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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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


 





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





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