If you develop a new offering, will customers buy it? That's the perennial challenge for today's companies, and it's becoming more acute as pressures to innovate "first and fast" intensify.

Product launch cycles are becoming mercilessly short, and companies are continually racing to commercialize innovations ahead of the next competitor. If they can truly break new ground, so much the better.

Indeed, according to research published by the Harvard Business Review, the highest long-term, cumulative returns on innovation investments come from disruptive products.

But in the effort to be disruptive and win the innovation race, organizations often fail to gather the advance insights that separate their launches from the estimated 90% that fail. Those debacles—such as the infamous introduction of New Coke—are often preventable with the right discovery and development process.

The Answer: Marrying 'Design Thinking' and 'Open Innovation'

That's the premise behind a strategy called Open Design Thinking, which is intended to improve the success rate of product launches by combining two proven disciplines.

Many marketers are already familiar with the first process—Design Thinking—a human-centered, iterative, intentional, and prototype-driven approach to inventing new products. The goal is to understand what customers need by walking in their shoes, generate creative ideas from those learnings, and eventually turn the most promising concepts into products—which are repeatedly tested with buyers and refined before they hit the national stage.

Design Thinking is an empathetic, customer-driven approach exemplified by OXO, a leading manufacturer of kitchen utensils. Noticing that his wife Betsy, who had arthritis, was having difficulty gripping standard kitchen tools, OXO founder Sam Farber saw an opportunity to create more "comfortable" products, and he built a successful business around them.

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image of Andy Zynga

Andy Zynga, PhD, is CEO of NineSigma, a global innovation company that helped pioneer the practice of open innovation. Contact him at Zynga@ninesigma.com.

Twitter: @NineSigmaCEO

LinkedIn: A. M. (Andy) Zynga