Thrifty innovation and design thinking

What exactly is frugal innovation, and how does it differ from the design thinking approach? This question naturally arises when comparing definitions.


  1. Definition of design thinking
  2. Definition of frugal innovation
  3. criteria
  4. disturbance
  5. Project open innovation challenges
  6. IT examples
  7. Software Engineering – Retrospective Innovation – Backcasting
  8. Is the IT industry ready for the future?

1. Definition of Design Thinking

According to Wikipedia, design thinking is an approach that aims to solve problems and develop new ideas. The goal is to find solutions that are convincing from the user’s side on the one hand and market and product-oriented on the other. Unlike other innovation methods, design thinking is sometimes described not as a method or process, but as an approach based on the basic principles of team, space and process.

Image: HPI defines the design thinking process as an iterative work process in six phases. (Source: HPI)

There are several procedural models for design thinking processes. According to the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, the six steps in design thinking can be described as follows:

  • Understand: At best, the problem is initially defined with a team of several people. It is important to create a general understanding and bring everyone involved up to the same level. Specific questions can be, for example: What needs to be newly developed? For whom should the development be relevant? Which essential (current or future) framework conditions must be taken into account? What end state should the solution reach now?
  • Watch: Observing is about being able to have empathy with the customer. An analysis of the customer’s will is possible, for example, through an interview or role play. It is important to let the customer talk. Good listening is the most crucial part of the job, otherwise misunderstandings can arise. The customer’s wishes are always in the foreground.
  • Define point of view: The results of the first two steps are combined. Techniques such as personas or point-of-view are used to define the point of view both visually and in writing.
  • Find ideas: At the beginning of brainstorming, there is a general brainstorming where all ideas, no matter how crazy or utopian, come together. The results are structured and sorted by priority. Questions about the effectiveness, feasibility, or profitability of individual ideas are important. A look at the competition is not unusual either.
  • Prototype: A prototype is made for demonstration purposes. Perfection and completion are irrelevant. More importantly, the simpler, the better. Creativity gets free play. Techniques used for prototyping include wireframes, post-its, role-playing games, storyboards, or models. The prototype is tailored to the customer’s needs. It is important that he can imagine the solution to his problem from the prototype.
  • Test: Finally, the developed must be tested. Feedback plays an important role in this. Flexibility is also required. If an idea does not work, it can also be discarded. Customers are closely observed when testing the prototypes. Based on their response, further ideas and improvements are developed. Design thinkers are also open to new suggestions in this step. If a test reveals a defect, it is eliminated and the steps are repeated with the improved or new prototype. It is quite common for new products to have multiple test phases until the customer is satisfied and the product can be released.

UP Design Thinking 1846072435 image 2,700

2. Thrifty innovation

As far as Wikipedia. And what about frugal innovation?

The Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI in Rüschlikon / Zürich) has been dealing with this issue for a long time and organizes trend days.

“We need new approaches, new standards, what is an important innovation,” says GDI research director Karin Frick. The innovations of recent years have offered consumers more than they need. At the same time, however, they would have further increased CO2 emissions and the consumption of non-renewable resources. Quite different with frugal innovation – Karin Frick: “That way you can decouple innovation from resource consumption.”

However, with frugal innovations, companies can also respond better to customer needs, according to GDI CEO Lukas-Jezler. Because consumers have long been willing to adapt their behavior, for example to stop climate change. “Thrifty innovation helps companies meet a new demand for simple, robust, affordable and sustainable solutions.” Small, mobile ultrasonic devices, self-sufficient power systems or sharing platforms for shop fittings are just three examples of frugal innovations that make life easier and do not cost much.

Video: How does frugal innovation work, and why is it important? | 18th European Trend Day

Leave a Comment