Design Thinking to Transform your Buisness

As members of the Ingenuity network will know, one of our key aims is to make University of Nottingham expertise accessible to the local business community. Our latest breakfast event welcomed Dr George Rice, Head of Commercialisation here at the University, to explore ‘Design Thinking to Transform your Business’.

Following a degree in Processing Engineering, George started his career in a nuclear waste treatment role before becoming a MEDICI Fellow, which led to his work in technology transfer and commercialisation. George explained how universities turn their ideas and inventions into commercial activities through licensing their technologies and setting up spin-out companies. ‘Design’ is what forms the link between creativity (coming up with new ideas/IP) and innovation (the successful exploitation of ideas) and that’s why design thinking is so important in technology transfer. However, it’s also an approach that can be adopted by any company, whether product or service led.


George outlined two main processes in design thinking – ideation and prototyping. Ideation is the process of refining the problem and examining the different solutions available. A successful approach might be to run a half day ideation session ensuring that all the right people are involved e.g. engineers, end users and sellers, plus a facilitator to collate ideas and also provide the energy (and snacks!). The technology should be demonstrated at the start of the session to give everyone the same understanding from the off.

Then, using a market exploration dartboard to map potential ideas/developments, everyone writes down their ideas on post it notes and places onto the dart board. After discussing feasibility and shortlisting ideas, the group would vote on their favourite ideas. There would then be further discussion on how much design work the idea would need along with potential investment return. The ideas are then ranked on value and speed before being taken to the next step of the process. 

Next up, prototyping. George emphasised that prototyping should be early, ugly and often. It doesn’t have to be a fully functional flashy prototype, it could be as simple as a line drawing or sketch that showcases the product enough without wasting resources, which makes the prototype modifiable on the spot too. A key factor in getting the most out of this research process is to figure out what you need to test and focusing on those answers, along with having the prototype in the right environment to be able to test it in real life situations. A little data goes along way but all feedback on any type of prototype should be recorded – if it wasn’t recorded it didn’t happen. 

Delegates praised the session for providing a “pause for thought” and “transferable ideas which can be taken back into the workplace”.

Our next breakfast event will take place on 25th September on “How do we solve the Productivity Problem?” Don’t miss out, sign up here!

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