Empathy, collaboration, human centered feature/functionality, storytelling, and culture are themes that drive innovation through design thinking. Core phases of design thinking: inspiration, ideation, implementation.
On inspiration of ideas: use the world as a source for new ideas; focus on research that is ethnographic, anthropological, and qualitative versus just quantitative; focus on extreme users and strive to understand their world from cognitive and emotional levels.
On ideation: build things to learn about your ideas; rapid and low cost prototyping and iteration is key; prototyping allows you, as the designer/innovator, to get a sense of what you’ve learned and refine your ideas over time with stakeholder feedback driving the process.
On implementation: use storytelling and construct a story around the ideas you have, the more likely that your idea will make it out of R&D; a story frames the idea.
Culture ties together inspiration, ideation, implementation. Culture is its own inspiration.
This is a fascinating lecture on innovation (57 min, well worth your time).