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





Inspired Thinking with Adnams CEO Andy Wood

10 08 2010

Adnams have long been on my list of Inspiring Companies (see blogroll on the right).  I wrote a short article about them last year which you can read here : –

Avoiding Mediocrity – An exemplar of sustainability

Photo Copyright Jason Dye - http://www.jasondye.com

Adnams is the Southwold based brewing firm founded in 1872 when George and Ernest Adnams purchased the Sole Bay brewery with the help of their father. The business has grown steadily and won great acclaim for their beers, and recently many awards for their sustainable achievements.

Since 1990 the business has expanded to include wine and leisure retailing. Today the business is focused in three areas – Brewing and Brands, including its tenanted estate; Hotels and Managed Houses; and Wine and Shops including the Cellar & Kitchen chain of stores. In 2009 improved growth and profitability led to turnover of more than £50m and in their peak summer season employs more than 400 people

Last week I got the chance to interview Adnams CEO Andy Wood (right) about the business, its authentic values, and strategy for sustainable development.

You can listen to the interview here : Authentic Business Directory – Adnams plc

I would love to hear your comments about Authentic and Sustainable business – post a comment below.

If you would like to discuss how I can help you develop and implement your own sustainable and authentic business strategy then please get in touch.

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer





Saving our way to prosperity… Is this an Oxymoron?

4 08 2010

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

Have you noticed for the last few months that the phrase “Efficiency Savings” seems to crop up in whichever newspaper or magazine you read, or on any TV news show that you watch? Governments, Local Authorities, and Private Companies all seem focused on achieving savings, in some case up to 40% in certain areas. Unsurprisingly, reaction from customers and employees is a mixture of doubt and fear about what it means for them.

I guess this is understandable. The economic downturn has forced us all to reconsider what we do, and to make do with less… but sometimes the result isn’t quite what we expect.

In my wide experience as a consultant I have heard “Efficiency Savings” used many, many times, and the phrase is abused time and again. Greater efficiency means either achieving more output with the same resources, or the same output with less resources, and the latter is what is usually inferred when the phrase “Efficiency Savings” is used. But in most cases I have found that output also drops as well as input and this inevitably harms effectiveness. I call this phenomena “Saving our way to prosperity” and it constantly amazes me how many management teams believe it will work. But the reality is that this type of cost-cutting is unsustainable – short term cost saving without re-inventing the way things are done only stores up problems for the future. I’ll give you an example.

A client I worked with needed to make “efficiency savings” to satisfy shareholder demands for greater short-term profitability because they wanted to sell the business – and greater profit means higher shareholder value. So it made an assumption that if field service engineer calls were increased from 4 calls per day to 5 calls per day then this 25% improvement would allow them to make 20% reduction in headcount – simple logic – and after all it was only one extra service call per engineer per day…! So the board instructed the management team to make the savings and crack the whip harder to make sure that service engineers hit their new targets – they then sold the business for an increased price and were very happy. A great result for the exiting shareholders, but for the company the result was disaster – overworked engineers could’nt hit their new call targets without considerable overtime, and service parts stock had not been increased to reflect the additional calls so they found they could’nt fix equipment even when they got to customers sites, so re-calls needed to be added; service-call lead-time increased from 1-2 days to over 2 weeks; when challenged by customers about the delays service engineers blamed management for the issues; dissatisfied customers quickly raised complaints; customer service staff became inundated with complaints and repeat calls from customers and the firm lost key service contracts; and the predicted cost savings never materialised – overtime pay increased dramatically, cash collection took longer, whilst turnover dropped by 10% and staff turnover in the department increased to 200% per annum leading to big unexpected and unbudgeted additional recruitment and training costs. The new business owners soon found they had to re-invent the way things were done, and it took 18 months of hard work to turn around the situation and get employees and customers back on board again.

So when you look at making efficiency savings make sure that you plan for success by engaging employees and customers in co-creating the new processes that will deliver savings whilst simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction; be authentic in staying true to your core purpose; and be creative in using Design Thinking to re-invent how you do things.  The result CAN be lower costs combined with long-term sustainable growth and increased profitability – the true way to future prosperity….

I would love to hear your own examples of companies that got this either right or wrong. Leave a comment below.

If you would like to discuss how I can help you make your efficiency savings sustainable then please get in touch.

James Rock – MD and Chief Business Designer





The value of being Authentic…

14 07 2010

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

I had an interesting meeting with a CEO this week. Our discussion focused on his desire to develop his business Authentically but he was worried about the opinions of significant and vocal shareholders who are constantly pushing him for short-term profitability.  He felt that board meetings had recently become something of a battle zone, and despite a track record of success he felt both insecure and angry that these shareholders are taking such a short-term perspective. This isn’t a new phenomenon of course, its a well known fact in publicly quoted companies, and is often one of the key reasons for under-investment.

Our conversation reminded me of an interview I heard recently with the owner of a Japanese family business that had been trading for more than 100 years. He attributed the long term success of the business to a philosophy of “growing like an oak tree not like a water melon….” He knew that slow organic growth made for a strong business with “A Heart of Oak”. He had seen many businesses that had pushed for aggressive and acquisitive growth that had failed or been taken over and integrated into other companies. I thought it was a good lesson for sustainable business.

But the Oak Tree metaphor didn’t really help my client… he could see the long term benefits, but he needed help to convince his shareholders that adopting an authentic approach can deliver increased shareholder value in the short-term too.  So we sat down and brainstormed just some of the benefits, which include:-

Increased Sales

  • increasingly customers seek to do business with sustainable companies, and with those that fulfill a social need;
  • customers of authentic businesses tend to tell their family and friends and these word-of-mouth recommendations results in more business; and
  • happy customers keep returning – so customer retention is higher.

Reduced Operating Costs

  • a true sense of purpose helps everyone focus on core competence, and reducing distracting activities;
  • marketing spend is lower since word-of-mouth overtakes advertising and special offers as the principal source of acquiring new customers;
  • staff turnover is reduced – resulting in lower recruitment and training costs;
  • staff feel more rewarded – since money isn’t their key motivator – resulting in greater productivity; and
  • suppliers are more helpful since the respect you show earns their loyalty – they go that extra mile to deliver on time, help develop new products, and find joint ways to reduce total costs.

Improved Shareholder Value

  • sustainable growth and steady contracts leads to increased P/E ratios;
  • increased profitability is multiplied by the higher P/E ratios to deliver higher shareholder value; and
  • business success attracts more potential buyers – increasing competitiveness in the buy cycle.

The above benefits now need to be quantified, but the CEO feels reassured that he can justify investing in developing an Authentic business strategy, and adopting Authentic leadership across the organisation… Is this an opportunity for you too?

Why not get in touch for an exploratory chat about the benefits that your organisation could get from Authenticity…

James Rock

Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting

Partner – AUTHENTICIS Consulting Network





Inspiring Companies

24 06 2010

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

As a consumer I constantly look out for businesses that are distinctive, that offer value for money, that deliver great products and great customer service.

As a Business Designer I constantly look out for great companies as sources of inspiration, across all types of sectors, and use these as best-in-class examples to learn from.

Often these two coincide – I find businesses that really make me happy for some reason and I share these with friends and family when they ask for word-of-mouth recommendations; but I also share them with my clients and use the things that make them unique to help create a vision of what clients could be doing for their own customers.

Increasingly I find myself drawn to Authentic Businesses i.e. those who focus on long-term sustainability and display a true sense of purpose, respect their stakeholder needs, act with integrity, are distinctive in their market, and are environmentally conscious.

I have started to develop a list of these inspiring and authentic companies, and you can take a look at the blog-roll on the right where you can link straight through to their websites. If you search the web about any of them you will probably find other interesting comments and articles and video’s about them too.

Finally, I am constantly on the look out for more Inspiring Companies to learn from and so invite you to leave a comment and share your own sources of happiness and inspiration if you think they deserve mentioning…

James Rock

MD & Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting

Partner – Authenticis





Room for inspiration?

14 05 2010

In my last post I wrote about the importance of work space in providing a work environment that positively encourages employees to be creative, innovative, motivated and happy. I would like to apply this thinking to the future of UK government.

Whilst much of the policy debate in the recent UK election focused on change for the future, both the Conservative party and Liberal Democrat party tried to engage voters with their vision of “what might be” if they were elected. In contrast to this however, the Labour party seemed to focus on the past rather than trying to paint a vision of the future.  Their key message was often “see what we have achieved in the past – so trust us in future” and, as we now know, this failed to engage the electorate and Labour lost heavily.  Was this surprising? Not for me… If you look at this set of incredible photos taken by Guardian photographer Martin Argles you can begin to understand why the Labour leadership seem stuck in the past: –

Gordon Brown – The last hours in Number 10

Isn’t it easy to see why the team using this office aren’t looking forward? Do these offices inspire you? No? So why would they inspire anyone to think creatively about the future? And what about their other work environment – the House of Commons? Lets take a look inside: –

We can get a sense of history from these surroundings, rich in heritage as they are. But do they inspire creativity? And do they foster the collaborative working environment that all parties say is important to deliver policies that will turn around the country following the recent economic crisis? How about the adversarial layout seen here – the “opposition” benches that are designed to position parties facing each other, and which we so often see bristling with hostile MP’s, and with the “Front Benches” full of big hitters.

As I think about the challenges ahead I wonder if these work environments support or hinder new ideas, new collaboration, and a fresh start for UK politics?  If you look at other coalition governments they operate in the round, and in modern buildings – see below for some examples: –

Inside the Welsh Assembly

Inside the Scottish Assembly

Inside the German Parliament

So will our new UK Government remain stuck in the past? Or will they be able to overcome the inertia of their surroundings? Will the Welsh, Scottish and German parilaments be more progressive with their modern, efficient, comfortable and inspirational buildings? What do you think? – why not post a comment to let us know….

Contact me for more information about how we can help bring design thinking, creativity and innovation to your business…

James Rock – MD & Chief Business Designer – CULTIVAR Consulting