Change The Game – Think StartUp

15 12 2011

Todays business success stories are coming from organisations that have really changed the game.

New entrants are taking the place of established businesses, and kids fresh out of college are not just coming up with new ideas, but are able to take these to market and establish global businesses in just a few years. Facebook and Google are well established now, but there are new entrants that you haven’t heard of yet rushing along in their wake.

In the economic downturn in USA and Europe we see large corporates, and public sector / third sector organisations all failing to create new jobs, and as a result there is a growing number of startup businesses that have been set up as a way for individuals to create a job when they can’t find a job…

These entrepreneurs are reinventing the world, as Forbes magazine recently reported.

So why aren’t big companies and organisations starting to think like a StartUp?

Do they even know what it’s like to think like a StartUp?

If they did could they be more successful? Probably, since they have many more resources.

So can established companies and organisations change the game too?

Isn’t changing the game an imperative for long term survival?

In my opinion, only those that constantly reinvent themselves will continue to stay at the top for a long time. So I began to ponder on what StartUp mentality is all about. Here are some of the keywords that came to mind:

Visionary; Inspired; Passion; Purpose; Creativity; Innovation; Opportunity; Thrilling; Hungry; Committed; Tenacious; High-Energy; Fast-Moving; Risk-Taking.

How many big corporates and organisations do you know that have cultures matching the above?

I know some organisations have ‘Skunk-Works’ where small groups and teams work on new products, often in secrecy in select teams, hidden away from the mainstream employees. But what about all the ideas from those outside this select few? What about new innovations in Business and Service Models? There seem to be few of these, so how can changing the game be possible in a business context?

Does your organisation have facilities for encouraging and supporting these initiatives? And if you are an employee with ideas how can you bring them to fruition within the corporate environment, with encouragement and support? Are you an ‘Intrapreneur’ waiting to break out? Or are you an Entrepreneur that will have to leave your company to chase your dream?

So my advice is “Think StartUp” if you want your organisation to change the game. And if you sit at the top of the organisation then you need to develop a way to foster StartUp Mentality… Fast!

My colleagues and I in DesignThinkers network  are about to launch StartUpLab as a creative environment that is open, sharing, human centric, and which will be internationally connected yet operate locally. We will work with StartUp’s, SME’s, Large Corporates, Public Sector, and Third Sector organisations and universities. We will use our Service Design Thinking tools and techniques to help ideas mature and create viable businesses and services.

Contact me if you would like to know more about our Business and Service Design capabilities, our tools and methodologies, our insight, our networks, and how we can help you and your organisation to think like a StartUp…

James Rock – MD and Chief Business & Service Designer  CULTIVAR Consulting

 





The Snake That Ate Itself – The Evolving Role of The Designer

4 10 2011

Design Thinkers - London Service Design Party

I recently helped to organise the London Service Design Unconference and Party as an event within London Design Festival 2011. The event was a great success, with over 100 people involved in the world of Service Design participating in either the unconference, the party, or both. The event drew people from across Europe and as far afield as Brazil, and it stimulated ideas, discussions, and collaborations about what service design is, and what it might be in future.

During the unconference session I joined a really interesting group that spent a few hours developing a future vision of what Service Design might look like in 2021. With participants from UK, Sweden, Spain, Germany, and USA, and with a variety of service design experience, this eclectic group mapped out how the role of the designer had begun, where we are now, and where we need to be positioned in 10 years time.

It quickly became apparent during our conversation that while the role of the designer has changed during the ages, it has always focused on providing inspiration and creative linkages between the needs of society (the market), individuals (the user), and technology (of the time). We identified how the earliest designers were the skilled craftsmen using hand-tools to produce things for their community; how this developed into the industrial age when the designers role moved to machinery, automation  and mass production processes; through post-war consumerism when an excess of production capacity meant that advertising and graphic design developed to help sell products and fill production capacity; and more latterly with the outsourcing of manufacturing from west to the east and the consequential rise of the service economy within the internet age.

My group visualised our thoughts within a flip-chart drawing shown on the right (click on this to get a larger version).

The diagram shows how we realised that the number of designers has multiplied from the 1,000’s in zero B.C. to many billions in 2021, driven by dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a desire for greater efficiency and effectiveness e.g. via time-saving. In future we expect everyone to become a designer, asking questions and integrating needs, co-creating and collaborating in large-scale personalisation of products and services. We envisage that this opens up a global market, and will all be facilitated and empowered via emerging technologies based on the internet i.e. personal mobile devices, networks, cloud computing, etc. It will be much more complex than today.

In summary we were inspired by the image of “The Snake That Ate Itself”. This symbolises the ever-changing role of the designer. A role that has evolved as the needs of society and the individual has developed, and embracing the latest technology of the period as an enabler. We need to continue to evolve as Business and Service Designers, operating globally, within growing networks, in collaboration across the public, private and third sectors, and always involving the end-user in co-creating the increasingly efficient, effective, and personal products and services of the future.

Contact me if you would like to know more about our Business and Service Design capabilities, our tools and methodologies, our insight, our networks, and how we can help you design for the future…

James Rock – MD and Chief Business & Service Designer, CULTIVAR Consulting

 





Coworking – Independence, Collaboration, Community…

7 04 2011

Photo by Luc Legay, Paris, France

In my last post about the recent Intersections 2011 conference I mentioned some of the emerging global issues in society and business that are creating a new tipping point in our world. In response, our society and our world of work is changing. As our workforce matures and Baby-Boomers and Generation X are replaced by Generation Y (the ‘Millennial Generation’) it is becoming apparent that the straight-line thinking style of the industrial era is losing relevance. We are moving into the age of networks, enabled by rapid growth in global communication technology, mobile computing, etc, and fostered by the team-based and collaborative attitudes of this generation. This trend will accelerate as Generation Z (the ‘Net Generation’) who have grown up as ‘Digital Natives’ and who value their independence fiercely, begin to move into employment.

Within this generational shift we have moved from the concept of ‘a job for life’ through ‘a career for life’ and into ‘portfolio careers’. The economic crisis has resulted in massive unemployment, particularly within our younger generations, and recent public sector job cuts will soon add to our jobless figures. Whilst the economy remains stagnant a key societal response seems to be a renewed focus on entrepreneurialism where individuals are creating jobs rather than finding jobs, and governments are supporting this with programmes that encourage new businesses – like Startup Britain.

Over the last few years this shift in our type of employment has been accompanied by a shift in where we work too. Home working has risen steadily, and there has been a dramatic rise in coffee shop culture and the availability of free public WiFi networks. As a result we now see many more independent people working away on laptop computers wherever we go. The public sector is now starting to encourage this way of working too, as a way of reducing office space and cutting costs. Adopters of this lifestyle are quick to point out the benefits that this new-found flexibility in working offers them, such as less travel. However, after a short honeymoon period, they often begin to realise there are down-sides too, such as loneliness and lack of support, and this is driving a new and rapidly growing trend of Coworking as a modern style of working based upon flexibility, low space costs, and shared values including independence, collaboration and community.

Deskmag – a blog about coworking – recently completed a global coworking survey examining this trend. Over 660 participants from coworking locations across 24 countries responded to a questionnaire about why they like coworking, where they cowork, what they like and dislike, etc. The full results of this survey are documented in a series of blog posts starting with this one: Deskmag – The Coworking Magazine – Why Coworkers like their Coworking Spaces

It seems that the number of Coworking locations has roughly doubled year on year – and by end of 2011 there are expected to be more than 1000 coworking locations across the world, so it seems to be a successful concept. I began working out of a coworking facility in Birmingham about 12 months ago. Moseley Exchange used to be a BT telephone exchange – but now its been converted into a modern open plan office where members can meet, work, learn and exchange ideas. Its a place where collaboration and innovation go hand in hand and where 50+ interesting people and businesses work from. The culture is one of being independently minded, but collaborative at heart. The centre is managed as a social enterprise designed to create jobs and wealth and help to regenerate the local economy – and in this respect it seems to be a big success story.

Moseley Exchange - A successful example of Coworking in Birmingham, UK.

There is a wide mixture of business types based here including Architects, Designers, Film/TV and Radio Producers, Marketing Consultants, Programmers, Trainers, Arts Companies, etc. The benefits are many and there is a lot of interaction going on, working together with clients, assisting each other with specialist advice, passing opportunities and leads to others, networking, and socialising. Its like being in a larger corporate office but without the constraints. There is now an ‘International Coworking Visa’ scheme that allows members in Birmingham free use of similar offices in London, Berlin, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Mumbai and in nearly 200 other global locations. There are growing links across this wider network, and over 100 people recently attended a coworking ‘unconference’ at SXSW in Austin, Texas, where discussions included how to develop the global network further for the benefit of all participants. Big corporations are starting to realise that coworking offers opportunities for them too, including greater creativity and innovation within their employees. So expect to see more coworking locations popping up near you, and I suggest you might like to try them out sometime. Every coworking location I know of is more than happy for guests to drop in.

Contact me if you would like to know more about coworking and how you can find one close to you or even set one up yourself!

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer, CULTIVAR Consulting






Intersections 2011 – Creative Business Summit

22 03 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intersections 2011 was a recent two-day conference at the Eden Project that explored the current trends driving business change and new opportunities for design practice. Over 200 delegates heard 45 experts, mavericks, entrepreneurs and thought leaders speak about key issues that are challenging businesses, public sector, and 3rd sector organisations.

Opening the conference, Jeremy Myerson, Professor of Design at RCA and Chair of the conference, began by looking back at the last Intersections conference in 2007. This was a similar event – a major UK design conference held a long period after any similar Design based conference. In 2007 the key message from the conference had been that the world had reached a watershed moment – and that complex times require designers with a greater repertoire. The key elements of this new design skillset was suggested as: –

  • Designer as Business Strategist – leading change via Design Thinking to tackle big issues
  • Designer as Co-Creator – rethinking the process to include wider disciplines and users to create more/better ideas
  • Designer as Rationalist – providing hard, technical solutions – believing humans can solve the problems of the world
  • Designer as Storyteller – Creating narratives that instill a vision of the future

It struck me that in 2011 Design Thinking has moved from theory into wider practice in the last 4 years. We still have the guru’s acting in the evangelist role for this school of thinking e.g. Professor Roger Martin of Rotman School of Management; Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO; and the UK Design Council. The public sector really has embraced design thinking and co-creation with some very successful results (DOTT Cornwall being an excellent example). However, large private sector companies seem to be getting left behind, and UK management schools seem to be lagging their North American and European counterparts in teaching the subject to future business leaders. This surprised me because in this post-economic-crisis period, large corporates and western governments have been promoting creativity and innovation as the way to re-invent western economies, and the way to compete against global competition e.g World Economic Forum, Davos, 2010 and 2011.

For me, the conference was inspiring, and six key themes emerged that I think will influence Business and Design over the next couple of years: –

1. ‘The world is at a NEW tipping point’.

4 years on from the last Intersections conference, and post economic crash, various speakers mentioned similar trends, including: –

  • A shift towards social values – social revolution not technological revolution – the emergence of Purpose within organisations
  • Public rejection of Capitalism and “Greed is Good” mentality
  • Asset Stripping is unacceptable and unsustainable
  • Fault-Lines are running through the world – creating ‘Wicked Problems’ (NB: this comment was made between the recent Egyptian uprising and the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami)

2. ‘No Straight Lines’.

Speaker Alan Moore of SMLXL captured this best, but again several speakers mentioned similar points of interest, including: –

  • Literacy and shared language across design / management disciplines is a limiting factor
  • Disruptive Innovations are making bigger impacts and embracing The Space / TheSystem / The Subjects
  • Value of diversity – The roles of MBA / Doctor / Entrepreneur / Product Designer becoming intertwined in developing solutions
  • There is no separate online or offline – only blended reality
  • Industrial Model was straight line thinking – Networked Model is a labrynth

3. ‘The Age of Networks’.

Nick Jankel of WeCreate introduced this theme on day one of the conference, but again other speakers referred to and returned to the subject, and key points included:-

  • Development of collaborative network tools – Cloud Apps
  • Networked Innovation is growing – within and across organisations
  • Collaboration IQ is becoming an important measure of performance
  • Collaboration across bigger networks is harder – but the results are bigger
  • Public / Private / 3rd Sector providers need to collaborate to solve the most complex problems in society
  • Use of Open Source and Creative Commons copyright is growing

4. ‘Visualisation’

Linked in many ways to the other key themes, speaker David McCandless championed the use of infographics and data visualisation to explore new directions for journalism and design. His talk demonstrated new ways that technology is enabling the presentation of data to support an argument. This is a key area where design can help management to ‘tell the story’ and create a vision for audiences. Key points in this theme included: –

  • Quantitative Information can be very interesting if presented well
  • Infotography – a new form of investigative journalism based on data trawling
  • Data is the new soil…
  • Visualisation supports the designer as storyteller model

5. ‘Nudge by Design’.

In his talk at the end of day one, David Kester – CEO of UK Design Council described how ‘nudge’ is growing as a discipline used to influence decision making, and referred to the recent book ‘Nudge – Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness’  by authors Thaler and Sunstein. Key points he mentioned include: –

  • Designers do this for a living – via providing Insights & Ideas Generation
  • ‘There is something in this Co-Design methodology’
  • ‘Hug a Politician’ i.e. gain political influence for your programmes

6. ‘Rethinking the Future’.

Speaker Josephine Green led in promoting this subject, but other speakers and the chairman referred to it as well, and it is probably the biggest take-away from the conference for most delegates. In this theme the following comments made the biggest impact with the audience: –

  • The world is in need of inspiring stories – The ability to tell them can be our greatest asset
  • There seems to be a British horror of the abstract, big-picture, strategic, philosophical thinker
  • We are moving from the hierarchical model of the industrial era towards the pancake model of the socio-ecological era
  • Social solutions and innovation are the challenges of our time – health; education; mobility

In summary, I think that Intersections 2011 was a very inspirational and important conference. The venue was superb – both practically and inspirationally. The speakers were excellent – thought provoking, entertaining and inspirational. The audience was an interesting mix of local, national and international visitors. But perhaps the biggest disappointment and surprise was that there were not more private sector and big corporate delegates at the meeting.  I believe that they have most to gain from adopting Design in the broader context of creativity and innovation that this conference presented. Maybe this lack of representation was due to event promotion that seemed to be focused on the design community – attracting independents, academics and students from within the discipline of Design – but not the CEO’s of the corporate world. Perhaps therein lies another opportunity, to take this message to a more influential audience – taking the key themes from Intersections11 and translating them into a language that the corporate/business audience can identify with more readily?

Note: The conference proceedings were recorded on video and should be made available to the public via the Intersections website shortly. For more info see: http://intersections2011.com

The first Intersections 2007 conference was recorded and podcasts from keynote sessions can be accessed via iTunes: –http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/intersections-podcast/id268553975

 

Why not contact us to explore how to approach these 6 key themes within your business / organisation?

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer, CULTIVAR Consulting


 





Dott Cornwall : Design-Thinking in practice

21 11 2010

Dott Cornwall is bringing together local communities and world-class designers to work on projects that improve how communities in Cornwall live, work and play.

I was privileged to be able to interview Programme Director Andrea Siodmok and we chatted about the work they are doing.  She describes how this social enterprise is using Design and Design Thinking to help solve the problems faced by Cornwall’s communities.

The interview lasts about 20 minutes :-

Andrea Siodmok - Courtesy Design Council website

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Follow this link to audio file: –

Dott Cornwall : design thinking in practice

from Cultivar on Vimeo.

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For more information visit their website: Dott Cornwall

If you would like to discuss how Cultivar can help you to develop and implement Design Thinking in your organisation then please get in touch.

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer





Customer Experience Matters…

17 11 2010

You can also get an audio version of this podcast here: Listen!

Increasingly companies are not just offering customers products, but a combination of product AND service. Even for those mainly selling products, the customer purchase experience is so important that companies like Apple, Nike, Adidas, AGA, Bose, and Bang & Olufsen are taking the lead by setting up their own stores. They want to connect with their end users and have more control within the overall customer experience. And after-sales service is a further key component of the overall package for many companies such as car and motor-cycle manufacturers, and for electronics/white/brown goods producers.

But whilst product development is usually carried out by dedicated R&D teams, service development is often ignored, or left to distribution partners. This ignores the fact that meeting ever increasing customer expectations is a key aspect of competitive differentiation, and is vital to both customer retention and generating word-of-mouth referrals.

Traditional service related organisations such as banks and restaurants are re-inventing how they deliver as the basis for retaining customers and winning new ones. And those within the public sector are beginning to wake up too. We now understand that there is a need to radically transform how we deliver public services because our economy cannot support the current cost of them. But no-one wants to pay less for a lower-quality service, so the exam question is :-

“how can we deliver a better quality service at lower cost?”

So Service Design is increasingly important to ALL organisations. Customer experience REALLY matters. Looking forward 10 years, meeting the needs of customers will only be delivered by radical change and re-inventing how service is delivered. For example, both Mercedes Benz and BMW are currently investing heavily to develop business models that rent vehicles to users by the hour instead of selling them a new car every 3-4 years. For more about this see this Economist report about Car2Go.

Is your organisation considering this? Will your next 5 year strategy embrace emerging technology and social trends to define how you will deliver a better customer experience than your competitors? Will it show how Authentic your business is? Will it embrace design-thinking as a way of engaging end-users? If not then perhaps it should?

If you would like to discuss how Cultivar can help you to develop and implement your own customer experience strategy then please get in touch.

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer





Can business mend Broken Britain?

7 10 2010

You can also get an audio version of this podcast here: Listen!

I guess that before answering the question we have to ask ourselves “Is Britain Broken?”

These questions were posed to a panel at a fringe event held at the recent Conservative Party Annual Conference in Birmingham. The event was sponsored by the Tory Reform Group and included the following speakers :-

Nick Venning – Chairman of THRIVE CSR network Birmingham; Richard Fuller Cons MP for Bedford; Jane Ellison Cons MP for Battersea; and Margot James Cons MP for Stourbridge.

It was good to see these new MP’s who came to power in the 2010 election talk positively about what they think this new government can do to mend Britain. They agreed that there is a massive disparity between those at the top of the social pyramid and those at the bottom.  They agreed that people have “fallen out of love with capitalism”.  They agreed that the public sector had grown out of proportion to the private sector. They seemed to agree that there isn’t a quick-fix, and posed the following ideas on how business can help mend Broken Britain :-

– Businesses need to Partner with government to create a form of “Caring Capitalism” – using examples like John Lewis Partnership to share ownership with employees and embrace apprenticeships, etc

– Businesses need to demonstrate they are ethical and act with a sense of shared purpose to work for their community

– Government needs to praise and support the job-creating industries – such as the service sector and financial services sector who between them have created 4.8m jobs whilst manufacturing has lost 4m jobs

I would suggest that no-one will argue with these ideas. However, it struck me that they are somewhat conventional in thinking. We are entering a Government “Spending Review” and the expectation is a wave of cuts which everyone is fearful of. This may be necessary in the short-term, but as I wrote in my earlier blog post “Saving our way to prosperity…” it will not deliver more jobs or create greater wealth. So is more creativity and innovation needed in how we re-invent our businesses and re-position them for growth? We all know that growth of private sector businesses and creation of new jobs will result in shared wealth. So is now the time to foster the development of a new wave of caring capitalists to accompany the existing wave of social entrepreneurs who have created jobs, but taken a lot of public money to do this?

I believe that government and business both need to be more creative and innovative in supporting new ways of working. Developing Authentic businesses with a real purpose within the community. Sharing rewards via new forms of collective ownership. Government supporting these moves with financial support, grants and tax incentives designed to encourage more activity in this field.

What do you think? Is this a movement that we can get moving?

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer








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