Category Archives: Design Methods

Great Interview with PepsiCo Director of Foresight

ManojFenelon1Check out this interview with Manoj Fenelon of PepsiCo. He has a cool title and lots of interesting things to say. He and I agree that the future of business is about value being created – it’s about more than ownership of products, it’s about ideas and advocacy more than advertising and bottom line.

He covers a few interesting topics:

  • He puts forth a great analogy of “seeds & soil” – it’s not just about have the great ideas but the organizational capability and fortitude to nurture them to bring them to life
  • The strengths and weaknesses of systems and the power of the status quo
  • The lack of empathy in some corporate circles (read my entry on how to gain empathy)
  • The strength of the soul of a brand. Here is an insightful quote:

“As I say, there’s a growing realization that passion comes from a sense of being in the same movement as the people who are running the brand”

Big-Box Retail Needs To Be Reinvented…

Are we really seeing the end of big box and department stores for certain product categories? Will we miss them? We are watching places like Best Buy and Office Depot struggling to get foot traffic as more and more shoppers research and purchase goods online. Is the same happening to big box department stores? I have suggested it in the past and it seems like it is actually happening already. With the exception of Norstrom with their couture lines, the big box luxury trend seems to be over. The days of going to Bloomingdales or Saks Fifth Avenue for high-end items seem to be a thing of the past. Luxury shoppers who do go to stores prefer a cluster of high end stores that give them a unique experience.

Like most shoppers, Luxury shoppers have changed their buying behaviors driven by the ever expanding options for getting luxury goods. They will buy their diamonds at Costco, go to Target for the “cheap designs” by name designers, and are more included to go to the “not full price” outlet stores like Saks Off Fifth or Last Call by Neiman Marcus. Additionally, younger shoppers have everything they need at their fingertips online and they buy there: bookmarking their favorite sites, storing their credit cards and getting free shipping and returns.

It’s time for retailers have the courage to rethink their business model and reimagine how they might deliver the experience to customers. What they can do to drive value for customers, embrace technologies to help create new experiences and explore new labor models as the old models are no longer working?

Status quo is a powerful thing but the time is now to embrace innovation methods and encourage creativity across the business and look to reinvent!

Get more facts in this US News and World Report Article “The Dying Discount Department Store”

Consulting Tip of the Day: Walk in Your Customer’s Shoes


I have to admit that I find Cinemagraphs to be beautiful, enticing and relaxing to look at. Invented by Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg they are just brilliant animated GIFs.

Read more here or check out Jamie’s Tumblr.

Next-gen Gesture: Leap Interaction

Check out this new gesture technology by Leap. Leap represents an entirely new way to interact with your computers. It’s more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard and more sensitive than a touchscreen. For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimensions with your natural hand and finger movement

Norstrom’s Innovation Lab

Bravely going where most retailer’s dare not go – testing new ideas in a live environment. Here is a link to my earlier blog entry on this topic called Experiment and Demonstrate.

Goodbye Steve

It’s been a few days since the passing of Steve Jobs. My limited edition Steve doll has now taken on a new meaning, sitting on my shelf near my desk, reminding me of the things he taught us that I shouldn’t forget. I also framed a version of that famous Wired cover which also serves as inspiration for what is possible.

There are a number of points of view on his legacy. Certainly one of the biggest was the focus on his customer’s and the design of the user experience that made him different from other tech executives (and non-tech execs). Jobs labored over every element of the physical and interaction design. But what’s more fascinating about Steve was the way he delivered it that really made all the difference in the end.

For Steve the delivery of the customer experience wasn’t about going above and beyond to deal with customer complaints and needs. It wasn’t about listening to customers and incorporating the feedback in to the business or the product. In fact he is notorious for ignoring end-user in the product development process saying they don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them (faster horses philosphy).

He wasn’t about the mind of the market but about the ability to drive solutions that resonate with people in both practical and meaningful ways.

What Steve was about was having a compelling vision. The user experience of Apple reflected the experience that Steve wanted. There are big risks in going this route and if his vision had been faulty they would have been in trouble. His vision was a challenge when viewed from a traditional business lens. It raised the cost for the company and the consumer, his insistence in uniformity meant fewer developers available and a slower time to market.

What it should teach us is that we all need to find the right balance between vision and execution. He had the right balance between profits and purpose. He inspired people to care, to believe what he believed. He made technology live up to a promise. When consumer “like” Apple they are saying the love great design and they value the idea of “thinking differently.” Thank you Steve for showing the world what can be done. We will miss you.

Blurb Books

My sister put together a photo album for my Grandmother a few years ago of all her old photos. Some of the photo’s are over 50 years old. It is one of those albums where you stick the photos on the pages and it’s impossible to remove them. So I scanned the entire page, touched them up in Photoshop and then uploaded them to I was able to make a book in no time and it came out great! I sent one to everyone in the family. Most importantly my Grandmother loved it.

The Science of Making Decisions

Interesting article from Newsweek on decision making titled I Can’t Think .

“The booming science of decision making has shown that more information can lead to objectively poorer choices, and to choices that people come to regret. It has shown that an unconscious system guides many of our decisions, and that it can be sidelined by too much information. And it has shown that decisions requiring creativity benefit from letting the problem incubate below the level of awareness—something that becomes ever-more difficult when information never stops arriving.

[The Brain’s working memory] can hold roughly seven items (which is why seven-digit phone numbers were a great idea). Anything more must be processed into long-term memory.

In a 2004 study, Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University and colleagues found that the more information people confronted about a 401(k) plan, the more participation fell: from 75 percent to 70 percent as the number of choices rose from two to 11, and to 61 percent when there were 59 options. People felt overwhelmed and opted out. Those who participated chose lower-return options—worse choices. Similarly, when people are given information about 50 rather than 10 options in an online store, they choose lower-quality options.

Consider these facts when designing your customer experience — think about “curating” it to reduce stress and increase satisfaction.

UN Creative Economy Report 2010

This UN Creative Economy report builds on the earlier analysis of its predecessor, with new and improved data, showing how creativity, knowledge, culture, and technology can be drivers of job creation, innovation, and social inclusion. It suggests that world trade in creative goods and services remainedrelativelyrobustatatimewhenoverall levels of international trade fell. It analyzes the rapid growth in the creative economy sectors across the South and the growing share of creative sector trade which is coming from the South. By exploring the factors behind this growth and the potential for further expansion of the sector the report provides useful input into the ongoing policy debate on feasible development options.

Connected Creatives: Leveraging Open Innovation Models to Tap Into the Creative Cluster

The Creative Economy is driving the need for a greater inclusion of people who have the ability to facilitate creative thinking and who have a passion around design (entrepreneurs, designers, innovators). There’s a belief that the innovation process needs to move from a linear progression of systematic research to one of non-linear thinking and rapid prototyping. The new economy is forcing a change in the way we come up with ideas and is requiring new tools to develop, collaborate and adapt those ideas.

These new models of collaboration and innovation are enabling changes the dynamics of organizations and how next-generation leaders are looking at making it happen in their teams. Requiring them to look at how they access talent (open innovation) and the way their employees work (technology platforms) and to the policies necessary to create the right environment.

There is a lot of conversation around how to tap in to the creative cluster: leveraging the power of crowd sourcing and collective intelligence. We have seen the trend of leveraging communities for sourcing and sharing ideas and the benefits of a two way dialog with consumers (see this deck that summarizes the benefits realized by Dell, Starbucks and RadioShack)

However, tapping in to the creative community to help drive innovation is a bit different than these examples. It’s about getting creative people together not just about the generation of ideas but to think about solving problems and figuring out how to execute them. You can come up with lots of good ideas through these communities, all of them sound really cool, but if we never do any of them or they don’t deliver business results what does it matter?

The need to be more innovative and think ahead of their customer’s needs, has organizations considering open innovation: stimulating thinking by bringing in people from the outside (vendors, customers, partners, consultants, agencies and even customers) in the form of creative sessions, moving beyond the idea submissions stage to inclusion throughout the development process.

This need to change the way we execute is creating a demand for new technology platforms that connect individuals in different physical spaces: enabling greater diversity, greater ease in getting together (less travel) and therefore the ability to work in a more inclusive and iterative fashion. My colleagues in Cisco’s IBSG have developed a new way for groups to work together called the Active Collaboration Room. Imagine being able to bring together different agencies and consultants from across the globe to innovate around your next marketing campaign or product development. People can join from the connected rooms or dial in through WebEx (video conference on their desktop).

There are new models of open innovation emerging like the 5M Project in San Francisco which is a physical space that has a mix of for-profit and non-profit companies that believe that they will increase the diversity of thoughts by being co-located. Accelerating serendipitous opportunities for collaboration across disciplines. It is also exploring a models where organizations can tap in to the “creative cluster” that has formed there through the use of the remote technologies mentioned above.

We do need to be careful that we consider how we tap in to the creative cluster. Let’s figure out a model that won’t take advantage of the designers. Create mutually beneficial scenarios. It doesn’t have to be monetary compensation. Threadless as an example where people submit their designs for the thrill of seeing them on a t-shirt. There are instances where Designers will want to be part of the process because they want to contribute or feel a part of something even if money is being made as a result. In that case it’s about wanting to belong. But that will only go so far.

Dialog with Gensler: Virtual Retail-ity

I participated in a small event at Gensler last week. Great idea on their part to have these types of events where the invite partners and staff to speak on a topic that is top of mind for their customers.

About 20 customers attended in person at the Gensler office and 100+ people watched the live streaming broadcast. Here is a link to the recording of the session. My preso is about 20 minutes in and I participated in the Q&A which starts about 40 minutes in.

Broadcasting the Event at Gensler

Building Brands Online

Check out this excellent White Paper from AdAge that focuses on Best Practices in a Direct Response-Driven Media.
Download the paper.

3 Critical Elements of Customer Experience Innovation

Most companies invest in innovation but rarely get the benefit they’re hoping for – this is because they tend lack 3 important things:
1) A mechanism for executing that goes across functional boundaries, enabling business leads and designers to work together
2) Cultural willingness to go through the process – embracing new ideas that don’t yet have well defined rules…
3) And techniques like prototyping to test ideas – reducing risk and enabling advancements in predictable and measureable ways

Intersection of Retail and Technology Create Compelling Customer Experiences

Business Week: New Tools for Collaboration