Tuesday, January 27, 2009

6375: The Designful Company Demands Diversity.

Every self-respecting creative person committed to producing great work will enjoy The Designful Company. Marty Neumeier, who also authored The Brand Gap and Zag, continues to inspire and challenge us all.

Calling for an end to spreadsheet obsession, Neumeier argues for organizations to embrace design and its inherent benefits, presenting 16 “levers” to facilitate the revolution.

MultiCultClassics will forgo a deep review, as smarter and more talented people have already praised the book. Instead, we’ll touch on a few tangential (albeit slightly muddled) notions on industry diversity triggered by reading it.

When discussing true company growth, Neumeier wrote:

A 2007 McKinsey study looked at the performance of 1,077 companies over an 11-year period. It found that less than 1% outperformed their competitors on both revenue growth and profitability. What the top nine performers had in common were these things: 1) a preference for organic growth over acquisitions, and 2) a heavy reliance on intangibles such as strong brands to drive performance.

Sustainable growth and profitability are not borrowed from the future by starving the flow of investment, and not squeezed from the past by milking a business model on its last legs. Sustained greatness, by definition, is sustainable. The look of sustainability can result from blind luck—stringing together a series of unrelated success—but real sustainability results from a consciously built culture of innovation.

…McKinsey found that out of 157 companies that invested in acquisitions in the 1990s, only 12% grew faster than their peers, and only seven companies generated above-average shareholder returns.

That’s a pretty damning indictment of what is currently poisoning the advertising game. The mergers and takeovers that accelerated through the 1990s don’t appear to be bearing much fruit. Even Sir Martin Sorrell seems to accidentally admit the flawed acquisition schemes are borne of individual impatience and greed versus a vision for breakthrough invention. As for milking a business model on its last legs, Madison Avenue executives have squeezed the teat dry.

So what does this have to do with industry diversity? Well, as times become increasingly desperate, adpeople grasp ever tighter to the old ways, protecting their precious political turf and perpetuating failure. No one is cultivating new innovation cultures—or inviting any new cultures, for that matter. Yet change and success demand that we move beyond such obsolete practices.

Neumeier recognizes the positive power that comes from collecting a wide range of opinions and ideas. He highlighted marketing guru Mary Parker Follett, who offered the following thoughts in her 1924 book titled Creative Experience:

Contentious problems are best solved not by imposing a single point of view at the expense of all others, but by striving for a higher-order solution that integrates the diverse perspectives of all relevant constituents. … Adversarial, win-lose decision-making is debilitating for all concerned.

The path toward a better business model has been mapped out for generations. And it has always integrated inclusion and diversity.

A designful company is diverseful. The sooner we realize that—and proactively strive to build such an enterprise—the sooner we’ll begin to experience greater prosperity and progress.

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