This research provides a study of practices of innovative ideation. The literature highlights the need for more radical innovation as drivers for customer delight, and more innovative approaches to understanding customers. However, both the theory and application, including the resultant practise describe and present a product-centred approach to innovation as best practise. Using an Action Research methodology within the Advanced Product Group of a well known automotive manufacturer; the technical centre of another well known automotive manufacturer and the industrial design department of a university, this exploratory and descriptive study contributes to the understanding and practise of more innovative approaches to customer driven ideation. Literature suggests that integrating customer understanding into the earliest stages of new product development was critical both to its effectiveness and its ability to innovate. This study, therefore aimed to investigate innovative ideation by considering two key factors: 1. Its integration into the early stages of the product design and development process 2. Industrial design practises of customer understanding The research concluded on Industrial Design practise as well as the evolving practise of Innovative Ideation. Industrial designers' participate in ideation processes and practices in a unique way, not fully represented or accounted for in existing prescriptions for integrating customer understanding. They require specific types of information, usually general in nature and presented visually. Information integrated into these practises is often substantiated with case study and example-based evidence or data. The potential to innovate is regarded as the single most significant motivator for designers to participate in customer understanding. Paradoxically, designers' processes use and rely upon 'product' as a focus for innovation and communication of design integrity. A designer's key role and most significant contribution, is in creative and strategic thinking: (new ideas: IDEATION): that is the integration of the actions of idea generation and the formulation of creative design responses; and the proposal of new concepts, which place a strong emphasis on increasing the desirability of 'product experiences' or new behaviours. This orientation of design considerations and the questions associated with them are particularly unique to industrial design disciplines. They are systems based and holistic in their approach in order to prioritise customer needs within the design brief. An important early aspect is the identification of customer attitudes and activities, which broadens the design considerations. This study relates these findings to an existing Empathic Design methodology and Kano's model of delight (1995), as identified best practice drivers for ideation. This study also concludes that 'Empathic Design' (it's theory, descriptions, definitions and practise) and product design as a discipline (its profile, uses and practise) need to evolve in order to embrace customer understanding as a pathway to innovation
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