Business design is a new way of thinking about companies as interconnected systems worthy of innovation, creativity and the application of design to the systems themselves. Business design applies the mindsets of a designer to the task of creating the overall strategy and business model.
Business design is a useful way of looking creatively at a company in the context of its customers, suppliers and competitors. Every company needs to combine the disciplines of technology, design and business together to deliver value for a customer. But too often, only the crafts of technology and design are seen as real sources of new innovation (with the business function itself just doing the marketing or arranging the finances). In reality, the business-side of innovation can be incredibly important.
Having coffee with fifty people is a great way to get input for a new project, startup or career move. I first wrote about the fifty coffees idea in Inc Magazine and it was based on an insight from Silicon Valley investor Mark Suster. Personally, I’m a bit shy so meeting fifty new strangers was a great project for me.
Last year, I wanted to immerse myself in London’s design and innovation scene so I had coffee with fifty people working in the industry. I learned a lot from their advice and even more from the questions that they asked me. I asked them about the future of innovation, design thinking and how different companies are adapting to social media. It was also a good excuse to check out some new cafes for my coffee blog the Coffee Hunter.
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
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.
Nick Bowmast is a design researcher from New Zealand. He worked in London for over a decade and now splits his time between NZ and the UK. I wasn’t quite sure what a “design researcher” does, so Nick pointed me to a blog post about his tools of the trade. It’s a fun way to understand how a design researcher spends their time and the type of work that Nick does with clients.
I like understanding someone’s craft by looking at their tools. I’ve always found that reading about a professional’s equipment is a surprisingly good way to understand what they do. Most strategists are voyeurs of human behaviour. Maybe like a design researcher in a suit…
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.
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.