design

Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

March 26, 2016

I’ve come to realize that as modern professionals, we’ve largely inherited a view of leadership built on an era long gone – the industrial age.  That age taught us to value incremental improvements (make the car a color other than black!) as well as efficiency (how can we crank out 10 more axles per hour?). Our “strategic planning” efforts involving giant 50-page Word documents filled with untested assumptions are testament to the way things used to work. The problem with all of this is, of course, increasing complexity and rate of change. This increased pace of change and knowledge creation puts us in an era where the old rules don’t cut it. Instead, we need creativity. We need ideas. I’ve found that many modern professionals don’t know how to inspire great ideas. Instead, the knee jerk reaction is to analyze the problem until it relents. But it never does. Richard Buchanan from Carnegie Mellon University does a good job of explaining why: “We […]

Walk A Mile In Their Journey

March 13, 2016

I recently had a chance to get a business contract with a non-profit that has teamed up with USAID and the American Refugee Committee to build sustainable businesses in the Eastern Congo area of Bukavu. I was there to do a situational analysis of the project. I knew in advance that they had hired an organization called IDEO, who has popularized the idea of customer journey, all over the world. Before I tell the rest of the story, let me give you one definition of customer journey I like: customer journey is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just a snapshot on time, but through the entire arc of being a customer. It actually had its start in the product design world where one way of saying it simply is this – if you are going to design a chair, design it with an understanding of how the person who is going to sit […]

Marketing is a Social Animal

Marketing is a Social Animal

December 18, 2015

I recently conducted a focus group for a non-profit organization and I had divided the various groups by age. This particular group was made up of people between 28- 38 years old, which is the top end of the millennial generation. I asked many questions about various impressions of this particular organization, and gained a lot of insight about how this organization could better meet the needs of the community. I then asked about marketing ideas that they would suggest for the organization, and an explosion of energy like a geyser erupted all over the group. It is like I had mentioned the bad word that no one wanted to hear. They talked about “being marketed to” everyday, all week, and they do not want to be marketed to in their off time. They spoke of the cheesy give away or free refreshments that nonprofits use to bring people to their locations. “Allergic to marketing” is not an understatement for […]

Innovation: it’s better when it’s done together

November 20, 2015

Every month that we are preparing for blog posts and podcasts, Justin and I meet with a group of executives and leaders who are currently in organizations of various sizes. We bring a topic to the table, and open up a discussion about whatever we are working on that month. This month we brought up the topic of “we are better when we innovate together”. One of the members of our group immediately chimed in: “You seem to have the uncanny ability of bringing up whatever our company is working on right now.” Another female executive agreed, and they began to talk about how their companies each have different innovation systems to bring new products and services online, and she, too, spent many hours virtually and face to face working with cross-functional teams innovating together through various phases of the process. These two women are representative of the pressure on companies in the “innovate or be disrupted” environment. It reminds […]

Why are they not buying our stuff anymore?

Why are they not buying our stuff anymore?

August 15, 2014

A client I knew well began to see a pattern in sales that she had never seen before. Her brand was one of the top winners in her field because of the superior performance of her products over the competition for several years. Her sales team would use this advantage when approaching retail outlets about stocking their superior product lines. Then something began to fundamentally change, as her sales numbers went through a steep drop in orders coming from retail outlets. As she probed deeper with her sales force, a new insight became obvious. Although her brand still had superior performance in her field, other brands began to differentiate themselves by their image of being socially responsive in the market place. They had started using non-toxic substances in their products, and their commitment to reducing their footprint by recycling used product in productive ways had increased dramatically their market share. This is becoming a more familiar story in many circles […]