In anticipation of publication of my new book, CR Matters is moving. For my latest posts, please visit the new Live Long and Prosper site.

Those of you who’ve been kind enough to subscribe to my RSS feed and email alerts, and to link to this blog, please be sure to update those links as soon as possible.

Thanks, and see you again over at the new site.

Continuing the thread of recent posts surrounding design and Design Thinking as the means by which business can achieve both sustainability and profitability, here’s another excellent TED talk from Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry.

The crux of her argument? After 3.8 billion years of evolution, there probably isn’t a single design challenge that hasn’t been efficiently and elegantly solved somewhere in nature. The blueprints are already there, we just have to look for them.

Together with her new online database – AskNature – her talk showcases some of nature’s best design ideas and the innovative products they’ve inspired. Fascinating stuff, and serious food for thought for the design fraternity…

And the winner is…

August 18, 2009

A little birdy’s told me that a project I consulted on for SAS has won a Red Dot Design Award, and I’m really chuffed about it.

Not because I can claim the core insight that unlocked the whole solution (it’s not an ego thing, honest!); what really makes me smile is that the client in question couldn’t be more deserving.

They weren’t the biggest or most prestigious client in the world (certainly not a household name), nor was the project exactly rocket science (the creation of a brand book); yet it’s hands-down the most enjoyable project I’ve ever worked on.

That’s in very large part due to their willingness to give us our heads, so to speak, and engage whole-heartedly and enthusiastically in a process that a more belligerent client might have dismissed as out-of-scope (the kind of “whole systems” analysis that Kevin Keohane and I have been banging on about for ages – examples here and here).

Their modesty to know what they didn’t know – basically to sit back and enjoy the ride in the first instance – was incredibly refreshing. Equally energising was how, when we came back with our insights, they jumped in and really got involved in fine tuning the proposed brand positioning and message framework.

It was proper co-creation, with the result that everyone in the company has really embraced the outcome and made it their own. Indeed, they’re so proud of what we achieved together that a brand book initially intended strictly for an internal audience is regularly dished out to clients (now there’s an authentic brand for you!).

Amy, Mark, Chris (you know who you are): many congratulations. It was an absolute pleasure working with you and I only wish more clients were like you!

Whilst travelling in and out of London yesterday, I started (and indeed finished) reading the latest offering in Marty Neumeier’s series of “whiteboard overviews” – The Designful Company.

As anyone who’s read The Brand Gap or Zag will know, that’s the real beauty of Marty’s books. In terms of insight gained per minute spent, you just can’t beat them. (If you’re remotely interested in brand, and you haven’t read them, then shame on you – they should be compulsory additions to your library.)

As ever, The Designful Company is full of really great insights but, naturally, what particularly drew my attention was the stuff on sustainability – highlighted by Marty as one of the “wicked problems” facing business and society in the 21st century that can only be worked through by abductive reasoning and the intuition, imagination and idealism of design thinking.

A while back, I suggested a killer question to get to the heart of what sustainability means to a given organisation – why will you still be in business in 50 years’ time?

Thanks to Marty, I now have an additional thought experiment to get businesses people thinking, and it goes like this:

“Imagine a future in which all companies were compelled to take back every product they made. How would that change their behaviour?”

A simple but incredibly profound question. And, if you view Ray Anderson’s TED talk and clock the critical role of reverse logistics in the Interface business model, you’ll get a pretty decent clue as to the answer.

Is this the new winning formula for business?

A recent post by Kevin Keohane led me to revisit Bruce Nussbaum’s fantastic piece on design thinking in Business Week from a couple of years ago.

In it, he made a powerful argument for design thinking as the new management methodology, taking design out of the narrow realm of aesthetics and into the realm of business process. As he rightly says…

“Innovation is no longer just about new technology per se. It is about new models of organization. Design is no longer just about form anymore but is a method of thinking that can let you to see around corners.”

Surprisingly, what I hadn’t latched on to before was the critical importance he attached to designing for sustainability…

“What are the biggest social trends that will have an impact on design in the future? I’ll give you the obvious first—sustainability. Sustainability will be a prime driver of economic growth in the years ahead. Green will move from the realm of corporate responsibility to the space of revenue expansion and profit generation.”

Amen to that!

What’s really interesting is how this convergence of ideas – the emergence of sustainability as a (the?) critical dimension of business value and design thinking as the methodology to achieve it – is rapidly gathering momentum.

Just this morning, I was directed to an interesting post by Mark Dziersk on the Fast Company blog, which likewise asserts that the combination of design thinking and sustainability will be the key to creating enduring business success.

And it’s the word “enduring” that’s critical to that sentence and the title of this post, because it points to a different way of looking at sustainability, beyond simply “green” and the peripheral philanthropy of CSR.

Rather conveniently, that just happens to be the core thought behind my new book, Live Long and Prosper (to be published shortly). What makes the equation work is a much broader definition of sustainability as longevity – the capacity to survive and prosper over generations.

It’s been a while since I visited TED and its Greener Future talks. Nice, then, to return and find a recently posted presentation by Ray Anderson, Chairman and CEO of Interface Inc.

Regular readers will know that I’ve referred to the Interface story many times as a powerful example of the commercial value of sustainability when adopted as a fundamental design value.

If you’re not familiar with the story, if you think that CR is all fluffy stuff and PR, or you’re convinced that sustainability and profitability are mutually exclusive, then you really need to check this out. It’s thought provoking and inspiring stuff…

The Ministry of Truth

June 24, 2009

It’s been a while since I last posted, as I’ve been rather preoccupied with writing a book (more on that at a later date).

In the meantime, here’s something that’s worth a look, discovered last week when I and a couple of pals attended the recording of Mark Thomas‘ new Radio 4 comedy show The Manifesto.

It’s the proposed Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill – a bill that, were it to make it onto the statute books, would make it illegal for politicians to lie. Brilliant stuff!

Unfortunately, it didn’t win the final vote and make it onto the people’s manifesto. (Then again, neither did other genius ideas such as pedestrian proficiency tests for London tourists!)

All the more reason to visit and add your name to the petition pressing for time to debate the bill in parliament.


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