Here are my three tried-and-true tactics:
1. Support what is likely to fail.
By this I don’t mean prioritize experiments and concepts that look like they might not sell; I mean consider technology and designs that might not seem to work for their intended purposes. This is the approach of James Dyson, the British engineer and vacuum entrepreneur, and the company that bears his name. While developing breakthrough products, such as the energy-saving hand-drying machine known as the Airblade, Dyson and his team take note of what ideas and prototypes aren’t achieving their goals and then find new uses for them.
Do the painfully obvious.
Often when innovation is the goal, there’s pressure to create an original product with an unusual name. But sometimes following a completely obvious path is an effective, albeit counterintuitive, way to achieve a design that is easy to use and ultimately popular. Take, for instance, Facebook’s design approach. On Facebook.com, which will likely soon have one billion global users, all of the company’s successful features — “Photos,” the “Like” button — have names that are less about clever and more about direct, descriptive utility.
Stay true to your design principles.
For decades, this philosophy has been pervasive at IBM. When Elliot Noyes was hired by Thomas Watson, Jr. in 1956, he (along with other designers like Charles and Ray Eames, Paul Rand, Isamu Noguchi, and Eero Saarinen) brought a holistic approach to designing everything from products and exhibits to architecture and graphics. Noyes He believed that nothing exists in isolation: “Everything goes with everything,” he taught. As a result, he thought not just about the product but the office (and even the building) in which it would be used. He also felt that great design was coupled with innovation, which he displayed in his design for the IBM Selectric typewriter. This tenet has guided the design of more recent IBM design consultants like Richard Sapper and his design for the IBM ThinkPad
Borrow failed ideas and shift its domain to win; use ideas too obvious to be taken by others, such as the Like button with Facebook; and thinking holistically.