HAMMER + CHISEL ALONE ≠ A BEAUTIFUL SCULPTURE …    Why innovation tools are not enough to succeed in innovation

One objective of innovation processes such as Outcome Driven Innovation (ODI), Voice of the Customer (VOC) or Lean Product Development (Lean PD) is to bring more reliability to a highly conceptual and ambiguous environment. These tools can also promote an environment that focuses exclusively on inductive and deductive logic. These styles of reasoning rely on rules and data to predict future outcomes. To balance this analytical approach to innovation an intuitive reasoning process is essential. Intuitive reasoning is known in some circles as abductive reasoning.

Abductive reasoning is the ability to guess at what could be true or to infer the best possible explanation of an observed phenomenon. It is often based on a few observations or data points. Roger Martin says that abductive reasoning operates in the realm of what might be – a realm beyond the reach of data from the past. Designers, who are professionally trained in art and creativity are drawn toward abductive logic. They can be talented observers who question
assumptions and are not afraid to guess what could be possibly true in the future.

Encouraging designers and other creative professionals to observe and experience the customer’s environment and provide space for intuitive responses can offer balance in environments that become increasingly dependent on quantitative methods. A mature innovation environment leverages deductive, inductive and abductive logic and encourages a healthy balance between analytical and intuitive thinking. If you want to learn more about these reasoning skills and how they can be balanced in business, read Martin’s book cited below.


Martin, R. (2009) The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage