Saturday, October 25, 2008
3 Innovation Principles from Hewlett Packard's Innovation Chief Sam Lucente And How They Can Guide Us Through The Recession.
Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on October 22
We are entering what may be a sharp and perhaps prolonged recession and innovation can help companies get through it. I remember talking with HP’s Sam Lucente a while back about what he did when Mark Hurd took over as CEO. HP was then in crisis and Hurd, an operations guy, was called in to save the company.
Sam told me that, as a designer, he came up with 3 principles that could help HP and Hurd. They are based on the power of design. Here they are:
1- Design Can Simplify. Design can save money by creating a common design language among different products that reduces parts and makes them more user-friendly. Design can also simplify supply chains and organizations in general, also saving money. Incremental design can be good design.
2- Design Can Differentiate. In a down market, a company needs to have THE product that consumers must have. That’s what Sequoia said recently to its startups. Design can come up with that killer product by understanding what customers need and want at this point in time and giving it to them.
3- Design Can Innovate. Recessions are great times to come up with a service, product or experience that is totally new and game-changing for launch once the economic recovery begins. Remember, Apple came up with Apple stores and the iPod as the tech bubble burst. Companies that cut back on innovation to save on cost in a downturn lose competitive edge in the upturn.
Thanks Sam. It worked for HP. It would work for all companies in this serious recession.
Your brand is not your logo
Smart marketers understand that a new logo can't possibly increase your market share, and they know that an expensive logo doesn't defeat a cheap logo. They realize that the logo is like a first name, it's an identifier.
So, when Pepsi and BestBuy start 'testing' logos, and proclaiming that a new logo might change their market share, I get nervous. You can't test a logo any more than you can test a first name. Sure, you can eliminate Myxlplyx as an outlier, but given the success of the Starbucks mermaid and the Dunkin Donuts typeface (two outliers) you can see that this testing is sort of meaningless.
I guess the punchline is: take the time and money and effort you'd put into an expensive logo and put them into creating a product and experience and story that people remember instead.All the slick advertising and brand promotion in the world won't save a crap product. Here endeth the lesson.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
"Peace" by Daniel Chang, Graphic Design, a final poster from a transdisciplinary studio, instructors Martha Rich and Esther Watson, Illustration
Social impact projects that come into the classroom and burst out into the field are thrilling. The rush of creativity and the synergy of many minds working together can result in purposeful design projects to great effect: generating tangible solutions that make a lasting difference in people's lives.
Historically, designers have always strived to create positive social change, and many celebrated efforts--think back to the Bauhaus--started in schools. Both of those things remain true today. In fact, design education has a larger role than ever to play in challenging the status quo around the wicked problems of a crowded planet. Despite, and perhaps because of, the world being in such turmoil, this is a very exciting time for design and designers. I firmly believe that with an expanded tool kit, designers can be instrumental contributors to a conversation about the future that it is getting increasingly layered and multidisciplinary. If we are ever to reduce or curtail dire societal ills and achieve sustainable development--by definition, prosperity that is globally shared and environmentally sustainable--responsible design needs to be front and center as part of the equation. (For an engrossing state of the world report, see Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, by the economist Jeffrey Sachs.)
Educational institutions are vital labs for creative inquiry, entrepreneurial force and experimentation. As such, they can act as a powerful nexus for projects about critical issues that engage students in meaningful work. I have a front row seat in this dynamic field as the lead of the college-wide program Designmatters at Art Center College of Design. At the college through Designmatters, we constantly challenge ourselves to instill in our projects an empathetic approach, and to deliver "real-world" outcomes that have a killer aesthetic. At the root of the process, I am guided by a frontier-like impetus to create unusual alliances that cut across traditional boundaries between development and non-profit agencies, government and business sectors.
Camel Convoys in Kenya and testing of camel saddle and solar panel system for Mpala Community Trust with Bronx Zoo personnel
What does it look like? What does it all mean? The projects below are a few salient exemplars--the voices of some of the individuals who make them happen offer a good starting point to draw an action list from.
It's Not About You
In northern Kenya, nomadic herding communities travel through the dusty terrain of the bush under glaring sunlight. Mpala Community Trust (MCT) operates mobile clinics of local counselors and camel convoys that provide the sole reliable source of health services in the region. Thanks to our collaboration with the Undergraduate Engineering Department of Princeton University, and the design of an ingenious saddle supporting flexible solar panels to power portable refrigeration units, the camels will soon be carrying vaccines and other medical supplies that currently spoil under the heat conditions in the area.
The Mpala Project is the outcome of a seemingly unlikely initial partnership between MCT and Designmatters. The collaboration made it possible for us to participate as a 2007 finalist in the World Bank Development Marketplace competition, and subsequently became the premise for a studio class of illustration students, who designed a series of visually-based health education materials for the clinic that promote HIV/AIDS and family planning. The prototypes were sent back to Kenya, and a recent snapshot from the field shows counselors using two of the student products: a canvas flipbook of images promoting safe sex, and a fabric viewing device with pictures illustrating the benefits of family planning.
These exciting outcomes started with a realization by our students that they had to transcend their ingrained preconceptions.
Instructional fabric book to teach HIV/AIDS prevention, created as part of the Mpala project: from the studio to the field
"If your goal is to design something for someone else, you have to work with them, not for them," says Wendy MacNaughton, Campaign Director at Underground Ads in San Francisco and one of the advisors of the project whose field research in Kenya informed the student team. "This means giving up your ego, your assumptions, your biases, and stepping into another person's shoes."
When you are setting up complex projects that demand a considerable stretch in cultural bridging, relying on human-centered research methodologies, a participatory mode, and a sense of self-awareness are essential. It may be a humbling point of entry, but it is critical. In such circumstances, the balancing act is to inculcate the educational process with the rigor of real-world constraints while maintaining a nurturing and stimulating environment in the studio. This give-and-take is at the core of our practice through Designmatters. Another fundamental characteristic of the program is its reliance on a network of distinct partnerships.
In finding partners, complementary expertise is a primary requirement. The other essential is the capacity to maximize the design outcomes. Creating such alliances empowers you to have a greater impact through design and add value to your own exploration. In this sense, I often equate partnerships to finding a space where you can break loose from the confines of your own frame of mind, and find ways to achieve more progressive solutions. Say no to silos.
Don't Accept Things at Surface Value
Advocacy in the classroom starts with the faculty. Teachers are the primary agents of the transformative journey students undergo during these projects, abandoning their comfort zones and exploring new paradigms. "As a class we have a specific goal to accomplish," says Esther Pearl Watson of Art Center's Illustration Department. In challenging and guiding students through a real-world assignment, "we cannot create work that is simply good enough."
"This is My Home" by Cindy Chen, Graphic Design, a final poster from a transdisciplinary studio, instructors Martha Rich and Esther Watson, Illustration
Fundamentally, with the increased complexity at stake in the content of social impact projects, a radical shift occurs. Along with a requisite set of tried and true problem-solving methodologies and a design process that faculty will access no matter the topic--getting students to crystallize concepts and arrive at the kernel of their "big idea" in order to articulate meaningful interventions--the range of inquiry inevitably expands. "Students experience how things work outside the bubble of school," says Martha Rich, who often co-teaches with Watson, "learning how to deal with clients, criticism and to see the power of their work. It is enlightening."
I would also argue that these projects trigger a heightened motivation. Ultimately, the real learning may lie not in the problem solving though, but in the problem seeking.
Sketches of a solar water purifier to provide access to clean water in rural Guatemala, by Gabriel la O'and Armie Pasa, Product Design, with advisor Tony Luna; "Leucocita" health campaign for Project Concern International, student team: Raymond Dang, Armie Pasa, Michael Tam, and Jack Wittbold, from a transdisciplinary studio led by Robert Ball, Environmental Design; Igor Burt, Product Design; and Allison Goodman, Graphic Design
Armie Pasa and Gabriel la O' (product design) are a case in point. They are tackling entrenched problems caused by poverty, and developing measurable solutions, whether it is a water filtration system for rural Guatemala, or a campaign for community-based healthcare interventions in Tijuana in partnership with Project Concern International. Armie characterizes this community-focused work as both challenging and fulfilling: "These projects are beyond our scope of vision," says Armie of the challenging and fulfilling community-focused work. "I think every design student should see what is on the other side. It opens the door to making the impossible a possibility of hope."
As leaders of design-education institutions, it is clear that the yearning to address socially relevant explorations is not just percolating down from our desks; it is bubbling up from our students' expectations.
"One of the most remarkable changes in the work and thinking of student designers in the last five years is that socially responsible design has become an assumption--it's built in from the start, in the projects students select and in the people they want to design for," says Mark Breitenberg, Art Center's Dean of Humanities and Design Sciences and Icsid's President Elect. "So when I'm feeling optimistic I imagine the next generation of designers seeing their professional work primarily as an opportunity to change the world. A lofty thought, I know, but that's the way the generational wind is blowing."
When you unleash the energy, enthusiasm and unique ingenuity and optimism of design to effect change, the results are empowering. "It is very inspiring," says Justin Cram, a recent graduate of the Graphic Design Department, and a summer fellow with Doctors Without Borders, where he was immersed in a team with global reach to craft campaigns with potentially critical consequences. "Especially to be part of this network."
Mari Nakano, Graduate Media Design student
"The goal is not to make something acceptable, but something memorable," says Mari Nakano (Graduate Media Design), a Designmatters Fellow this fall in the Communications office at the UN Population Fund. To that end, she is unapologetic about espousing controversial ideas. "If we are fierce, and inspiring, we can instill social change from the grassroots on up."
Turn Heads, Change Minds
Effective advocacy depends on enabling people to learn more about the issues that matter so that they can become part of the solution. "Once in the ether," says the film student Alice Park (The G.G. Meeting), "the easier and more willing people are to have an open forum on the subject, and take action."
"Today the most endangered natural resource is not oil or fresh water," says Professor Nik Hafermaas, Graphic Design Chairman and Acting Chief Academic Officer at Art Center, "it is the human attention span." The designer's job must be to grab and hold that attention in order to focus it on areas of critical need through what he calls the white noise of ubiquitous media. "Successful communication designers have become visual engineers--their tools are surprise, empathy and beauty."
Design intervention by Gavin Alaoen as part of a Graphic Design studio, instructor Sean Donahue, Graduate Media Design
In other words, the act of persuasion has never been tougher. Designers have to operate amidst the current flux of emergent technologies, user-generated media and the very obvious end of the "one size fits all" broadcasting paradigm. Tanja Diezmann, who leads Art Center's Interface Design program, recently guided a team of students through the development of "After Shock," an interactive, on-line simulation of the individual and social impacts of a major earthquake on the communities of Southern California. The simulation, a joint project with the Institute for the Future that is in turn one communication component of "The Los Angeles Earthquake: Get Ready" project launches next November 13, and should be an interesting experiment that applies the social media phenomenon of "alternate reality experiences" to the pressing problem of local community disaster preparedness. So when it comes to social-impact messaging, the key advice is don't be drab; make it intriguing and make it look as fabulous as the new beer commercial. Generate mileage by utilizing the same attention-grabbing strategies you would for a consumer-based product.
It also boils down to not being afraid of acting a bit of a provocateur--while keeping a good grip on your understanding about the issues at hand. And by all means, be real. If there is no authenticity in the message you design, folks see right through it.
Some of the success we have experienced in this vein at Art Center have been led by our undergraduate Film Department, which houses a studio for students to conceive and shoot public service announcements that are distributed widely by the commissioning agencies that Designmatters brings in. A few recent examples include campaigns on the topic of obesity, climate change and the global water crisis.
Blowing Smoke, directed by Jonas Mayabb
The GG Meeting, directed by Alice Park
Circle, Directed by David Beglin
Apathy, directed by Hugo Stenson
Sweaty Man, Directed by Jason Kim
Fat Lane, directed by Jonas Mayabb (Film)
A Shifting Emphasis
Designmatters is one of many design programs, and a design community at large, where the DNA is evolving toward a strong emphasis on imbuing the educational experience, as well as design practice, with critical content and a sense of contemporary relevance and commitment. And I believe this evolution can easily become a tipping point for the future of design and design education.
Let us seize this opportunity to advance design's potential for social impact. Let us seize on the optimism of a new generation of students by providing them with more choices for real-world exposure. Let us envision and embrace this vision of the future by providing a collaborative framework and the right tools and methodologies to put forward-thinking designers in the driver's seat of social change.
Octavio Paz, the Mexican writer, poet and diplomat, once famously said: "Deserve your dream." These words resonate simultaneously with a sense of hope and responsibility. They also represent fundamental advice and inspiration that I take to heart with the start of each new project, as we seek to achieve our most important dreams through design.
In this post, Marianna Amatullo makes the case that designers should be compelled to make to make their work exciting, even controversial, in order for their message to be noticed and imparted unto an audience.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Maybe you can't make money doing what you love
The thing is, it's far easier than ever before to surface your ideas. Far easier to have someone notice your art or your writing or your photography. Which means that people who might have hidden their talents are now finding them noticed...
That blog you've built, the one with a lot of traffic... perhaps it can't be monetized.
That non-profit you work with, the one where you are able to change lives... perhaps turning it into a career will ruin it.
That passion you have for art... perhaps making your painting commercial enough to sell will squeeze the joy out of it.
When what you do is what you love, you're able to invest more effort and care and time. That means you're more likely to win, to gain share, to profit. On the other hand, poets don't get paid. Even worse, poets that try to get paid end up writing jingles and failing and hating it at the same time.
Today, there are more ways than ever to share your talents and hobbies in public. And if you're driven, talented and focused, you may discover that the market loves what you do. That people read your blog or click on your cartoons or listen to your mp3s. But, alas, that doesn't mean you can monetize it, quit your day job and spend all day writing songs.
1. In order to monetize your work, you'll probably corrupt it, taking out the magic in search of dollars
2. Attention doesn't always equal significant cash flow.
I think it makes sense to make your art your art, to give yourself over to it without regard for commerce.
Doing what you love is as important as ever, but if you're going to make a living at it, it helps to find a niche where money flows as a regular consequence of the success of your idea. Loving what you do is almost as important as doing what you love, especially if you need to make a living at it. Go find a job you can commit to, a career or a business you can fall in love with.
A friend who loved music, who wanted to spend his life doing it, got a job doing PR for a record label. He hated doing PR, realized that just because he was in the record business didn't mean he had anything at all to do with music. Instead of finding a job he could love, he ended up being in proximity to, but nowhere involved with, something he cared about. I wish he had become a committed school teacher instead, spending every minute of his spare time making music and sharing it online for free. Instead, he's a frazzled publicity hound working twice as many hours for less money and doing no music at all.
Maybe you can't make money doing what you love (at least what you love right now). But I bet you can figure out how to love what you do to make money (if you choose wisely).
Do your art. But don't wreck your art if it doesn't lend itself to paying the bills. That would be a tragedy.
(And the twist, because there is always a twist, is that as soon as you focus on your art and leave the money behind, you may just discover that this focus turns out to be the secret of actually breaking through and making money.)It may seem cynical to say that the best you can hope for in a job is to find something you can do for 9 hours a day that doesn't make you want to punch someone. So often, though, it's not the actual work that's hard - it's the people/climate you work in. Being able to focus on something you love at the end of the work day makes up for it, but what happens when you get home to tired to do anything creative? In that light, is it really less of a compromise to work a job that allows you to be creative almost half the time if it ends up taking most of your energy?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on October 10
I’m a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (from my editorial days) and here’s a thoughtful essay on the impact of the current financial crisis on New York City, the U.S. and the global economic system.
Is New York finished as a global financial center? No. But it may not be paramount. Ditto for the U.S. It’s The Rise of the Rest— as Fareed Zakaria says in his new book, the Post American World.
Long-Term Implications of the Financial Crisis
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Lee Hudson Teslik, Associate Editor, CFR.org
October 9, 2008
Taking a step back from the fear gripping global financial markets, many analysts are starting to grapple with the long-term implications of the 2008 credit crisis. The financial breakdown, which originated in the United States, coincides with what many see as a shift from U.S. geopolitical dominance to a multipolar international framework. Here, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, discusses what she sees coming of the turmoil.
Slaughter, a member of CFR's Board of Directors, says she doesn't see any city taking over as the world's financial superpower, even if New York loses its financial preeminence. Rather, she foresees a more integrated network in which financial firms do business in many different regional financial hubs. In terms of U.S. geopolitical influence more broadly, she fears a fiscal pinch will lead to reductions in U.S. foreign aid, with potentially harmful side effects both for U.S. security and overall strategy. She also discusses rising global protectionism and a backlash against globalization, calling it "the biggest threat we face." She adds, however, that this backlash is most visible in developed economies, and that countries like India and China tend to take a more positive view of globalization.
For some time now, New York has arguably shared the distinction of being the world's financial capital with London. But there are also smaller, regional financial hubs popping up and vying for influence. To what degree do you think the current financial turmoil will accelerate this shift, and what do you see as the implications for U.S. power?
I think on this one it's what Fareed Zakaria calls the rise of the rest. I lived in Shanghai for the last ten months, and Shanghai is booming, and Hong Kong is booming, and Singapore is booming. London was already growing enormously so I would have said that London and New York together were the greatest concentration of global capital. That trend will continue regardless of this financial crisis. The problem is that it's wrong to think that any one city can possibly be the source of global capital. If you look at the people who work in those cities, who work in New York, they spend their time hopscotching from one center to another. It makes much more sense to think of a network of global capitals that you can get capital from. All the major firms or the hedge funds or private equity firms operate in all of them.
So presumably you don't think there's any one city that's ready to take on this financial superpower mantle, should New York fall.
There's certainly no one city that's going to do it, absolutely not.
Would that result in a more splintered financial system? What would be the geopolitical implications of that?
The global financial system is the most integrated part of the world. It is way ahead, certainly, of any kind of global political integration, but [it's] even [ahead of] global social or global economic integration if what you're talking about is movement of labor. Capital is the easiest thing to move. Think about what Sam Palmisano, the head of IBM, calls the globally integrated enterprise. ArcelorMittal, the steel company, doesn't have a global headquarters. They meet in different countries around the world. That's already this notion that it is a combination of cities and countries that are the global financial system, and no one is going to be so dominant that you can talk about it in those terms.
Given that dynamic, and presumably that interdependence--certainly one of the lessons of what we've seen over the last year has been of interdependence, at least of stock markets, maybe less so economies--how do you see the future of financial governance internationally?
There's a difference between interdependence and integration. Interdependence, you're still two distinct entities, and you each depend on the other. Integration, you are one entity. Part of my point is that we are seeing globally integrated companies, financial houses, and we are seeing increasingly a globally integrated financial system. Within that, to me what has been most important of this crisis in terms of global governance, has been the ability--now twice--for central bankers to operate very quickly together. That's because they were the first network--I call them government networks--the Basel Committee was out there first. The central bankers were meeting each other on a regular basis. Were coordinating their positions. Were developing relationships of trust and knowledge. And just imagine where we'd be right now if we didn't have that. The IMF [International Monetary Fund] can't do anything because the IMF is an international entity. What we need is precisely coordinated action on the part of all those financial centers. I suspect what we're going to see is a greater emphasis on formalizing those kinds of networks, tying them into international entities, and building on what's already there as a function of the integration of the financial system.
And accounting standards as well?
Absolutely. Accounting standards, securities regulation, all of it.
Beyond finance, assuming the financial crisis brings some kind of fiscal pinch in the United States, and assuming there's some pinch as well in what we spend internationally, what areas of spending do you think would be the most affected, and how would you see that playing out in terms of broad geopolitical influence?
I was very struck watching the vice presidential debate when Joe Biden [D-DE] was asked what would we cut back on, and the first thing he said was foreign aid. Of course, politically, that's the first thing to go. Americans believe we spend up to 15 percent of our GNP [gross national product] on aid, when of course it's tiny, it's .02 [percent] or .03 percent. Politically, that would be easy to jettison. That would be truly terrible. One of the bright spots of the Bush administration has been the amount that it's poured into key countries in Africa. From my point of view, as a security matter, as a strategic matter, this is not the time to cut back on foreign aid.
Other things--the most obvious is Iraq. We're spending enormous amounts of money, and that's already an issue. So in a time of fiscal constraint, it will probably also affect what we think we can sustain in Afghanistan, although again I don't think that's going to be a choice. We have to be in Afghanistan. But in terms of how we structure, what we can do, how long we can be prepared to stay, how we work with NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], I can imagine that being a factor.
Overall, it's going to force us to work with partners, which is what we should be doing anyway. We couldn't even do it all by ourselves when we were economically as flush as we've ever been--in the early part of this decade. We've proved that we couldn't do it ourselves. This is going to force us to consult and to work with others, and we need to be doing that.
International institutions--the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF--obviously get a lot of funding from the United States. Is that something that could be pared back? And if so, what happens to them?
We've once again run up a very big debt to the UN. Many hope that a new administration, particularly if it is an Obama administration, but even if it's a McCain administration, would start by paying off that debt. Now that looks less likely. A billion dollars to the UN at a time of fiscal crunch is going to be a hard political sell. That will just continue the budget crisis that the UN almost perennially finds itself in. I'm not certain that's going to further diminish our influence in these organizations. The real problem is that these organizations are losing influence because they're not actually able to do anything about these kinds of economic crises. Nor are they able to do anything about the kinds of political crises we're seeing. The UN couldn't really do anything in Georgia when Russia invaded Georgia. It was not in a position to do anything. It's not in a position to send troops into Darfur to do the kind of work that you really need.
And economically, what everyone points out is that the IMF is almost invisible in this crisis. It's just not a player. That's in large part because after the Asian financial crisis, the Asian countries decided that they were not ever going to rely on the IMF again, and that's when they started building their reserves. So the greater problem for these institutions is that, at least for some of them, they're becoming increasingly irrelevant. What needs to happen is major reform, bringing in new voices, much more representative of the power structure of the world today. And then some reforms which in my view ought to include connecting up to these networks of national government officials who can operate much more quickly and much more flexibly.
You've also, in the past, recommended the idea for a new institution, a concert of democracies, which is an idea that John McCain has now parroted. Given a lack of U.S. economic dominance, an institution like that would presumably have to rely more financially on other countries that might have less strong democratic credentials. Could this undermine such a project?
John Ikenberry and I, who formulated the concept in the Princeton Project on National Security, are both on record--we wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times this summer--saying that this concert was never going to work if it was proposed by the United States. It was a nonstarter from the beginning. So from my point of view, the fact that the current financial crisis makes it even harder for us to think about that, that's great. The only way this was ever going to work was if it came from countries like India, South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia. Interestingly, the Indonesians are starting--they've just launched--an organization of democracies in Southeast Asia. But it includes China. And I always say, China describes itself as a democratizing country, and I'd never want to be in a situation where you redivide the world and you have China on the other side. So the concept--this is not the right time for it, and it was never the right time for it as a U.S. priority. In terms of watching what's happening in other parts of the world and supporting them tacitly to the extent that they're working with fellow democracies, that's great.
The one thing I would point out--Morgan Stanley just did a deal with a Japanese bank, a Japanese company, rather than a Chinese company. In times of financial crisis, the relative transparency of democracies is very important. It is not because democracies are better countries in some moral hierarchy. But what is critical to their being able to cooperate more closely is that each can see what the other is doing. That means that you're much more willing to enter into agreements, particularly in times of trouble.
Globalization already faces some serious challenges--resource nationalism, protectionism--but if a worldwide recession is essentially blamed on globalized capital markets, does that serve to further undermine the popularity of the idea? And if so, what then?
That is the biggest threat we face--that this crisis will trigger global protectionism, global retreat. Politically you're seeing this already in Europe, with various countries talking about possibly pulling out of the Euro. Protectionist sentiment was very strong in the United States even before this most recent crisis. You can well imagine various countries saying, "Look, this has not helped us."
On the other side, the major growth engines of the global economy--China and India and the rest of Asia, countries like Vietnam, Indonesia--there you don't have a backlash against globalization. Those countries are very aware that whatever prosperity that has been coming in has been coming in because of their connection to the global economy. So we've got political battles to fight, but it's more in the developed countries. It's more to keep our markets open, and not start protecting particular groups or industries. If we can do that, I don't think you're going to have a global backlash against globalization. I think quite positively--while there are many people around the world who are saying, "This shows that the American economic model is not the right model to follow"--the notion of globalization being the same as Americanization, you don't hear that as much. Globalization is something that China supports, it's something that India supports, that many African countries that are doing well support, so I'm less concerned about a global reaction against globalization.
It seems like what Slaughter is saying is that the current financial crisis, while not removing the U.S. as the leading financial superpower, will tie the U.S. closer economically to nations that it previously may not have considered its equals, but now find themselves linked to a global financial network that most nations will need to join in order to protect themselves from crisis such as we're experiencing now. It's the flipside of globalization; instead of American interests being exported abroad for its own financial gain, foreign interests will have a larger voice in the United States, for the benefit of all parties involved. Rather than a singular financial center, we may see the gaining prominence of several centers, in every region of the world.
People really want to believe effort is a myth, at least if we consider what we consume in the media:
- politicians and beauty queens who get by on a smile and a wink
- lottery winners who turn a lifetime of lousy jobs into one big payday
- sports stars who are born with skills we could never hope to acquire
- hollywood celebrities with the talent of being in the right place at the right time
- failed CEOs with $40 million buyouts
It really seems (at least if you read popular media) that who you know and whether you get 'picked' are the two keys to success. Luck.
The thing about luck is this: we're already lucky. We're insanely lucky that we weren't born during the black plague or in a country with no freedom. We're lucky that we've got access to highly-leveraged tools and terrific opportunities. If we set that luck aside, though, something interesting shows up.
Delete the outliers--the people who are hit by a bus or win the lottery, the people who luck out in a big way, and we're left with everyone else. And for everyone else, effort is directly related to success. Not all the time, but as much as you would expect. Smarter, harder working, better informed and better liked people do better than other people, most of the time.
Effort takes many forms. Showing up, certainly. Knowing stuff (being smart might be luck of the draw, but knowing stuff is the result of effort). Being kind when it's more fun not to. Paying forward when there's no hope of tangible reward. Doing the right thing. You've heard these things a hundred times before, of course, but I guess it's easier to bet on luck.
If people aren't betting on luck, then why do we make so many dumb choices? Why aren't useful books selling at fifty times the rate they sell now? Why does anyone, ever, watch reality TV shows? Why do people do such dumb stuff with their money?
I think we've been tricked by the veneer of lucky people on the top of the heap. We see the folks who manage to skate by, or who get so much more than we think they deserve, and it's easy to forget that:
a. these guys are the exceptions
b. there's nothing you can do about it anyway.
And that's the key to the paradox of effort: While luck may be more appealing than effort, you don't get to choose luck. Effort, on the other hand, is totally available, all the time.
This is a hard sell. Diet books that say, "eat less, exercise more," may work, but they don't sell many copies.
With that forewarning, here's a bootstrapper's/marketer's/entrepreneur's/fast-rising executive's effort diet. Go through the list and decide whether or not it's worth it. Or make up your own diet. Effort is a choice, at least make it on purpose:
1. Delete 120 minutes a day of 'spare time' from your life. This can include TV, reading the newspaper, commuting, wasting time in social networks and meetings. Up to you.
2. Spend the 120 minutes doing this instead:
- Exercise for thirty minutes.
- Read relevant non-fiction (trade magazines, journals, business books, blogs, etc.)
- Send three thank you notes.
- Learn new digital techniques (spreadsheet macros, Firefox shortcuts, productivity tools, graphic design, html coding)
- Blog for five minutes about something you learned.
- Give a speech once a month about something you don't currently know a lot about.
3. Spend at least one weekend day doing absolutely nothing but being with people you love.
4. Only spend money, for one year, on things you absolutely need to get by. Save the rest, relentlessly.
If you somehow pulled this off, then six months from now, you would be the fittest, best rested, most intelligent, best funded and motivated person in your office or your field. You would know how to do things other people don't, you'd have a wider network and you'd be more focused.
It's entirely possible that this won't be sufficient, and you will continue to need better luck. But it's a lot more likely you'll get lucky, I bet.
Other than advising skipping reading the newspaper while sneaking in blogs as "relevant non-fiction" (yeah, and I bought all those X-men comics as "research") Seth Godin's point is well taken. How many hours have we spent "hanging out" when we could be doing something productive?
Still, is there really an unnecessary 120 minutes a day to be deleted, as he advises? Maybe if we delete commuting time, or spend the time on the train reading instead of zoning out on listening to an iPod. Like most people of my generation, I multi-task - if the tv is on, then I'm also writing e-mails or working on a project. And how is blogging considered constructive? Does he advise yelling into your pillow for 30 minutes? It pretty much amounts to the same thing, except less narcissistic (yeah, your blog is really a step towards changing the world, frustrated twenty-something). I kind of wish I had the time I spent reading and writing about this post back; I'm sure I would have just spent it napping, but at least I'd be well rested for doing something that's actually productive.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Design Is More Than Packaging
THE word “design” tends to conjure up images of crisp graphics, nicely arranged interiors or pleasing packaging. But a growing cadre of advocates say the world of design has much more to offer corporate America.
They are proponents of “design thinking,” which focuses on people’s actual needs rather than trying to persuade them to buy into what businesses are selling. It revolves around field research followed by freewheeling idea generation that often leads to unexpected results.
Properly used, design thinking can weave together elements of demographics, research, environmental factors, psychology, anthropology and sociology to generate novel solutions to some of the most puzzling problems in business. So pervasive has design thinking become in the last five years that Stanford University has created an elective program it calls d.school — more formally known as the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design — that has proved wildly popular with budding entrepreneurs from all corners of the campus.
It is a time in the spotlight for a process that historically has been relegated to the end of the business planning line.
“Design thinking is inherently about creating new choices, about divergence,” says Tim Brown, the chief executive and president of the design consulting firm IDEO, based in Palo Alto, Calif. “Most business processes are about making choices from a set of existing alternatives. Clearly, if all your competition is doing the same, then differentiation is tough. In order to innovate, we have to have new alternatives and new solutions to problems, and that is what design can do.”
While definitions vary, design thinking usually involves a period of field research — usually close observation of people — to generate inspiration and a better understanding of what is needed, followed by open, nonjudgmental generation of ideas. After a brief analysis, a number of the more promising ideas are combined and expanded to go into “rapid prototyping,” which can vary from a simple drawing or text description to a three-dimensional mock-up. Feedback on the prototypes helps hone the ideas so that a select few can be used.
“It’s the designers’ version of the scientific method,” explains Greg Galle, co-founder and managing partner of the C2 Group, a consulting firm based in Half Moon Bay, Calif. “It’s sloppy and messy and not nearly as disciplined as the scientist, but we do trial and error and we hypothesize and test and we see what we learn and then we go back and try again.”
The results can be startling. Although a company called ServiceSource asked C2 to create a written report for business analysts to read, C2’s design thinkers reframed the problem to focus on what ServiceSource was trying to tell the analysts in the first place. (ServiceSource wanted the analysts to recognize that its ability to renew service contracts on behalf of technology providers could increase those providers’ revenue.)
Rather than producing a report that would probably be tossed unread into the nearest wastebasket, C2 sent the analysts a “High-Tech C.F.O. Action Figure” — a roughly 12-inch-tall male doll dressed in a business suit that delivered a brief, recorded message when its “Talk” button was pushed. “I’m glad you asked that question; we’ve partnered with ServiceSource,” the figure reports, as if it is standing at a news conference. “As a result, our revenues and earnings per share have grown consistently. Next question?”
Months after ServiceSource’s report would have been thrown away, analysts who received the “action figures” still have them.
Other design-thinking projects have also resulted in novel solutions. When Saturn, the automaker, asked Jump Associates, business strategists in San Mateo, Calif., to help it refurbish its retail spaces, Jump’s design thinkers helped it develop entirely new showrooms. Modeled after an interactive museum, they feature hands-on exhibits, self-guided tours and touch-screen computers. Customers can place magnetized strips of paint samples on Saturn models to see how the finishes look, and they can drape large swatches of fabric and leather inside the cars to check out the upholstery options.
Previously, Saturn’s showrooms were designed to feel like a home’s living room. Comfortable, right? Not so much, says Lara Lee, relationship manager at Jump Associates.
“There’s a mental script at play when you enter someone else’s home,” she says. “We believe we need to be on our best behavior when we are being hosted. We shouldn’t be critical. We shouldn’t ask questions. We should nod and smile politely and we should save our critique for the ride home. That’s not the best way to shop for a car.”
DESPITE the positive influence of design thinking, however, Ms. Lee prefers to use the term “hybrid thinking” to describe what its advocates do.
“Having design take a leadership role, having better aesthetics in products, having a user-centric approach to business strategy — those are all wonderful things,” she says. “But I fear all of it will be thrown out with the bathwater if people become disenchanted with it as a singular solution.”
George Kembel, co-founder and executive director of the d.school at Stanford, agrees. That is part of the reason the d.school does not offer a separate degree program. Rather than churning out freshly minted designers, d.school’s administrators instead want students from many other specialties to take electives there to round out their studies at Stanford. Courses include Business Practice Innovation, Cross-Cultural Design and From Play to Innovation.
“It would be overreaching to say that design thinking solves everything. That’s putting it too high on a pedestal,” Mr. Kembel says. “Business thinking plus design thinking ends up being far more powerful.”
Janet Rae-Dupree writes about science and emerging technology in Silicon Valley.
Design thinking as opposed to copying what everyone else in the industry is doing? Sounds wonderful. But honestly, does anyone doubt that big companies will only tolerate this kind of free-form conceptual thinking as long as it demonstrably affects their bottom line in a good way?
Sunday, October 5, 2008
ACCORDING TO MUJI,
THE BEST DESIGN IS NO DESIGN.
GOES BACK TO BASICS.
What a welcome surprise, especially in this trying economic climate, to covet something that is actually affordable! Such were my thoughts one blistering summer morning when I discovered that the much-anticipated Muji store had finally opened on the ground floor of The New York Times Building. The locale, like all other Muji outposts, has the confidence to be a little boring: there are no intrusive signs, overwhelming salespeople or dazzling window displays. Instead, just tables and shelves of plainly displayed — yet plainly desirable — stuff.
There is something comforting about a small store that sells a bit of everything, especially if it’s the right everything. Did you say you spilled coffee on your shirt right before a big meeting? Pop in and grab a nice new one for less than 60 bucks. Is the chaos on your desk draining your will to live? Simplify with a recycled paper notepad and a couple of brightly colored gel ink pens. Exhausted after a particularly brutal day? Stock up on memory foam pillows on the way home, and throw in a washable feather duvet — or, for that matter, a new bed. While you’re at it, add some bookcases, functional storage bins and a pair of cool little cardboard speakers.
Muji was founded in Tokyo in 1980; the name is short for mujirushi ryohin, which means ‘‘no-brand quality goods.’’ Its initial product range, sold in the Seiyu supermarket chain in Japan, consisted of just 9 household items and 31 food staples, packaged in nondescript bottles, cans and bags. By 1983, the line had expanded to 723 items, and Muji had opened its first free-standing store, in Tokyo; in 1991 it began a global expansion. Nowadays there are 339 stores in Japan, 83 in other countries across Asia and Europe, and 3 in New York, including a branch at Kennedy Airport, to open in October. (There are plans for others in the United States.) In total, Muji currently carries more than 7,000 products.
Despite its growth, Muji has maintained its commitment to producing carefully considered basics at the lowest possible price — a strategy that was brilliantly counterintuitive in the 1980s, when Japan was an epicenter of conspicuous consumption. Muji rebelled against the more-is-more credo that Western luxury houses were greedily promoting in Asia, and made a name for itself by recycling and curtailing waste: a 1981 ad for canned salmon flakes, which utilized parts of the fish that tend to be discarded, urged foodies to ‘‘enjoy every edible part of the salmon, from head to tail!’’ (Take that, Fergus Henderson.)
In Japan, Muji currently sells Bread Crust Snacks — packets of chips made from what you trim off sandwiches — and Pie With Eggshells, which apparently has a lot of calcium and is good for you. Colorful socks and tank tops are made from excess yarn discarded during production of other garments; a cool, crinkly T-shirt is folded upon itself to create a perfect cube, eliminating the need for superfluous packaging. Even the more upscale items, like bicycles, home furnishings and an award-winning, wall-mounted CD player, flaunt a proudly minimalist aesthetic.
Muji’s frill-free philosophy seems particularly on-target now that the design world is veering toward understatement and familiar shapes instead of the ‘‘forward-thinking’’ (read: overdesigned) gizmos and doodads that we have gotten so used to lately. With recession a reality and sustainability issues no longer just a concern of politically engaged homemakers in Northern California, a return to simplicity seems not only desirable but downright inescapable.‘‘People tend to look for something new or radical,’’ says Naoto Fukasawa, who has been Muji’s design adviser since 2002. ‘‘But I don’t think these new items can replace others with history. The fact that things last through time is their strength and value.’’
To prove his point, Fukasawa recently curated an exhibition titled ‘‘Super Normal: Sensations of the Ordinary’’ in collaboration with the designer Jasper Morrison. They displayed 210 everyday objects (a Seiko watch, a plain plastic bucket, a Bic lighter) whose main appeal, according to the supernormal, sensationally ordinary paperback that accompanied the show, is ‘‘the capacity to conceal its features until they become virtually invisible.’’ In other words, products whose design is so instinctive that it’s as if they had never been designed at all. Not surprising, several Muji classics (a calculator, an air filter and a kettle, among others) made the cut.
Goichi Hayashi, who is Yohji Yamamoto’s business partner and advises Muji on its fashion collection on Yamamoto’s behalf, takes a similar position. His mission, he says, is to make clothing that ‘‘someone will wear until it falls apart, and then buy the same thing again’’ — like a gauzy white shirt or a basic blazer. He feels that Muji’s home items offer the same kind of integrity. ‘‘They look like they are not 100 percent finished, and that is very attractive to the design community. A wooden coffee table, for example, has the screws showing — even though it would be easy to hide them — but it looks good like that. It’s honest.’’
Ultimately, Muji’s goal is to let customers relate to their surroundings through the products they use. ‘‘I think people are questioning whether special design is really necessary,’’ says Fukasawa. ‘‘Muji’s approach is to eliminate designed-ness from all products and provide reliable choices, so labeling the brand becomes unnecessary. Simple is not a style — it is a state of harmony.’’
Simplicity as a design choice has been common for some time now (cough cough Ikea cough cough), but the idea of economic conditions forcing designers to think that way is interesting, as is Muji's platform to offer products that curtail waste. Also, in a product environment where planned obsolescence is a given, it's nice for a company to think about making products that last for longer than a season. Still, why can't stuff that looks cheap actually be cheap?
Re: Bruce Nussbaum - Congress Readies To Vote On The Financial Package--Get Ready For The Post-Wall Street World.
For help in understanding where we are going, I strongly suggest you get the last three issues of Rotman, The Magazine of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. The latest, Fall, issue entitled The Future of Capital, has a piece by dean Roger Martin on the shift in value from capital to talent. This will be a major trend going forward. Over the past 30 years, finance has come to dominate the American economy and while it has helped lubricate Silicon Valley and entrepreneurship, it has also skewered incentives, compensation and investment. The value of human capital will rise vis a vis financial capital in the years ahead.
In the Winter 2008 issue of Rotman, called Thinking About Thinking, there are two articles on how Design Thinking can deal with the problems of economic and social uncertainty and change, and offer a process of generating options and solutions that manage and mitigate risk.
Martin has a new book coming out on Design Thinking--or what he calls Integrative Thinking--in the months ahead. It's a must-read for this new era we are entering.
Right now we are living life in constant beta. And we need tools and methods to understand and deal with it. Rotman is now a must-read.
Next up--Innovation Economics.This ties in to companies trying to capture the spirit of what Apple and Google have accomplished - creating integrative products that allow the user to feel as if they're part of something, rather than just another faceless consumer.
The old adage is that for someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
It's a warning that people who are only good at one thing often believe that the one thing is the answer to every problem. And it's a good warning.
But what if you've decided that in fact, a hammer is exactly the tool that will solve your problem? My advice: hire a guy who only uses a hammer. Odds are, he's pretty good at it.
If you need cognitive behavioral therapy (the technique proven most effective for many conditions), don't go to a therapist who does six different kinds of therapy, as needed. Go to someone who has only one tool, but uses it beautifully.
Don't go to this person for advice about what sort of therapy you need. You need a generalist for that. Go to this person for her hammer.
If you want a piece of handmade furniture made with hand tools and hand finishes, get it from a craftsman who owns no power tools. And think twice before buying SEO services from a general purpose ad agency.
It sounds like I'm endorsing specialists, but that's not really what I'm doing. What I'm proposing is that when you're forced to choose (as opposed to mix or compromise) your tactics, it pressures you to make better stuff and to make better choices.
This is why the Journal's report that Google is flirting seriously with a big advertising buy is so troublesome. Once you start buying TV time, you just added another tool to your marketing belt. Now, plenty of your development and marketing team will say, "Oh, we'll just buy ads. People will use it!" Suddenly, you don't focus so much on building word of mouth and remarkability into your products, because now you can easily use TV to spackle over less remarkable products.
Bad news for an organization that's so good at one thing (building remarkable products that spread virally) to start pivoting into an area where they're likely to be not-so-good. This will lead to TV-friendly products that aren't viral, along with ads that aren't quite good enough to make them pop. By diversifying their toolset, they'll get less good at their core skill.
Choosing your marketing tactics drives the products you design just as much as the products you design choose your tactics. By having the discipline to run no TV ads, Google forces the organization to use the hammer they're really good at. More tools isn't always better.Even though almost everyone knows of Google as a search engine, buying advertising space would help promote their products like Picasa and Chrome, which could benefit from a little marketing (and in the case of Chrome, maybe a little fine-tuning to be more user-friendly). Word of mouth is great for small demographics, but isn't helping Google get their products out to non-computer geeks. It's really not the case that they're getting more tools, just letting people know about the tools they have.