A value proposition is the place where your company’s product intersects with your customer’s desires. It’s the magic fit between what you make and why people buy it. Your value proposition is the crunch point between business strategy and brand strategy.
When you’re starting a new project, or a new company, you need practical tools to help you focus on executing things faster and better. Good strategy tools exist only to help you focus on getting the right things done. The value proposition canvas is a fairly simple tool that quickly gets you to the ‘minimum viable clarity’ required to start building and testing a product or service.
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…
Large meetings seem productive, but if you really want to get things done, you need to have a one-on-one conversation.
In our strategy consulting we are finding that workshops and brainstorming sessions can only get you so far. I’ve been noticing that to get to the heart of something, you need to have a one-on-one conversation with the key players. A frank and fearless conversation with the CEO can be the best way to quickly understand what’s really going on with a project.
I’m calling these fireside chats “strategic conversations” and we’re using them more and more as a formal part of our digital brand consultancy. It seems like a small thing, but early on in a project it can make a real difference to sit down and have a truly honest conversation. Talking one-on-one can make all the difference.
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.
Creativity in business matters more than ever before. Luckily, there is a new technique called gamestorming that uses games to encourage creativity in business. The old approaches like workshops, brainstorms, off-sites or hiring a consultant to think for you are no longer enough to create the new ideas that you need. Execution is still vital to bring products to market, but if you don’t have a good idea to start with, then you’re stuffed.
I recently gave a presentation on Gamestorming to a group that are advocating for mobile working, digital nomads and creativity called Anywhere Working. The group are facilitated by the team at 33 Digital and David Clare was kind enough to invite me to get involved. I was presenting on behalf of one of the collectives that I’m involved in called Converge+UK. Converge+UK is all about creativity at the intersection of design, business and technology so it was great to share some ideas with the Anywhere Working crew. Rueben Milne had a great take on the ways that creativity can happen in unexpected places and at unexpected times.
We are in the middle of one the biggest economic shifts since the Industrial Revolution. The Information Age is rapidly being replaced by the Relationship Age a new era grounded in technology but focused on people. And it’s happening too fast for anyone to see.
I call this new era the Relationship Age because we will see businesses that nurture their relationships thrive and those that don’t die off. What look like changes in technology today are actually changes in human behaviour.
As social media and digital communication accelerate, the impact is being felt beyond mass-consumer advertising and bursting into all part of the business world. From large B2B companies to your local cafe.
In a social media and digital space there is nowhere for bad service to hide. I’ve long argued for the business value of design and creativity, but what does this mean in the new digital context? The answer starts with the increasing volume of your customer’s voice.
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.