Using business design to innovate

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.

Brand Personality
Business design looks at the financial model of the company as an area for innovation.

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.

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How to fail at almost everything and still win big

This year, instead of setting goals, I’m going to try creating systems. I’ve been reading a great new book by Scott Adams that dives into the psychology of why New Year’s resolutions and personal development goals don’t work. The book is called ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life‘ and it’s so good that instead of reviewing it, I’ve reprinted an excerpt so that you can hear directly from Scott. I’ve pieced together this except myself using a few of my favourite chapters. The excerpt is just a sample of the key ideas and you really should buy the book.

Scott Adams Dilbert
Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert and an insightful observer of human psychology.

Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert, one of the most popular and widely distributed comic strips of the past quarter century. He has been a full-time cartoonist since 1995, after sixteen years as a technology worker for companies like Crocker National Bank and Pacific Bell. His many bestsellers include The Dilbert Principle and Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook. Enter Scott Adams

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Management consultants vs. creative agencies

Management consulting firms want to move into the creative process, and creative agencies want to move into management consulting. It seems that everyone wants to swim upstream towards 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 is sexy as hell). But what no one really 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, advertising, 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 when your real 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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Strategic Listening

Listening is the heart of good communication and strategic conversations. Asking good questions is an important part of listening but first you need to get the distractions out of the way.

Asking tough questions.
In the TV show SUITS, the main characters are masters of asking tough questions.

Listening to someone is a real gift because it allows them to clarify their thinking and you can then reflect back their thinking with even more clarity.

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Strategic Questions

Having a strategic conversation is all about listening and asking the right questions. Great brand strategists build a toolkit of questions that they can ask in difficult questions.

Strategic Questions
In the TV show SUITS, one of the senior lawyers tells a new lawyer to “prod until it hurts”.

Management consulting, innovation, design and branding can all benefit from asking better questions.

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Strategic Conversations

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.

Workshops versus Conversation
Sometimes the best way to have a strategic conversation is to get out of the office.

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.

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What does a strategist do?

It took me a while to figure out the difference between a planner, strategist and consultant. I asked some friends for advice about what a strategist is and what makes a good strategist.

What does an advertising planner do?
What’s the difference between a Design Strategist, a Brand Strategist and an Innovation Strategist?

What does a strategist actually do?

A couple of interesting comments and additions have filtered in that add to the conversation from the last post on what is a strategist. I’ve included them below:

A strategist cuts through the ‘noise’ to realise true value.

– Dorenda Britten, Managing Director

A strategists develops “strategies”. Which implies taking both broader scope and longer time than most functional or operational decision-making and analysis does. A strategists identifies the gaps from the current situation to the desired long-term outcomes, and defines the key levers of change. They then recommend appropriate ‘settings’ for these levers, prioritising them. A key component of strategy is what is excluded, what doesn’t fit with the recommended approach.

– George Arnold, Programme Manager

A strategist is akin to acting as an internal management consultant – but in the real world.

– Simon Leitch, Head of Sales

A strategist sets the trajectory of an idea and puts a blueprint for its delivery is motion.

– Louis Gordon-Latty, Project Manager

A strategist is like a doctor, we need to understand your symptoms, which we then use to build a picture of what you need to do to get where you want to go. And like Doctors, we learn about the typical illnesses and how to troubleshoot unknown causes through experience & research.

– Ben Young, Marketing Director

What makes a good strategist?

A good strategist, like a good doctor, can often reach a conclusion very quickly, even with very little information.

– Ben Young, Marketing Director

A good strategist is fluent in the craft of envisioning, architecting and executing future outcomes, while simultaneously being able to deliver tangible demonstrative methods, interventions and way-finding systems that achieve the shaped intentionality.

– Nicolae Halmaghi, Creativity Curator

What is a strategist?

The word strategist almost always applied as an adjective to another role, as in Brand Strategist, Design Strategist, Social Media Strategist or Plumbing Strategist. I’ve always loved strategy so I’ve enjoyed several of these types of jobs in my career. Building great businesses may be a team sport. But at some point in the creative process, someone has to go away after the brainstorming is done and turn all the ideas into something real that can be communicated, tested 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 in a business, rather than the larger question  of “What is strategy?”

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