Lately I've been enjoying a deep dive on the discipline of innovation. This has been fueled by reading excellent books such as Change by Design by Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO) and Ten Types of Innovation by Larry Keeley (founder of Doblin). It is fascinating to see such clarity and alignment between the two books in what innovation really is, yet to see such a wide breadth in how to innovate. These books describe methodologies developed by their respective consulting firms and it's clear that the people, locations, cultures and clients of these firms have directed and greatly influenced their process for delivering innovation with and for their clients.
There are many similarities; both utilize multi-disciplinary teams and rely heavily on designers and business strategists; both apply their practice across the operations and industry spectrum; both are highly successful firms with great clients and many awards to show for their work.
It seems to me that each methodology starts from a very different perspective and meets somewhere in the middle. For example, I see Ten Types as a classic top-down approach, because it has classified 10 different types of innovation and use tactics and game plans for how to deliver on these different types suited to the customer's particular industry. So fundamentally they are starting out with a high level perspective and then drilling down to work out the details.
IDEO on the other hand, with its Design Thinking methodology, is fundamentally a bottom-up approach. They typically begin with a specific problem that must be solved and then learn as much as they can through research and observation, developing empathy for users, ultimately leading to the insights which drives the new innovation. Often they end up solving much larger and important challenges than they originally intended.
So even though these two very different firms start at different places to solve these problems, I think they are both exceptionally sound, effective and probably quite similar in process and subjects matter. If one had a choice to hire either firm, I would venture to guess that the most important qualifier would come down to how the process fits to the client's corporate culture and of course, personal relationships.
There are many more innovation methodologies out there, but these are two of the most well known (at least to me). I look forward to learning more about other methodologies that deliver equally powerful and impactful results.