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Posts tagged ‘Tim Brown’

an encore performance

December 11, 2012


Last time I posted, I mentioned there were a couple more stories from my other blog, 365, that I’d re-post.  Here’s one of them.  With one more to follow soon.  Again if you follow both my blogs, thank you for doing so; and I apologize for the repetition.  Hopefully you feel these few posts are worth reading more than once.

Last time I talked about a lot of ways non-creative people are still creative.  See, it’s not an oxymoron.  But I did confine the conversation to those of us who work in ad agencies, an industry perceived as being ‘creative’ anyway.  And because I think it’s important for you to know I’m a firm believer in the fact that creativity can, and should , and does, exist outside of ‘creative’ businesses, I’m approaching the idea from a different perspective this time.

At its very simplest, it’s called out of the box thinking.  Being willing to turn a problem, or a tough challenge, on its ear, looking at it from a different angle, through a different lens.

Being willing, regardless of what you do for a living, to sweep aside the status quo and embrace new ideas.  Different ideas.  Unconventional ideas for your industry.  Client-centric ideas.  Revolutionary ideas.  Never-before-considered or tried ideas.  Regardless of whether you work in the private or public sectors.  Regardless of whether you are a health care worker, an educator, a politician, a CEO, a sales person, a scientist, a researcher, a lawyer, or an accountant; or even a tinker, tailor, soldier or spy.

What I’m talking about is ‘design thinking’.  Born out of industrial design, design thinking is a very disciplined, systematic, strategic process (yet intensely creative) that is used to solve what most of us would consider unsolvable challenges, like finding an innovative way to deliver clean drinking water in the developing world.  I find it absolutely fascinating.  I’m obsessed with it, in fact.  And I am a rabid fan of a global consultancy based in California, IDEO, who are pioneers in the field, and worked on the drinking water project.  I am also a huge fan of their President and CEO, Tim Brown, who has written a book, that I have read at least two dozen times.  Buy it, you won’t be sorry.

He spoke in Toronto earlier this year, and I went.  Surprise, surprise.  He presented a lot of impressive and varied case studies, but my favourite was a project they did for the Singapore government.  I have actually written it up, here on Fransi Weinstein Et Al.

I follow a lot of very good WordPress blogs.  One of them is called Book Peeps.  And the other day its author posted an interesting and provocative piece on education.  Specifically, what’s wrong with our educational ‘system’, who’s really to blame, what role both parents and teachers can play and what can be done about it.  Her post was inspired by an article (there’s a link to it in the post) she read, about the differences in how eastern and western cultures tackle teaching.

As I read her post, all I could think was:  “Now there’s an ‘opportunity’ that’s just crying out for a team from IDEO.”  And that’s what inspired this post, of men.

Any other issues you can think of that could benefit from some innovative thinking, IDEO style?  In my not so humble opinion, the U.S. ‘fiscal cliff’ issue is a perfect candidate.  If I was President Obama I’d be thinking seriously about bringing them to the table.  I’m certainly in no position to speak for the management of IDEO but I’ll bet they might even consider doing it pro bono.  I sure would.  Talk about a juicy assignment.  And talk about the fame (and fortune) that would follow, if you could wrestle that problem to the ground successfully!

But in all seriousness, that issue is going to take creative thinking to solve.  And from what I’ve seen, at a great distance I admit, I’m not so sure the people involved have what it takes.

For that mater, the Middle East crisis desperately needs some innovative thinking, as well.  But not all the ‘problems’ need to be as grand as these few examples I’ve cited.  Even in our local communities there are many opportunities to look at things differently.  To improve the way they’re done.  Make them more efficient.  Make them easier to use or access.  Make them more end-user friendly.  Make them more relevant.  Make them more cost effective.

The solutions are within all of us.  We just need to climb out of the rut we’re in.  We just need to open our eyes and ears and minds to the possibilities.  We just need to learn how to collaborate, because non of us has the answer on our own.  We just need to embrace change.  And most of all, we just need to want to have the time of our lives, because there’s nothing more stimulating, or fun, energizing and exciting, than solving problems, brilliantly!

President Obama’s campaign theme was ‘Forward’.  I’d like to add something to that:  ‘Forward.  Redefined!’

it’s about the customer. The customer. The customer. Got that??

December 12, 2011


Last week Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO, was in town and speaking at the Rotman School of Management.  Being a huge fan, I went.  For those of you who have no idea who or what I’m talking about IDEO, a global consultancy, is ranked among the ten most innovative companies in the world.  Their client list, which reads like the Who’s Who of brands, includes Apple, Microsoft, PepsiCo, P&G and Steelcase, to name just a few.

Of all the many interesting things he talked about in the 60-odd minutes he had, one of the most memorable — for me — was when he took us through a project IDEO worked on, for the Singapore government — and, more specifically, the ‘user experience blueprint’ that was  at the very heart of the assignment — which was to simplify the process visitors to the country who need work permits go through.

It was absolutely brilliant.  Simple.  Logical.  And I’m sure, in much the same way I was, everyone else who was sitting in that auditorium was also wondering why the process wasn’t designed this way in the first place.

This is definitely an over-simplification of a very disciplined, methodical and strategic exercise but, you could say, that what a user experience blueprint does is help executives or planners or immigration officials or whomever the client is, put themselves in their customers’ shoes.  Experience what they experience when they need to avail themselves of your product, service, facility, etc.

In this particular case, a cameraman followed a girl from the airport (where she’d recently gotten off a plane) to the building where work permits are issued … through the front door, through the lobby, through the system.  A tourist — tired — jet lagged — alone –intimidated — in a foreign country — looking at a foreign language — not knowing where to go, what to do, how to do it, who to ask.  Finally, watching someone ahead of her going through the process and copying what she did — not knowing whether it was the right thing or not — but at that moment, it was her only alternative.

Sounds simple now.  Sounds logical now.  But it was done wrong for years and years and years.

And this is not an isolated case.  There are similar scenarios everywhere you turn, in every corner of the world.  Think about it:

  • If corporate executives put themselves in our place and ‘experienced’  their complicated IVR systems like we do, do you think we’d be forced to spend upwards of 10 minutes pressing 1 for this, or 2 for that, or 5 for something else every time we wanted information, technical support, accounting, sales, repair or service?
  • If taxi cab fleet owners tried their own service and were put on hold for 10 minutes every time they wanted a cab, then waited 20 minutes or so for one to actually show up, and then got into a filthy, smelly wreck of a car that had no shock absorbers left, that was driven by a driver who had no idea where he was going and who also never got off his cell phone — how long do you think it would take before improvements were made?
  • Do department store management ever shop in their own stores?  Do they ever wander around aimlessly, schlepping hangers and hangers full of clothes looking for a sales associate to help  — or help you find a fitting room?  Do they then wander around from empty service desk to empty service desk trying to look for a cash register that has an employee there who can ring up your purchases?
  • And what about tourists to the cities we live in.  What happens to them when they get off their planes?  Are we making them feel welcome?  Is it easy for them to find their way through the airport?  To transportation?  To their final destinations?  Can they find their way as they try to navigate through our city?  How easy is the subway for someone who comes from a foreign country? Could we be doing a better job?

The obvious is clearly not always obvious, is it?

I do have something cool to share, though.  I volunteer at Mt. Sinai Hospital.  Last summer I was asked to help with some research they were conducting.  We were asked to intercept visitors and patients as they made their way around the hospital.  Why?  Because the administration wanted to know whether these folks felt it was easy or confusing to get around.  Was it easy or difficult to find the clinics, doctors or patients they were looking for?  Especially as it related to those for whom English is a second language.  What could we do to make it easier for them?

I say “Wow”!  As if the business of saving lives isn’t enough, this management team care about all aspects of the ‘user experience’.When you think about it, it’s not really that hard to imagine what your users go through.  You just have to want to.

As for me, I want to work with IDEO.

I’ve had enough of the status quo to last me a lifetime

November 30, 2011


Despite all the problems in the world — the sorry state of the environment and the economy, the absolute insanity of the standoff between the republicans and the democrats, the unrest everywhere, the disasters — I believe we are living in remarkable times.  We have access to more information, more quickly than at any other time in history.  Technology makes everything possible.  Some of the greatest minds the world has ever known — or may ever know — are right here, right now.

And yet, we’re stuck.  We just can’t seem to move forward.  For some inexplicable reason we can’t seem to think of what could be; and instead, we refuse to change — insisting on living in the past — insisting on doing things the way we always have — despite the fact that they no longer work — and never will again.

It is so frustrating I could scream.  And it makes me think of that late 70’s movie, “Network”, starring Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and an all-star cast.  In fact, the film is a story of a fictional television network with failing ratings.  When the anchor, Peter Finch, is told he’s just got two more weeks on air, he has an on-air meltdown.  He then essentially starts ‘a movement’ when he rants “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

That is exactly how I feel, so stay tuned.  You may just see me on the 6 o’clock news one of these evenings.

It drives me crazy that I go to  conference after conference where corporate executives are ringing their hands.  “Why” you ask?  Because angry customers are venting on social media and they (the execs) think that if they have a Facebook page and get people to ‘like’ them all their problems will miraculously disappear.

Their problems will disappear when they change the way they do business.  When they create products and services that their customers want and need.

Same goes for politicians; and health care providers; and educators, by the way.

Who knows?  Maybe you’re all getting tired of hearing me whine about the same thing all the time.  But we could accomplish so much, we would do so much good — if only we were prepared to re-think the way we think.  Still not getting it?

Do yourselves a favour.  Buy “Change by Design”, a book written by Tim Brown, who is the CEO and President of IDEO — one of the top ten most innovative companies in the world.   What they do is called ‘design thinking’ — a systematic yet creative approach they use whether they are creating an object or finding an innovative way to deliver clean drinking water in the developing world.

I’ve re-read the book at least a half dozen times now; and each time I do I am more inspired.  The challenges we face can be overcome.  There’s a better, cheaper, cleaner, faster, more efficient, more human-centred way to do almost anything.  All we need is the desire, and the willingness to change.