This is strategy

does your business need a design intervention?

Friday, February 19th, 2010

When someone you care about gets trapped in a cycle of self-destructive behavior, perhaps from some kind of dependency, they may find it impossible to break free on their own. They need decisive action to put them on a different trajectory, so you stage a personal intervention.

A similar situation arises in business. Companies become dependent on partners, revenue streams, and business models; they optimize their structure, processes and skills to succeed in their industry’s ecosystem. It becomes harder to shift direction and take innovative risks that lead to new opportunities; their success can make them vulnerable to disruptive shifts in technology, industry structure, or customer desires. If this happens to a company you care about, you may need to stage a design intervention.

The Design Intervention

A design intervention is a short, intensive project where we work with you to envision and prototype the future of some aspect of your business, breaking free of short term constraints. This could be done for any aspect of the business, but most frequently we focus on future products and services. The goal is to identify, articulate and recommend actions that can help the company move in ambitious and profitable new directions.

Every organization has its own situation, issues and culture, and needs a personalized approach. However, these are some typical attributes of the design intervention process:

* Highly ambitious goals for the long term – what could you do to achieve an “iPhone effect” in your business in five years?
* Highly practical plans for the short term – what concrete steps can you take in the next 12 months to steer toward your ambitions?
* Considers broad trends and forces, beyond the current dynamics of your industry.
* Consults external voices & provocative thinkers.
* Assumes company strategy, structure, processes, business models and culture can change.
* Assumes skills and assets can come from anywhere e.g., through open innovation or M&A.
* Multidisciplinary approach, blending design, technology, user experience, social sciences, business strategy, brand & market savvy, ecosystem knowledge.
* Delivers tangible results: physical concept designs, paper prototypes, architectural principles, technology options, business model prototypes, partner and M&A ideas, next step investment proposals.

If this sounds intriguing for your organization, please contact us to discuss your situation.

augmenting Nokia’s reality: quick thoughts on Point & Find

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

From the “Who asked you anyway?” department…

I hadn’t really looked at Nokia’s Point & Find concept before, even though it has been shown around at least since Ubicomp 2007 and the public beta has been running since May09. After last night’s Nokia AR talk I thought I would have a peek.


OK, it’s a beta with limited functionality, and undoubtedly there are plenty of enhancements to the system and the business plan going on behind closed doors, so take this with a large scoop of salt because I only know what’s been said in public. But if I was advising Nokia on Point & Find, I would start with this:

1. The business opportunity is in the service for building and managing the image database, and managing all of the associated meta-behaviors like hyperlinking, bookmarking, purchasing, search, customer intent discovery, collaborative recommendations and so on. By building this physical-to-digital gateway between individual users and companies and institutions, Nokia can accelerate the development of the connected world platform and profit nicely from it as well.

2. The business opportunity for this is NOT in the handset. That should actually be great news for Nokia, because their core hardware business is highly commoditized and that’s a cold reality their employees have to live every day. In the long run, selling commodity hardware is not going to be the best strategy for Nokia (yes, that includes stuff like windows-based netbooks).

3. Point & Find should go on the iPhone and Android platforms, as soon as possible. Because the opportunity is in growing profitable services, not in fighting the low margin handset wars. Because the current AR hype is a swell marketing tool, and right now mobile AR is all about iPhones and gPhones. Because if Nokia doesn’t own image-based physical hyperlinking on those phones, someone else will, and that means the strategic momentum will shift. I realize this is totally countercultural, maybe even unthinkable, but that’s why it would be such an interesting play.

4. Nokia should open up an API to its backend service, so that any developer can make services that tap into that (hypothetical?) database of millions of images of products, printed ads, books, artworks and on and on. Developer momentum advances the entire market, and solidifes the platform’s competitive position. This can be one of those big web squared opportunities, if played right.

How about you, have you tried Point & Find? If you were Nokia, what would you do?