The Designful Company: How to Build a Culture of Nonstop Innovation Paperback – 16 Dec 2008
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“The first important book of the year. In the tradition of IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE and BUILT TO LAST, THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY changes the way we think about business. During these challenging times, when doors are shutting all around us, Neumeier’s book opens a big window.”
―ALINA WHEELER, AUTHOR OF DESIGNING BRAND IDENTITY
“In another short but very sweet book, Neumeier introduces us the aesthetics of management. The Designful Company makes a great contribution to our understanding of design as a core business competence.”
―ROGER MARTIN, DEAN OF THE ROTMAN SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, AND AUTHOR OF THE OPPOSABLE MIND
“If this is your first Marty Neumeier book, you'll be blown away. Wonderful, fresh content presented as a visual tour de force.”
―GARR REYNOLDS, PROFESSOR OF MANAGEMENT AT KANSAI GAIDAI UNIVERSITY, AND AUTHOR OF PRESENTATION ZEN
“Form follows function? Form is function! In The Designful Company, Marty Neumeier lays out a powerful case that business innovation is a byproduct of design thinking. Follow these rules and your company can innovate faster, collaboratively and continuously.”
―JOHN GERZEMA, CHIEF INSIGHTS OFFICER AT Y&R, AND AUTHOR OF THE BRAND BUBBLE
“Design thinking has the potential to step-change all aspects of innovation in business. When you need a disruption, when market dynamics are changing, when new sources of growth are needed―companies that focus on design have a competitive edge.”
―CLAUDIA KOTCHKA, VP DESIGN INNOVATION AND STRATEGY, P&G
“At last! A book that clearly articulates how and why design is absolutely fundamental to the success of business today. Chock-full of great insights.”
―THOMAS LOCKWOOD, PhD, PRESIDENT OF DESIGN MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE
“No filler. No fluff. Marty Neumeier has distilled his message on innovation and design down to just the good stuff. Read the whole book on your next flight, and arrive with fresh insights ready to share.”
―TOM KELLEY, GENERAL MANAGER OF IDEO, AND AUTHOR OF THE TEN FACES OF INNOVATION
“In the first half of this book Neumeier presents a good argument for the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of the designful company and in the second half he gives us a decent prototype for the ‘how’. If you don’t see that calling it a ‘decent prototype’ constitutes high praise, you need this book.”
―FRED COLLOPY, PROFESSER AT THE WEATHERHEAD SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, CASE WESTERN UNIVERSITY, AND CO-AUTHOR OF MANAGING AS DESIGNING
"A short, vocal book, The Designful Company is easy to perceive and digest at face value. The change in perspective Neumeier offers is valuable for the career executive and the entrepreneur alike. Grab a copy for your next business flight to integrate your perspective."
―BRAND BUILDING MAGAZINE
Required reading for addressing “wicked problems”!
―PETER LAWRENCE, CHAIRMAN OF CORPORATE DESIGN FOUNDATION
From the Back Cover
Part manifesto, part handbook, THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY provides a lively overview of a growing trend in management―design thinking as a business competence. According to the author, traditional managers have relied on a two-step process to make decisions, which he calls “knowing” and “doing.” Yet in today’s innovation-driven marketplace, managers need to insert a middle step, called “making.” Making is a phase in which assumptions are questioned, futures are imagined, and prototypes are tested, producing a wide range of options that didn’t exist before. The reader is challenged to consider the author’s bold assertion: There can be no real innovation without design. Those who are new to Marty Neumeier’s “whiteboard” series may want to ramp up with the first two books, THE BRAND GAP and ZAG. Both are easy reads.
Covered in THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY:
- the top 10 “wicked problems” that only design can solve
- a new, broader definition of design
- why designing trumps deciding in an era of change
- how to harness the “organic drivetrain” of value creation
- how aesthetics add nuance to managing
- 16 levers to transform your company
- why you should bring design management inside
- how to assemble an innovation metateam
- how to recognize and reward talent
From the back cover:
The complex business problems we face today can’t be solved with the same thinking that created them. Instead, we need to start from a place outside traditional management. Forget total quality. Forget top-down strategy. In an era of fast-moving markets and leap-frogging innovations, we can no longer “decide” the way forward. Today we have to “design” the way forward―or risk ending up in the fossil layers of history. Marty Neumeier, author of THE BRAND GAP and ZAG, presents the new management engine that can transform your company into a powerhouse of nonstop innovation.
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Top Customer Reviews
Neumeier is president of Neutron, a San Francisco-based firm, that designs and facilitates culture-change programs that spur innovation. In co-sponsorship with Stanford University, his firm conducted a survey to identify "wicked problems"--problems so persistent, pervasive, or slippery that they seem insoluble. Ten are listed on Page 2 and range from "balancing long-term goals with short-term demands" to "aligning strategy with customer experience." In this book, Neumeier explains how to establish and then sustain a culture of nonstop innovation, one that is guided and informed by a discipline of design so that it generates nonstop solutions to whatever wicked problems it may encounter. (Note: The solution process must be nonstop in response to constant changes of the nature and/or extent of each problem to be solved.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The problem, though, is not that we lack creativity, but that the corporate cultures we build up around innovative products and services soon stifle that creativity in the name of control, power, and ego. Thus the GMs of this world, where new ideas have not been seen since your father's Oldsmobile, are dying under the weight of what they have built.
Neumeier's theory sets out the proposition that if we put design (in a broadened definition) at the forefront of our priorities and our processes, we can build companies that can respond to the innovative demands of the culture. This means rescuing the high creatives from their pigeonhole of "exotic menials" in a "professional ghetto" and empowering them. As someone who is probably regarded as such an "exotic menial" in a highly bureaucratic, hierarchical organization, I can only say "good luck." It may be better to let natural selection do its work.
Still, Neumeier makes an appealing if not compelling case, and offers a good many useful ideas for techniques to break down barriers to innovation. The book is, if nothing else, a good conversation starter.
In this book, Marty proposes big ideas in simple words that leave you wanting for more (in a good way). As a branding expert with a career that spans over 25 years in this profession, I have read few books that are more inspiring or thought provoking.
The premise of The Designful Company is that in order to gain control of a company's future we need to embrace the practice of design. Of course, in Marty's language "design" is a very powerful transformational tool that does a lot more than just "styling". Instead, Marty's design is about process and people and ideas driven by a desire to improve "performance" not aesthetics. He completely re-designs the idea of design.
Within our business, I've always insisted that "design" has little or nothing to do with "art". I believe that design is about creating purposeful change for the better...and I think that for design to be effective one must have a clear set of goals. In his book, Marty argues that the ultimate goal of a sustainable business is long term profit....and design is the starting point for a chain reaction that goes something like this: Design drives innovation; innovation powers brand development; brand builds loyalty; and loyalty results in profits.
Of course, I don't agree with everything that Marty proposes...but there's plenty in the book that I found to be intriguing and inspiring. For example, I loved the way that Marty re-invents the idea of aesthetics, and catapults it to an entirely new level that goes well beyond making things pretty. Marty's chart titled the "Aesthetics of Management" completely redefines the meaning of aesthetic principles in terms of business issues...and I will definitely be using this in future meetings and presentations (and, obsequiously credit the author). In this chart "Contrast" deals with "How do we differentiate ourselves?". "Depth" defines "How can we succeed at many levels". And, "Focus" refers to "What should we NOT do?".
Halfway through the book, Marty suggests that there are 16 "levers for change"...and that these "levers" hold the key to designing a new future for business. Apparently, you don't have to use all of them...and they need not be applied in any particular order. I found that some are more helpful than others...but I guess that this is exactly the point: Marty is inviting us to pick and choose which to use and which not to use...and therefore become the designers he invites us all to be.
In summary I really recommend this book to anyone interested in "designing" a better company, however, I found Marty Neumeier to be a little misleading when he described his book as a "quick read". That may very well be, but The Designful Company is far from light reading. It is a thought provoking, idea changing, extremely powerful book that will greatly influence the way I think about how design can change my company, the companies of my clients, and the world as a whole.
Read it and be ready to change your mind about a lot of things.
Chief Creative Officer
Liquid Agency | Brand Marketing
Neumeier is president of Neutron, a San Francisco-based firm, that designs and facilitates culture-change programs that spur innovation. In co-sponsorship with Stanford University, his firm conducted a survey to identify "wicked problems"--problems so persistent, pervasive, or slippery that they seem insoluble. Ten are listed on Page 2 and range from "balancing long-term goals with short-term demands" to "aligning strategy with customer experience." In this book, Neumeier explains how to establish and then sustain a culture of nonstop innovation, one that is guided and informed by a discipline of design so that it generates nonstop solutions to whatever wicked problems it may encounter. (Note: The solution process must be nonstop in response to constant changes of the nature and/or extent of each problem to be solved.)
According to Neumeier, a designful company inserts "making" between "knowing" and "doing." Its designers don't actually solve problems. They "work through" them. They use non-logical processes that are difficult to express in words but easier to express in action. They use models, mockups, sketches, and stories as their vocabulary. They operate in the space between "knowing" and "doing," prototyping new solutions that arise from their four strengths of empathy [i.e. understanding the motivations of stakeholders to forge stronger bonds], intuition [a shortcut to understanding situations], imagination [new ideas are generated by divergent thinking, not convergent thinking], and idealism [an obsession with getting it right, obtaining what is missing, making whatever changes may be necessary, etc.]. One of Neumeier's most important points is that any organization (regardless of its size or nature) needs designers at all levels and in all areas of its operations. "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."
As is also true of two predecessors, The Brand Gap and Zag, The Designful Company is a "whiteboard overview" rather than a traditional book in terms of both its design and content. Although Neumeier's unorthodox approach will no doubt irritate some people, I think his approach is both appropriate and effective. To those who are thinking about purchasing this book, I presume to offer several suggestions. Keep in mind that the presentation of Neumeier's counterintuitive ideas requires the format and illustrations selected. He offers a briefing on options to consider when designing and then building a culture of nonstop innovation. It remains for readers to work their way through the material in whatever order works best for them. Read all of the customer reviews of it that Amazon features. (FYI, I never read other reviews until after I have submitted my own.) This is not a book for everyone, nor does Neumeier make any such claim.
If you read the book and then decide to act upon several of his suggestions, be prepared to encounter what James O'Toole has aptly characterized as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." Radical ideas and their advocates are perceived to be--and they are--serious threats to those who defend the status quo. Neumeier has much of value to say about the power of effective storytelling when attempting to engage others in change initiatives. He correctly observes that stories aligned with key messages should be simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, and emotional. (Please see Pages 88-95.) I also highly recommend books on business narratives written by Stephen Denning (The Leader's Guide to Storytelling), Doug Lipman (Improving Your Storytelling), and Annette Simmons (The Story Factor).
As these brief remarks indicate, I think this is Marty Neumeier's most important--indeed his most valuable--book thus far because he addresses issues that are relevant to an organization's entire culture whereas, previously, he focused on a specific organizational imperative such as bridging the distance between business strategy and customer experience with five interconnected disciplines or using the first and most strategic of those disciplines to achieve radical differentiation.
As a quality professional for the past 15 years, I've seen quality fads come and go. Quality Circles, Total Quality Management, yadda yadda yadda---all had good ideas, sound tools, and petered out quickly.
Six Sigma is the most labor and time-intensive of all quality approaches, and yet it is the one which "stuck." How come?
Simple---Six Sigma focused from the outset not just on improving quality, but on linking quality improvement to quantifiable bottom-line results.
We're witnessing the growth of business interest in design, led in part by the Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) methodology's widespread adoption. The author has nothing positive to say about Six Sigma, instead giving lots of happy talk about design which sound very familiar to this quality geek: we must change our culture, we must have top-down buy-in, we must free experts to do what they do best, etc.
What's missing is the how and why.
I'm still waiting for the design revolution book that will make this case.
I highly recommend that anyone attempting to do so first follow carefully the work of information designer Edward Tufte. Not only does he demonstrate how to apply sound principles in the design of visual displays of quantitative information, but he walks his own talk. His books are marvels of the very design principles he advances.
Not so this book, which is not so much designed but compiled as an advertisement for the author's consulting company.
It fails even in this regard, for the nebulous discussion and unclear methodology lead me to believe that this company has chosen to measure customer delight in terms of billable hours.
Just like every other consulting company.
Avoid this waste of time and ink.
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