Sustainability is a must for the future of innovation

By Alexandra Pellas

29 April 2022

Find out about the emerging trend towards including sustainability in design and innovation frameworks.

If you look at any organisation's strategy today, nine times out of ten you will find objectives or values around innovation. The ever growing captivation with innovation makes it reasonable to believe that the frameworks and processes used would be fine tuned by now, effectively serving the needs of both organisations and society.

To some extent this is true - typically innovation drives better customer experience, cuts costs and unlocks new revenue streams - however, when it comes to innovating in a sustainable manner, these frameworks have a glaring blind spot.

The desirability, viability and feasibility (DVF) framework

The sweet spot for innovation is generally thought to be in the intersection of desirability, viability and feasibility. This DVF framework focuses on designing products that solve real user needs (desirability) in a way that is commercially profitable (viability) by leveraging technology and operations within an organisation's reach (feasibility).

The way this framework is used today, incorporates design thinking, lean startup, business modelling and agile ways of working. It has served a good purpose in helping organisations move away from the - often fatal - 'build it and they will come' mentality.

Three circles represent desirability, viability and feasibility. Where they all overlap is the innovation sweetspot.

What this framework completely lacks, however, is a sustainability lens. And when organisations use frameworks that don't address sustainability, they design products, services and ventures that lack environmental and social awareness.

Introducing the sustainability lens

Clearly, this lack of sustainability is in stark contrast to what we know the planet and society needs. Luckily, there's an emerging trend towards including sustainability in design and innovation frameworks, such as adding a fourth lens of sustainability to the DVF - creating the DVFS framework.

Four circles represent desirability, viability, feasibility and sustainability. Where they all overlap is the sustainable innovation sweetspot.

By including a sustainability lens, we force ourselves to take stock of macro trends and objectives such as net zero and reversal of biodiversity loss early on in the design and innovation process. This requires teams to consider the lifecycle cost and benefit of a proposition, and intentionally design in a circular, sustainable manner.

Why isn’t everyone using the DVFS framework?

Let's get one thing straight - this is difficult. Which is why it's still an emerging trend rather than mainstream methodology. The emergence of expert consultancies and services will help bring these methods into wider organisational use.

As conversations move from the 'why' and 'what' of sustainability to the 'how', tools like the DVFS framework are critical for designing the future we so acutely need. Regardless of if you start with user needs or the planet's needs, a framework like DVFS will help you ask the right questions and solve the right problems, in a more sustainable way.

What we're doing

We're well versed in digital innovation, having spun out ventures such as Lenus Health and recently being shortlisted for Digital Technology Awards for both innovation and climate championing. As part of our new strategy, we're pursuing sustainable innovation and will be launching several R&D projects this year. This is an exciting space to watch, and as always, we're very happy to chat about how you can bring sustainability to digital transformation and innovation alike.