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Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean Hardcover – August 3, 2009

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Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean + Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers (Columbia Business School Publishing) + Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Press; Pocket Mentor edition (August 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422124827
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422124826
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


One of the Design Primers for Businesspeople. Eschewing the received wisdom that the customer is always right, Politecnico di Milano professor Verganti focuses on game-changing designs that up-end expectations and create entirely new markets... Verganti also includes a useful section on how executives can attempt to instigate their own programs of radical innovation. One of the Best Innovation and Design Books of 2009. - BusinessWeek, December 16, 2009

How should a company devise new meanings and create the designs to embody them? Mr. Verganti suggests that companies form relationships with "interpreters"—individuals and organizations looking at settings similar to the one in which the company's products would be used. For Mr. Verganti, it might be said, if life imitates art, corporate life should imitate the making of art. - The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2009

If you follow Mr. Verganti’s advice, it may take a while, but your competition will be left wondering how it was you managed to redefine (and capture) their business”. - San Francisco Book Review, September 2009

Verganti … tells how design innovators add “unsolicited meaning” that consumers don’t even know they’re craving – and they create products people can’t live without. - BiZed, November-December 2009

One of the best books of the year is undoubtedly “Design-Driven Innovation”. In it Verganti attacks one of the central mysteries of innovation–how can a company successfully create a product that is a radical break from the past, and which shows the way to a new future? - John Caddell on The Customer Collective, August 12th 2009

Consumption-driven wealth and status are being replaced by identity, belonging, and a strong desire to contribute and do something “meaningful” rather than just acquire things. Roberto Verganti, in his new book, Design-Driven Innovation, argues that there is a “Third Way of Innovation,” driven by meaning, or to be more precise, by those cultural “interpreters” who have the ability to “make sense of things” and give existing things new meaning — and thus create new markets. - Design Mind, September 2009

From the Back Cover

Roberto Verganti’s fascinating analysis will stimulate all thoughtful business readers, students, and practitioners alike. This passionate and keenly observed book offers a valuable and provocative new view, and will be a fundamental reference for all those interested in design and determined to pursue innovation as a driving factor in their profession. -- Luca di Montezemolo, Chairman Ferrari S.p.A. and Fiat S.p.A.

Every manager interested in innovation should read this book. The perspectives it provides will make a crucial difference to managers in the twenty-first century. -- Marco Iansiti, David Sarnoff Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; coauthor of The Keystone Advantage

Verganti shares powerful insights into both the process and value of design-driven innovation, to the benefit of business leaders and, ultimately, the customers we serve. -- Brian C. Walker, President and CEO, Herman Miller Inc.

Can design save the world? No, but it can definitely help make it better, especially if integrated within the systems that already have direct impact on the economy and on policy making. Roberto Verganti belongs to a small group of enthusiastic experts and interpreters that have set out to explain the culture of design to the powerful but unaware, so that they can appreciate its full potential. -- Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art

More About the Author

(More information on

Roberto Verganti has pioneered research on how to create innovations that customers do not expect, but that they eventually love and make them passionate. In "Design-Driven Innovation" he has unveiled how leaders build an unbeatable and sustainable competitive advantage through innovations that do not come from the market but that create new markets. His research shows how executives and organizations can create a radically new vision, and take that vision to their customers. His cases and stories based on advanced applications, illustrates how to implement this strategy and process by leveraging the rich and multifaceted network of a firm outsiders - such as scientists, customers, suppliers, intermediaries, designers, artists.

Roberto is Professor of Management of Innovation at Politecnico di Milano, where he teaches in the School of Management and the School of Design, and where he directs MaDe In Lab, the laboratory for executive education on MAnagement of DEsign and INnovation. He has been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Business School twice and is visiting professor of Design Management at the Copenhagen Business School. Roberto serves on the Board of the EIASM - the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management, that affiliates more than 40'000 management scientists from all over the world and all major European business schools. He also serves in the Editorial Board of the Journal of Product Innovation Management, in the Advisory Board of the Design Management Institute of Boston and in the Advisory Board of His research on management of design and design clusters has been awarded the Compasso d'Oro (the most prestigious design award in Italy).

Roberto Verganti is also the founder and chairman of PROject Science (, a consulting institute dedicated to help companies achieve strategic innovation and collaborates as an expert in innovation and design with Keystone Strategy, the consulting firm founded by Marco Iansiti of the Harvard Business School. He has served as an advisor, coach and executive educator to senior managers at a wide variety of manufacturing and service firms including Ferrari, Volvo, Ducati, Whirlpool, Indesit Company, Xerox, Kodak, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, B&B Italia, Snaidero, Masco, B-Ticino, Barilla, Kraft, Nestle, Unilever, Rackitt-Benckiser, STMicroelectronics, Intuit, Microsoft, Ericsson, Solvay-Solexis, Corning, Bausch&Lomb, Pirelli, Astra-Zeneca, Pharmacia-Upjohn, Tetrapak, Sandvik-Coromant, Vodafone. He has also helped national and regional governments around the world to conceive design and innovation policies.

Roberto Verganti has issued more than 150 publications, that lay at the intersection between strategy, design and technology management, and investigate the challenges and processes of innovation in companies ranging from dominant players such as Microsoft and Vodafone to small and dynamic firms such as Alessi and Nintendo. Its publications, that have been acknowledged several international awards, include "Developing Products on Internet Time" published on Management Science, and "Innovating Through Design" and "Which Kind of Collaboration is Right for You", both published on the Harvard Business Review.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
The phone part is almost an afterthought!
John Caddell
If I understand Verganti's core thesis, it is that the process by which to do that must itself be design-driven.
Robert Morris
The book caught my attention initially because of its title.
Glenn P. Remoreras

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Does design drive innovation or does innovation drive design. The answer is "Yes." The success of each approach depends almost entirely on what Roberto Verganti characterizes as "radical research" and those who either conduct it or support those who do. In his introductory Letter to the Reader, Verganti explains that this is a book on management. More specifically, "it's about how to manage innovation that customers do not expect but eventually love. It shows how executives can realize an innovation strategy that leads to products and services that have a radical new meaning: those that convey a completely new reason for customers to buy them. Their meanings are so distinct from those that dominate the market that they might take people by surprise, but they are so inevitable that they convert people and make them passionate." Or what Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba describe as "customer evangelists."

Verganti calls this strategy "design-driven innovation" because design, in its etymological sense, means "making sense of things." Therefore, think of design-driven innovation as the R&D process for meanings. This book shows "how companies can manage this process to radically overturn dominant meanings in an industry before their competitors so and therefore rule the competitors." Throughout his lively narrative, Verganti responds to questions such as these:

1. How to innovate by making sense of things?

2. How to integrate design-driven innovation with an organization's strategy?

3. How to initiative and then sustain productive interplay between "technology-push" and design-driven innovation?

4. Why do some companies invest in design-driven innovation and others don't?
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Caddell on August 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
One of the best books of the year is undoubtedly "Design-Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean," by Roberto Verganti. In it Verganti, a favorite of this blog, attacks one of the central mysteries of innovation-how can a company successfully create a product that is a radical break from the past, and which shows the way to a new future?

We've seen these products at work. The mobile phone is one. The personal computer is another. We know that you can't survey users to determine what these products will look like or what they should do. So how to create them (apart from cloning Steve Jobs, who seems to have a knack for the radical innovation)?

Most companies punt on this question and are satisfied to extend existing products into adjacent spaces, fix latent customer pain points, etc. These are fine tactics, but with the ease of imitating product features and the speed with which information and intelligence flows, extension is a less and less stable platform for growth (arguably, it is an unhealthy and unproductive basis for business - in Umair Haque's term, "thin value").

Besides, as Verganti points out, radical changes in meaning yield longer product life cycles and more profitability.

So what's the key to achieving this sort of innovation? Verganti writes that it is changing the meaning inherent in the product. The Wii changed the meaning of gaming from "passive immersion in a virtual world for young adults" to "active physical entertainment for everyone" (p.65). iPod/iTunes changed the meaning of a digital music player from a storage medium to a seamless platform for finding, buying, organizing, transporting and listening to music.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Phillips VINE VOICE on August 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Reading "Design-Driven" Innovation, one can only link this book to books that call on us to reflect on the larger context in which we live. Comparing this book to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or other books that investigate the larger context beyond the products and services is simply the only way to think about this book.

The author, Roberto Verganti, has a passion for innovation that is "design driven". His argument is that too often innovators and authors talk about, and write about, innovations that are technology driven or customer centered, which are important, but not truly insightful or disruptive. He seeks innovation based on the vision of the designer, which creates new context and new possibilities for innovation - instead of asking a customer what they want, Verganti's adherents will create a completely new proposal for the customers. His argument is that people buy products and services to satisfy utilitarian needs, but also to satisfy emotional and psychological needs as well, and if we can align our innovations to those deeper needs we can create more meaning, and create more value. Additionally, while product features and attributes can be easily copied, meaning cannot be copied as easily or as quickly, offering the firm that innovates with design and with meaning a significant advantage.

I've written on this subject before, and believe his premise wholeheartedly. As most consumers in the US, Western Europe and other developed countries have countless solutions to solve everyday problems, we move up a Maslow's hierarchy of solutions. At the most basic is the utilitarian solution, and then as that need is met we seek solutions that touch other emotional, cultural or psychological needs.
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