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Posts Tagged ‘design thinking’

Design Strategy Diagrammed

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

diagram of design strategy by ralf beuker

An appropriate follow to my previous post. The diagram above does an excellent job visualizing not only the elements that comprise design strategy, but also gives some detail on how this strategy could be applied to ideas as actionable steps. You can learn more about this diagram from , and also download a larger file that makes the detail easy to read.

Connecting The Dots of Design Strategy

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

from on .

An excellent overview of one firm’s perspective on effective design strategy, and the value of design to the challenges facing business as we work to identify valuable ideas and pursue opportunity. Coincidentally, I first found this video last week while I was in Palo Alto visiting with IDEO and Steelcase on essentially the same subject, to learn more about their methodologies for user centered research and how that research is realized through smart, informed design strategy.

David Armano On Thinking Visually

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

View SlideShare or your own. (tags: )

An excellent presentation put together by David Armano , whom I have really enjoyed following both via his blog and on Twitter. Armano has tremendous insight into a whole range of subject matter, but is especially adept at offering valuable thinking at the intersection of design, technology, and marketing.

Armano’s advocacy for thinking visually, and his seemingly tireless work in putting new ideas around this out to his community, is a great thing. As he puts it:

“Effective communication is everyone’s job—whether you are trying to sell in a concept or convince a client. Visual Thinking can help us take in complex information and synthesize it into something meaningful. In an increasingly fragmented and cluttered world, simple imagery, metaphors and mindmaps can get people to understand the abstract and make your ideas tangible. Find out why why thinking visually may be one of the most sought after abilities of the 21st century.”

David Armano

It is also very interesting to have come across this presentation about an hour after reading the wonderful article in fast company about .

Design Thinking, Divergent Thinking

Friday, October 10th, 2008

I have been wanting to post about the recent piece in the New York Times. It’s a brief article, but quickly gets to the heart of something seemingly being discussed everywhere for the last couple of years, the concept of design thinking. Reading the article made me recall the image above, which is a quick sketch done by Charles Eames to visually help him to explain design, and that was shown in the 1969 Louvre Show, “What is Design.” I like that we are still investigating what this means nearly thirty forty years later (1969 is my birth year, I was in denial…).

In the article I was excited to see Tim Brown of IDEO bring up the relationship between design thinking and divergence. He goes into more detail on design thinking as one of many approaches to problem solving, to business, on his own blog, which is aptly titled . This is what we are talking about, after all, and this is from where the value for business in design thinking emanates, this idea of divergence or divergent thinking. I was discussing this with a friend of mine who is an architect, and he proclaimed that this is how architects have been talking for awhile. Oh, really? Talking, probably, but acting on… not so much. In the article Brown goes on to say:

“Most business processes are about making choices from a set of existing alternatives. Clearly, if all your competition is doing the same, then differentiation is tough. In order to innovate, we have to have new alternatives and new solutions to problems, and that is what design can do.”

This, however, is not what you are seeing in the business of architecture. Nor have you seen this for a very, very long time. Sure, there are architects who embody this approach to their business and some of them are very, very successful. But as an industry, as a group, this hardly applies to the way that architects think. We have hardly seen the business model of architecture, or its approach to design, change in any significant way for decades, other than to see its influence in building culture be consistently reduced by other, smarter, more aggresive industries. The truth hurts, but this is where the opportunity for architecture clearly lies, on putting action to his words and actually applying divergent thinking to the architecture business model and making a determined effort to focus on innovation.

This post is a milestone for schneiderism, it being the 300th post since launch in July of 2007.

10 Things: Innovation at Steelcase

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Before I get into Steelcase, allow me to announce this piece as the inaugural “10 Things” post on schneiderism. My plan is to use 10 Things as a way to recap some of the more interesting experiences and information I come across. I have added 10 Things as a category in the category menu and am planning on writing several posts of this nature in the coming week or so to get the category going.

Last week I had the opportunity to spend an intense day meeting and interacting with some of the more fascinating aspects of at their HQ in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Most will hear the name of this company and think first, and perhaps only, of office furniture and cubicles. They do design and manufacture a lot of both, but that is not why I made this visit. Steelcase has developed tremendous assets with regards to workplace and human factors research, as well as what would appear to be an organization-wide relentless focus on innovation and understanding the complexities and preferences of human interaction. The building in the image above is their WorkSpace Futures Research headquarters, and is essentially the nexus of design and innovation for this nearly $4 billion global enterprise. Yes, that building is a pyramid and yes, it does appear to have fallen out of the sky.

The following are 10 Things from my visit:

1.  User experience, user-centered design, user-focused process was everywhere. It has become the company. Everybody speaks in these terms and they are passionate about understanding people, their needs, and designing solutions and systems from this perspective back to technology and materials. This was an incredibly consistent theme.

2.  Design thinking is the practice and methodology. A few years ago Steelcase very smartly acquired a controlling interest in , which remains a stand-alone business. Most people hear this and are very, very surprised. That is because IDEO is much more than a portfolio piece for Steelcase, the value being the relationship between the two companies, a relationship between a David and a Goliath. It has become an invaluable strategic partnership.

3.  IDEO/Steelcase has done an expert job positively influencing, infecting really, how Steelcase approaches its business, and that is a truly amazing outcome.

4.  is an intense area of focus, and they actively experiment with technology on themselves in an effort to shrink distance and remove the obstacles presented by working remotely. Steelcase CEO is all over this, so much so that he and IDEO’s have a direct telepresence connection between their offices. Jim is in Grand Rapids and David is in Palo Alto. This link is referred to as “the wormhole” and is a connection that is much more than symbolic. They benefit greatly from the opportunity to virtually sit across the table from each other to ideate and challenge ideas. I was fortunate to visit Jim Hackett’s office and actually see how this works. Very cool.

5. Innovation at Steelcase begins at the top. Literally. In many ways it appeared to me that as well as CEO, Jim Hackett also functions as a Chief Innovation Officer. Many initiatives and innovations began with Jim asking some questions or believing that something could be better. In fact, he changed the management paradigm at Steelcase physically and functionally by moving executives out of their arcane and isolated top floor 1950’s executive suite and into a functioning, experimental workspace laboratory that allows even Steelcase executive leadership to be their own lab subjects.

6. “Furniture is a given, and is not what we really need to be talking about.” Furniture is a commodity, Steelcase is not in the commodity business. I heard this a couple of times during my visit, and I believe it was attributed to CEO Hackett. This is somewhat revolutionary in terms of how this organization is thinking about itself. The opportunity is in innovating at a level that their products as physical elements almost fall away with the focus instead being on the thinking behind the products.

7. It’s not about technology, it’s about human factors and the seamless integration of technology into the communication and collaboration needs of teams and the individual. There is much effort being put to understanding the tensions between presentation and collaboration, or presentation vs. collaboration. More collaboration, less presentation.

8. The goal is the strategic application of space. Steelcase is moving way beyond a product mindset and into areas of research that positions them to help organizations map their physical and virtual workplaces to their unique business model. This was a favorite quote, “Stop talking about space, though, and instead look at the table of contents of the latest Harvard Business Review. That is what Steelcase is concerned with, with understanding, and with integrating into our needs response.” Architects and interior designers should take note of this, immediately.

9. “The change in the mindset is that our work is not about saving our client’s money, it is about helping them make money.” It is also about business model alignment and business model innovation. It is about identifying the critical success factors for an organization, at a complexity of levels, and integrating this into the needs response.

10. More than a few people that I met spoke to me about (ubicomp), and about “the cloud.” Steelcase knows that these ideas will change the way we work and interact. They choose to be the vanguard by investing serious resources in researching and investigating exactly how this might happen. The Workplace Futures team is constantly projecting out years into the future and hypothesizing about what our interactions might be like, about what new technologies may be of use. Let me remind you that this is happening at a $4 billion global office furniture company. Tom Brown, CEO of IDEO, and Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett conceived of an idea 18 months ago that would provide comprehensive media and communications seamlessly integrated with telepresence, information capture, and idea sharing. They rapid prototyped and iteratively and incrementally improved the concept. Media:Scape launches in the spring of 2009.

There was so much more that I experienced and that is worthy of writing entire posts on. I’ll get to all of it, especially my time in the Learn Lab and with Details president Bud Klipa, but for now these are my 10 Things from my time with Steelcase. I came away very impressed and inspired.