SOURCE: marcus evans

marcus evans

January 27, 2016 16:23 ET

From Design Thinking to "Mindful Thinking"

Interview With Michael Perman, Dean of Innovation, Gap, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwired - January 27, 2016) - Institutionalizing a design thinking process can pose a challenge to many organizations looking to instill an enterprise-wide culture of innovation. Many companies are looking at ways to integrate the process from ideation to rapid prototyping to ensure a constant innovation pipeline filled with disruptive products and services. This requires a disruptive mentality -- which can be challenging for employees at first, as most people are afraid of failure. 

Michael Perman, Dean of Innovation at Gap, Inc., recently shared with marcus evans how Design Thinking can be used by innovation teams, as well as a little insight into Gap's Mindspark Initiative.

What, in your opinion, is the current state of design thinking, and where is it going? 

MP: Design Thinking is transforming into "Mindful Thinking," where neuroscience is impacting people's ability to perceive new realities. Traditional Design Thinking considers human behavior and attitudes. Mindful Thinking incorporates a deeper understanding of what people crave, what concerns them and what brings them comfort. We also need to appreciate the perspective of team members who are less familiar with innovation -- what is their understanding, what pre-occupies their minds, where might there be resistance to change or open-ness to fresh ideas?

How does sensory stimulation increase creativity?

MP: Sensory stimulation can activate neurotransmitters of dopamine, cortisol and oxytocin that are related to craving, concerns and comfort respectively. This places people in the right frame of mind to be most creatively productive. It's like "juicing the middle brain" where these neurotransmitters emerge. External thought leaders, the right brain food, music and energy level all make a difference. In short, we need to set the right climate and conditions for people to evolve ideas with patience and purpose -- despite the natural ambiguity of the process.

Internally, do you use certain tactics or procedures to spark employees' senses?

MP: Innovation and Mindful Thinking should be embedded in everything we do so that innovation does not feel like a separate orbit. First, devote attention to crafting the innovation task -- what problem are we trying to solve? Then, we prepare teams with an understanding of empathy and keen sense of observational tools. Then we use multiple innovation tools to help them evolve ideas. We're really trying to enable teams to see alternative realities. So, we share examples and cajole them to express what an alternative reality might mean to them.

What does the term 'multi-faceted co-creation' mean? How can it be used within innovation teams?

MP: Co-creation can happen among many facets of a creative ecosystem, including employees, customers, store managers, thought leaders and suppliers. It helps expand our spectrum of thinking. We believe this co-creation can happen in a concurrent manner -- all at once on several facets. The world of innovation is a giant hack-a-thon -- ideas can come from anywhere. 

Tell us a little about Gap's Mindspark Initiative. What can companies learn from this?

MP: Mindspark Initiative began in 2011 with the goals to 1) build our culture of creativity, 2) help people identify the right innovation tasks and 3) embed repeatable innovation methods. We accomplished these initial goals and are now moving on with an evolved approach, including more insights and more effective commercialization methods. We learned that the Mindspark name was an effective branding element at first, but sometimes had us focusing more on the front end of ideation than the back end of commercialization. Full organizational engagement is needed to make innovation happen systemically. 

Michael will be presenting on "Juicing the Middle Brain for Smarter Design Thinking" at the marcus evans 2 nd Annual Design Thinking Conference, February 24-25, 2016 at the Marines Memorial Club & Hotel in San Francisco, CA. For more information, take a look at the conference agenda or contact Tyler Kelch, Digital Marketing Manager, marcus evans at 312.894.6310 or

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