportunities and solutions.