Posts tagged ‘innovation’

“A business model geared for innovation”

Already know that your sweet spot involves starting up a business? Then definitely check out Dean Crutchfield’s article “Method: The 6 Keys to Creating an Innovative Organization” which outlines “a six-step process that can guide organizations to conquer the challenge of building a business model geared for innovation and business transformation.


The article is full of inspirational messages and practical guidance, resulting in gems like these:

“Consequently, it is essential to become the ruthless enemy of ambiguity and ask entirely different sets of questions about the business: how will you innovate and evolve the brand? An excellent framework for analysis can be found in Michael Porter’s five forces: the degree of rivalry in the category, threat of new entrants, the chance of substitution, buyer power, and supplier power. In basic terms, the framework requires that an organization evaluate their strategic position relative to the forces. By understanding influences such as competitive threat and supplier bargaining power, a business can generate an edge in the category.


March 21’s daily design idea is another quote from Crutchfield: “The secret of business innovation is to think big, act small, fail fast and learn rapidly.” For more insight into this innovative, action-filled approach to business, be sure to look into effectual reasoning and action.

all illustrations via Fast Company’s Co. Design


March 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm Leave a comment

Replay: Sleep No More

Last night I saw “Sleep No More” by the amazing London-based group Punchdrunk. I don’t want to give too much away, because the show is so much about the mystery of the place (and because the version of the show that you will see is undeniably going to be different than the version that I saw)… but as someone who so strongly believes in documenting and measuring even the most subjective experiences, I felt the need to share a few facts with you:

The set took five months to build. It was a professional crew. They worked 6 day weeks, on average. They had to get a building permit from NYC’s Department of Buildings to do what they did.

Each night, it takes three hours to pre-set the show. Even with five stories of set to dress, that’s impressive.

The show starts at 7pm each night. The crew hits “play” on all the pre-programmed spectacular effects at 6:53pm. For any theater junkies that are reading this: they do have stage managers, but those people do not call traditional cues. The team’s first “stage manager” had an events production background and didn’t know the meaning of that title.

The maximum amount of time that a theater-goer can spend at this show is 3 hours, but there is about 15 hours worth of prepared content in that three hour time span.

big thanks to Meagan Miller-McKeever for introducing me to the creative geniuses behind Punchdrunk!

March 17’s daily design idea – while not a proven fact – is definitively my opinion, expectation, and hope: productions like this are the future of theater.

March 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment and piece of advice #6.

via Fast Company’s Co.Design (March 7, 2010):

Design and innovation consultancy IDEO “announced today that it would spin off a genuine 501c3 corporation to handle its social innovation practice.” The new “non-profit,, which will officially launch in the fall, will be in a better position to get grants from foundations whose rules make working with for-profit companies difficult.”

While IDEO has a history of doing projects with social impact priorities, “the new organization will aim to work in three different ways: partnering with non-profits to design solutions to problems in the areas of health, agriculture, water and sanitation, financial services, and gender equity; using open innovation platforms and social networking to share insights on best practices; and launching a year-long “future leaders” fellowship program that will pair fellows from the developing world with selected IDEO staffers.”

But will these new approaches be as successful as everyone hopes? IDEO plans to set the bar high for which projects even get picked up, and then be the first to find out if there is a real and positive impact made. “Projects themselves will have to meet a rigorous set of standards: they’ll have to be aimed at low income communities across the globe, be funded by a non-profit enterprise, and deliver tangible results — a real product, service, or system that will directly benefit the community it targets.” In addition, “there will be a huge emphasis on understanding impact,” says the head of IDEO’s Social Innovation domain, Jocelyn Wyatt. “We’ll conduct pre-project baseline surveys, do post-project evaluations, and bring in academics or other third parties for analysis of the results.”

March 10’s daily design idea is professional piece of advice #6: document and analyze your results.

March 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Embrace constraints (and reduce your choices).

Freelance web designer John Cowen has some great advice for web designers in regards to establishing constraints on projects, but it really applies to designers across the board. His article “Embrace Constraints: How Limiting Yourself Won’t Limit Your Designs” published in onextrapixel (August 30, 2010) was refreshingly reaffirming as someone who relies heavily on the interplay of idealized goals with realistic limits (and has a hard time putting pragmatism to the side).

One of my favorite ideas from the article is: “there is a separation between creativity and design. Exactly what we’re calling these is semantics, but the above process is one to encourage free, unrestricted, thought with the goal of promoting innovation. This is the creative process. The design process requires you to take the creative work and pull it into a more cohesive shape.”

To hear more about embracing constraints (and limiting choices), take Cowen’s implied suggestion of watching Barry Schwartz’s 2005 TED Talk about The Paradox of Choice. Schwartz jokes that he wrote the book in order to figure out why he was so disappointed when he walked out of store with the best-fitting pair of jeans he’d ever owned; he concluded it was because the huge range of choices convinced him that there was an imagined alternative that would fit even better.

photo from Flickr user roncaglia shows how tons of jean choices are typical in current retail settings

March 6’s daily design idea is “too much choice is confusing, disabling and dissatisfying,” so do yourself a favor when designing and find the boundaries that exist on your project (whether or not the client has articulated them upfront or not).

March 6, 2011 at 10:24 am 1 comment

Can you measure innovation?

Today, Fast Company’s Co. Design published an article by Paul Valerio, Principal of Insights at Method (which is currently doing a whole series of articles for Co. Design). The article is called “Eight Things Stand-Up Comedy Teaches Us About Innovation” and is a delightfully tongue-in-cheek comparison between successful product innovation and stand-up comedy. In Valerio’s words, “Innovation, like comedy, is a messy, often counter-intuitive business. It’s an iterative loop of creation, feedback, revision, rejection, and creation again. Used correctly, research fuels the understanding that leads to real breakthroughs. In the wrong hands, it all but assures the death of originality.”

I believe in the value of market research and focus groups, but I also know that the best designers have excellent design intuition. You only need to remind me of the recent Tropicana rebrand and failed packaging for me to concede that research isn’t as reliable as we’d like it to be. Valerio makes this fact all the more clear by pointing out that the opposite is also true: “Herman Miller’s Aeron chair and the Seinfeld pilot bombed in research” despite both being huge successes with consumers when introduced into the market.

Herman Miller’s Aeron chair, a huge success despite poor results in preliminary consumer research testing

All that said, I still believe in research and – even more importantly – in documentation of your successful innovations. Whether it’s visitorship and membership rates, community responses and user satisfaction feedback, or how much graffiti appears on a newly built structure, clients are already trying to measure the return on their design investments (see “Prove Your Design Has Value” published January 3, 2011 in Architect magazine). In my opinion, it’s definitely time for designers to start regularly including a diversity of metrics in their project documentation as well.

Aurthur Buxton shows us the five most common colors in 28 of Van Gogh’s paintings, by relative percentage: one not-so-soft metric for starting to understand these paintings (plus it’s a great piece of art on its own)

March 3’s daily design idea is while it’s unclear how to measure innovation, measuring the effects and performance of your work is more straightforward (and it will help create credible support for your innovative-ness). So ladies and gentlemen, start your measuring!

March 3, 2011 at 11:12 am 1 comment

Why we get up in the morning.

February 16’s daily design idea is another quote from Ben Hammersley’s talk at Lift 11, because I really enjoyed it that much:


“Our primary problem isn’t to encourage innovation,
because people are going to innovate anyway.

Because it’s fun.

It’s why you get up in the morning.”

And just for kicks: here’s a great illustration, Innovation Nation, by playful graphic designer Alberto Antoniazzi (created for the Threadless Loves Innovation contest).

February 16, 2011 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

Ben Hammersley at Lift 11: Pyramids and Sheets.

Ben Hammersley is the editor of The Journal of Post-Digital Geopolitics and a speaker from the recent Lift conference in Geneva, on top of many other impressive accomplishments. His full presentation from Lift 11 is available to view online (which I highly recommend), but below is my overall takeaway.

Lift11 was a “conference about current and emerging usage of digital technologies such as online communities, social media and casual games. Participants come to better understand the challenges and opportunities presented by digital technologies, and meet the people who drive these innovations.” Appropriately, one of the early quotes from Hammersley’s presentation is:

For the past decade or so, we’ve had conference after conference after conference talking about innovation: “We’ve got to be innovative, we’ve got to think in a new way, we’ve got to think outside the box.” Telling someone to be innovative is like telling someone to be funny: it’s really hard. It doesn’t kind of work. (10:40)

Hammersley points out that our youngest generations don’t understand this call to innovative action, because that’s already “the thing that they do” (3:30). So the alleged innovation problem is really a translation problem between two generations that each have different cognitive frameworks. His main argument is that older generations (which include many current leader throughout the world) understand social entities and power structures through pyramidal hierarchies while younger generations think of people as being in more democratic “sheets” or “networks” — or “communities of choice,” as Global Trends puts it. As a note: Hammersley never specifically defines what he means by “old” and “young,” but don’t let the generalizations distract you from the wonderful core content of his talk.

One of Hammersley’s more poignant supporting arguments, in my opinion, is the example of anti-terrorism efforts (13:20 and again at 15:30). Older generations will say “shoot the leader, and everybody else will go away,” demonstrating a lack of understanding that contemporary social entities (including those of our enemies) no longer rely on pyramid power structures. If a single person goes down, there are plenty of others ready to reconfigure themselves and continue on. Or in other words, “it’s very very difficult to shoot a hashtag” (14:20). Communication gaps about concepts like these are what leads Hammersley to repeatedly urge the audience to better explain new ideas to older generations (instead of complaining when the untranslated ideas seem to fall on deaf ears).

During the final Q&A of the presentation, Hammersley mentions how many contemporary networks attain greater relevancy by more directly impacting the individual, in some cases because they are local rather than multi-national (21:45). But his major overarching observation is that geographic boundaries created a thousand years ago, when “it was hard to get on a horse and go further than ‘that'” (8:00), no longer define individual cultures. Instead, they are increasingly becoming non-geographic “diasporas of interest” (11:15).

February 15’s daily design idea is one of Hammersley’s concluding thoughts: “Our primary problem isn’t to encourage innovation. Our primary problem is to translate it.” (18:45)

Photos from Lift 11 collection on Flickr, taken by Ivo Näpflin.
The video of Ben Hammersley‘s presentation at Lift 11 is located here.
Thanks to Andrew for turning me on to Hammersley’s work.

February 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm Leave a comment

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