Impressions

by Cochran

Design Thinking: Methodology, Mindset or What?

Chamber musicians perform trio sonata

Image via Wikipedia

During the past several years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time exploring design thinking. I’ve read inspiring and insightful books and blogs on the subject, heard in-person keynotes by design thinking experts including Claudia Kotchka and Roger Martin, attended a design thinking conference, engaged in numerous online discussions around the topic and have had many face-to-face conversations with others on this often elusive topic.

My still looming question: Is design thinking a methodology, a mindset or something else?

David Kelley, a founder of IDEO and co-founder of the d.school program at Stanford, in a video interview with Reena Jana of Business Week, stated that design thinking can be learned. Design thinking is not a new methodology, according to Kelley, “it used be to be called design.” Companies are finally recognizing the value of design and many are working to make design thinking part of their corporate DNA.

I tend to agree with Kelley in that design thinking can be learned. But, at the same time, I feel that design thinking is a mindset. According to the World English Dictionary, mindset is defined as “the ideas and attitudes with which a person approaches a situation, especially when these are seen as being difficult to alter.” If this is an accurate definition, then I’m convinced that design thinking also falls into mindset mode.

OK, so design thinking is both methodology and mindset. But, which comes first? How does one acquire the design thinking mindset?

In my case, design thinking has been a way of life for as long as I can remember. At the age of 10, I (luckily) embarked on a path towards becoming a serious classical musician. That meant years and years of developing both sides of my brain and, just naturally, blending analytical thinking with intuitive thinking.

Of all the arts, music is the one which best grooms the mind in that hybrid way. During tens of thousands of hours in the practice room, a musician taps into a blended skill set of analysis and intuition. In learning a new piece or re-learning a piece from our past repertoire, we prototype hundreds of times. That prototyping is done alone, with a teacher, in rehearsal and then again during each actual performance of the work. Whether in a chamber music ensemble or in an orchestra, the nimble musician combines what he has analyzed with what he has prototyped and then adds the layer of intuitive thinking so necessary when interacting with other musicians onstage.

So, for some, design thinking seems to come naturally. Design thinking is a blend of years of learning, prototyping and doing.

What are your thoughts? Are there other fields of study that naturally train us in design thinking? I’d like to hear from you.

March 6, 2011 Posted by | business, creativity, design, design thinking, Innovation, music, prototyping | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Coco and Igor as Innovators

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel

Image via Wikipedia

I just returned from a private* screening of “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky,” the Jan Kounen film which closed the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and is now showing in U.S. theaters. Beautifully filmed and acted, the film spoke to me on multiple levels. As a serious classical musician, lover of Stravinsky’s music and passionate devotee of French culture, Kounen had me from the downbeat.

And, what a downbeat it was! The opening scene depicts the tension leading up to the 1913 world premiere of Diaghilev’s ballet, The Rite of Spring, set to music by Stravinsky, at Le Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. The unsuspecting audience, so accustomed to ballets like Swan Lake and others from the late-Romantic Russian repertoire, riots. The dancers and orchestra musicians are barely able to continue performing. The entire scene is wildly disruptive.

Interestingly, Coco Chanel is in the audience and she seems to be one of the few listeners who understands Stravinsky’s music. The complicated love story (and aren’t all French love stories complicated?) picks up again in 1920, once she and Stravinsky have each made names for themselves in Paris.

I was struck by the fact that Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky were immediately simpatico, perhaps because they were both innovators. He, a Russian composer then living in Paris, was writing music with uneasy, syncopated rhythms and disruptive harmonies new to the world’s ears. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel turned the women’s fashion world upside down, designing clothing that was not only chic, but thankfully, comfortably corset-less.

Mark Bernstein, CEO of the Palo Alto Research Center, defines innovation as “a valuable change, unconstrained by the way things are.” If his definition is accurate, then Igor Stravinsky and Coco Chanel should take their places at the top of a list of early 20th century innovators. Although we usually see the term “innovation” attributed to late 20th century corporations such as Procter & Gamble and Apple, let’s not forget some of the world’s earlier innovators who helped to change the way we think.

Which other early 20th century innovators would you add to this list?

* My screening was private only by accident. Pity no one else showed up to enjoy this incredibly insightful film with me.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | creativity, design thinking, Innovation, music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dog Days Are For Reading

What 'cha reading?

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been reading this summer (so far). I encourage you to comment and share your summer reading recommendations.

  • Change By Design by Tim Brown
  • The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking Is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger Martin
  • In Pursuit of Elegance: Why The Best Ideas Have Something Missing by Matthew E. May
  • ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
  • Wired To Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy by Dev Patnaik
  • How To Be A Brilliant Thinker by Paul Sloane
  • Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler
  • The Connectors by Maribeth Kuzmeski
  • The Silver Lining by Scott Anthony
  • Innovation X: Why a Company’s Toughest Problems Are Its Greatest Advantage by Adam Richardson
  • Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity by Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian C. MacMillan
  • Seizing the White Space: Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal by Mark W. Johnson
  • The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz

July 19, 2010 Posted by | business, design thinking | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Social Media Surprise: More Reading

The use of social media is changing the world.

What? You say you don’t agree? OK, let me rephrase that.

The use of social media is changing my world and here’s one way in which it’s doing so: I’m reading more.

I’ve always been an avid reader. As a kid, I was a bookworm. When summers came around, I visited the bookmobile once a week. (The town in which I grew up was small enough then that we didn’t even have our own library.) Mom would drive me to the grocery store parking lot and wait in the car while I checked out my books for the week. Each week, I’d select seven books since I devoured a book a day. And, I read everything — fiction, nonfiction, biographies — I was interested in everything.

As an adult, I’ve continued to be an avid reader, although I can’t say I’ve kept up my former book-a-day record, even during the summer months. For years, the first section I’d grab form the Sunday New York Times was the Book Review. I still enjoy that section, though I’m reading it online, of course. And, I seem to go in phases, moving from an all-fiction mindset (to “fuel my creativity”) to an all non-fiction mentality (to “learn things”). Deep down inside, I know that whether I’m reading fiction or non-fiction, I’m always learning.

But, here’s the surprise for me. Since embracing several social media tools, especially Twitter, I’m reading more. I didn’t notice an uptick in my reading when the web came along. Even with the ease of researching interesting new books on the web, the frequency of my reading seemed to remain about where it had been for years. But, I am reading more thanks to Twitter.

By following fascinating people, I’m being directed to interesting websites and blogs every day. I think the key for me is the immediacy of it. Though I can’t claim to follow every link I receive, I no longer have to stop at the library, swing by the bookstore or even take time to browse amazon.com. Throughout each and every day, I allow myself to take small, meaningful, productive detours to blogs or websites mentioned by those I follow and respect. And those blogs and websites are leading me to more books — physical books, hardcover books. I keep a running list of what interests me and simply order them online in a batch of 6 or 8 at a time. Since I’m at my laptop much of each day, I still enjoy the physical relationship of reading an actual book (and my eyes do too).

The bottom line is that I’m reading more than I have in a long time. Can’t say that I’m back up to my adolescent record of a book a day, but I’m delighted to report that social media is enhancing my life in surprising ways. Reading more and reading more widely is just one of them.

Have you had your own social media surprise? If so, please share it. I welcome your comments.

July 2, 2010 Posted by | creativity, social media | , , , , | Leave a comment

What To Look For In Hiring A Web Design Firm

This is a condensed version of a recent talk I gave to a group of sales professionals within a large website design firm. They wanted an agency perspective, so I didn’t mince words.

Here are Cochran Creative Group’s top ten prerequisites in choosing a web design partner.

1. Easy to work with. We look for a firm that’s well organized. Namely, we need to know from the ‘get-go’ who our lead contact person is. We don’t want to talk with a different customer service person each time we call.

2. Speaks in a language we (and our customers) can understand. This harks back to Sales 101: Learn to talk the customer’s language.

3. Is customer-focused. Not only are they interested in our business; they’re also interested in our customers’ business. They’re here to help solve our problems and make our lives easier.

4. Wants to form a real partnership with us. For instance, we’d like help preparing proposals and pitching clients. We’d like to include our web partner on conference calls with customers. We’d like our web partner to take as much ownership over the project as we do. We don’t need you to be anonymous.

5. Takes part in the website planning process. Offers up ideas. Discourages us from going in a wrong direction. Basically, we need your help. We’re not web designers. Please guide us.

6. Offers us content management sites that are design-independent. We spend our days creating custom logos, custom marketing plans and custom advertising campaigns. We want to create unique sites. We don’t want to be boxed in by column widths or drop down styles. We hate the “T” word, i.e., templates.

7. Cares about site aesthetics. We and our customers care about things like centering, consistent use of font styles, font sizes and colors. Aesthetics help maintain a consistent brand message. They may do little for SEO, but they do subliminally attract and keep customers.

8. Is attentive to detail. Looks into even small errors. When we see “done with errors” on the bottom of a page, it doesn’t inspire confidence. If we notice errors, there’s certainly a chance that other visitors to the site will notice them too.

9. Adheres to web standards and provides a high level of quality assurance. Tests each site on multiple browsers for consistency in rendering. We don’t want to hear that a site “might not look right in Safari or IE6.” Unfortunately, our customers could be using less-popular or older browser versions.

10. Delivers on time and is readily available for troubleshooting. We prefer to work with a website firm that provides ongoing support in a proactive way – a group that checks in on a regular basis, just to “see how things are going.”

All in all, we’re looking for a long-term relationship – the launch of a new website is only the beginning.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | website design | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Networking for Business at Starbucks: An Insider’s Guide

I love coffee. I love strong, bold coffee. Starbucks is my cup of choice. I head over to my corner location every morning, rain, sleet, snow or shine. But, it’s not just about the coffee…

For me, it’s also about networking. As a small business owner, Starbucks has become an integral part of my workday. By spending a mere 10 minutes at Starbucks each morning, I’ve grown my business exponentially.

Here are 10 insider tips for making Starbucks your killer networking app:

1.  Choose well. Scope out various Starbucks locations for the best fit for what you want to accomplish. If you want to network with business owners, choose a location in an area close to (or enroute to) the types of companies you wish to do business with. Chances are, those business owners are making a coffee stop, too.

2.  Be consistent. Once you select your prime location, visit it consistently. When you become a regular, you’ll begin to develop relationships with other regulars.

3.  Scope out your prospects. Not unlike how we learned to observe and listen as we developed our Twitter strategies, I recommend observing and listening to other Starbucks customers for a while. This will help you determine who the regulars are, who your first networking targets might be and how to approach them.

4.  Make your first move at the bar. Of course, I’m referring to the condiments bar. In the short time that it takes to add cream and sugar to your cup, you can break the ice with many an interesting prospect. “Coffee…my one and only vice” works well for me. You may only get a grunt or a “have a nice day” out of the prospect at first, but considering most people are rushing off to the office, that’s a great start.

5.  Repeat daily. Continue to “break the ice” with new prospects. Keep your pipeline full. Even with one such encounter daily, your pipeline will fill quickly.

6.  Move up. At a second encounter, move up to a simple “Good morning,” as a way to acknowledge that you and your prospect now have a relationship.

7.  Advance to a higher level. With a quickly filling pipeline, you’ll soon recognize opportunities to advance the conversation to an even higher level. By your third or fourth encounter, you can offer a handshake and introduce yourself. Before you know it, you’ll be exchanging business cards.

8.  Vary your arrival time. As stated earlier, when it comes to networking, consistency is key. But, it pays to vary your arrival time occasionally by +/- fifteen minutes. This will help to broaden your prospect pool and allow for more repeat encounters.

9.  Make friends with your barista. Busy though they may be in the morning, the baristas can be some of your strongest networking allies. They know most of their customers by name and therefore, can help you out in the rare instance that you forget a name or two from your growing group of prospects.

10. Sit down. (This tip is for advanced networkers only.) Yes, I’m actually advocating that, rather than rushing off down the street with cup in hand, after leaving the condiment bar, you sit at a table and enjoy your coffee for 10 minutes. It’s a pretty simple habit to get into. Think of what 10 minutes of networking daily could do for your business. Pretty soon, you’ll be deducting your coffee costs as a true business expense!

February 28, 2010 Posted by | social media | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

You. On Twitter. 10 Tips.

Last August, I wrote a post entitled “You is #1.” At that time, I was inspired by a new Yale study which revealed that “You” continues to be the #1 most powerful word in the English language, both online and off. “You” is personal. “You” attracts customers. “You” also attracts Twitter followers and keeps them engaged.

Here are my 10 tips on how You can enjoy more success on Twitter.

1. Be yourself.

2. Use your photo. If you use a logo or other avatar, I won’t get to know you. Unless you’re @HarvardBiz or @fastcompany, without that personal touch, I’ll probably lose interest and unfollow you.

3. Use your online bio to give potential followers a snippet of information about you. Your bio can make or break whether someone wants to follow you or not.

4. Whom you choose to follow reflects on you. Be choosy, and remember, as your Twitter strategy evolves and your standards change, you can unfollow anyone at any time.

5. Tell me something about you. This doesn’t mean “Here’s my company name, what I do and please buy something from me.” Tell me something about you. “Happy Birthday to you, Mozart” tells me you’re interested in classical music. “Meet you at the live music milonga tonight at 10” tells me you’re interested in tango. “Think you’ll appreciate today’s op-ed by @NYTimesFriedman on healthcare reform” tells me even more about what interests you.

6. Ask my opinion. Show that you’re interested in me, in how I think and in the issues that matter to me. “What do you think about the new iPad? Is it just an iFad or here to stay?”

7. Ask me what I’m doing. Questions like “What are you reading lately?” or “What are you listening to on your iPod right now?” can really start the conversation.

8. Do tell me what you’re doing, but do so in a way that reveals more about you. Rather than tweeting “I overslept this morning,” a more engaging tweet might be “Stayed up way too late last night reading Roger Martin’s new book, The Design of Business. Overslept, but it was worth it.”

9. Tweet your thoughts. Sure, re-tweeting is encouraged and adding links to other people’s content is an effective strategy. But, make it a priority to regularly post your own thoughts. What is important to you right now? Share that with me. At least 20% of the time, post tweets in your own words. Let me know you can think on your own, that you have opinions and that you truly wish to foster a relationship with me.

10. And, be yourself. (Did I mention that?)

February 3, 2010 Posted by | creativity, design thinking, social media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Lessons: The Music of Business

One year ago, one of my articles was published in an educational magazine of interest to high school and college-aged flute students and their teachers. (My former career was as a classical musician.) I had written the article not long after the passing of the well-known and highly-respected French flutist, Louis Moyse, my teacher and musical mentor of 30 years.

I came across the article again a few days ago and was taken by the fact that the musical “Life Lessons” I had shared with other flutists can easily apply to those of us in today’s business world.

What follows are 10 of the many memorable quotes I remember from Louis Moyse, followed by my translations. To apply the lessons to business life, I have added just a few words to my original writing and have shown them in parentheses.

  1. “This is your territory — mark it!” Find your place in the (business) world and make the most of it!
  2. “Start from nothing. Then, allow yourself to grow.” — Make knowledge and self-improvement your lifelong quest.
  3. “Don’t be a flutist; it’s much more important to be a musician.” — Look at the details, certainly, but don’t forget to focus on the broader (business) picture. Think strategically.
  4. “It may be marked ‘Grave’ but it’s not necessarily about death!” Don’t make things out to be worse than they really are.
  5. “You must learn to be your own teacher.” — You are responsible for your own destiny. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
  6. “You need to suffer!” With (business) experience comes understanding.
  7. “Be more free, like a sheep. Sometimes it helps not to have too much brains (sic),” — Trust your (business) instincts.”
  8. “There is no such thing as ‘instant flute’. You have to work at it!” — Success (in music or business) is not supposed to come easily.
  9. “Sometimes, the most difficult thing is to do nothing, —  Some things (in business) are best left alone.
  10. “Make it simple.” Clear straightforward (business) communication has a power all its own.

If you’re interested in reading the original article in its entirety, please email me: rebecca@cochrancreativegroup.com

January 12, 2010 Posted by | business, music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

2009: Journey Into the Marketing Unknown

A close friend recently sized me up this way: “You’re most comfortable residing in the ‘unknown’ because that’s where the most learning takes place.”

If that was an accurate assessment, then 2009 was definitely my best year ever. It was chock full of unknowns.

After 10 years as the owner of a marketing and creative design group, all of a sudden, new customers were not beating a path to my door as readily as before. Even long-time customers were scaling back on their marketing initiatives. I took a deep breath and began brushing up on my sales skills, reacquainting myself with some tried and true methods and attending a seminar or two to learn some specific tactics for selling in a down economy.

The marketing and advertising industry was in serious change mode well before the economy took its nosedive. The Internet had already changed everything. No longer were companies relying solely on traditional print and broadcast media to market their products and services. There was and continues to be a whole new set of skills necessary to compete as a marketing professional.

Several years ago, the unknowns of the online world began presenting themselves to me. Website design and email marketing were quickly becoming prerequisites for maintaining a viable business model. In true form, I jumped into those unknowns with both feet, learning as I went and happy to be doing so.

Much to my delight, even more unknowns showed up in 2009. The year has found me gaining fluency in search engine optimization, blogging and social media, especially Twitter. And, I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about design thinking to learn how better to help my business and my customers’ businesses grow in more innovative and human-centered ways. Books of particular note include Ideo’s Tim Brown’s “Change By Design” and “The Design of Business” by Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management.

Despite the unruly and disruptive nature of 2009, I was a bit sorry to see the year come to a close. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that 2010 will present even more unknowns to us all. The pace will quicken too.

Let the learning never end.

January 2, 2010 Posted by | creativity, design thinking, Marketing, Online Marketing, social media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Me? Use Twitter? 10 Reasons Why You Should

10 Good Reasons For Using Twitter
  1. To become a better listener
  2. To learn to say more with less
  3. To join in the conversation, globally
  4. To network, globally
  5. To allow your customers to get to know you
  6. To learn what others are saying about your company
  7. To attract new audiences
  8. To foster ideation
  9. To stay current
  10. To interact with society

Why and how do you use Twitter? I welcome your comments here or via Twitter. You’ll find me @cochrancreates.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | creativity, Marketing, Online Marketing, social media | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment