Luke Wroblewski at Functioning Form recounts a talk by Tim Brown, CEO at IDEO, about how design thinking drives business innovation.
Some points of interest: Brown describes "design thinking" as a human-centered approach to solving business and technical problems. It can be used to "drive strategy.... no one knows how to act on strategy from Powerpoint or Excel."
To make the human-centered problem solving link explicit, Brown spends some time on inspiration. Inspired people, like good scientists and artists, have keen observational powers and are open to surprise. In short, they look. But more than most, they see. They are also empathetic, able to feel something toward the object of their thoughts.
Brown also touches on ideation, implementation and managing innovation. The latter should be managed as a portfolio of innovative states - revolutionary, evolutionary and incremental.
I'm not sure if this is Luke's summary of Brown's talk - or Brown himself - but the last paragraph in the post is descriptive.
Design thinking is a human centered approach to problem solving. Its a process built from People (inspiration gained by looking & listening to them), Prototyping (ideating quickly to make things real), and Stories (getting things implemented by selling compelling narratives not "concepts").
Check out the whole post for yourself. I find these kinds of attempts to get inside innovation, to find the physics, if you will, of design thinking, of inspiration, fascinating.