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Hardcover | $32.95 Trade | £27.95 | 264 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 52 b&w illus., 11 tables | February 2017 | ISBN: 9780262035361
eBook | $22.95 Trade | January 2017 | ISBN: 9780262335812
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Designing Meaningful Products in a World Awash with Ideas


The standard text on innovation advises would-be innovators to conduct creative brainstorming sessions and seek input from outsiders—users or communities. This kind of innovating can be effective at improving products but not at capturing bigger opportunities in the marketplace. In this book Roberto Verganti offers a new approach—one that does not set out to solve existing problems but to find breakthrough meaningful experiences. There is no brainstorming—which produces too many ideas, unfiltered—but a vision, subject to criticism. It does not come from outsiders but from one person’s unique interpretation.

The alternate path to innovation mapped by Verganti aims to discover not how things work but why we need things. It gives customers something more meaningful—something they can love. Verganti describes the work of companies, including Nest Labs, Apple, Yankee Candle, and Philips Healthcare, that have created successful businesses by doing just this. Nest Labs, for example, didn’t create a more advanced programmable thermostat, because people don’t love to program their home appliances. Nest’s thermostat learns the habits of the household and bases its temperature settings accordingly.

Verganti discusses principles and practices, methods and implementation. The process begins with a vision and proceeds through developmental criticism, first from a sparring partner and then from a circle of radical thinkers, then from external experts and interpreters, and only then from users.

Innovation driven by meaning is the way to create value in our current world, where ideas are abundant but novel visions are rare. If something is meaningful for both the people who create it and the people who consume it, business value follows.

About the Author

Roberto Verganti is Professor of Leadership and Innovation at Politecnico di Milano. He is the author of Design-Driven Innovation, named by Business Week as one of the best design and innovation books of 2009.


“In his new book, we find Roberto Verganti at his most humanistic, placing the ‘person’ back at the center of attention. The individual is no longer simply the object of our design thinking approach, but becomes the very starting point of the innovation process, ideating from the inside out, in an act of love toward people and society. In a full-circle journey that moves from person to person, Roberto shares with us why, in modern society, we need ‘innovation by meaning’ more than ever; and why this notion makes such sense for business today. Overcrowded serves as a precious gift and a priceless reminder for anybody trying to create something new in this world.”
Mauro Porcini, Senior Vice President and Chief Design Officer, PepsiCo
Overcrowded challenges the conventional wisdom that innovation is all about problem-solving and that the key to success is creating more ideas to solve problems. In a world full of ideas, Verganti argues, advantage lies with those organizations that can craft innovative visions, rather than those that can find yet one more idea. This is a provocative book that will get you to think about innovation in an entirely new way.”
Gary P. Pisano, Harry E. Figgie Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
“There is a need to scale from the creation of new things to the creation of new thinking to spark purpose and intent. Overcrowded probes how to transform innovation, applying in-depth dialogue to unlock relevancy and meaning into the future.”
Eric Quint, Vice President and Chief Design Officer, 3M Company
“Radical innovation is not only making things in a new way. It’s also, and most of all, proposing a new vision of things. This is the message, strong and also necessary, that this book proposes. Verganti addresses organizations, but I believe his message goes beyond businesses to inspire everyone who is engaged in the social conversation about the future.”
Ezio Manzini, Honorary Professor, Politecnico di Milano, President of DESIS Network, author of Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation
“This book is a beautiful demonstration that the sense of innovation has changed. Product breakthrough won’t make the difference: the pioneers who imagine a world that didn't exist before are the ones to succeed. Roberto Verganti reveals a strategic key to business leadership: value creation is fundamentally about sharing a powerful purpose and creating experiences that inspire people inside and outside the company.”
Bernard Charlès, Vice Chairman and CEO, Dassault Systèmes