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

 

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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






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





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





Design Thinking, Architecture and Interior Design

11 04 2010

Two years ago I wrote the following blog post: –

“Are your Employees like Battery Hens?”

The theme of this post was about the issue of workplace design and how it relates to happiness and motivation of your employees. I argued that I find only too often that workplace design is poor and uninspiring, leading to both poor motivation and poor levels of creativity and innovation in the workplace.

Later, in September 2008 I wrote the following blog post: –

“Business 2.0 – Delighting customers, shareholders and employees simultaneously”

The theme of this post was about embracing Business 2.0 to think again about how we organise our businesses, embrace technology to support home-working practices, and resulting in happier employees, greater productivity and innovation, and better profits and improved shareholder value.

Now I would like to link these two earlier posts to my recent thoughts on Design Thinking…

The office above is at leading design agency IDEO in San Francisco. Notice that it isn’t rows of cubicles, or bland desks, with poor lighting and ventilation.  This space is COOL.  Its designed as a social and collaborative space where groups or teams of various sizes can get together.  People can go away and work on things alone, but now when they get together they want something more than a 10×10 meeting room with a square table and four chairs. This type of environment not only supports creativity and innovation – it stimulates it!

Is your workspace like this? If not here is a link to a website where you can see 10 seriously cool designs for an office – perhaps this will inspire you :

“10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces”

So if you are seeerious about Design Thinking as a way of re-inventing your business, then why not engage a leading architect and interior designer to help? think of it differently – is it possibly something you thought was previously too expensive? but now maybe you should consider it as an investment?

Contact me for more information about how we can help bring design thinking, creativity and innovation to your business via our network of associates.

James Rock – MD & Chief Business Designer

CULTIVAR Consulting