Archive for February, 2012
A recent article in Good Design discussed how 3 type font designers are creating a cohesive look for the City of Chattanooga. All on their own. Without asking for permission or having a commission. We find it to be an incredible story of how vision, strategy, and change can occur, without having to check in with the power’s that be, or leverage a hot new technology or market trend.
For strategists, fonts might seem a strange beginning point for a discussion on shared vision, shared future, and a major urban planning effort. Even more surprising is the ignition point for the change happened in a coffee shop, when two of America’s font designers (this is a job?) started a conversation on type fonts that grew into a vision for their community.
How do we get from font designs to large-scale urban planning, change and shared vision. Easily it seems. Using fonts as a means to a design end is similar to what Apple or Nike do for product marketing. Creating a unique and representative look and feel is a standard marketing and branding strategy. The rub is that businesses generally do not start planning efforts with a font and move to a product. It’s typically the other way around.
From a simple discussion on fonts, the designers segued into how to use font to create a branding strategy for an entire city. It is a bold notion; visionary, radical, insane, and really, really smart. For all of us that have tried to do any form of urban or community planning its simplicity is sublime and enviable. Sure, these guys will get their share of egg-throwers, font-wannabee critics, and folks that are just against anything (and for nothing). And yes, the change effort will require just as much work as any traditional planning effort. The same amount of convincing, selling, involving, political wrangling, and public input. They will need the same commitment to see it through as all planners to create any plan that involves change. But darn it, you just have to admit that it looks like a lot more fun to do it their way.
Business strategists and community planners take note. The sparks that ignites strategies and large-scale change are occurring more and more in the realm of social media technologies, art and the design world. Staying current with cultural trends, not just marketing trends, business, and “go to” sources for competitive trends, will round-out your strategy palette.
A recent article in Forbes (link below) covers a topic we discuss almost weekly with clients — the competitive advantage of culture.
Cultures like Google and Apple are renowned for creating competitive advantage through fostering creativity that leads to great new product offerings.
One often overlooked aspect of having a fantastic culture are the returns to the company in the form of better employee recruitment, development and retention. Many of our clients bemoan the fact that they cannot offer competitive salaries – particularly those in the public and non-profit sectors – and therefore lose-out on the “best” talent in the market. Additionally, many feel that low salaries cause a high turnover rate among their best employees, leading to a talent-brain-drain within the organization. Most, unfortunately, resign themselves to this situation as an inevitability. We work to convince them otherwise.
During the recent recession, lower paying companies have been able to hire extra-ordinary talent. But they fear, with good cause, that these same people will be heading to other higher paying opportunities once the job market improves.
The competitive component that most organizations are missing out on is the quality of their culture. Working within a fantastic culture – one that inspires and nurtures the individual – is one of the key strategies for recruitment, development and retention of great talent. Different cultures appeal to different people. Finding those individuals that are a fit for your culture should start at hiring. Articulating and carefully cultivating a great culture can help all companies hire, develop and retain an above average, talented workforce.
Creating an intentional culture and installing it within the organization (Because you have an operating culture, whether you intend it or not!) is a strategic challenge that will have yield competitive advantage to those willing to take on the challenge.
A recent article in Fast Company says no, or probably not, or you decide… Great article and thought-provoking for those of us that gather ideas from smart people and help craft tangible business strategies.
In our strategy work, we use decision support tools that allow participants to give simultaneous and anonymous comments using many-to-many networked computers. This totally avoids the crowd-pleasing mentality that inhibits good ideas, as mentioned in the article. Often, WHO says something is more important than the content value of the idea itself. The “who said it” often shuts down the creativity of the group as much as critical challenges to ideas.
The jury is still out, and there are hundreds of studies that show better results for group process over individual ideas than those cited in the article below. We firmly believe that anonymous, technology-assisted group process produces far superior outcomes than produced by people working alone, particularly when the strategy or issue is complex. Effective group idea triggering consistently leads to superior strategies and solutions.
Reminds us of the old African proverb…. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.