Design transfusion

— reposting an article i wrote earlier on a different site–

I am keen on Marty Neumier’s new book the Designful Company because it handsomely mirrors the work I have been doing lately. I felt like the book provided me with a peer sensibility. If you design transformation for a living, you may now have your very own bible. Thanks Marty. I think this book is great and by a significant margin, it is your best.

Here are a two excerpts that really made me think:

1.) “To build an innovative culture, a company must keep itself in a perpetual state of reinvention. Radical ideas must be the norm, not the exception…Companies don’t fail because they choose the wrong course–they fail because they can’t imagine a better one.”

2.) The management model that got us here is underpowered to move us forward. Are we getting better and better at a management model that is getting wronger and wronger?

For me, working in a pure knowledge services industry, things like this have me wondering, is it right to measure what we are measuring? If the industry we are in is going to steadily become saturated (and we would be smart to hedge against rise in competitive sameness) with new stronger entrants, it will be wise for comapnies to seek competitive diferentiation more aggressively. It is no longer enough to be better.

It makes me think of the Daft Punk line, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.”

When the economy sucks and you’re responsible for making several ends of the company meet, you have to think differently to stay ahead or stay alive. Sometimes companies need to transfuse to transform. They need to get the old stuff, way of thinking, processes and pragmatism out and let some new in. Why? Because things are changing. The way people interact and the way your company meets the demands of its customers is undergoing transformation. It is wise to pay close attention to this. The old stuff can bog the company down.

For the last month I have been working with a North Carolina health care insurer to help them with social media focusing on how it impacts their business. Much of my involvement in their transformation has been thinking about their organization as a body undergoing a strategic transfusion. They have most everything they need and the most talented people I have met, they just needed a change or a course of fresh, objective, outside thinking to revitalize their culture, operations and team.

Marty has also widely pointed out many diagnostics why companies are feeling the abrupt need to change. I love his list.

Here is what The Designful Company claims is happening:
• Customers are controlling the company
• Jobs are becoming avenues of self-expression
• The barriers to competition are no longer controllable
• Strangers design our products and services
• Fewer features are better
• Advertising is becoming counter-effective
• Demographics are beside the point
• Whatever you sell, you take back
• Best practices are obsolete at birth
• Meaning talks
• Money walks
• Stability is fantasy
• Talent trumps obedience
• Imagination beats knowledge
• Empathy trounces logic

I know change sucks for most but when you are in the business of helping organizations make the most strategic change happen in the most economical way, this is great. I look for more writing and interaction on this topic and I applaud Marty for sticking his neck out and writing this book. I am sure there are many six sigma blackbelts and hard core pragmatists who see this great book as having little value. We’ll see.

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