Doblin helps leaders innovate.
We also write, think, talk and present. Take a look.

Brian Quinn on Threadless and the Business of T-shirts

Doblin associate partner Brian Quinn is quoted in this Chicago Business article on design world darling, Threadless. Explaining the real-world pressures of community-driven businesses, Brian provides an objective voice of reason looking at a company reportedly shifting 10,000 orders every day.

Years before “Chicago” and “startup scene” became frequently strung-together words, local apparel retailer Threadless embraced an entrepreneurial, creative ethos—and turned its scrappy vision into piles of cash.

Now, the 12-year-old company, which has seen sales of its independently designed T-shirts grow from $6.2 million in 2005 to somewhere north of $30 million this year, is moving beyond tees and expanding into large-scale design with corporate partners, including Gap Inc. and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.

Read the rest of the article, including Brian’s take on Threadless and the challenges that lie ahead as the company continues to expand.

Here’s the video of our own Erik Kiaer presenting at the Design Management Institute-organized conference, Balancing Extremes, held last month in Portland. Erik tells the history of navigation while making the case for bringing discipline to innovation efforts by reframing each and every challenge.

Erik Kiaer presented recently at the Design Management Institute-organized conference, “Balancing Extremes,” held in Portland. In his presentation, entitled “Powers of Ten: Building Transformational Capital,” he ran through the history of navigation, all in the name of his broader point: that innovation requires the reframing of a problem, as well as thoughtful, systemic disciplined efforts. View the video of his presentation.

Geoff Tuff at After Five @ 111: Learning About Total Innovation

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"We hear all the time from folks that their company has tried to pursue transformational innovation but either they got stuck thinking about great and lofty things that they can never bring to market or they gave up when they realized how risky the bets might be. It doesn’t have to be that way,” said Geoff Tuff at the After Five @ 111 event held in our Chicago office on June 27th. ‘We teach companies to develop transformational innovation regularly. But they also shouldn’t forget there is that vast “middle space” of adjacent innovations, where a lot of untapped opportunities exist which will feel a lot closer to home.”

Geoff, a partner at Monitor + Doblin and co-author of the recent Harvard Business Review feature on total innovation, Managing Your Innovation Portfolio, spoke to a gathering of about 30 professionals and leaders in business and design. Drawing on examples and experiences from real companies, the discussion centered on the challenges of innovating across different ambition levels—core, adjacent and transformational—and how best to apply this theory in practice.

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Geoff Tuff and Matt Locsin at the US-Russian Innovation Conference in Moscow

65 executives from government and industry met on June 7th, 2012 to discuss and debate the state of innovation in Russia. Organized by Monitor, the Innovation for Excellence conference was held in cooperation with the USA-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Innovation Working Group, which was launched in late March.

US Ambassador Mike McFaul was the keynote speaker at the event. His talk, “US/Russian Opportunities for Cooperation in Innovation,” discussed both the necessary market conditions and the paradoxes surrounding innovation. He commented on the “weird” mix of cooperation and competition necessary to enable a robust innovation culture. Later, executives from 3M, RIA Novosti, Ford Sollers, Janssen and Intel shared stories of managing innovation internally, covering topics from defining opportunity areas to building robust and defensible innovation capabilities. Each also shared details of what has helped them build their innovation capabilities in Russia and what the significant barriers to innovation have been—a major theme of the conference.

Meanwhile, our own Geoff Tuff and Matt Locsin were both on hand to discuss their work on Total Innovation (the subject of the lead feature in May’s Harvard Business Review) and Ford. Evgeny Orlovsky, also from Monitor, led a discussion on formal and informal ways to measure innovation success.

Ambassador McFaul later tweeted about the event:

@McFaul: Heard part of a fascinating talk on innovation by Geoff Tuff. Lessons for many. His article is in 5-12 issue of Harvard Business Review

@McFaul: Honored to speak today at the Monitor Group’s mtg on Innovation for Excellence. US and Russia have common interest in promoting innovation

 

Larry Keeley: The Mobile Frontier: A Guide For Designing Mobile Experiences

by Larry Keeley
published as the foreword in The Mobile Frontier by Rachel Hinman

So here’s a little fact that feels surprising: Today on our small blue planet, more people have access to cell phones than to working plumbing. Think about that. Primitive plumbing has been around for over a thousand years. Modern working plumbing has been around for at least 200 years longer than the fleeting few years since 1984 when Motorola first ripped the phone off the wall and allowed us to carry it around. Most people find plumbing useful. Apparently, many millions more find cellular phones indispensible. Whenever big parts of modern life—the Internet, video games, search engines, smartphones, iPads, social networking systems, digital wallet payment systems—are so useful that we can no longer imagine life without them, we act as if they will forever be the way they are now. This childlike instinct has its charms, but it is always wrong and particularly dangerous for designers. People who think deeply about the built world necessarily must view it as fungible, not fixed. It is the job of thoughtful designers to notice the petty annoyances that accumulate when we use even devices we love—to stand in the future and think of ways to make it more elegantly functional, less intrusive, more natural, far more compelling. In the best such cases, designers need to surprise us—by radically altering what we think is possible. To create the futures we cannot even yet imagine.

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Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff: A Simple Tool You Need to Manage Innovation

by Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff
published in HBR.org

Harvard Business Review’s blog excerpts the lead feature of its May issue, which happened to be an article by our own Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff. For those who haven’t yet wrapped their heads around the theory of Total Innovation, this is the bite-size introduction:

Management knows it and so does Wall Street: The year-to-year viability of a company depends on its ability to innovate. Yet many companies have not yet learned to manage innovation strategically. The companies we’ve found to have the strongest innovation track records do things differently: Rather than hoping that their future will emerge from a collection of ad hoc, stand-alone efforts that compete with one another for time, money, attention, and prestige, they manage for “total innovation.”

Read the rest of the article at HBR.org.

Doblin and Monitor Innovation partner Jeff Wordham gave this presentation at the recent Brandworks conference. It’s a smart take on how to think about — and organize for — launch, and includes principles for those thinking about the launch process (and those looking for ways to improve it.) The presentation includes persuasive examples from companies including Procter & Gamble, Hyundai and, yes, Apple. Kudos also goes to our own Angelo Frigo, who was also instrumental in putting it all together.

Innovation For Excellence: Building Innovation Capabilities

Innovation capabilities are a critical part of building a Total Innovation program—and we are here to help you understand more about the topic. On June 7th, we’re holding a one-day event in Moscow, in cooperation with the Bilateral Presidential Commission Innovation Working Group. The discussion will focus on innovation models and capability building—and we’ll share current “best in class” examples. Some amazing speakers will be there, including Sergey Alpatov, head of corporate marketing and public affairs for Russia at 3M and Vasily Gatov, deputy CEO and director of the Media Lab at news service, RIA Novosti. And, our own Geoff Tuff will be there to explain more about Total Innovation and share some of his thoughts on successfully building innovation capabilities, while Matt Locsin will discuss his work on reinvention at Ford. 

How To Manage The Three Levels of Innovation

The Globe and Mail picked up the Harvard Business Review feature written by Doblin’s own Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff. Admittedly, the author refers to three “types” of innovation, while we prefer to think of ten types and three levels, but it’s interesting to see the idea spreading. Here’s the piece:

Companies depend on innovation for their long-term existence. But in Harvard Business Review Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff, of the Massachusetts-based Monitor Group consulting firm, note that many corporate leaders are frustrated by their company’s innovation initiatives.

"Typically they are aware of a tremendous amount of innovation going on inside their enterprises but don’t feel they have a grasp on all the dispersed initiatives," they write. "The pursuit of the new feels haphazard and episodic, and they suspect that the returns on the company’s total innovation investment are too low."

The authors suggest these steps to better manage your information portfolio:

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