Book Review: Frame Innovation

Frame Innovation

Bear with cons for pros.

Finished the book Frame Innovation recently and despite its boring bits and pieces (with not-so-engaging writing), I’d still recommend it to anyone who has any interest (if at all) in how “design thinking” or “innovation” works.

The author is in the (padegogic?) field of Design Research, but he’s also a hands-on practitioner, so don’t be turned off by his somewhat pedagogic tone and sometimes over-the-hill notions and confusing terms (“problem situation”, “themes”, “futures” oh my).

The real insights are right there in the book:

  • The author defines many core concepts about design, such as design as a form of reasoning and the levels of design expertise and design thinking
  • He actually lays out a blueprint for thinking out-of-the-box (he calls it “frame creation model”).
  • The Frame Creation Model, in a nutshell, asks us to explore the problem space and its context before making any defining assumptions about the root causes of the problem.
  • In the early “exploring” phase, we need to zoom out – expend the problem space, question the the origial intention, attack the context, and come up with as many themes (which is basically how we describe the problem space from a certain perspective) as possible
  • In the later “converging” phase, we need to zoom in – consolidate the possibilities and converge to the final solution
  • That zoom-out-and-then-zoom-in implies that the assumptions are only made midway through, not early on – that’s critical to approach a problem in a creative way
  • Too many times we make certain assumptions early on and that automatically limits the approaches we may take on a problem, and therefore limits the possibilities of solving the problem in an organic and innovative way.
  • Throughout the book there many great case studies that really make me think how we should approach any problem

So in overall: bear with the cons to get the pros of the book, it’s worth it.

On a side note, the practices described in the book are somewhat similar to ones described in Service Design, which is actually at a lower level of abstraction.

The Frame Creation Model may be one of the few attempts that actually explain how creative exploration and innovation really happen. And, BTW, you get to see why most of all those “best-selling” books on innovation are really just pseudo-scientific, self-prophetic, and intangible crap.


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