Good Design Gets You in the Game…

…great design is the game winner.

Welcome to the world where design is king.


In the old days, designers were an afterthought, the people at the end of the production process. Engineers would hand over something that was functionally effective and have the designers make it look good. Those days are over.

Today, design is about experiences as well as products. It’s about services as much as it is hard goods.

Design is now differentiation.

Alan Webber, founder of Fast Company magazine and author of “Rules of Thumb,” puts it this way: Today companies use design to:

  • create distinctive products and services that capture their customers’ imaginations
  • restructure their corporate operations
  • unveil new logos and uniforms that express a fresh corporate identity
  • develop new communications tools that connect with customers and shareholders
  • build corporate offices that encourage and enable collaboration
  • collect and share information across a global platform

Design is a way to solve deep-seated social problems. And design is a money saver, a way to simplify products and make them easier and less expensive to manufacture and sell. Across the board designers have defines a way of seeing that adds to the delight of customers and the profitability of companies.

Application to ChurchWorld

You probably already understand this on some level. You understand that the design of your website says more about you and provides a quick glimpse of your “brand”. You know that the little – and not so little – things like the design of your logo and your letterhead, the print pieces you use, the “flow” of your worship experience all communicate instantly what your church is all about.

But if you are still a design novice, and want to learn more, here are Webber’s three ways to begin to crack the design code:

  • Reading – you may be a word person and you want to try to learn about seeing. Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind,” Tim Brown’s “Design Thinking,” Tom Kelley’s “The Art of Innovation” and “The Ten Faces of Innovation,” Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie’s “Designing for Growth,” and Don Norman’s “The Design of Everyday Things” are required reading. Get one of them today; start reading it tonight, and put it into action tomorrow.
  • Viewing – You need to practice seeing. Go to an art museum; browse a furniture showroom gallery; check out the latest model cars. The more you look at objects like these, the more you appreciate great design. You’re not buying, so don’t worry about price. Look carefully at the lines, interior detailing and design, and the small things that make a big difference. “Seeing” is a critical skill for aspiring diagnosticians – like you.
  • Shopping – Go out and find an assortment of small objects that go in your home or office. Look at OXO products; visit an IKEA store. When you pick up one of these objects, you will immediately understand what “consumer-centered design” means. Go to an office supply store and sit in an Aeron chair. Look at the latest products from Apple: iPhone, iPad, the latest MacBook Air. Go to an antique store and see what great design looked like in the past. Take a virtual shopping trip to your heart’s content. When you have collected these objects (or examined them enough), what do these products have in common? Are they as good to look at as they are fun to use? Is there an emotional content to their design?

You don’t have to buy anything to get the idea. But you do have to buy into the idea:

Design is everywhere, and increasingly, design is everything.


Building Innovation – Through People

Here’s the final post of three this week about Tom Kelley’s great book The Ten Faces of Innovation. Previous posts have looked at Learning and Organizing personas. For an overview of all ten, see here.

The four remaining personas are building roles that apply insights from the learning roles and channel the empowerment from the organizing roles to make innovation happen. When people adopt the building personas, they stamp their mark on your organization. People in these roles are highly visible, so you’ll often find them right at the heart of the action.

  • The Experience Architect is that person relentlessly focused on creating remarkable individual experiences. This person facilitates positive encounters with your organization through products, services, digital interactions, spaces, or events. Whether an architect or a sushi chef, the Experience Architect maps out how to turn something ordinary into something distinctive—even delightful—every chance they get.
  • The Set Designer looks at every day as a chance to liven up their workspace. They promote energetic, inspired cultures by creating work environments that celebrate the individual and stimulate creativity. To keep up with shifting needs and foster continuous innovation, the Set Designer makes adjustments to a physical space to balance private and collaborative work opportunities. In doing so, this person makes space itself one of an organization’s most versatile and powerful tools.
  • The Storyteller captures our imagination with compelling narratives of initiative, hard work, and innovation. This person goes beyond oral tradition to work in whatever medium best fits their skills and message: video, narrative, animation, even comic strips. By rooting their stories in authenticity, the Storyteller can spark emotion and action, transmit values and objectives, foster collaboration, create heroes, and lead people and organizations into the future.
  • The Caregiver is the foundation of human-powered innovation. Through empathy, they work to understand each individual customer and create a relationship. Whether a nurse in a hospital, a salesperson in a retail shop, or a teller at an international financial institution, the Caregiver guides the client through the process to provide them with a comfortable, human-centered experience.

What about your organization? Do you have individuals that regularly take on the personas listed above?

Why not?

Innovators Must Be In It to Win It

Recap: today’s post is the second of three which take a look at Tom Kelley’s book The Ten Faces of Innovation. Wednesday, the Learning Personas were reviewed. Today, it’s the Organizing Personas. For a brief look at all ten, see here.

The organizing roles are played by individuals who are savvy about the often counter intuitive process of how organizations move ideas forward. Kelly found that ideas could not speak for themselves; instead, even the best ideas must continuously compete for time, attention, and resources. It’s not just office politics or red tape; it’s a complex game of chess, and the Organizing Personas play to win.

  • The Hurdler knows the path to innovation is strewn with obstacles and develops a knack for overcoming or outsmarting those roadblocks.
  • The Collaborator helps bring eclectic groups together and often leads from the middle of the pack to create new combinations and multidisciplinary solutions.
  • The Director not only gathers together a talented cast and crew but also helps spark their creative talents.

Every organization, no matter how small or large, has systems of how things get done (or don’t). By adopting one of the roles above, members of your team can move ideas and innovations forward.

Facing a daunting task? Stymied by seemingly huge barriers?

Adopt an organizing persona, and make things happen!

The Shortest Distance to Innovation

People make innovation happen through their imagination, willpower, and perseverance. The only real path to innovation is through people. As Tim Sanders says, “The shortest distance to innovation is between two people.”

Tom Kelley, one of the founders of the legendary design firm IDEO, developed ten people-centric tools in his book The Ten Faces of Innovation. By adopting one or more of the roles, your team can explore a different point of view and create a broader range of innovative solutions. Kelley organized the ten roles into three categories: learning, organizing and building. Beginning today and continuing through Friday, a brief introduction to the personas, as Kelley calls them. For a quick summary of the personas, see here.

The Learning Persona

Individuals and organizations need to constantly gather new sources of information in order to expand their knowledge and grow. Because the world is changing at an ever-accelerated pace, today’s great idea will be tomorrow’s passing fad, and the day after’s history lesson. The learning roles described below will help keep your team from becoming smug about what you know; instead, these roles will keep you questioning your own views and remain open to new insights.

  • The Anthropologist brings new learning and insights into the organization by observing human behavior and developing a deep understanding of how people interact physically and emotionally with products, services, and spaces.
  • The Experimenter prototypes new ideas continuously, learning by a process of enlightened trial and error. The Experimenter takes calculated risks to achieve success through a state of “experimentation as implementation.”
  • The Cross-Pollinator explores other industries and cultures, then translates those findings and revelations to fit the unique needs of your own organization.

As you reflect over these 3 personas, and the seven to follow over the next two days, keep in mind that they are not inherent personality traits or types that are permanently attached to one individual on your team. These innovation roles are available to nearly anyone on your team, and people can switch roles, reflecting the multifaceted capabilities.

Take a look in the mirror – what Learning persona do you need to assume today to help your organization move forward?

Prototyping is a State of Mind

It’s a given that the award-winning design firm IDEO utilizes prototyping in their quest to fulfill a client’s request for a better shopping cart or when creating the mouse for Apple.

But how does this help when innovation isn’t a daily ritual? And what if your organization doesn’t make things, but provides a service? And what if your organization is a church?

Quick prototyping is about acting before you’ve got all the answers, about taking chances, stumbling a little, but then making it right.

Prototyping is a state of mind.

In the book “The Art of Innovation, IDEO general manager Tim Kelley outlines some of the key principles of prototyping the firm has developed over the years:

  • Build to learn – when a project is complex, prototyping is a way of making progress when problems seem insurmountable
  • Make your luck – once you start prototyping, you begin to open up new possibilities of discovery
  • Prototypes beat pictures – living, moving prototypes can help shape your ideas
  • Bit by bit – don’t go for the touchdown all in one play; work on your project in stages, getting approval and/or revisions done in steps. Keep the momentum going
  • Shoot the bad ideas first – don’t stop when you’re stuck; prototyping even an unworkable solution often generates new ideas

A playful, iterative approach to problems is one of the foundations of the creative culture at IDEO. It can be at your organization, too.

So, what are you going to prototype today?