Marty Neumeier is president of a consulting firm called Neutron and based in San Francisco, CA. He began his career as a designer and nowadays also writes about innovation and corporate culture, his two previous books The Brand Gap and Zag (“When other Zig, Zag”!) dealing about radical differentiation and business strategies regarding innovation. In this book, published very recently, the American defends a corporate culture based on design thinking, in which innovation is driven by a new approach : radically new creation, fuelled by designer’s minds.
In his survey led with Stanford University, Neutron’s CEO revealed that top executives’ most “wicked problems” to solve in their daily business life is :
- Balancing long-term goals with short-term demands
- Predicting the returns of innovative concepts
- Innovating at the increasing speed of change, and so on…
You would probably argue that these challenges, even if he calls them “wicked problems” (expression first used by the German design theorist Horst Rittel), aren’t new to companies since they always needed to be competitive by innovating. This is actually true, but Marty Neumeier tells us he has found the best way to conciliate these problems with company benefits is to adopt design thinking : using empathy, creativity and rationality of designers to fuel innovation, and thereby drive business success.
The mistake would be to say what I just said : “of designers“! But with designers, I don’t (only) mean a weirdo who draws sketches all day long, but the whole creative class (Richard Florida, 2002) made of entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, artists etc. which thinks like designers. One example is given by railroad baron Collis P. Huntington, who once said “Your Eiffel Tower is all very well, but where’s the money in it?” when a journalist asked him about a critique, just after the completion of the monument. According to Neumeier, the designer’s reaction would more likely sound like this : “What a stirring symbol of achievement! From now on, people will never forget their visit to Paris“. The designful company will have to “think […], feel […], work like designers“.
Antother idea that Neumeier defends is that design is change. Therefore, whether you find a situation worth improving or not, innovation should be design-driven because it focuses on imagining what could be. An example regarding this is the Freestyle dispenser imagined by Coca-Cola : making drinking Coke a whole new experience. They are designing the drinking experience in a whole new way, check it out yourself ! Together with other marketing & branding tools like storytelling, and management tools like branded training, your company will build-up a culture of nonstop innovation, according to him. Let’s not forget that it’s actually his business to fuel change in companies, by consulting and training services offered by Neutron !
A phrase I loved in the book is the following one : “Companies will create wealth from the conversion of raw intangibles -imagination, empathy and collaboration- into finished intangibles -patents, brands and customer tribes“. As synthetic as this quote is his book, designed to be read and understood very easily, but also to give useful tools to implement change in your very own company !
If you want another review of the book, check this post from Designdroplets.com