by Larry Keeley
published in Fortune
People never seem to notice, but strategies have fashions. Just as cars had fins for a while, or business folks try to dress like they just stepped off the set of Mad Men, or phones get big touch screens and icons to chase after Jony Ive’s iPhone design choices, there are also conventions in how we think about what firms should do to create value. These ways of thinking even have names so we can refer to them in shorthand: focus, cost leadership, differentiation, core competence leverage, supply chain integration, and the like.
This came to mind over the last few days in the midst of the Kodak (EK) death vigil. Most of the Kodak conversation has been standard issue Chicken Little: the sky is falling; the American dream is dead; another classic company has bitten the dust. We’re all off to hell in a handcart and there’s not a thing we can do about it. After all, Kodak was a symbol of better times, an era when American innovation and invention was seemingly ubiquitous. But while George Eastman’s goal — to make photography ”as convenient as the pencil” has been realized and even exceeded — Kodak was not the company that capitalized on this new ubiquity.
by Brian Quinn
published in Fast Company Design
As an innovation consultant, I found the recent Co.Design post “Do Innovation Consultants Kill Innovation?” troubling. Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen are right to castigate much of the innovation consulting industry, which is unfortunately full of firms that have rebranded themselves as innovation experts. Just peruse the website of any large consulting firm. Yesterday’s management, brand, or operations consultant is today’s innovation guru.
The problem these consultants run into is that most of them have no ability to actually create an innovation, and so they fall back on what they really know how to do: They analyze. They promote stage gate and pipeline management, statistically normalizing these by industry to tell you just how many innovation ideas your company needs at each point to succeed. Just don’t ask them to help you actually generate or improve any of the ideas themselves. So I’m happy to also cast a stone at the “custodians” and “wordslingers” described in their piece. But what I found really troubling is the article’s core thesis: That innovation is too “messy” to professionalize, and therefore enterprises should not invest in building internal innovation capabilities. That perspective is simply uninformed and needlessly reductive.
by Helen Walters
published in Core77
This year’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for corporate and institutional achievement was given to furniture design company, Knoll. The award is a timely vindication for the design-focused company, which continued to invest in design even as the economy tanked (Knoll stock price in the first quarter of 2009 sank to just over $5; shares are now over $20.)
Andrew Cogan has been CEO of the East Greenville, Pennsylvania-based company since 2001. I talked with him about the company’s ongoing commitment to innovation, and he described how Knoll has learned to evolve and adapt along with the market even as it continues to emphasize the importance of design to the bottom line An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Helen Walters: Can you describe the research process at Knoll?
Andrew Cogan: Florence Knoll started the Knoll Planning Unit in 1946. She was well-known for trying to understand the problem clients were trying to solve for, particularly as they were moving into the modern workplace. She spent time studying what was going on in an office, how people interface with each other and equipment and tools. And we continue to do that to this day. We’re very client-driven. We engage with a range of individual clients, looking at all the problems they’re solving and we think about how furniture can play a role in that. We also do research on a broader level, so we think about a topic such as office seating and spend hundreds of hours filming people in office chairs to see how they sit and move, and that gives insight into designing products. Then we also do third party trend research looking at trends in the workplace. We bring all those insights together into our product design process.
by Geoff Tuff
published in Harvard Business Review
Choosing which innovative ideas to pursue is often an exercise in guesswork. Using existing management tools in a new way, you can effectively gauge your innovation’s potential along two crucial dimensions: Can it withstand market pressures from competitors? And can it deliver more economic value to customers than alternatives? Here’s how it works.
First, take your idea’s ambient temperature. To find out if your idea is hot enough, consider how it is kindled. The Ten Types of Innovation were developed by Doblin on the basis of research with hundreds of companies. The more ways in which your idea is innovative, the better able it is to stand up to competitors’ offerings.
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by Bansi Nagji and Matt Locsin
published in Pharmaceutical Executive
Pharmaceutical executives understand that they must confront multi-layered demands. They have to explore new business models while attending to their existing, highly profitable commercial model. The important question is: How can they actively pursue both paths to create their own future?
Designers, who are trained in creative problem solving, excel at solving these kinds of complex, multi-dimensional challenges. While designers are respected for their vision and creativity, their disciplined approach to problem solving often yields solutions not discoverable through traditional business methods.
Though design has historically been applied to the development of new products, in recent years leading companies such as Intel, Toyota, GE, and P&G have implemented design in conjunction with traditional business thinking to create new offerings, customer experiences, and business models.
by Larry Keeley
published in Step Inside Design
Two summers ago I was biking in the Alps and got a call from a client CEO who expected me to drop everything and meet him in New York City the very next day. I said it was impossible, that it would take me two days to get there. He said he would wait, though in a tone of voice that clearly suggested he shouldn’t have to. Thinking it unwise to appear in biking duds, I bought some business-meeting clothes and flew to New York, got to his conference room, and he promptly walked in to tell me a tale.
Three days earlier this CEO, head of a $70 billion financial services firm with offices in 40 countries, had met with stock analysts. He was reporting on his achievements—which were numerous and impressive. Over the prior year or so he had cut $100 million of annual costs out of the firm; consolidated a bunch of bad data centers into two great ones; dumped several businesses that were not core to operations; improved customer response time; and a dozen other advances. He sort of expected the analysts would at least give him a standing ovation, or perhaps carry him out of the room on their shoulders.
by Jay Doblin
published in STA Design Journal
Editor’s Note: One of the last pieces he wrote before he died, Jay summed up his philosophy towards design and innovation. This article gives a wonderful impression of his wit and attitude and his forward-thinking approach to a discipline that has been widely adopted in the years since.
For years, most design problems could be solved by using a combination of design training, experience, and applied intuition. But as the world and its design problems have become more complex, traditional approaches have become less effective.
The notion of design theory may seem woolly-headed and irrelevant, but it has a place: theory can provide a structure for understanding problems and help generate methods for solving them. After many years of being confined to a few oddball schools, design methods are starting to find widespread practical application. Indeed, there are today many classes of design projects (big positioning studies, complex identity programs, massive electronic publishing systems, and systems of products produced in robotic factories among them) that would be irresponsible to attempt without using analytical methods.
Read the PDF of the full article.