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While we often hear about innovations in technology, we hear less about innovations in the consumer industry. Why? It comprises more than 20 percent of the U.S. economy, and touches nearly every aspect of our lives, influencing what we eat, wear, and increasingly, reflecting what we believe. (I believe in sustainability, therefore I buy from sustainable brands.)

Good companies create products. Great companies create identities. We work with consumer companies day in and day out at CircleUp -- we've reviewed more than 4,500 in the past two years alone -- and we're excited to share some of the amazing things they're doing, from pioneering new categories to re-imagining new industries. 

After receiving more than 200 expert nominations we got to work selecting the winners -- 25 of the most innovative consumer product and retail companies in the world. We included both small companies and large -- because neither has a monopoly on innovation.

image credit: Shake Shack

1. Shake Shack
Why? For dispelling the belief that fast food has to be pre-cooked.  

2. Blue Buffalo
Why? For setting a new standard in healthy dog and cat food.

3.Corsair Distillery
Why? For defining a new standard of quality and taste with its small batch, ultra-premium whiskey.

4. Everlane
Why? For promoting radical transparency in its manufacturing standards and helping cement social good as a value for startup clothing companies.

image credit: Poler

5. Poler
Why? For supplying and clothing the explorer in all of us.  

6. Patagonia
Why? For innovation that results in extraordinary brand loyalty.

7. Tory Burch
Why? For weaving sensibility into style, and never letting growth compromise authenticity.

image credit: blue bottle coffee

8. Blue Bottle Coffee
Why? For attempting to upend Starbucks’ market domination by choosing quality over quantity, with no compromises.

9. Pressed Juicery
Why? For cutting through the confusion and condescension of health trends.  

10. FitBit
Why? For leading the small but growing wearables market, and getting office workers everywhere to ask, “What’s your number?”
11. TRX
Why? For re-imagining how, where and why we workout.
12. Flywheel
Why? For making indoor cycling epic.

image credit: NatureBox
13. NatureBox
Why? For marrying food with tech to make healthy eating easy, affordable and delicious.
14. ThinkThin
Why? For fueling a healthy, energetic lifestyle, and making it taste darn good too!
15. Hampton Creek
Why? For asking, “Why not?”, and innovating a fundamentally new way of food production that’s better for humans and animals alike
16. Justin's
Why? For never compromising on quality, and mixing community and sustainability into every product it makes.
17. Aden + Anais
Why? For simplifying the lives of parents and caregivers, and making beautiful products that keep babies safer and more comfortable.  

image credit: GoldieBlox
18. GoldieBlox
Why? For re-imagining toys, and inspiring a new generation of female engineers.        
19. DreamDry
Why? For creating the premiere destination for blowouts in NYC, helping women make every day glamorous.
20. Too Faced Cosmetics
Why? For developing a chic line of fashion-forward cosmetics.

21. Sweetgreen
Why? For providing a fusion of tasty food and sustainable design to those living a healthy lifestyle.

22. Asian Box
Why? For bridging the gap between fast casual and your favorite neighborhood joint -- all while using ultra-fresh and sustainable ingredients.
23. Serena & Lily
Why? For transforming the home-decor industry, starting with the nursery.

image credit: Paper Source

24. Paper Source
Why? For inspiring us to “Do Something Creative Every Day,” and bringing out the artist in all of us.

25. Ancient Harvest
Why? For introducing the U.S. consumer to quinoa and other innovative ancient grains, way back in 1983.

Read full article via Entrepreneur
With the business climate deteriorating, how can you ensure that you're running your business to optimum efficiency?

Adrian Gundy, senior executive for innovation, Centre for Competitiveness (CforC), replies:


" In the current economic climate, innovation is more important than ever as it can result in significant efficiency gains as well as new markets and new revenue streams. There is the temptation in a difficult business environment to cut spending on innovation. However, this is often counterproductive.
Innovation means finding new and better ways of doing things to support business improvement and growth. A process of ongoing, planned innovation is vital.

Know your own business.
The first step to becoming more innovative is to gain a picture of your current business performance in order to understand your strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to prioritise the areas of your business on which your efforts should be focused.
There are a number of ways of benchmarking your business performance. The most widely used business improvement and planning tool in Europe is the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model. Thousands of businesses across Europe use the EFQM Excellence Model to continually monitor and improve their business in a planned and strategic way. The benefits of using the tool are well accepted and I would encourage businesses of all shapes and sizes to take advantage of its potential.

Know your business environment.
It is also vital that you scan the business landscape for innovation opportunities — know your marketplace, know your customers and continually monitor both. If you know your customers and the marketplace better than your competitors, the likelihood is that you will become aware of opportunities to develop new products or services, or to expand your products or services before they do.

Create an innovation culture.
It is those businesses that develop innovation policies and strategies and integrate them into their organisation's strategy that become the most innovative. They then empower and educate their people so that innovation becomes second nature".

business strategytips
Each december, world design rankings (WDR) releases a list that positions countries according to the number of international juried design competitions and awards they have won over the last twelve-month period.

Organized by the A' design award & competition, the aim of the WDR is to provide data and insights to economists and journalists regarding the art, architecture and design industries, and bring to light the annual contributions made to global design culture through advocation.  

2013 saw 69 countries evaluated, with puerto rico and iceland among them, debuting for the first time under a new section called 'design business insights' that scores countries based on their success in diverse design fields and categories, broken down into three additional tables (strengths, weaknesses and opportunities) for each nation.  
'Design strengths' indicate dominant design fields in which a country is competitive and successful in, allowing media and the general public to discover who leads in specific sectors, such as: 'which country is best in industrial design?'; 'which country is best in interior design?'; and 'which country is best in automotive design?'. 'design weaknesses' charts whether or not a country is below average in comparison to others in the context of a specific design category; while 'design opportunities' is an evaluation of the undiscovered areas of design which could be further explored by country. further breaking down the world design rankings in this way allows media and design enthusiasts in the various creative disciplines, to more easily understand and discuss the importance of the discipline's diverse areas in relation to each individual country. the insights could also be used by policy makers to determine whether or not a specific sector or industry could receive government subsidies or subvention.  

you may view the full world design rankings for 2013 here and view the general grading for this year below


score points legend:

 platinum award counts as six (6) 
 a golden award counts as five (5)
 silver award counts as (4)
 bronze award counts as three (3)
 A’ award (marked as iron) counts as two (2)


the 2013-2014  A’ design award & competition winners have been organized under three different categories: the ‘world design rankings’ (which lists the ranking of all represented countries), ‘designer rankings’ (individual rankings of designers i.e. the design hall of fame), and ‘design classifications’ (category based rankings).

‘rising moon’ by stanley siu
platinum A’ architecture, building and urban design award winner, 2013-2014


‘smartstreets-cyclepark™ transformational bike parking by chris garcin and andrew farish smartstreets ltd. 
platinum A’ design award winner in street furniture design category, 2013-2014

Original article via designboom
innovationawards + recognitionrankings
Integrating design into your company involves more than just hiring superstar designers. It takes a long-term commitment and developing a culture that brings everyone up to speed, writes motives Jeneanne Rae.
While design has always been fundamental to industries such  as fashion and consumer electronics, it has now spread to nontraditional settings such as airlines, consumer goods, and even governments, where it has become the driver for differentiated end-to-end customer experiences as well as innovation. That's no longer news: Today, most executives recognize that design can be  a source of competitive advantage. What most executives don't recognize is how to manage design strategically, how to use it to win in their industry, and how high-performance design organizations are organized to deliver great results. After years of leading assessment and change management efforts at global corporations, here's what I've figured out that leaders need to know to start to build design into the DNA of their organisations.


ALIGN GOALS AND STRATEGY.  The most effective design organizations set goals that are aligned with their organization's corporate strategy. When HP went on a recent cost-cutting spree, its design team heroically delivered more than $50 million a year in savings by standardizing of the HP "jewel" logo across its vast array of equipment. Having a clear design vision and strategy like this allows a design organization to know what it  is shooting for and to put in place the appropriate talent and other resources to execute the plan. However, getting the vision and strategy to align with the talent and resources required to execute is most often where things go awry.  In nascent situations, neither the design executives nor the executive leadership team understand the extent of the organizational development effort required to support the corporate strategy. Consequently, progress  is often slow and more painful than it needs to be. Simple tools like organizational road mapping and the resourcing to support the plan can set the right course for transformation, yet I've seen few companies treat design capability building seriously enough to merit this type of attention. Why?    UNDERSTAND

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DESIGN THINKING AND DESIGN.  Much has been made of using design methods (commonly referred to as "design thinking") for solving complex business challenges. In fact, the term has gotten so much coverage lately that I fear that many people are starting  to think about design and design thinking as interchangeable terms. They are not. Design thinking is methodology that is taught in certain types of design schools, notably industrial design and architecture; therefore only a subset of all designers are bona fide design thinkers through their academic training and practice. While better use of design thinking methods should be useful for any corporation in solving its most wicked problems, design thinking will not in and of itself drive better design.    

HIRING SUPERSTAR DESIGNERS IS NOT THE ANSWER.  A common theme that we've observed over the last several years is that senior executives who are hot on pursuing design as a business strategy coerce a seasoned design star into their companies only to find themselves frustrated 12 to 18 months out when they haven't become the "Apple of their industry." Worse is when corporations go through the time, expense, and trouble to hire multiple superstar designers only to have them leave within  a short period after becoming frustrated by the system and lack of results they are able to produce. Not only does this situation beget very low returns on substantial investments but also significant product disruptions and low morale for the people left behind.  While getting the best talent is an important goal, creating an environment where design can thrive should be the greater focus.    

MEASURING THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT FOR DESIGN IS A LONG-TERM PURSUIT.  Skeptics always want to know why they should make such significant investments in design. Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer. Companies such as Nielsen that analyze marketing-mix investments do not account for design. The impact of design can span a variety of activities.  And measuring emotional impact, or the "delight factor," of design is poorly understood in corporations that do not invest heavily in studying why people choose or don't choose their products.  However, if stock price can be viewed as a proxy for the impact of design  in the marketplace, consider the performance of this bucket of 10 firms that have invested significantly in design over the last 10 years. Using an approach similar to how performance of the S&P 500 is derived, our analysis shows that a $10,000 investment in our design index of diverse design-centric companies would have yielded a 64% return, whereas an investment in the S&P would have yielded a -22% return. The outsized returns for design-centric organizations represent a collective set of design investments on the part of each firm, as no single investment could possibly drive the type of momentum realized. Note: To normalize data, we left Apple off the list.    

It is true that most high-performance corporate design functions have seasoned leaders who possess what it takes to make the "magic" happen for a multibillion-dollar global enterprise.  What is less known but also true is that a hallmark of design-centric companies is that design seamlessly integrates into the larger set of processes that constitute production in their organizations. Whether the process is budgeting, innovation, engineering development, branding, supply chain management, or something else, design has an uncontested role and decision rights.  Mature organizations aspiring to use design strategically will find this state  of nirvana elusive without significant intervention. Overhauling processes is painful; managers despise having their former roles usurped; design culture and training leave managers unprepared for such organizational wrestling. Further, such far-reaching change cannot solely be design's job. Any company that wants more and better design must mandate that design be embraced.    But as Chuck Jones, a former VP of design at Whirlpool and now chief design officer at Masco Corporation, says, that requires a long-term commitment: "You have to be in it for the long haul: Creating sustainable competitive advantage through design is not a quick or easy task. In my view, it will take seven to 10 years to get the capability to a point where it is consistently producing the kinds of results that are winning in the marketplace with the added benefit of shifting the relevant brand image to that of 'design leader.' From there, it is up to the entire organization to maintain this commitment and focus on design--for decades. Herman Miller, as an example, comes to mind. Their focus on design leadership spans over 60 years and continues unabated."  Organizations that do this quicker than most employ a range of internal help, not the least of which is a senior leadership team whose unwavering support ensures the organization enacts the required change.    

COMPANIES THAT GET THE MOST FROM DESIGN RELY ON A CULTURE OF DESIGN.  Any organization that wants to leverage design for strategic advantage needs to know that this cannot be achieved overnight; most likely, it will take many years. One way to shorten the journey is to concentrate some portion of the effort on building a culture of design.  Achieving a culture of design means that everyone in the organization understands what design is, how it is used for strategic advantage in the organization, how and when design resources are used, what the work of design entails, and how design efforts should integrate with the company's production processes.    "It's been extremely important to share with the organization that design was beyond pretty products and cake decoration at the end of the innovation process," says Mauro Porcini, 3M's head of global strategic design. "We made clear in all possible ways that by definition design was not just about designers: We wanted to have each 3M function, from marketing to the laboratories, from manufacturing to sourcing, from HR to legal, aware of the value of design, engaged, eventually excited, and ready to drive the design strategy as a collective collaborative effort."  Along with championing the design process, the best corporate design leaders are effective at conveying design's importance to the health of the enterprise, especially in the early days of their tenure. In an organization the size of Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, 3M, Masco, Johnson & Johnson, or Hewlett-Packard, where remarkable design transformations are presently under way, this can be a difficult task. Nevertheless, individual and collective efforts like those mentioned here are making a difference every day in turning these admired companies into the design leaders of the future.    

CHECKLIST: FIVE TIPS FOR BUILDING CORPORATE DESIGN ORGANIZATIONS  Consistently great corporate design is the product of the following elements:  1. A vision and strategy that is well-articulated and understood by its organization;  2. leadership that is capable and committed to driving its vision;  3. an organization that is structured and resourced for success;  4. a talent pool that is diverse in design disciplines and deployed at key points of functional integration;  5. a culture that embraces the myriad dimensions of design.      

Jeneanne Rae is the CEO of Motiv Strategies, and is an internationally recognized thought leader on innovation management and design strategy.

Original article via

business design
Skeptics always want to know why they should invest in design. Even today, when the business landscape is teeming with success stories that celebrate design as a powerful strategic tool, the answer to this question is not well understood by the average businessperson—and understandably so. After all, design is notoriously difficult to define, tough to measure, hard to isolate as a function, and tricky to manage, making it challenging for many non-designers to comprehend.
An exploration into why companies that lead with design outperform the market.    
by JENEANNE RAE       

Skeptics always want to know why they should invest in design.  Even today, when the business landscape is teeming with success stories that celebrate design as a powerful strategic tool, the answer to this question is not well understood by the average businessperson—and understandably so. After all, design is notoriously difficult to define, tough to measure, hard to isolate as a function, and tricky to manage, making it challenging for many non-designers to comprehend.  

Over the years, many organizations have attempted to tackle this issue, eager to make a hard case that will make design-unconscious managers take notice. In 2005, the UK's Design Council discovered that every £1 spent on design led to more than £20 in increased revenue, £4 in increased profit and £5 in increased exports.1 An even earlier study, by Julie Hertenstein and Marjorie Platt, examined 51 firms in four industries, using 12 different measures of financial performance across five years, and concluded that firms rated as having good design were stronger on virtually all measures.  

Several years ago, Motiv Strategies began conducting studies on companies that were consciously using design as an integral part of their business strategy. While tracking the financial performance of these design-centric companies, we found they outperformed the S&P 500 by a significant margin.3 It quickly became clear that there is a correlation between investing in design and extraordinary stock performance.  

Seeing this work, DMI president Michael Westcott asked us to revisit the creation of an index that could be used to track how design-centric companies perform relative to the S&P 500 over time. Partnering with DMI on this effort, we devised a portfolio of 15 publicly traded US companies that made the cut for inclusion: Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford, Herman-Miller, IBM, Intuit, Newell-Rubbermaid, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Starwood, Steelcase, Target, Walt Disney, and Whirlpool. The results supported our previous findings. While the S&P grew 75 percent from 2003 to 2013, our Design Value Index grew an astonishing 299 percent.  

The fact remains that although these results show a powerful return on investing in design, the index does little to explain the how of this phenomenon. This article seeks to explain the various ways design can add significant value to large and small enterprises alike.    

The diverse companies comprising the DMI Design Value Index all understand the power of design, how to use it as a tool, and how to scale it in a way that will drive success for their businesses. So what is the value that broad deployment of design principles and methods brings to these companies? The following are eight ways in which design is helping these companies win big.    


Great design helps make products and services more aesthetically pleasing, more compelling to use, and more relevant in a world that seems to change at an ever-increasing pace. This is one reason the world is currently in love with Tesla Motors, which has given us drop-dead gorgeous cars that help save the planet and get 200 miles on one charge. Or think about how much of the public has been completely enamored with Apple products over the last decade.  The wow factor can also draw consumers into supporting certain companies over time. In the 1990s, for example, discount retailer Target faced increasing competition from similar stores such as Wal-Mart and K-Mart and realized it faced three options: "to specialize, to become the low-cost producer, or to differentiate," remembers Gerald Storch, Target's vice chairman at the time. The first choice would have crippled future growth; the second was already a battleground. So, the company decided to go with the third: differentiate through design.  That decision led to Target's domination of the mass merchandising market as Tar-zhay, the mass purveyor of stylish yet ffordable goods. It didn't miss the mark—thanks to its design ethos, which can be found in everything from its product offerings to its store layouts to its commitment to innovation. Indeed, companies like Apple and Target have raised the bar so high in their use of design that the public is more aware than ever of what good design looks like and what design-led companies are capable of producing. There is no doubt that this factor is showing up in company growth trajectories, as well as in their stock market results.    

People today want to connect with brands as extensions of themselves. We see them, hear them, and interact with them in more ways than ever before. Some of the most valuable work designers can perform lies in the interpretation of a company's brand elements and how customers connect with them.  "Connecting used to be, 'Here's some product, and here's some advertising. We hope you like it,'" says Nike CEO Mark Parker. "Connecting today is a dialogue." And Nike has put its money where its mouth is. Its spending on TV and print advertising has dropped about 40 percent in the past three years at the same time that its sales have increased to more than $25 billion—more than 30 percent greater than closest rival Adidas. How? Nike is going straight to where the customer is—the digital world.  Nike has carefully crafted a multichannel digital presence that not only fosters open communication with customers, but also encourages those customers to connect with each other. In 2010, the company launched Nike Digital Sport, a new division in charge of developing devices and technologies that help users track their personal statistics in whatever sport they pursue. By deepening relationships with (and among) its customers, Nike enables customers to amplify its signature "just do it" attitude. The result? Before, Nike could count its biggest brand audience as the 200 million people who tune in to the Super Bowl. Now, across all its sites and social media communities, it can match that figure any day.4 Nike continues to communicate the inspirational, active, can-do spirit that its customers crave across its product lines, and promotes it with platforms designed to amplify that energy.  

Design research emphasizes the use of empathy, an instrument for encountering the world as others might. The importance of this tool cannot be overstated. After all, no matter whether one designs products, services, or processes, consciously keeping the end users in mind helps to reveal inspiration for category- killing products, as well as lower the risk of failure.  Further, being the first to find and develop solutions to latent needs, which one can uncover by studying what people do, think, and feel, provides the opportunity for first- mover advantage, provided the company can commercialize and scale the insight uncovered.  In 2007, Intuit founder Scott Cook decided that his company wasn't innovating fast enough. He kicked off Design for Delight, a design thinking- based internal program intended to help Intuit development teams better understand customers' frustrations and desires so that Intuit could design solutions to meet them. This deep customer understanding eventually led to the development of SnapTax, a mobile app that allows users to complete their taxes in 10 minutes or less. Within three weeks of its launch, the app saw more than 350,000 downloads and remains wildly popular on the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store.  Identifying and capitalizing on the discovery of unmet needs leads to the perception of market leadership. If a company can do this systematically, that perception will become reality.    

In every relationship we have with providers of goods and services in our society, there is an inherent end-to-end experience. When designers get involved in creating experiences, they use techniques involving empathy to uncover and optimize for both functional and emotional customer needs. Different types of designers (interaction, brand, package, product, service, graphic, and so on) contribute at various stages of the process to, in the best cases, build a seamless, branded, and differentiated experience. By definition, this work connects various parts of the company that in many cases had not previously even met. This is a critical byproduct of the top design- driven companies and a key value-added secret that best-practice companies in the Design Value Index share.  Disney is one company that has built a successful business ecosystem around delighting customers. In particular, its park and resorts unit—which includes iconic attractions Disneyland and Disney World—has gained attention by pioneering the field of experience design. Disney's Imagineers, the creative force responsible for creating and developing its entertainment venues, include illustrators, architects, engineers, choreographers, lighting designers, show writers, graphic designers, and many more who are tasked with "making the magic." Every aspect of a customer's visit is thoughtfully designed to delight. Cast members (employees) are even trained on how to treat guests (customers) to the smallest details—for example, how to smile and wave. The intangible elements of the experience haven't been ignored, either: the ambient sounds along walking paths and the scent of cookies that wafts through the park help immerse visitors in a fantasyland determined to deliver on its promise of being "the happiest place on earth."  Its investments seem to be paying off. The park and resorts division has posted the fastest revenue growth of any of the company's five business units in the past year.    

Figure 2A $10,000 investment in our index of diverse design-centric companies would have yielded returns 228% greater than the same investment in the S&P over the same period of time. 

Recently, design thinking has become popular with organizations that face murky, complex issues that are hard to solve using traditional business best practices. By employing such design tools as empathy, creativity, and rationality, organizations are able to reframe problems in ways that forge new pathways toward innovative solutions. In other words, designers don't create solutions until they have determined the root issue, and even then, they pause first to consider the whole range of potential solutions.  IBM is working design thinking into its practices to build a new way of creating solutions for its customers. In addition to heavily recruiting designers and design experts, the technology giant recently launched an initiative to send product teams to Designcamp, a one-week design-thinking training camp at a brand-new studio in Austin, Texas, that was built for this purpose. Product managers, developers, and designers learn design-thinking techniques and put their new skills to use developing solutions for mobile, social, cloud, security, and big data.  What's so big about design thinking is that it allows all comers to tap the right/creative side of their brains to think in new ways, create new connections, derive new insights, and create innovative solutions. With creativity a lost commodity in many business settings these days, this practice builds that muscle.    

Good design is the difference between a complex, frustrating interaction and a delightful experience. It could be your car dashboard, your digital camera, or an app on your smartphone. Well-designed interactions can save us time, make us more productive, and even provide emotional support in practically everything we do. Think about this the next time you easily withdraw money from an ATM or, conversely, close a website in frustration because it is too hard to navigate. Clearly, customers are flocking to companies that have gained a reputation for well-crafted interactions.  Coca-Cola has mastered designing interactions that reinvent the way customers connect with its products, most recently evidenced by its recreation of the fountain drink machine. Marketed as "the refreshing new way to express yourself," the Freestyle, a touchscreen soda fountain, allows users to customize their beverages by dispensing different flavor options along with their selected Coca-Cola product.  The revolutionary machine allows for more than 100 drinks, a far cry from the standard 8-option fountain soda machine it is quickly replacing across the country. The company even rolled out an app designed specifically to help customers locate nearby Freestyle machines and share favorite drink combinations, among other activities. Not only that, but each machine maintains a data connection to Coca-Cola headquarters and uploads information about each drink dispensed and all supplies used in real time, which creates critical conduits for generating customer insights (not to mention managing inventory).    

With their special ability to understand and interpret people and cultures, designers are well suited to help their companies assimilate what is required to capture the hearts and minds of new types of customers, sometimes in new parts of the world.  Being in touch with both existing and potential customers has been an exceptionally successful tactic for Aloft, Starwood's newest hotel concept. Despite a tough market for the hospitality industry, Aloft has opened 75 locations in just over four years and plans to open more than 30 more within the next few years, thanks in large part to thorough understanding of its target customers.  Conceived as an interactive, trendy hotel for plugged-in young travelers, Aloft is designed to evoke an energetic atmosphere that encourages guests to socialize, rather than immediately retiring to their rooms. Its super- modern style and pioneering initiatives in music and technology have generated significant press—and business. The franchise's explosive growth since opening its first location in 2008 helped to fuel Starwood's 54 percent climb in stock prices emerging from the recession. Simply by using intimate customer knowledge, Starwood was able to identify and fill an unmet desire in younger travelers for a hotel experience that fit their lives, as well as broaden the entry point to its brand, making it possible to engage a wider variety of customers and cultivate long-term loyalty.  In our recent recessionary environment, it is remarkable for a company to exhibit the leadership to develop and invest so heavily in an entire new category. Armed with the confidence of knowing its customer so well, one can see it would be less of a stretch for management to think boldly and take big risks in search of big returns.    

Design can also make great strides to help get the cost out of manufactured goods through rethinking the ways and means by which products come together. Procter & Gamble, best known for its household brands such as Tide and Pampers, has recently developed a process to develop plastics that are thinner, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than the industry standard. It is estimated that this new technology could save the company up to $1B a year. Companies that harness design to curb costs can thus double design's financial impacts by managing the bottom line while simultaneously growing the top line.    

These eight categories are just some of the many ways design can be used as a strategic business tool to increase sales and market share, build wider margins, and drive customer delight. But this list is not by any means exhaustive. Although the role of design within organizations can be difficult to define, it is clear that giving design a seat at the table adds significant value that helps differentiate and elevate companies beyond the norm and deliver tangible business results.     

Jeneanne Rae is the founder and CEO of Motiv Strategies, an innovation strategy firm. For more than 20 years, she has served as a consultant to dozens of global corporations, including Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Pepsi, and AIG. Her expertise includes innovation, design integration, customer experience, and growth strategy.

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innovationbusiness designcustomer experience
Move over, Google. According to a new ranking, Sanofi, FedEx, and Apple are among the world's most creative companies. The analysis was done by ViewsOnYou, a site for employees and hiring departments to match up personality fit in businesses. Users log in with their LinkedIn and Facebook logins, review themselves by key personality traits — including measures of creativity, ambition, and appetite for risk — and then invite their peers to review them, too. Several standard psychological models are used to assess employees, such as the five-factor OCEAN model that measures openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Tens of thousands of professionals around the world have reviewed themselves, creating employee snapshots for hundreds of large companies, including Google, Goldman Sachs, KPMG, and Walmart.

According to ViewsOnYou, the following 25 companies have the most creative employees in the world:

1. Sanofi Industry:
Drug manufacturer Headquarters: Paris, France

2. Toyota Motor Corporation Industry:
Auto manufacturer Headquarters: Toyota City, Japan

3. Grant Thornton Industry:
Accounting services Headquarters: Chicago, Ill., U.S.

4. Qualcomm Industry:
Communication equipment Headquarters: San Diego, Calif., U.S.

5. FedEx Corporation Industry:
Delivery services Headquarters: Memphis, Tenn., U.S.

6. Apple Industry:
Electronics Headquarters: Cupertino, Calif., U.S.

7. CBC Television Industry:
Media Headquarters: Toronto, Canada

8. Universal Music Group Industry:
Music Headquarters: Santa Monica, Calif., U.S.

9. Viacom Industry:
Media/Entertainment Headquarters: New York, N.Y., U.S.

10. Qatar Airways Company Industry:
Travel services Headquarters: Doha, Qatar

11. Costco Wholesale Corporation Industry:
Discount goods Headquarters: Issaquah, Wash., U.S.

12. Smith & Nephew Industry:
Medical equipment Headquarters: London, U.K.

13. Verizon Communications Industry:
Telecom services Headquarters: New York, N.Y., U.S.

14. Cathay Pacific Industry:
Travel services Headquarters: Lantau, Hong Kong

15. Virgin Group Industry:
Diversified travel, telecom, financial services Headquarters: London, U.K.

16. Intel Corporation Industry:
Technology Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif., U.S.

17. Colgate-Palmolive Company Industry:
Consumer goods Headquarters: New York, N.Y., U.S.

18. Marks and Spencer Industry:
Department stores Headquarters: London, U.K.

19. The Boeing Company Industry:
Aerospace and defense Headquarters: Chicago, Ill., U.S.

20. Eli Lilly and Company Industry:
Drug manufacturer Headquarters: Indianapolis, Ind., U.S.

21. Warner Music Group Industry:
Music Headquarters: New York, N.Y., U.S.

22. News Corp Industry:
Media Headquarters: New York, N.Y., U.S.

23. Volvo Car Corporation Industry:
Auto manufacturer Headquarters: Gothenburg, Sweden

24. Alcatel-Lucent Industry:
Communication equipment Headquarters: Paris, France

25. Merck & Co. Industry:
Drug manufacturer Headquarters: Whitehouse Station, N.J., U.S.

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innovationbusiness design
“What brands really ‘get it’ when it comes to customer experience today?” What company has so seamlessly integrated its online and offline experience that it never feels like two different companies? I’m looking right at Burberry. Sure, Nike has combined its products and digital applications into a singular holistic experience, allowing you to track your athletic endeavors big and small, and Dove and Tide drive as many consumers to the website as they do to the shelves they live on.
During a keynote talk I delivered in London last week, I was asked the question: "What brands really 'get it' when it comes to customer experience today?"This wasn't a na├»ve question. It came from one of the 100 senior marketers from the strongest global brands in the world. The question extends beyond great digital customer journeys—Zappos, Peapod, Travelocity or AirBnB— and great physical customer spaces, BMW, Southwest or Virgin.

What company has so seamlessly integrated its online and offline experience that it never feels like two different companies? I'm looking right at Burberry.

Sure, Nike has combined its products and digital applications into a singular holistic experience, allowing you to track your athletic endeavors big and small, and Dove and Tide drive as many consumers to the website as they do to the shelves they live on. The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas helps you feel like you're there even when you are shivering in Chicago, while AMC's The Walking Dead allows you to participate in the zombie apocalypse online while your heroes take care of "live" walkers on Sunday nights.

But the brand that is truly doing the best right now at blurring the physical and digital worlds is Burberry.

The historic transformation of Burberry is well documented in many interviews, case studies and the like, including HBR's "Burberry's CEO on Turning an Aging British Icon into a Global Luxury Brand." In a nutshell, Burberry underwent a seven- year transformation from an underperforming, marginalized, over-licensed, decentralized brand, to becoming one of the most beloved and valuable luxury brands in the world, tripling sales in five years. It transformed from a stodgy, beige trench coat company to one of the leading voices on trends, fashion, music and beauty, all while redefining what a world class customer experience should be, digitally and physically.

Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry and soon-to-be head of Apple AAPL Retail, articulated this best when describing Burberry's London flagship store. "Burberry Regent Street brings our digital world to life in a physical space for the first time, where customers can experience every facet of the brand through immersive multimedia content exactly as they do online. Walking through the doors is just like walking into our website. It is Burberry World [their website] Live." Chief Creative Officer/Brand Czar (and incoming CEO) Christopher Bailey also recently declared that Burberry is as much a content-driven company as it is a leading fashion icon.

I will leave the rest of the storytelling to others, but what Burberry has done with its customer experience is definitely worth teasing out. Where do great brand-driven customer experiences start? Here are five steps to consider, using Burberry to illustrate each:

Declare what your brand will stand for. This one was easy for Burberry's new leadership team, led by Ahrendts back in 2006. It all tied to getting back to the glamorous fashion roots that had movie stars and the rich and famous in the 50s and 60s proudly showing off their Burberry trench coat and, in effect, selling the coat for the company—what we call "earned media" today. Trench coats represented less than 20% of their sales in 2006 and the "coat as fashion" trend exploded in the mid-2000s. Harking back to the romance of Burberry in a modern world became the brand's mantra, and "being the leading, globally relevant, luxury British brand" became the brand's aspiration. When you choose very purposeful words like leading, globally, relevant, luxury and British, you have, in effect, chosen the hallmarks of what your experience has to deliver upon.

Choose a target wisely. When Burberry began to relaunch their brand and truly own their new positioning, it would have been easy to choose the middle-aged man who probably already owned an old trench coat as a target. If they had gone that route, though, 2% annual growth would have continued to be the norm.

However, Ahrendts and Bailey broke free of tradition and declared they would build a brand, product and experience aimed at Millennials. Bailey stated, "Most of us are very digital in our daily lives now. Burberry is a young team, and this is instinctive to us. To the younger generation who are coming into adulthood now, this is all they know." While it can be unfair to group them all together, more often than not Millennials are the influencers, tastemakers, official critics and reviewers in society today. They also happen to be incredibly brand loyal as a collective whole, with an increasingly attractive level of disposable income. If delivered well, this target would pay dividends to Burberry for years to come.

Design an experience that delivers your brand promise to the target audience. Once the first two objectives were in order, developing an experience became directionally straightforward. It's not a simply a matter of fixing broken links in the customer journey, it is about understanding the customers' needs and motivations and designing an experience that best meets that need. For the most part, high-end fashion had been about the fashion house telling you what the latest fashions were and ordering you to like it/buy it.

Burberry looked at the target customer and realized that Millennials are more influenced by peers than by anything that a fashion house might have to say. And discovery, advocacy and sharing among communities do a lot of the heavy lifting of brand-building. While a company can make a potential customer aware of its brand, current consumers and advocates help sell it.

One customer journey innovation is Burberry's The Art of The Trench, described as "a living celebration of the Burberry trench coat and the people who wear it." This platform successfully positions the customer as a hero, and provides a forum for him or her to proudly show off their trench coats and individual styling via selfies posted on Instagram or Pinterest. Thousands of selfies have been posted, with comments, likes and dislikes and the opportunity to shift any one of those pictures into a purchase.

Burberry also recognized that music is so interwoven into customers' lives that it created Burberry Acoustic, a platform for new British bands looking to get a break. A few years ago, you might have seen Jake Bugg before he made it big or The Daydream Club posting videos on the Burberry Acoustic website that streamed to Burberry stores around the world. Burberry's authentic dedication to giving young British bands an opportunity to break through, using all of its multi-media platforms, is not only on-brand but plays right into the Millennial sweet spot of getting access to music in unique and innovative ways.

Create a branded experience, branded signature touchpoints and the organizational alignment to empower employees to bring the brand to life in unique and surprising ways.

Online, Burberry created Burberry Bespoke, which allows you to design your own customized coat by choosing from hundreds of different options, from the buttons on the outside to the lining in the inside. In the store, many products are lined with an RFID tag that, when triggered, will launch a video about its craftsmanship. A dress taken into the changing room may trigger a runway video showing this jacket/dress combination on a model.

Can't afford a Burberry jacket yet? How about throwing a Burberry Kiss to a loved one? Burberry Kisses is a collaboration with Google that allows users to kiss their touch screens and send their lip prints to loved ones—no purchase necessary. It's a valuable entry point that whets consumer appetites that will be satisfied immediately or down the road with a Burberry purchase. Music and kisses are free of charge and build good will for a loyal customer down the road.

Internally, Burberry invests in organizational alignment and brand engagement, sending out monthly webcasts, weekly videos and previews of ad campaigns before they launch. According to Ahrendts, "Knowledge is power. So the more the associates know about the strategy, about what's coming, the better. Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first."

Continue to innovate the experience and the brand

Last Fall Burberry launched its first ever men's cologne called Burberry Brit Rhythm in a totally non-traditional way—through global music events and digital media. "Inspired by the energy of live music" helped propel Rhythm to become one of Burberry's most successful new product launches.

And in January, Burberry launched The Burberry Beauty Box in Covent Garden, a new concept space where shoppers can enjoy an exclusive collection of beauty products and accessories. Inside, you can go to the Digital Nail Bar to help virtually select the right nail shade for your skin tone while Burberry Acoustic music is playing in the background and a Millennial sales person helps you put together your perfect Burberry Gift Box.

I wonder if, for just one day, we can rename Burberry to Blurberry, to teach others how to get it right?

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customer experiencecustomer service
Not so long ago, every business assumed that the keys to success were the highest quality product, the best value for the buck, and the best customer service. Now all we hear about is providing the best “customer experience.” Exactly what is that customer experience that every modern marketer is talking about, and how do you measure it?
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review "The Truth About Customer Experience" defines it as your customer's end-to-end journey with you, not just the key touchpoints or critical moments when customers interact with your organization. Customer experience is the cumulative impact of multiple touchpoints over time, which result in a real relationship feeling, or lack of it.

The advent of social media and real-time interactive feedback via the Internet allows every customer to build and expect a relationship with your business, rather than just touchpoints. Yet we are all still learning what that means, in terms of hard business practices.

I like the insights outlined in the new book "Summit," by F. Scott Addis, who is an experienced business executive and recent Inc. "Entrepreneur of the Year" finalist. He ties business success and your personal summit to elevating your customers' experience with the following specific recommendations and key differentiators:

Listen to the individual customer. Every relationship requires listening, as well as talking. You have to hear your customer's dreams, goals, passions, and aspirations. That opportunity for your customers to talk and be heard is pleasurable and memorable, and defines their customer experience, more so than just satisfying business touchpoints.

Exploit your product and service differences. A memorable experience has to have something different from the norm. You must be able to highlight these differences between your products and services, and those of your competitors. If not, you are part of the crowd, and no relationship can be built.

Demonstrate the value of your offering. The first step in being able to demonstrate your value is being willing to find out what your customers want or need. This will create a connection with them, which demonstrates more value than price or quality. You create a loyal customer that wants to buy from you, and will recommend you to others.

Show your passion and creativity in every solution. This active discovery mindset searching for new questions drives real innovators away from more of the same. They fundamentally become value seekers; they look for value in every experience, in every conversation. They don't seek prescriptions, they seek possibilities.

Demonstrate your personal commitment. When in contact with customers, focus 100 percent on them, and do all you can to determine and meet their needs. Remember, customers are the reason you do what you do. Give them the respect and results they deserve and they will tell others about your good work and your business.

Shoot for the customers' hearts. Engagement and an emotional connection will make a customer relationship the driving force for loyalty and differentiation. Move from customer friendliness to customer charisma. A business with charisma gives the customer something very special, and they want to tell others about it.

Once you know how to improve your customers' experience, you need to also know how to benchmark it. Remember the old adage, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." So how do you measure customer loyalty and relationships? One new metric now commonly used is called the Net Promoter® Score (NPS).

This works by asking your customers for feedback, and dividing them into three categories:

Promoters. Loyal enthusiasts who keep buying from you and urge their friends to do the same.

Passive. Satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who can be easily wooed by the competition.

Detractors. Unhappy customers who feel trapped in a bad relationship.

The formula for the Net Promoter® Score is the percentage of customers who are detractors, subtracted from the percentage who are promoters (NPS=P-D). Legendary companies like Amazon and Costco operate with an NPS between 50 to 80 percent. But the average venture sputters along at an NPS of only 5 percent to 10 percent, or even negative.

Maybe it time for all of us to focus more on the customer experience. There is other evidence that companies with the highest customer experience typically grow at more than double the rate of their competitors. The inverse case is that you can lose you competitive lead very quickly by focusing on the wrong things. Have you checked your customers' experience lately?

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business design
By Joe Ayoub
There was a time when the bigger and more established a company was, the more assured it felt in terms of staying power in the market. But those days are long gone, and today it's how much innovation a company embraces that decides whether it stays relevant or perishes. What this means for businesses is that no matter how big they are, if they want to survive, they need to think like a start-up.
By Joe Ayoub

A start-up by nature is constantly on its toes, harboring a hunger to wake up each morning and perform better than the day before. There's a flexibility to their way of thinking which means every aspect of the organization's strategy is open to question and can be easily superseded if a better idea is brought to the table.

Established businesses may still ask themselves why they would need to change things, but the answer is very clear: today's business landscape is a far cry from that of fifty years ago. Back then the average age of a Fortune 500 company was somewhere around 75 years; today the lifespan is closer to a mere decade before a company goes out of business or gets bought out.

What's changed is the pace of consumerism: we're living in an age where consumers are always hungry for more – everything from content to apps to games – and are looking to consume them simultaneously. Technology, the driver of this rampant consumerism, has also brought with it the ability for any innovation, whether patented or not, to be replicated within a short space of time, even months. Ultimately this is what is pushing companies to be innovators – they cannot stop in world that does not stand still.

But there's an additional impetus that businesses should be feeling in this call to think like a start-up. In the wake of the financial crisis, the world entered an era of zero growth. Companies have to face the reality of this era, of pressures on margins, and of pressure from consumers demanding constant new ideas in the market. Their only way to survive is to stay relevant, and innovation is the engine that will not only do that but keep them ahead of the curve and in front of their competition.

Once the need to think like a start-up has been acknowledged, a business also needs to know how to implement it. This is not about appointing one person in charge of innovation, but rather instilling a holistic culture throughout the organization. This requires commitment from top management who should be heavily engaged and act to unite all employees in this push for creativity. To get there, businesses need to take a comprehensive look at the business, the brand value proposition and the employees – and formulate a clear vision and central strategy. Questions that need to be answered include which products/services to retain and which to divest, and which processes need to be reviewed to meet objectives fast.

Bringing the focus back to Lebanon, we are all aware that the country is going through yet another crisis period. But at times like this the situation can be viewed as a problem or an opportunity. From Brandcell's standpoint we are advising our clients to look at it as an opportunity to take a small step back and redefine their business for growth. It's not enough to think sales are down and to try to resolve this with promotions and discounts that will only send one signal to consumers: that you are in panic mode. Instead, now is the time to benefit from the lull to rethink every element of your business proposition and to discover how many new ideas you can create, and how many new resources you can make available to jumpstart your business when this crisis is over. Therefore having the ability to continuously unlearn and learn again is the trademark of successful companies.

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brandcell newstipsbrandcell articles
Design thinking can be a powerful approach that helps organizations break through their limiting assumptions of what is possible. It creates deep empathy and gets us out of the abstract debate over ideas in meeting rooms, to a place where we can collaboratively create and test tangible concepts. The theory is great, but getting to implementation is often difficult. Why is that?
When one of us (co-author Glenn Fajardo) started organizing the TechSoup Asia Program Design Session, an event that convened leading social innovation professionals in Southeast Asia to collaboratively prototype new ways of using technology for social impact, he decided to use design thinking for the first time. He encountered questions and worries that we think most first-timers have. The first was:

"OK, so I'm convinced that using design thinking is a good idea. I think I understand what it is after reading Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt's article "Design Thinking for Social Innovation," and it sounds great, but I'm not sure how to put it into action."

Since then, we have experimented with using design thinking in several projects. Based on our collective mistakes and experiences, particularly in organizing two recent events in Southeast Asia (Changeweekend and the TechSoup Asia Program Design Session), it's clear that it's not always easy to put the theory of design thinking into practice.

We agree with Brown and Wyatt that "most [people] stop short of embracing the approach as a way to move beyond today's conventional problem solving," and that "one of the biggest impediments to adopting design thinking is simply fear of failure." However, to better understand how we might help more social innovators with "design doing"—actually applying design thinking—we need to better understand how people learn to use it effectively.

Learning "design doing" is experiential and social

There are already good learning materials available online, including the The Stanford d.School Bootcamp Bootleg and the HCD Toolkit. So what makes it tricky to learn and teach design thinking in a way that helps people embrace it more fully? These current materials might provide some sense of security and help, but are toolkits and workbooks enough?

Written materials alone cannot capture all the nuances of design thinking because the approach involves a structured approach with a lot of unstructured elements. Design thinking, like jazz, requires an appreciation for improvisation; learning how to apply it is an experiential and social activity.

Like learning to ride a bicycle, it is experiential. You cannot learn how just by having someone explain it to you—you have to actually try to do it yourself to find your own balance. You also need to practice to get better.

You can also increase your understanding by observing and interacting with more advanced practitioners—in this way, it is social. You enhance your understanding by practicing with your peers, sharing perspectives, and giving each other feedback.

This learning combination of the experiential and the social means thinking of design as craft rather than design as a codified process or design as an outcome. Think "knitting circle" rather than "classroom."

From knowing to doing

As an example, let's look at just one part of design thinking: how to prototype. A prototype is a simple simulation of the experience of a new product or service—a simulation that a user can interact with. It is often quick and dirty, and it makes an idea tangible and real. Prototyping helps you surface questions about the desirability, usability, and feasibility of your idea. Iteratively making and testing a series of prototypes can help you gain a deeper understanding of your users and help you refine your solutions.

We've seen anxiety from newcomers about making their first prototypes. They understand the concept of a prototype, why making a prototype can be useful, and how others have made prototypes. But the part about them actually making a prototype themselves…scary!

We saw this in the first design challenge for Changeweekend, where participants were tasked with developing new ways for currently unbanked populations to gain greater access to financial services. As we dived into a 45-minute session to create the first prototype, panic ensued:

"Aaaaack! Now what? I understand what a prototype is supposed to do, but not how to make one."

"Prototyping is for creative people. I'm not creative."

"Aren't there more detailed process steps? Tell me what to do next, not just 'start building.''

After about 10 minutes of spinning, and with some prodding from the facilitators ("You won't learn it until you do it..."), one small group finally started to build a "business in a box" prototype out of cardboard and construction paper.

As they started to engage in the experience of prototyping, they overcame considerable fear and inertia, despite feeling like they didn't really know what they were doing.

Conversations broke out: "I like what you did with this. Can you tell me more about your thought behind it? What if I tried this too?" The richness of the learning increased with the social interactions throughout the event, as participants had a chance to iterate and get feedback from their teams, other teams, the event facilitators, and other invitees who work in social enterprise development.

Once they started to work experientially and socially, and as their creative confidence grew, participants were able to start applying prototyping to their own design challenges, ones they face in their day-to-day work. One group took an idea for a "charity gift card" and started building prototypes that it could actually put in front of its intended users. This practice led to significant changes to the organization's business model, to the product offer itself, and to the product's presentation.

What's needed to support more design doing?

Even if you're just getting started, you might be surprised at the kind of help you can find. Try reaching out to your networks. Try posting to the Stanford Crash Course Facebook page. LinkedIn has several design thinking forums, such as Design Thinking, a subgroup of the Industrial Design group, and another (separate) group that is also called Design Thinking. Use these resources to find information and—more importantly—to connect with people. Let people know what you're trying to do and ask for their advice.

Gawad Kalinga Design Session at Playhouse MINT College in Manila. (Photo by Issa Cuevas-Santos)

We also believe that there's both a need and an opportunity here for more experiments around how to create systemic support for learning design doing. One could imagine a spectrum of modes for learning (varying in their degree of direct support of the experiential and the social) that lie between reading manuals online and signing up for a formal course on the topic.

One of the most significant challenges we see is enabling beginners to interact in real-time with experienced hands, in ways that are substantive, scalable, and sustainable. Though it wasn't by design (no pun intended), we saw some promise in something that happened after the TechSoup Asia Program Design Session: Several participants who experienced design doing for the first time during the event took that experience back with them and held design sessions where they were based. Organizations that did this include ASSIST and Gawad Kalinga in the Philippines, and ChangeFusion and OpenDream in Thailand. As a result, many more people were able to access experiential and social learning experiences that included interaction with (newly) experienced hands. In the future, one idea is to more explicitly build in an "each one teach one" expectation of participants.

What do you see as the barriers to introducing and applying design thinking in your organization?

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