• Thousands of people have taken the Metaskills Quiz, the easy online test for assessing five key talents—or metaskills—needed in an increasingly talent-hungry workplace. At the end of this 10-minute quiz, your “talent handprint” pops up, showing you which of the five metaskills you rely on most. Cool. But what does it mean, and what should you do about it? Here’s what we’re learning.
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  • Designers have been touting process for decades. Why? Because clients need reassurance that their investment is safe. By turning creativity into a rational business process, designers have persuaded companies to trust them with mission-critical projects and substantial budgets. Process equals predictability. But what does the rational process really predict? Unfortunately, only sameness. If you want real innovation, you’ll need a much different process.
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  • How do you know when you have a great idea? More important, how do you find a great idea in the first place? Since the mental processes involved in creative thinking are complex and dynamic, it may be helpful to use a simple model from my book Metaskills. I call it the “answer-shaped hole.” It’s the sweet spot where all the criteria can be connected by a single, bold idea.
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  • In an age of nonstop innovation, companies and individuals with original ideas have a distinct advantage over those who don’t. Why? Because original ideas are at the heart of innovation, differentiation, and brand transformation. The Originality Scale is a simple way to categorize your ideas according to the knowledge and imagination that informs them.
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  • Ever wonder why your skills are constantly out of date? Why your company is always falling behind competitors? Why so many jobs and projects are being outsourced? The Robot Curve is a simple model of innovation that shows how new processes, businesses, and technologies continuously destroy old ones as they create new opportunities for wealth. Where are you on the curve?
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  • What’s the difference between a mission and a vision? How’s a purpose different from a goal? Does the corporate mission last forever, or does it change over time? If you’re confused about any or all of these, it’s not your fault. For two decades, business leaders have tossed these terms around with reckless abandon, while experts have defined them in ways that seem to contradict one other.
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  • When you apply the design process both deeply and broadly, you can create rich brand experiences that turn customers into believers. The trick is to do what Shakespeare did in creating his plays. By designing entertainment products that worked on multiple levels, he was able to increase not only the number of customers but also their satisfaction, so they came back again and again. Here's a diagram called the design well that will help your visualize how your company is understood by its various audiences.
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  • In a survey by Liquid Agency (formerly Neutron) and Stanford University, 1500 business leaders were asked to rank their top ten biggest problems. Their number-one problem? “Balancing long-term goals with short-term demands.” In large corporations, the phrase “short-term demands” is code for “shareholder demands.”
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  • Design—and design thinking—are powerful processes that are now getting more traction in management circles. While it’s well understood that design can be used to improve products and communications, it’s less understood that it can be used to craft services, customer experiences, internal processes, organizational structures, strategic decisions, and business models.
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  • As I said in my book The Designful Company, if you want to innovate, you have to design. Yet design is a foreign language to most business managers. This is because the principles of traditional business management principles evolved to serve the needs of the industrial age. They rely on a mechanical two-step process for making decisions: knowing and doing. You “know” something—from a past experience, a case study, or a best practice—and then you “do” something.
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  • Transformation is in the air. Business leaders across industries are recognizing that “old school” management isn’t up to the task of nonstop innovation. As a result, companies that were once run from the top down are steadily shifting to a more networked style of management in which employees and customers play a greater role in driving innovation. Networked cultures tend to be more creative, more agile, and better able to anticipate the needs of customers.
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  • The biggest hurdle to innovation is the corporate longing for certainty about costs, market size, revenues, profits, and other quantities, all of which can’t be known when an idea is new. Ironically, there seems to be no hurdle to investing in dying businesses, decaying strategies, and shrinking markets, all of which can be seen without a crystal ball. It seems we prefer the devil we know.
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  • The stock market is spiraling downwards. Large institutions are looking for handouts. Corporations are cutting head counts. Budgets are slashed to the bone. Time to huddle in the basement? Not if you want to thrive in the next economy.
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  • These days it’s easy to explain branding—just cite Apple or BMW and people get it. But what about companies that don’t sell sexy consumer products—what does good branding look like to them?
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  • Most corporations generate a steady stream of designed artifacts—products, print communications, websites, advertising, manuals, financial reports, signage, retail environments, packaging, trade show exhibits—the “posters and toasters” of 20th-century commerce. When you add the growing list of emerging opportunities—customer experience, service planning, decision design, strategy mapping, and culture development—you begin to appreciate the need for strong design management.
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  • As the drumbeat of innovation grows louder, corporate leaders are feeling the need for stronger internal design. But before a company can even think about building an in-house design capability, it will need to address the problem that has plagued in-house designers since the days of the cave painters. This can be reduced to seven letters: R—E—S—P—E—C—T. As soon as the department is established, its value starts to depreciate. Within months the new group is inundated with low-level tasks and excluded from high-level conversations.
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  • What kind of name will work hardest for you? Should the name literally describe the offering, or should it suggest a benefit? Is it better to imply an idea, or to invoke a brand’s history? Getting the answer to these questions will help you choose the right name. But before you can do that, you have to know your options.
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  • Companies need positioning because customers have choices—and if you don’t stand out, you lose. Positioning is what differentiates a brand in the customer’s mind. To win the positioning game answer this simple question: What makes you the "only"?
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  • Ever wondered how a mission statement relates to a tagline, whom a purpose statement matters to, or what a trueline is?
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  • These days when CEOs and corporate marketers talk about investing in brand, they’re probably referring to traditionally visible touchpoints such as product design, advertising, or web experience. That’s great, but what they, and most people, don’t realize is that branding is much more than just the stuff you can see.
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  • The thorniest question in brand strategy is how to keep growing. At some point in the life of a successful brand, marketers will feel the pressure to extend its success by “leveraging” the brand into other offerings. Brand extensions can make a lot of sense, if the original brand has positive associations for customers.
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  • If you’re repositioning a brand, or if you’re curious about where to take your brand after you launch it, this tool will help you understand how and when to renew your zag as it moves through the three stages of the “competition cycle.”
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  • Even today, books are the primary means by which business ideas are spread. Which books have had the most influence on modern brand strategy? For our money, it’s these seven. While none of them is strictly about brand, every one is about strategy, and every one is built on a surprising insight that can help you succeed in a super-cluttered marketplace. If you’ve read ZAG, you may recognize a few of these.
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  • A lighthearted look at the relationships among marketing roles.
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  • Can you place a dollar value on your company’s brand? You’d be smart to try, and for some companies the estimates are astonishing.
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  • The gives and gets of a healthy brand community
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  • A tool for evaluating customer feedback on brand concepts
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  • An excerpt from ZAG
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  • In ZAG I offer a list of brand names that I classify as either strong or weak. Who says they’re strong or weak? Well, I say. But rather than let my assertions just hang there unsupported, here’s a brief critique of each name, according to the criteria below:
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