A while ago, I wrote a blog post about my philosophy that we should add one ‘lens’ to the existing innovation/design thinking model as we know it. Next to desirability, feasibility and viability, I opted to include ‘Identity‘ as additional lens to capture and position the brand as a vital part of the innovation strategy.

Since then, I got quite some questions about these lenses can be used in daily practice and how they can help in identifying the problems an organization might face. So, let’s look at typical organization problems and see how they relate to this model.

In doing so, we’ll see that this model can be very helpful to identify and assess the current state of a company.

The full model

As a quick refresh, the complete model is built up as follows:

I’m not going to cover the four lenses again. If you want to read more about it, please see my previous post.

So, starting from this fully ‘operative’ model, let’s see which ‘circle-mismatches’ cause problems:

1. The identity-seeking cowboy

This organization knows what people want, they have an idea how to sell it, but don’t know if it fits their identity or how to realize it. They might have appointed a new, visionary CEO with wild plans, done some great customer research, explored creating a content or digital platform or want to follow an immediate technological trend to capitalize on. However, they haven’t thought about their brand, identity and what technology and processes are required to realize such wild ideas.


2. The utopian believer

These guys have a great vision on what is desirable and actually know what customers are looking for. And, fortunately for them, they also know how it strengthens and complements their brand! This might stem from an innate belief in how to change the world or a very sound understanding on what experiences they can offer to fill a apparent customer need.

However, they have no idea how to execute it or make money off it. This could be due to a lack of expertise in technology, a failing marketing team, an unclear business plan, etc.


  • Google Glass
  • Magic Leap
  • The early Tesla (only when they faced production problems and were overpriced)
  • Chewing gum that fixes your teeth
  • The first solar panels (only before they became mainstream and affordable)
  • Most awesome inventions that need more time to ‘mature’

3. The introvert unicorn

This is a special one, even Google was one of them in the early days! They are the smart, tech driven people who have a great technological or product driven solution, that actually answers to a gaping customer need. Just like the early Google, they might use technology in a radical, innovative way, unlocking a great new experience (in Google’s case: showing internet results in real-time).

Yeah, that’s all cool, but there is a catch: they don’t know who they are, nor how to make money off their great new tech solution. The greatest technology in the world still needs a viable business model to stay float and moreover, would be a lot easier to exploit when it’s connected to a great brand.


  • Google in the early days
  • Facebook in the early days
  • Glasses that give sight to the blind
  • Gluten-free ice-cream
  • Most products that data scientists and AI-driven companies produce but haven’t marketed yet
  • Breakthrough university projects that lack branding and/or funding

4. The unsexy, successful builder

Oh yes, execution and building something is what they love the most! More than anything. And guess what? They’re good at and actually make money off it! Maybe they run a successful B2B tech solution that reduces costs or overhead, further sharpening their clients’ operational excellence. They have found a way to offer a robust, tech driven solution.

But, is it sexy? Have they established a clear vision, an identity, an idea of where they’re going? Hardly. They sell a working product. That’s what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. All good and well, but maybe it’s time to work on the sex appeal a little bit more!


  • Adyen in the early days (now it’s super sexy)
  • Second-best B2B solutions like Microsoft dynamics and SAP solutions
  • Motorola and Huawei smartphones (vs Apple)
  • Fanny packs
  • Everything your dad buys

5. The Pinky-and-the-Brain inventor

The crazy inventor. Self-convinced of what they are doing, possibly with a great technological solution and execution. They truly believe in themselves and are 100% that they’ll conquer the market one day. Pinky and the brain revisited.

Unfortunately, there is a total disconnect with the world around them. They are so inward driven that they lose the outside world out of focus. Who’s their customer? How are they going to make money? How exactly, are they going to conquer the world like Pinky and the Brain without people joining ‘the movement’?


  • Blackberry and RIM in general
  • Microsoft (in some cases – e.g. Windows 8)
  • Nokia
  • Kodak
  • Blockbuster
  • Pan Am
  • MySpace
  • The list goes on…

As you can see, companies face different challenges, depending on their maturity, vision, knowledge level, sense of commercialization, etc. Also, from the examples stated above you can clearly see that these problems can be temporary and just require more investment and attention, in the certain areas, to turn things around.

To be fully aware of the type of problem your organization faces, will help in understanding how to tackle it. Which parts are disconnect? What areas go well? What investments should we make to close the gaps? What’s the risk of continuing like we’re doing now?