This year I had coffee with fifty strategists working in innovation, design, public relations and advertising. My work this year focused on technology startups and research for my book on B2B social media, so the coffees were a great way for me to keep my eye on agency land. All that caffeine also helped me to spot four new services that I think clients will be asking their agencies for in 2014.
Clients will still want campaigns made, websites built and apps created but these services are becoming increasingly commoditised. Some agencies will focus on making things faster and cheaper but the best agencies will make money helping clients build their own capability.
I hate seeing good products that aren’t succeeding because they aren’t being noticed. I love working with people who have a great product but aren’t so great at communicating. I have done some of my best work with software developers, engineers, and scientists. These people are great at thinking (and building) but not so great at articulating their product to customers and investors. I’ve gradually become one of the go-to people in the London tech scene for how to market very complex technology products like big data, commercialisation of military technology, financial services and enterprise technology systems.
Murray Crane has built several successful menswear brands and the Crane Brothers business that bears his name is going from strength to strength. I caught up with Murray for a coffee in London during one of his research and buying trips to Milan, Paris, London and New York.
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.
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.
Using design thinking in your business is all about organisational culture. To change culture, you need to change conversations. To change conversations you need a conversation starter or maybe a “social object”.
When was the last time you talked with someone in your organisation about ethnography, deep empathy, future thinking, prototyping, end-user focus or niche marketing? A great way to start these sorts of conversations is to drop a cubicle grenade which prompts a story or a question. Try this:
Print one of the cartoons below on an A4 sheet and put it somewhere visitors to your workspace will see.
Talk to people about it, ask them what they think of it, ask them what they think of the idea behind it, tell them about why it matters to you, how you found it or who made it. – Tell them a story.
“Cube Grenade” is a new word for an old idea. An object or picture that prompts a meaningful conversation. Each of the cartoons below have the potential to prompt conversations about design thinking, stories about users, a narrative about your brand, insights and even empathy:
1. The Hughtrain:
3. It’s not what the software does:
4. Wolf vs. Sheep:
These cartoons are all by Hugh Macleod. Hugh is a seriously talented copywriter, artist, strategist and creative business person. I’m pretty excited about his “end-user cause” based approach to marketing Stormhoek Wines (and other clients like Microsoft). In future posts we’ll come back to Hugh’s work to look at how you can use the design thinking tools of empathy, research, prototyping and story-telling in more and more creative ways.
Hugh has recently invited readers to use twitter to suggest which of his cartoons are their picks for publication as fine art prints. You can tweet him your thoughts at @gapingvoid.
Of course, all the images above are absolutely copyright to Hugh MacLeod. You should check out his blog to find out more about how you can use, share and enjoy his work.
The big consulting firms (McKinsey, Booz Allen and BCG) would all love to get you to use more metrics to analyse innovation. Partly because it allows them to apply their existing left-brain analytical skills to your right-brain creative design challenges. Everyone has their own take on the role of metrics in design. Whatever side you take there is a lack of easy metrics that you can use to quickly explain to your CEO and CFO why design is important to your company’s growth.
Below are the top 5 metrics that you can pick up today to benchmark your business against your competitors. These are not the only metrics but they are the ones that you’ll be able to use to make a strong case for investing in design:
1. Vitality Index
Sales from products created in last 3 years / Total sales
2. Contribution margin
(Sales – Direct costs) / Total sales
3. Return on assets
Net profit before tax / Total assets
4. Brand value
Expected net annual cashflow from your branded products / Your target annual return on investment percentage
5. Return on intellectual property
Total sales / (Market capitalisation – Physical assets)
Warning, these are not measures that you will be using to manage your design process. Later on, we’ll cover metrics such as delivery in full on time as specified (DIFOTAS), Return on innovation investment (ROII), Time to market (TTM) and a whole host of activity measures.
Next week we’ll calculate the numbers for these metrics for a couple of example companies so that you can compare your own performance.
Powerpoint is a dangerous tool. Nevertheless, it’s useful to see how the top design and innovation firms describe what they do. Below are examples of how these design and innovation firms present to a general business audience. A couple of them were made for specific events so don’t get too distracted by the detail.
You can certainly take your time with them but the goal is to absorb an overall picture of what would work for yourself to use as a tool in describing your own work to your CEO, CFO, engineers and even the marketing team.
Each of these presentations is a different take on the core issue of how we describe end-user centred design, design processes and design thinking to a business audience. Which do you feel are the best and worst?
Design thinking was cool in the 1990s and early 2000s. There were a lot of conferences talking about how important a “design mindset” was to business problems. I was lucky enough to be close to the center of this explosion in creativity within business.
The UK Design Council ran a great conference in 2007. Even years later, the presentations still make powerful listening.
The Technology, Entertainment and Design conferences are an amazing collection of speakers, attendees and energy. What really makes them special for me is the arbitrary 18 minute format that forces every speaker into a high-energy summary of their best material.
These summaries make the TED talks ideal ways for you to expose people in your organisation to new ideas in an easy, punchy and quick way.
Picking a top five is a hard task but I’d suggest that you do make the time to watch a couple of these and send the links to your colleagues.
Sir Ken Robinson on why schools kill creativity:
Tim Brown on creativity and play:
Paul Bennett on design in the details:
William McDonough on cradle to cradle:
David Kelly on human centered design:
You can download mp3 versions or save these videos by visiting www.ted.com. I’ve found the best way to foward them on is to copy and paste the links to the page for each particular talk that you want to send to someone. Then they can choose the format to watch or download. For example: