Category Archives: Innovation

Lessons from Startup Culture: Create a Solution, Not a Product

Startup culture is here to stay. Entrepreneurs and innovators have remade the business world in their own image over the past few decades as technological change rapidly advanced and “traditional” businesses struggled to keep up. Even once they’ve made it big, the companies these visionary CEOs started continue to live by the scrappy startup ethos that is baked into their DNA.

What separates startup culture from the traditional business practices it is challenging? What lessons can those of us in more traditional working environments learn from the success of startup culture? I’ll be looking at those questions and more as we explore lessons from startup culture.
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Desire Paths: Learning from Consumer Behavior

I recently came across a fascinating TED Talk given by designer Tom Hulme which asks “What can we learn from shortcuts?”. At first glance, many of us would probably be skeptical of the shortcut – after all, we’re conditioned to do due diligence, examine a problem from several angles, and then create a strategy for building a solution. Innovators should create the shortcut but not necessarily take it, right?

But Hulme is interested in learning from the shortcuts that we take in our daily lives. As a designer, his eye is attuned to patterns and deviations from those patterns. Examining the shortcuts that appeal to us as human beings, he proposes, is a powerful way to learn what drives us, what we want, and how we move through our world.
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Design Mindset: Bridging the Gap Between Product Design and Systems Thinking

Our Design Mindset series has attempted to define some of the many abstractions around “good” design – what is it, and how can it be quantified and consistently achieved? It’s easy to understand the importance of design in creating new products, both to stand out in an increasingly crowded market and to develop a user experience that resonates with consumers. It’s more difficult to implement design in other aspects of business, but the rewards are significant for those that do.

In an article published by McKinsey & Company, designer John Maeda remembers a client who had a realization about the importance of design, saying “Oh, so design isn’t about this pixels thing. It’s about systems thinking… it isn’t just about the appearance.” Good design values aesthetics, but perhaps even more so it values the integrity and functionality of systems. Let’s explore how successful companies bridge the gap between product design and systems thinking.
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Design Mindset: Achieving “Good” Design is Essential, But How?

We recently explored the business value of the design mindset – an approach that prioritizes holistic design that encompasses not only product design but process design and more. Companies that treat design as an ongoing creative process spanning the entire organization see tremendous benefits. In fact, a recent study by the Design Management Institute and Motiv Strategies found that an initial $10,000 investment in design ultimately created nearly $40,000 in value over the following decade.

How exactly does design deliver this value? For consumers, it’s obvious – good design enables a seamless user experience, which makes products both effective and easy to use. For businesses, there are larger questions. What exactly is “good” design, and how can it be quantified and consistently achieved?
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Google’s Talk to Books: AI Opens Creative New Search Pathways

Google has long been acknowledged as the king among online search engines (does anyone still Ask Jeeves?). As www.google.com became the default “home” page on many of our browsers, it replaced search platforms like JSTOR and LexisNexis, which are now relegated to libraries and educational institutions. It also changed the way we ask questions, consume information, and navigate our own internal mental landscapes.

The power that this gives Google (and Alphabet, its parent company) is immense. There is ongoing debate over whether such a monopoly on access to information is healthy, sustainable, or conducive to democracy. As scholars and pundits debate, the rest of us continue turning to Google for answers to queries ranging from “how to fix a water heater” to “what is the meaning of life?”. Now, a new initiative from the company’s experts in artificial intelligence (AI) is once again shifting the framework of access to information online.
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Design Mindset: It’s Bigger than You Think (and so is its Value)

There’s a quote by Jules Feiffer, the acclaimed American cartoonist and author, asserting that “Design is important because chaos is so hard.” To my mind, this may be the quote of the century. Design is an integral part of our lives. It shapes the way we move through public and private spaces, how we interact with each other, and (more and more importantly) how we interact with technology. Yet design is often taken for granted by the user.

Those of us who are not designers ourselves sometimes think of design as ornamentation – a purely visual pursuit that may or may not impact our lived experience. However, design is more often an invisible force that guides and impacts us without calling attention to its presence. From clothing design to urban design to user experience, unseen designers bring order to the chaos of living in almost every aspect of our lives.
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Zumba: Inside The Global Success of an Unlikely Brand

In the world of high-profile brands, there are many success stories that we return to again and again. Steve Jobs and the creation of the Apple brand – Tesla’s Elon Musk – Richard Branson and his serial entrepreneurial success – Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Other brands don’t get as much attention. This bias is so ingrained that we sometimes overlook brands that might have a lot to teach us.

I originally hesitated to write about Zumba, the global fitness brand that continues to explode in popularity despite a lack of attention from the business community. But to dismiss the brand is to fail to notice how deeply and brilliantly it has tapped into evolving trends in the fitness (and music) world and how innovative its founders’ approach to growing their brand truly is. What makes Zumba work and what can its success teach us about building our own brands?
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