AI is an innovation game-changer

Design is central to innovation. It refers to the way that people create ideas and solve problems. So far, innovation has been something that human beings alone do. But more recently, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has slowly begun to be used in innovation, saving people from doing the work of innovation, and freeing up human ingenuity to focus on the bigger picture of why we innovate.

For centuries, human beings have designed new tools and better processes that have transformed the present into a better future (mostly). The task of doing innovation is work-intensive, meaning that there are limits to how much and how quickly people can do it. Most design is today done by individual people. It is not practical to design different products for each end-user. So, designers typically design only in the phase before a product is released. Then they wait for feedback from the users to see how the product might be improved. After they have received all of this feedback, they begin designing again. And on and on in an endless loop.

New research from the Stockholm School of Economics shows that this process of innovation has severe limitations, which can be overcome by incorporating AI into the user experience. Generally, AI can innovate better than people can. It improves scalability, broadens the scope, and enhances adaptation beyond what individual people are capable of. AI-infused products, called “problem-solving loops,” gather information from the users while being used and improve the products based on that information, all in a seamless cycle.

AI can empower better design, and also design can enable better AI. This symbiosis is changing innovation and changing business. Where it will lead remains to be seen.

Roberto Verganti
House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics

Luca Vendraminelli
University of Padova

Marco Iansiti
Harvard Business School

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