The web makes it easier than ever to connect with new people, but the flip side is that it also keeps us connected to people from earlier times… people who may not understand or support our goals. Is it possible that in some instances, social networks hold us back? In earlier times students could go away to school and carve their own path, but now with old friends judging every move we make, are we likely to be less unique, less aggressive, and perhaps not live up to our creative potential?
I think the time is ripe for the emergence of new styles of innovation. Heretofore, there has been a split between hard or technology-based innovation, and non-technology-based innovation, such as in the arts, media and business, which are generally based on soft qualities like creativity. No longer. In an economy increasingly characterized by information and knowledge, as well as by incredible advances in digital technologies and communications, all innovation – all – has to include technology and creativity; hard capabilities based on science and engineering, as well as so-called soft capabilities based on design and insight.
Traditional strategy tends to ask how we can make more money off the people we already sell to, to look at people as consumers, and markets as abstract numbers of consumers. But it’s much more fruitful to think of markets as being composed of individuals who deliver, service, manufacture, market, buy, and use your product. Ultimately, they are the embodiment of your strategy—this set of interactions across people and players.
It all looks beautifully obvious – in the rear mirror. But there are situations where [one] needs great imaginative power, combined with disrespect for the traditional current of thought, to discover the obvious.
There is a tremendous demand for design thinkers today. In industry and in consulting, those who can marry creative right-brain thinking and analytical left-brain thinking are at a premium. That’s because innovation often happens not in the center of a discipline but in the space between disciplines, and right now a lot of new value is being found at the intersection of design and business. Professionals who can understand and respect both sides are at an advantage in our increasingly creative economy.
I recently attended Adaptive Path’s MX East conference. One of the speakers was Irene Au, Director of User Experience at Google. Her presentation, “Stop Putting Lipstick on the Pig”, was about how to create a user experience discipline in a corporate culture that doesn’t necessarily value it. Prior to her current post at Google, Irene held similar roles at Yahoo and Netscape. In each case, user experience was not necessarily a core value, so a lot of her time went to change management and demonstrating the value of consumer centric design methods (to use a jargon-laden phrase.) Here are my raw notes. Bold section headers are Irene’s.
1) Build a world class multidisciplinary team
Google’s criteria: analytic ability, design accumen, emotional intelligence, communication, cultural fit (scrappy, nimble, agile)
2) Align with the powerful function (where the ideas start)
3) Find and use your “Trojan horse”
trojan horse: the tool which speaks in the language your audience understands (mockups, click-thrus, video demos, funtional prototypes)
4) Take infrastructure seriously
Styleguides and standards allow scale/speed. Operationalize issues that are not open to discussion or have been resolved.
5) Don’t be the UI police
This establishes an us/them dynamic. Motivates people to work around you, not work with you. (Besides, UI doesn’t typially have go/no-go authority.)
6) Let skeptics fail
Pick your battles; make it clear which projects incorporate Design and which do not. The difference will be stark and to your advantage.
7) Deliver excellence on a few projects
If you try to solve everything, you dilute the effect you can have on any one project. You only have so much staff, and thus, so much time. Triage requests into full support, partial support and self-service. Styleguides, toolkits and consultations facilitate self-service.
8) Change is certain
Can’t get attached to any one thing. Maturity is cyclical.
9) Be patient
Fundamental change takes years. Becoming customer-centered is a fundamental change to corporate DNA.
If advertising were truly an idea business our job would be easy. You could just go around telling people your advertising ideas and they would probably like your ads a lot, at least the way they imagined them. But the truth is, it’s not an idea business. It’s an idea execution business. We create ads. Physical things that people look at and hold and interact with and inspect.
Great innovations are most likely to succeed when they are built on equal parts culture, design and business. Hybrid thinking, fluent in each of these domains, is more important when you look beyond the development of individual products. A lot of prototyping, by itself, does not a great business plan make.
I was fortunate enough to attend this panel this past summer. Great exchange of ideas between Bruce Nussbaum of Business Week, Tim Brown of IDEO, Claudia Kotchka of Procter & Gamble, and Gael Towey from Martha Stewart Omnimedia.