Without Competitive advantage Innovate Design is Meaningless

When working on the business pitch, the importance of having a competitive edge in both the design solution and business strategy became increasingly apparent. There are many ideas out there and businesses and designs start to become similar due to the diverse immensity of all the ‘stuff’. Without a plan to innovate competitive advantage in a design of a product, service or experience, the overall business can become boring quite quickly and the market looses interest.

The design of our product ‘Changing Rooms’ however, is an innovative idea that we hope to see become a necessity. A service to customers that will change the way they shop online through the medium of a virtual shopping interface. This is the type of innovation that does not become boring quickly as it is a useful tool for so many people, and becomes a necessity to a majority market made up of online shoppers. It also opens up the possibility to attract new markets, such as people who shop only at physical stores.

When the mobile phone first came out it was a radical innovation. Now that everyone is using smart phones you can see that it has come a long way and phone companies are constantly refreshing their designs. Looking into the future, it is crucial for the design firm Next to keep refreshing this service, because although it will become a necessity to online shoppers and revolutionize the shopping experience, it is a service that will keep having to refresh its image and develop even further as people’s expectations rise.


The context economy: Integrating service, product and connectivity

Many contemporary films and literature depict the future as a dystopian society where technology has advanced to the detriment of human beings. However there are many insightful educational papers and research that predict a different scenario, where the advancement of new digital technologies contribute to the health and wellness of individuals, and builds connected communities who live in a more sustainable economy and environment.

The 21st century is defined not by mass consumption but by mass creativity, as we have new technologies that allow people to explore greater expression, create personalised experiences, and gain more knowledge through easy accessible and accurate information systems[1]. Furthermore these technologies are matched alongside social networking and community enhancing websites, which opens up new ways of sharing resources and living in a more sociable and connected community.


You now live in an economy based on information, services, experiences and solutions, in and through specific contexts. You value being able to customize this in a way that is personal and fitting to you, as an individual or as a group. Living as you do in a context economy, value is based on customization, adaptability and transformation [2].

Entering into a context economy means that ambient technologies become embedded into our everyday lives and instead of consuming goods and services, people are able to live with it side-by-side as it supports and facilitates daily living[3].

Making Future Magic is a short film collaboration by Dentsu London and Timo Arnall. It looks at a not too distant future where media is able to travel freely onto surfaces of everyday life and therefore can speak more frequently and quietly[4]. This film takes into account how social networking and the media have become a huge part of people’s daily lives, and as technologies continue to advance, it shows the possibility that these mediums can be highly integrated into ordinary objects. The products that are depicted in the film successfully portray the type of technologies that are now entering into the context economy where service, product and connectivity are all combined to create personalised experiences.

Don Norman discusses some of the dangers of intelligent devices and how future design should be focused on developing an optimal relationship between humans and machines. Making Future Magic is interesting because it shows a high integration of smart technology but it is not a dangerous integration, as the technology can co-exist with humans in an intimate and meaningful setting. This is the type of innovative thinking that businesses should implement when looking at technology as a means to innovate, and to understand that products are no longer valuable to consumers as much as the experience.

[1] Green, J. 2007, ‘Democratizing the future: Towards a new era of creativity and growth by Josephine Green’, paper presented to the IIT Institute of Design Strategy Conference, 17-18th May 2007.

[2] ibid 1

[3] Ibid 1

[4] Jack Schulze . 2010. Media Surfaces: Incidental Media. [ONLINE] Available at: http://berglondon.com/blog/2010/11/03/media-surfaces-incidental-media/. [Accessed 04 July 12].

Is consumption the answer to a brighter future?

As Charles Leadbeater discusses, the 20th century was a time of spending and defined by credit, advertising and materialism but in the turn of the 21st century collaborative consumption started to change the economy and traditional trading idea’s surrounding community and sharing re-emerged [1]. This type of consumption is a healthy move forward for the economy in terms of reducing waste, dealing with over consumption and promoting the idea of sharing and utilizing resources efficiently.

TIME magazine names Collaborative Consumption as one of the top trends of 2010 [2]. After the financial crisis, people became more aware of their spending habits but collaborative consumption has been around long before the credit crunch. As a growing movement, collaborative consumption is becoming increasingly popular, as social networks become more utilized into daily life.

‘Living Social’ is one example of a collaborative lifestyle network. Living Social is the online source for discovering valuable local experiences. We inspire our members to find, share, and enjoy the best of their neighborhoods by connecting them with handpicked local businesses. [3]

The success of living social show that people not only want to save money but they also want to be social and remain connected with their local communities. This is good for the economy, as local businesses increase sales but also build good relationships with customers who in turn, have quick and easy access to special offers.

Another example of collaborative consumption surrounds the betterment of the environment by allocating resources through a rent system. It makes sense. If people are renting cars and electronic goods, this would lead to a reduction in waste and also carbon emissions.

Hubway is a bicycle rental system in Boston that is economical, sustainable and an easier (fun) way to travel around the city. With 60 stations, 600 bicycles and an eye towards expanding into Boston neighborhoods and surrounding communities, Hubway provides users with an accessible and green transit option [4]. This is a new business venture and could potentially transform society and the way people travel in the city.

Businesses are moving towards an experience economy where by the experience offered to the consumer is vital to its success and consumers are moving towards a sharing economy. Entering into this new economy, it is becoming more feasible now to see that the future could possibly be one that is moving towards a more green and sustainable one. Capitalism is still on the agenda of many powerful leaders in the business and government sectors but if consumers start to shift their thinking towards collaborative consumptions, and business respond, then perhaps a sharing society will prove more lasting than one built on heavy consumption and ownership.

[1] Botsman, R. & Rodgers, R. 2010, ‘Introduction: What’s Mine is Yours’, in What’s mine is yours: the rise of collaborative consumption, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, pp. ix-xxii.

[2] Bryan Walsh. 2010. The Top 10 Everything of 2010. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2035319_2034098_2034146,00.html. [Accessed 02 July 12]

[3] LivingSocial . 2012. Livingsocial Our Company. [ONLINE] Available at:http://corporate.livingsocial.com/ourcompany. [Accessed 03 July 12].

[4] Hubway. 2011. Hubway. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.thehubway.com/. [Accessed 03 July 12].

When Innovation crosses the line

When thinking about successful future scenarios for businesses, you would think that technological advancements would be key to innovation. And indeed it is. Take the IPhone as an example; the innovative use of technology in producing an IPhone makes it an ideal smart phone with easy accessibility, convenience and a sleek design. But what makes Apple so successful is the fact that they implemented design thinking to this innovation, as they were able to find out what people wanted and could translate these wants into a meaningful device.

But what happens when smart phones no longer meet the needs of consumers who are constantly wanting more. Our generation is moving towards an age where we rely heavily on technology, fast accessibility and have a high desire to be connected. Does this mean that the coming of the new IPhone 5 is not as exciting as anticipated?

Don Norman discusses some of the dangers of intelligent devices and how future design should be focused on developing an optimal relationship between humans and machines. The IPhone is a smart device that offers a lot of benefits to the user and essentially makes life easier, but how meaningful is it? Or will it be meaningful in the future? Imagine if there was an application that organized your life for you in a way that it could give you advice on how to go about your day, what television shows to watch, which social events you should attend and the sport you should play in order to increase the quality of your lifestyle. This is almost like your IPhone is telling or commanding you what to do which becomes an unnatural imbalance to the relationship between humans and machines. Although some of Norman’s warnings may seem to be provocative and based on some assumptions, he is taping into some serious problems that should be considered.

On tiny plots, a new generation of farmers emerges

It is becoming almost a new fad in the market to see people making choices based on well-being, and health and taking the form of an altruist rather than just a consumer driven by price.  Many leading firms including The Body Shop, Starbucks and Toyota along with organizations such as PETA have already taped into this market as the demand for ethical, sustainable and local rootedness continue to become important buying factors for consumers.

A huge market that has able to develop and flourish in this altruist environment is the market for organic products. Although organic products and services are in comparison more expensive to conventional products, this market has seen substantial growth in recent years.  There are three major factors that enable small organic farms to stay competitive in the industry: a rising consumer demand for organic produce, a huge increase in farmers’ markets nationwide, and the growing popularity of community-supported agriculture[1].

A health conscious consumer is one type of persona but looking at the idea of an altruist consumer helps businesses build good will within their company. Cotton On is an example of a retail business that has developed goodwill by creating a foundation to help support children in poor communities. In every transaction they ask the customer if they would like to purchase a charity bag or bracelet to help support this foundation [2]. This is another example of how people are motivated to purchase on the basis of doing something beneficial for the wider community and where price plays little relevance.

[1] http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/environment/2009-07-13-young-farmers_N.htm

[2] Cotton On Group . 2012. Cotton On Foundation . [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.cottononfoundation.org/. [Accessed 27 June 12].

Entering into the Experience Economy

In today’s lecture John Schweitzer emphasized the importance of innovation for contemporary businesses and organizations so that they remain competitive and can continue to increase growth, productivity and economic wealth. However it is increasingly getting difficult to innovate as society is now heavily globalized and entering into a networked world where goods and services are becoming highly commoditized and customer needs and expectations are a lot higher and constantly increasing. Businesses must now focus their attention on innovating thinking and progresses in relation to the experience they offer to its consumers in order to find a competitive edge/advantage in the now entering ‘experience economy’. As Joseph Pine II and James Gilmor explain “An experience occurs when a company uses services as the stage–and goods as props–for engaging individuals in a way that creates a memorable event.[1]

If you think about it, using the retail industry as an example, many stores now find it an equally important priority to offer good customer service and a unique shopping experience to customers as well as simply just selling goods or providing services. Peter Alexander is an example of a successful business staging an experience to create value for the customer. There are many retail stores that sell the same product line as Peter Alexander (sleepwear, lounge wear, day wear) but the designer and now Creative Director of the business, Peter Alexander, was able to take an ordinary product and create an experience for the customer by evoking the senses through the interior/spatial design of the stores, music and fragrance, package design, the uniforms of the employees[2]. All these elements are able to create a fun sort of fantasy for the customer and this is much more appealing than the average department store that offers good products and customer service but leaves no lasting memory and impact to the person.

But then this leads unto another issue where all the leading edge companies are know realizing the benefits and entering into the experience economy, how much longer will it be until an experience also becomes a commodity? A video that I recently viewed called ‘The Secret Powers of Time’ explains how future generations are becoming increasingly relatable to the digital world and less interested in the analogue. This paints a possible future scenario of businesses utilizing the advancements of digital technology e.g. creating interactive online stores where people create their own experiences by building a 3D world around them that they desire.

[1] Pine, J. & Gilmore, J. 1998, ‘Welcome to the Experience Economy’, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 76 (July-Aug), No.4, pp. 97-105

[2] Peter Alexander . 2012. Peter Alexander. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.peteralexander.com.au/tem/PA_petersworld.tem. [Accessed 26 June 12].

Business, Innovative Design & Entrepreneurship

This first lesson is focused on businesses and how radical innovation is a key element to survive and thrive in the current and also future markets. Many leading organizations have realized the potential of the changing markets and also the emergent of new markets and therefore have capitalized the benefits of innovative thinking and concepts of designing for the future.

IDEO is a good example of combining innovative design thinking with organizations so that they can remain competitive and continue to grow. “We help organizations build creative culture and the internal systems required to sustain innovation and launch new ventures”.  IDEO has recognized that the users or the consumers are at the heart of this process; they are the end users and therefore have the best knowledge of their needs and wants. In the contemporary business environment human centered design seems to be becoming more and more prevalent and moving further away from traditional views of who constitutes as a designer, or in a business context, who calls the shots as to which services and products the consumer needs. As Charles Leadbeater discusses, it is difficult to find big ideas in mainstream markets in large organizations and that the ideas are actually coming from consumers who are often ahead of the producers. He uses the mountain bike as an example to highlight this notion where a group of young users developed a new product because they had a vision, the motivation and incentive to innovate an existing commodity. Everyone has the ability to be innovative, but in the business environment, incremental innovation or small changes do not really have a massive impact on the business or the market. It is radical developments that businesses should be aiming to employ if they want to see a change in the market and this is where entrepreneurs step into the scenario.

Entrepreneurs are thinking big ideas, meaningful ones that not only change the market but also have the potential to create new ones and change the world through lifestyle, well being, education and dealing with deeper issues such as poverty and scarcity surrounding limited resources such as oil and water etc. Guy Kawasaki talks about changing the world by creating meaning and you can do this through increasing the quality of life, making people more creative, righting a wrong or preventing the end of something good.

An example I have researched and find interesting is the creation and continual growth of Facebook. At Facebook’s f8 Conference in September, founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed that half-a-billion people had accessed the service in a single day[1]. But is Facebook innovative? It certainly was not the first social network. Before it, there was Myspace, Friendster and Bebo. So Facebook is not an original idea was still able to overtake all its competitors and become the giant in the market? It is very interesting to note that execution and timing played a major factor in the startup of Facebook. The world was ready for a global social network, but he (Mark Zuckerberg) had to ease them in gently[2]. And the key point to innovation is that Facebook is continually changing and evolving with new ways of interacting and communicating, the most recent being the introduction of ‘timeline’.

[1] Paul Sawyers. 2011. Is Facebook Innovative?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2011/12/20/is-facebook-innovative/. [Accessed 25 June 12]

[2] ibid 2