Aug 09

What is Design ? – a Knowledge Management point of view

Or Why Managers are from Mars and Designers are from Venus..

If Design can be described as a combination of three key factors (as outlined in the last post) then mapping them onto 3 axis space helps to explain the ‘cultural miss’ that often occurs between designers and engineers/business managers.

We all start solving problems in the lower left corner using our natural skill and learnt methods. As our skills increase our ability to translate and apply experiential or tacit knowledge starts to demonstrate our expertise in a particular field.

Some industries value highly repeatable, predictable, derivable answers – expected quality (think air traffic controllers).

Other industries value one off, unique and interpretive solutions – exciting quality (think artisans).

Most industries value a combination of both approaches – at the right time – context dependant. Designers and business people regularly seem to be talking a different language, and this diagram helps to explain their very different world view points.

industries within3d space mk2.jpg

Aug 09

What is Design? design?

From a business perspective – What is design and what is it good for?

The old addage of “If you can’t explain it, then you probably don’t understand it” applies here also. From my perspective I can define ‘what is design’ by four rules.

1) Design is a subset of innovation.

Yes yes yes I know thats heresy, but its a simple enough test, you can easily innovate without design – engineers and scientists do it all the time. BUT you cannot design without innovating, it is fundamental to what we think of as design. In fact we are only just waking up to design because innovation through traditional methods is no longer enough.

2) It’s exciting.
The whole point of design is to do something interesting and insightful, not just iterative. Kano defines different types of quality and by his definitions, Design is all about creating ‘exciting’ quality products/services/offerings.

Wikipedia Kano Quality Model

3) Its Intuitive

You can’t do it from a book. Its always about a subjective application of tacit knowledge and experience. Thats why some people can do ‘design’ and others can’t. Because some time, some where, you need to both gather enough knowledge and enough experience to be able to apply the skills to problem solving. Graphic design is a great example, the tools are no substitute for talent, and an artist ( one off self expressions) are not the same as production focussed visual communications.

4) Its best for complicated / complex – wicked problems.

Design makes no difference when its a 1+1 problem, its only when there is complexity, some subtlety and lots of variables at work that design becomes powerful (or relevant). Think Branding or Marketing, complex gnarly problems with no ‘right’ answer. Change one thing and you change the lot.

This is where aesthetics and humans come into it. Theres no simple measure or mechanical method to create aesthetically elegant products, so it always comes down to a person who can intuitively come up with an exciting answer to a complex problem. When a person is the customer/user then there’s always more than one answer and that’s the domain of design.

So all this means we can actually pretty accurately define design in business management terms of Knowledge Management, Quality and Problem Solving characteristics as part of an intentional innovation process.

Next up a diagram of why Managers are from Mars and Designers are from Venus…

Jul 09

Advertising revisited and rethunked

There’s are great post by Bernard Hickey over at Interest.co.nz on their strategy for creating value from their web business. Its insightful and grounded and great advice. This was posted in the context of NBR’s new pricing/revenue strategy which has drawn a lot of criticism. Clearly the traditional media market is still grappling with / shaking down how it will survive in the face of citizen journalists rampantly creating great insightful and timely content – for free.

I have been somewhat disillusioned that even the best web sites are still essentially reliant on an advertising driven revenue model. And I have, perhaps unfairly, felt somewhat disappointed that in spite of brilliance in the content the fundamental model has not been improved on.

But.. the channel to market is often the make or break of a great invention or innovation, so are these websites offering a channel (advertising) to a specific market actually in a more powerful position than I give them credit for? And is it actually the efficacy of their channel management that makes the difference between ‘just another website’ and a market leader? Again I’m reminded of Rod Oram’s maxim ‘be the point of pain’ in your market. Is it the websites/businesses that have managed to become the point of pain for the channel that then can do well and command a premium e.g. Google.

So maybe its wrong to be dismissive of advertising driven revenue models, its a legitimate, time proven idea and, like any business model, the differentiation is in the strategy, the management and the insights into accessing, and ‘owning’ that market through dominance of THE channel.

Advertising revenue streams are being reworked, revisited and generally rethinked, I wonder if the strong sites are being intentional in their work or if their channels are being rethunked around them?

Jul 09

Monetize twoth

This is one of the fundamental differences with our web2.0 world, first create value, then monetize. Did the google guys have a clear picture of how to turn a great search into a fortune when they started down the road?

Value and Volume provide the opportunities, and in the rapidly evolving ecology of the web the revenue mechanisms evolve later. They come second to establishing the offering and fettling the functions to ensure best bang for buck.

Why people value a new service or product often takes time to understand and is the subject of the classic adoption curve. The bleeding edge guys want it because its new, the teens and fringes are experimenting and have low stickiness, but sooner or later, given enough volume, enough durability, and enough oxygen (read cash) then the value proposition to business becomes more defined and businesses adopt. Think social networking/twitter/auctions.

Build the volume and understand the value, then evolve the mechanisms to monetize. That’s business 2.0.

Jul 09

Be the point of pain in your market

Rod Oram has a great line about “being the point of pain’ in your market, where people have to either deal with you or go out of their way not to. Think Google/Microsoft and Trademe/eBay, Telecom/Vodafone etc. Love them or (often) hate them its hard to work around them. Everyone else becomes a bit player.

His point is that a dominant position no matter how small the niche, provides a fundamental advantage, opportunities and promotes even the smallest enterprise to a position where they can become a price maker rather than price taker.

I had the privilege of working with Rod on couple of projects and this insight was proved repeatedly as we talked to many companies about their competitive strategies. In the main companies had not set out to dominate a market, however when they found themselves in that position they took a fundamental step forward.

Be the point of pain..

Jul 09

Contact Grant

Hi, I’m Grant Wells, and I live, work and play around Canterbury, New Zealand.

You can contact me by email on grant@nextant.co.nz or phone +64(0)21 998 991

Jul 09

Blue Ocean Strategy Summary

Jul 09

Be Like the Internet – 8 steps to success in a post 2.0 world

View more presentations from Thor.

Jul 09

Alberto Cairo’s website: infographics, design and visual journalism


Jul 09