Google’s Marissa Mayer, Method’s Kevin Farnham. Peer Insight’s Jeneanne Rae and futurist Andrew Zolli drew a standing-room only crowd in NYC of 200 plus to the Core 77 Design 2.0 conference: From Complexity to Clarity. Their presentations were insightful and entertaining (Zoli is absolutely hilarious as a stand-up comic) and the Ballroom in Union Square gave the meeting a “downtown” lounge vibe. Wait a minute—it was a lounge, with a bar (for all the networking that went on right after the conference).
Here are my notes, such as they are. Picture five of us on stage sitting in directors chairs. Each speaker gets up, goes to a podium, plugs in her or his laptop, and power-points away for about 20 minutes. The CEO of Method, Kevin Farnham led off by showing how, with the explosion of platforms, people increasingly experience their products only through interfaces. Brands are expressed and experienced through interfaces. Every consumer touchpoint is therefore critical—every platform interface is crucial. Most of the keynote speakers at the recent CES were from Google, Yahoo and other “interface” companies, not just product makers. Good point.
Marissa Mayer followed to say that Google designed for the expert, not the novice, because people became experts within a month of using Google. That surprised me. But she warned that the balance between complexity and simplicity/clarity was difficult. Too many features, too much complexity and people begin to choke on choice and use Google less, not more. Panel people chimmed in saying that was true for everything. Beyond a certain point, more complexity resulted in less use, not more. There’s a spiral of doom where more features lead to more choice to people feeling overwhelmed, frustrated—and outa there. Too much choice can paralyze. I like the notion of a “spiral of doom.”
Jeneanne Rae followed. If you can get her to send you the slides comparing the ROI of innovation-minded companies that focus on the consumer experience, such as Starwood, compared to the S&P avergages over 3 to 5 years, do it. The numbers tell the whole story of why design thinking and strategy as so key to top line growth and profits these days. Very powerful stuff. Jeneanne is a consultant to P&G and she talked about how the company has two moments of truth or MOTs. There’s an “F-MOT,” first moment of truth when people come up to a product on the shelf and make a decision to buy or not to buy. There’s an “S-MOT,” second moment of truth when they actually use it. Will they buy it again? Rae says that companies should choose consumer empathy over optimization of short-term profits. It pays off in the long run. Starwood focussed on the “exhale moment,” when people close the door of their hotel room and looked around. It created the big bed concept to delight people in that exhale moment. And did it work? Look at the stock price.
Other Rae-isms. Entrust your customers to co-create their own experience. Use collaborative filtering to show what other people are doing and choosing. Netflix is a great model.
Then Andrew Zolli closed the panel discussion with a boffo performance that he should repeat on the Comedy Channel. This guy makes serious, heavy discussion of design thinking and strategy enormous fun. I can’t capture his humor except to say that John Belushi comes to mind. Zolli says that we are awash in a sea of similarity (great term). We as consumers face 40,000 products a day but we can only pay attention to 160 in a store. Products per se don’t matter much, it’s the experience of them that counts. And what is the NEXT BIG THING after experience? Culture. Brands are culture and we are mixing and remixing them all the time now. Zolli also went down the list of five innovation models now available, from the brilliant designer working alone, the team approach to the open-source, contact 10,000 scientists around the world idea. Great performance, Andrew.
We then broke for a conversation among panelists and audience and hit the bar for intensive networking. Really intensive. I met Ray Chinn, senior VP, New Product Introduction, of Bank of America who told me how an ethnographer in Florida talked to a woman who told him about how she saved her change. This led to the Keep the Change credit card concept—did you see the ads during the Olympics? Brilliant idea. Save your change. All from listening to your consumers—actually, one consumer. That’s service innovation, financial innovation.
And Lindsey Clark from the Material Connexion told me about holographic lollipops and other candy (it was kinda of late but I really think she told me this). They’re made by Dimensional Foods Corp. out of Boston.
Then out to dinner with Allan Chochinov and Stuart Constantine, the Core 77 guys who did such a great job in putting on this conference. They’re planning another one in San Francisco in the Spring. Be there.
Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.