Management consultants vs. creative agencies

Management consulting firms want to move into design, and creative agencies want to move into management consulting. It seems that everyone wants to swim upstream to the boardroom and consult on innovation, customer experience and design thinking. The widely held theory is that there are good margins in this type of work (and let’s be honest, it’s sexy as hell). But what no one talks about is that the high-end strategy work is actually important because it leads onto the multi-million dollar implementation projects that secretly feed the biggest global agencies

Business Design
Management Consultants and Advertising Agencies are both fighting to move into Digital Innovation Consulting.

Over the years, I’ve worked in several of the grey areas between management consulting and design thinking so I’ve seen some of these macro industry changes first hand. The toughest part of my career has always been finding the chink in a client’s armour that lets us get close enough to the boardroom to ask the really tough questions. It almost doesn’t matter what the starting point is for a project if your goal is to get to the deeper issues inside a business. With all these shifting agency services, it’s hard for clients to know who to turn to these days for advice on big problems.

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Innovation Warehouse 4: Competitive Positioning

The Innovation Warehouse doesn’t compete directly with other co-working spaces or accelerators. The team believes strongly in making the pie bigger. But the market for startup support is becoming more competitive. Understanding the competitive playing field will make make it easier to differentiate the Innovation Warehouse from the competition.

London Accelerators
Entrepreneurs now have lots of options for co-working, accelerators and angel investment.

We find that the competitor mapping stage is vital for helping a client realise just how high the standard of competition can be. We use competitor mapping partially as a diagnostic tool and partially as a creative thinking tool. Continue reading Innovation Warehouse 4: Competitive Positioning

Five ways to get in the mood to write

As an entrepreneur, investor or advisor these days you need a professional looking blog to maintain your credibility. You need a place to showcase your thinking and participate in longer conversations than you can on Twitter or LinkedIn. Participating on a social networking site is like being a guest at someone else’s party. It’s nice, but you’re not the boss. You need a place to host your own party. You need a blog. But it’s tough to keep a blog going when you’re not in the mood to write.

Thought Leadership for bloggers
The Thought Leaders that have inspired me all have blogs and put their thinking out there for people to see.

A blog allows you to share your thinking and the lessons you’ve learned. Becoming a “thought leader” isn’t something that you can just put on a todo list and will magically happen. You need to do the hard work of thinking and then putting that thinking into words that others can benefit from. Over the years, I’ve been inspired by several writers that I admire and I’ve tried to learn from how they write.

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In search of the New New Zealand Man

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we curate our identities with brands. Menswear is a particularly interesting area of branding because so many men want to entirely avoid the issue of dressing, yet it conveys so much to others and to ourselves. The worst challenge for most modern men is Causal Fridays. As my dear friend Brian Richards says, men are left in limbo on Fridays, unsure of how to dress when deprived of both their jeans and their suit. Although personally, I’ve found that a smart velvet sports coat can cover a multitude of sins.

Murrary Crane Little Brother Social Media
Crane Brothers founder, Murray Crane at Notes Cafe in London.

There is a lot that we can learn from the designers and entrepreneurs who have managed to capture the zeitgeist of menswear while strongly conveying their own take on what is means to be a man. To build a menswear business requires an interesting blend of confidence and inquisitiveness.

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The business of merino wool

In 1994 a high country sheep farmer pushed a merino wool singlet across the table to a young Jeremy Moon in a cafe in Wellington. From a distance, it looked like any other woolen underlayer, but when you picked it up, it didn’t itch like normal wool. Jeremy immediately saw the potential of this under appreciated fabric. By getting the best out of the product, hustling hard and getting the best out of his various advisors, Jeremy has since managed to grow that singlet into a multi-million dollar lifestyle and sportswear brand.

Shawn merino sheep icebreaker design
What can you learn about word of mouth marketing from a sheep?

In 2005, I had just finished watching Jane Fulton Suri from Ideo at the Better by Design conference and a marketing manager from ANZ Bank handed me a corporate sponsored Icebreaker top. It was a small piece of conference swag that changed my life. I had heard of Icebreaker merino before, but I had dismissed it as just another itchy woollen jumper. How wrong was I?

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What is a strategist?

The word Strategist almost always applied as an adjective, as in Brand Strategist, Design Strategist, Social Media Strategist or Plumbing Strategist. I love strategy so I’ve enjoyed these types of jobs. Building great businesses may be a team sport. But someone has to go away after the brainstorm and turn the ideas into something real that can be communicated and executed. That person is a strategist.

Brand strategy, design strategy and innovation
Asking professional strategists to define what a strategist is seemed a bit circular, but it’s as good a place to start as any other.

Recently I’ve been thinking about what makes a Strategist different to an Account Manager, a Copywriter or a Planner. I wanted to focus in on the role of a person who is referred to as a Strategist, rather than the larger question of “What is strategy?”

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The difference between marketing and design

Marketing and design a very different mindsets and professions. I’m guessing that both your company’s marketing and your design probably sucks. But then again so does everyone else’s. It’s been driven to blandness by a combination of focus groups that couldn’t “get” your new idea, repeated changes from your management team, internal squabbles and old ideas left over from a time when advertising spend equalled market success. But maybe there is an even deeper problem…

What's the difference between design and marketing
The difference between marketing and design is the focus on the end-user as an individual.

The difference between marketing and design isn’t obvious. They’re different professional disciplines but the real difference is in the mindsets that they bring to approaching a problem.

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