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Archive for July, 2007


Remember RBF’s words (see image above). They will come into play tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, in part 2 of The Era of Design Thinking, I will tell you a little story about a company that had in its hands the kind of industry-shattering opportunity that could have restored its market leadership position, boosted its profits and market share, and played a part in reducing water consumption by tens of millions of gallons of drinkable water in the US alone (not to mention energy savings)… but opted instead to shelf the idea and the product because it was easier to stick to “business as usual”.

It is a story of wasted potential, appallingly poor leadership, and corporate dysfunction that should serve as a cautionary tale to us all.

And yes, the whole thing makes me a bit angry.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read Part 1, check it out. In the world of posts, it is the Yin to tomorrow’s Yang.

Have a great Thursday. ;)

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Brilliant Business Week article by Bruce Nussbaum about Design Thinking and Business Leadership (via kottke.com, by way of orangeyeti.com). Here are some of my favorite parts:

“I now believe that CEOs and managers must know Design Thinking to do their jobs. CEOs must be designers and use their methodologies to actually run companies. Let me be even more precise. Design Thinking is the new Management Methodology. There are a growing number of insightful folks with great blogs who are saying the same thing and I’ll be linking to them and having a deep conversation with them in the future.”

“Let’s face it, our business models are melting down around us, our personal careers are morphing—or disappearing– and there is less certainty about tomorrow than at any other time in our lives. Every industry, every company and every one of us is swept up in this veritable flood of change. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? I used to be The Voice of Authority at Business Week, the editorial page editor. Now I’m the curator-in-chief, coaching a brilliant team of people in creating a new online innovation site called Innovation & Design and a new magazine called Inside Innovation. That’s very far from writing editorials.”

“In the US, CEOs and top managers hate the word “design.” Just believe me. No matter what they tell you, they believe that “design” only has something to do with curtains, wallpaper and maybe their suits. These guys, and they’re still mostly guys, prefer the term “innovation” because it has a masculine, military, engineering, tone to it. Think Six Sigma and you want to salute, right? I’ve tried and tried to explain that design goes way beyond aesthetics. It can have process, metrics all the good hard stuff managers love. But no, I can’t budge this bunch. So I have given up. Innovation, design, technology—I just call it all a banana. Peel that banana back and you find great design. Yummy design. . The kind of design that can change business culture and all of our civil society as well.”

“Innovation is no longer just about new technology per se. It is about new models of organization. Design is no longer just about form anymore but is a method of thinking that can let you to see around corners. And the high tech breakthroughs that do count today are not about speed and performance but about collaboration, conversation and co-creation.”

“Innovation, design, and technology are all flowing into one another to form a single river of roaring change radically altering our culture, and especially business culture.”

“Designers are the sherpas of culture, the guides to community, the empathizers of the odd and foreign. Globalization and the spread of the market into each and every traditional village at the bottom of the pyramid opens up ancient communities that we now need to understand. Social networking creates entirely new communities, each with a distinctive new culture, that we need to understand as well. The empathetic tools of design can bring business people, educators, urban planners, hospital managers, transportation developers—everyone– into these communities to understand their values and rules, their needs and wants.”

“That’s Design As Margaret Mead, Design As Anthropology. Design is so popular today mostly because business sees design as connecting it to the consumer populace in a deep, fundamental and honest way. An honest way. If you are in the myth-making business, you don’t need design. You need a great ad agency. But if you are in the authenticity and integrity business then you have to think design. If you are in the co-creation business today—and you’d better be in this age of social networking—then you have to think of design. Indeed, your brand is increasingly shaped and defined by network communities, not your ad agency. Brand manager? Forget about it. Brand curator maybe.”

“Then there is Design as Peter Drucker or Design as Management Methodology. Design is popular today also because Design Thinking—the methodology of design taken out of the small industrial design context and applied to business and social process—is spreading fast. Hate me if you will, but I am a believer in Design Thinking. In the world of business, there is no value proposition left for most companies in controlling costs or even quality. All that outsourcing has leveled this playing field. Cost and quality are commoditized today, merely the price of entry to the competitive game. Design and design thinking—or innovation if you like–are the fresh, new variables that can bring advantage and fat profit margins to global corporations. In today’s global marketplace, being able to understand the consumer, prototype possible new products, services and experiences, quickly filter the good, the bad and the ugly and deliver them to people who want them—well, that is an attractive management methodology. Beats the heck out of squeezing yet one more penny out of your Chinese supply-chain, doesn’t it?

“Let me emphasize this. I think managers have to BECOME designers, not just hire them. I think CEOs have to embrace design thinking, not just hire someone who gets it. I think many business schools have to merge with design schools, not just play poke and tickle with them.”

“There are two great barriers to innovation and design in the world today. Ignorant CEOs and ignorant designers. Both groups are well-intentioned and well-dressed—in their own ways—but both can be pretty dangerous characters.”

“Design should not give up its special ability to visualize ideas and give form to options. Design should extend its brief to embrace a more abstract and formalized expression of how it translates empathy to creativity and then to form and experience. Be broad, not narrow. Global, not parochial. Do not deny the powerful problem-solving abilities of design to the cultures of business and society.”

If you tend to generally agree with the types of posts and articles that appear regularly on the brandbuilder blog, you must read this article. Check out the entire piece here. Then bookmark it.

We’ll be back in a couple of days with a real-life example of a company here in the US that had a chance to do something extraordinary, but inexplicably turned its back on Design Thinking, and opted instead to stick its head in the sand and hold on to its tired ways. It’s a very sad story, but one from which we can all hopefully learn a thing or two.

Have a great 4th of July, everyone.

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