I have been away from New Zealand for over five years. Life in New York and London moves pretty fast, so coming home to little old New Zealand has been quite a shock to the system. But the country is waking up to a more global worldview and embracing design and creativity. It turns out that things in paradise have changed a lot recently. I thought I’d take a moment to share some of the biggest changes that have occurred in my absence.
Noma is a world-famous restaurant in Copenhagen that is leading charge in creativity and innovation. The experience of eating at Noma really blew my mind. Every detail has been considered. The meal leads you on a journey throughout the Scandanavian wilderness. The idea is to use ‘found’ food that had been foraged from nature. There is a child-like wonder to the Noma restaurant that draws you into the story. The passion of the chefs is infectious and they really are on a mission to change the way that we look at creativity and food. Noma was awarded the best restaurant in the world for a couple of years running and there is a lot that we can learn from them about creativity, innovation and company culture.
We made a special trip to Copenhagen because a friend had managed to refresh the booking page on their website repeatedly until she got a table. A little like buying tickets to an almost sold-out concert. Just before leaving for Copenhagen, a client in the restaurant trade reminded me that that Autumn in Denmark might be a cold time to be foraging and that perhaps the meal would be a bit light. Luckily, the team at Noma are masters at improvising and the Autumn seasonal meal was a masterpiece.
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.
The traditional ways for a brand to communicate range between television, print campaigns, advertising and PR. All of these traditional communication efforts use design, language and flow through the normal communication channels.
Social media demands a totally different approach.
In essence, the traditional approaches to communication were one-way. A brand or business created content, infused it with key messages and expressed it through channels out to the customers. The new media channels are much more about two-way conversation.
Listening before talking
The way to encourage a brand to take the step from a one-way communication thinking into two-way communication is to really get the business and the brand to start listening. In fact, my preference would be for a brand to really become obsessed with listening so that it infused throughout the culture of the whole business before embarking on any new media.
I really want to see the senior management team, marketing team, communications, and PR all involved in listening to customers. Particularly, the new product development team, design and engineering all need to be really listening to users in:
informal ways through focus groups and end user observations
formal ways such as user surveys, feedback forms, and warranty claim analysis.
I’ve found that once you get a business listening to their customers (and to their end users) then starting to have a two-way conversation is much easier than asking a brand to go straight from one-way communication into two-way communication.
What can you learn from Apple, if you’re not Apple
Apple is often used as a case study for brand consistency, design identity and technological innovation and even for end-user centred innovation. The dirty secret of Apple’s brand is that they really don’t listen that well. Maybe they don’t have to (certainly no one can doubt their success), but as a model for other companies to learn from I would actually be looking much more at a company like Harley Davidson in terms of their engagement with their customers.
Apple has website feedback forms, they have user forums and they have the ability to provide feedback on their software built into the software itself. All of these are useful but they don’t get used, at least as far as we can tell, to drive new product development in the same way as a company like Harley Davidson which creates new products genuinely based on customer feedback and customer ideas does.
Apple regularly takes an intuitive leap beyond customer feedback, which is great if you have Apple’s design team. But if you don’t, then I’d suggest you start by listening to your customers more closely.
If you are going to be listening to your users, and observing their behavior to derive insights then you will need a new set of tools that go beyond normal market research. It’s likely that you’re going to need to adjust the culture of the whole organisation to be more customer centered. This may take some time but is almost always worth it.
Tools to listen
This really highlights the overlap between social media and new product development based on end-user centred design. A practical focus for your company could be to run through 3 steps when you start getting into social media:
The first step is to diagnose exactly where you are up to across the organisation in terms of your online presence.
The second step is to identify the key goals that you want to achieve using social media. Think in terms of consumer engagement, increased sales and/or increased customer retention.
And the third thing to do is to set priorities in terms of online presences and particular websites or web tools that are going to use.
Getting these 3 things sorted is going to help start off your brand down the track of building a conversation rather than a cacophony where only one side is talking.
Note: This post was dictated into my iPhone while having a coffee at one of the hidden cafes in Melbourne’s cobbled side-streets. It was transcribed in the UK by a virtual assistant from elance and the photo was taken by a local Melbourne DJ.
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…
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.
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.
Your business case for investing in design will include both qualitative and quantitative evidence. This blog focuses on the economics of innovation so we won’t spend to much time on qualitative arguments like case studies, war stories and theoretical arguments. Instead, the focus is on ways that you can make a compelling financial and economic business case for design.
In 2007 by Brian Gillespie (who had just attended the DMI Conference “Improving and Measuring Design’s Role in Business Performance“) cried out for more case studies and more qualitative examples. He wanted to see more effort put into articulating the role of design in:
Influence on the purchasing decisions
Enabling strategy (new markets)
Enabling product and service innovation
Time to market/process improvement
Developing communities of customers
Good design is good for all: triple bottom line accounting for social, environmental, and business impact
Since 2007 a lot of evidence has emerged on each of these and we’ll be reviewing them in turn over the next couple of weeks and including a few new areas where design can add value. Paste any of your favorite examples of end user centred design and design thinking adding practical economic value in the comments below and we’ll include them as we go.
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:
Everyone had a dream as a child. A fireman, a police officer, a pilot or a doctor. Every so often you meet someone who says their dream was to be a stockbroker or company executive. It throws you off balance because it’s so seemingly mundane, but it’s usually true. Some people just knew what they wanted to do from a young age and make it happen.
My dream was always to be a management consultant. Mainly because I always noticed bad customer experiences and believed we can do better. My first adult book (at age 11) was Iacocca. It was a ridiculously nerdy book for a kid to read but I was inspired by the journey of turning around a distressed business. Reading it subtly changed the course of my life.