I ran into this this Monday evening while quickly getting caught up on my Core 77 browsing. The simple yet grave question posed in the title of Robert Brunner, Stewart Emery and Russ Hall’s latest book is “Do You Matter?”

Well… I hope so. But do I? If you’re an entrepreneur, a CEO, a politician, an artist or even a student, the question is well worth asking.

Of course, the immediate follow-up question to whatever answer pops into your head is why? Why do you matter? What makes you matter? Beyond wishful thinking and your mother’s unconditional love, what what are the things that make you or your company matter… and to whom? If indeed you do matter because X, Y and Z, whom do you matter to? Your customers? The press? Your employees? Your industry or vertical?

Would you truly be missed if you were gone tomorrow? Would the world be somehow… less if you were to close up shop, pack up and move to a deserted island somewhere in Micronesia? (Hey, it’s a thought.)

As usual, I am getting waaaay off track. The book’s objective isn’t to trigger professional existentialist navel gazing. It is simply to point out that great design is vital to a business’ success. This can be product design, sure, but it can also be process design, or customer experience design, or any manner of design. Design is everywhere – sometimes in the most mundane of places, where you might not think to look for it. In other words, design is not the principality of trendily bespeckled German engineers, enigmatic Japanese visionaries or exuberant French couturiers. Design – and more specifically design thinking – now permeates every facet of our every day life, and every day work. There is absolutely no doubt about it: Unless you’re Costco, the most successful companies today are those whose leaders and troops understand the value of design – from the products and services they sell to the manner in which they take these products and services to market. (And I would venture to say that everything that makes Costco Costco is much more by design than by accident.)

Design is the great differentiator between company A and company B. Design might make company A seem more trustworthy or solid or appealing in some way. Design is the reason its products work better or look better or even just fit better. Design is the inspired forethought that guides execution to its successful finish. Without design, there is no beginning, no middle and no end. Design is simply the guiding force behind all things, in this case products and services. The better the design, the more inspired and thorough the thinking behind the design, the more attractive a company will be. Pure and simple. This is true of all industries, all verticals, all types of businesses, from MacDonald’s to Apple, from Starbucks to BMW, and from Whole Foods to Yves St. Laurent.

Two things that struck me from the Core 77 piece are these quotes / chapter headers, right from the book itself. The first:

“Your products and services are talking to people.”

Simple and common sense, sure… but take ten seconds to digest it. Your products and services are talking to people. Question: What are your products and services saying when they are talking? What are they saying about you? Seriously. Ask yourself the question. Write down the answers. You might be surprised (in a good way… and perhaps in a not-so-good way).

The second:

“In design, risk is not a four letter word. You have to take chances to get anywhere.”

Not just in design, my friends. In business. In love. In sport. In life. Qui ne risque rien, n’a rien. (He who risks nothing wins nothing.) Fortune favors the bold. Playing it safe works in some situations, but overall, in order to matter, you have to stand for something. That means making a stand. It means taking chances. It means alienating some of your audience in order to cement your importance with the rest of it, sometimes. It means making design decisions that make sense to you, to your purpose, and to your audience’s needs and wants. It means being true to your purpose, even if that means making painful sacrifices. It takes guts to take chances with your business. It takes guts to decide to be a leader.

Give that some thought sometime today.

Check out the full Core 77 piece here. You can even order a copy of the book here. Also check out the other Core 77 stuff here. (Warning: It’s easy to lose yourself in their site for hours on end. Loads of great content there.)

Have a great Tuesday, everyone. šŸ™‚

Photo by Matt Armendariz