The Biggest Factor in Brand Loyalty You’re Overlooking

Simba or Hamlet.pngLeft Photo by Hans Veth via Unsplash Right Photo by Phil Kalina via Flickr CC

Most organizations define their brand through “Brand Guidelines.” While these are a step in the right direction, they just aren’t enough to create a brand that people love. Just look at the name “Brand Guidelines.” Would you think that has anything to do with how team members interact within the organization? Nope. Does that name even really imply injecting emotion into your designs? Not really. The word “brand” itself has a connotation of an assumed visage, a mask. Most of the time, these guidelines are just seen as a marketing effort to make sure that the visual aspects of our designs and ads are consistent (Our color hex code is #2196F3, not #1E88E5. Can you please change the text to match that color?) This not only continues to perpetuate the myth that design is only about the visual elements, but also does nothing to help us create truly unforgettable experiences for our customers.

People don’t fall in love with brands because of their color scheme. People fall in love with brands because they think of brands as, well, people. When you meet a new person, you make all kinds of judgments about whether this person is going to be just a casual acquaintance or a friend for life. But more important than aesthetics is their personality.

Kaizen — How One Little Word Can Change the World

The Lean Startup. Lean Manufacturing. Six Sigma. If you’re a student of entrepreneurship and organizational efficacy, you know there’s one principle that has been the key to success for thousands of companies — Kaizen. But if you’re like most people, you probably haven’t heard of Kaizen. That’s because Kaizen is actually a Japanese word that literally means “improvement,” but today most people use it to mean “continuous improvement.”

How to Build Authentic Products

You hear lots of people talk about the importance of authenticity, but why is authenticity so critical for innovation? Well as it turns out, your users will treat their relationship to your innovation (and you, by extension) as they would any other personal relationship in their lives.  So, even though your innovation is most definitely not a person, your users will tend to think of it like one. They’ll think of it in terms of personality, and sometimes even gender!

As soon as we realize that our designs are being thought of as a personal relationship, authenticity becomes critical. We don’t like people in our personal life that are inauthentic, and our users won’t like products that are inauthentic. Your users are smart; they can tell when you’re being inauthentic.  Once they sense that you have a purpose other than what you purport it to be, they will lose their faith in you.

How to Think Like an Idealist

Idealist.pngPhoto by Tim Gouw via Unsplash

Feedback is absolutely essential to producing a successful innovation. Innovators and designers probably subject themselves to more feedback than just about anyone else. And while feedback is good for the product they’re creating, feedback can take a toll on the creator. Sure it’s truly great to discover what kinda sucks about what you’ve made. But hearing over and over again that what you’ve made isn’t all that great can wear on you. This is why innovators need to be resilient. They need to embrace the mindset of an idealist.

Idealists are strange folks. They’re relentlessly optimistic, but they’re not blind. Far from it. They’re keenly aware of all the imperfections in the world. Seeing so much wrong doesn’t get them down, though. Idealists are the kind of people that believe all problems are solvable. They’re both rationally unsatisfied and emotionally optimistic.

Maintaining this balance takes work, but there are three habits you can practice to help bolster your idealist mindset.

What Hollywood’s Best Directors Can Teach Us About Innovation

Director.pngPhoto by Jakob Owens via Unsplash

One of my favorite movie series of all time is Back to the Future. Back to the Future gets everything right. On a macro level, the story is about an ordinary kid that gets thrown into an extraordinary situation stuck 30 years in the past. He spends the rest of the movie trying to get home and along the way learns that “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” But it’s not just the overall plot that makes Back to the Future great; it’s the thousand small details. During the opening scene as the camera pans across Doc Brown’s empty lab, you can hear the faint sound of a TV commercial in the background proclaiming that “October is inventory time at Statler Toyota.” Two movies later, as our hero finds himself in the Old West, he rides past a sign for “Honest” Joe Statler’s horse and buggy business, suggesting that the Statler family has been in the transportation industry for generations. These blink-and-you’ll-miss them moments demonstrate the filmmaker’s attention to detail and inspire the loyalty of countless fans like myself who watch these movies year after year.

Our Education System Is Preparing Us for Disappearing Jobs

Education SystemPhoto by NeONBRAND via Unsplash

With headlines like “Yes, the robots will steal our jobs” gracing the news almost every day, it’s time we face the facts: Our education system is preparing us for jobs that won’t exist in 10 years. Teachers, traders, and truck drivers are all in serious danger of seeing their jobs replaced with software from companies like Khan Academy, Robinhood, and Tesla. The world’s economy is undergoing its most radical shift since the Industrial Revolution. Our education system needs to keep up. Luckily, there is some hope. In the past, radical technological and economic changes were what drove changes in education. In fact, it was the Industrial Revolution that produced the system of education that we have today. But we have to keep changing; otherwise we’ll be stuck with a system perfect for the 1800s but woefully unequipped to prepare us for the 21st century.

4 Ways to Find The Next Big Idea

ObservationsPhoto by Tim Bogdanov via Unsplash

Uber, the iPhone, Google Docs. All of these are brilliant ideas that have changed the world and become an integral part of so many people’s everyday lives. But how did the people behind those innovations come up with them? How did they see a need that no one else saw?

Jeff Bezos says he can solve healthcare with a beginner’s mind – what the heck is that?!?

healthcarePhoto by RawPixel via Unsplash

When news broke that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase were teaming up to tackle the problems facing America’s healthcare system, reactions ranged from excited to skeptical to scared. Healthcare incumbents from Anthem to Express Scripts saw their stock prices drop 3-5%.

But how could three companies with absolutely no experience in healthcare succeed where so many others failed? In announcing the partnership, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos proclaimed that the key to success is to approach the problem with “a beginner’s mind.” So what is a beginner’s mind? And can it really unlock the kind of innovation the healthcare industry to badly needs?

Harnessing Hunches — How to Turn Intuition into Innovation

DetectivePhoto by João Silas via Unsplash

“As great designers and inventors often do, [Henry] Ford relied on his instincts to tell him that there was a need for something that didn’t exist. At Apple, Steve Jobs and his ace designer, Jonathan Ive, have done likewise in a number of instances. But for business in general, relying entirely on the instincts of a lone genius can be too limiting. Mindful of this, many designers have come to believe that successful design in the business world (and elsewhere, too) is achieved through a marriage of designer’s intuition and a deep investigation into people’s lives and needs – with emphasis on deep.”

– Warren Berger, CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies and T-Shaped People

TV, cinema, and literature are rife with detective stories. All of these stories have one thing in common. At some point during the story, the detective gets a feeling in their gut — a hunch. And despite some hand-wringing from the other characters, the detective invariably ends up following their hunch. And lo and behold, their hunch leads them straight to what they were looking for. As members of the audience, we don’t fault our detectives for doing this. We don’t think they’re crazy for listening to the voices in their head. But we also don’t think they have some kind of magical superpower to discover the truth. Far from it. Detectives are portrayed as wickedly smart, serious people. We realize that their hunch is a product of their unconscious mind acting on years of experience, picking up a thread no one else has seen yet.

Disruption Is the Wrong Way to Think about Innovation

Disruptive InnovationPhoto by Ant Rozetsky via Unsplash

Scale Ain’t What It Used To Be

Prior to these three forces of Abundance, Access, and Automation teaming up to inflict massive change on the world, the primary method an organization had to stave off competition and achieve sustainable success was to reach scale. Once you were big enough and had enough existing customers, it was damn hard for a competitor to come in and knock you out. Because you produced such large quantities, you were able to offer your product at extremely cheap prices. No new startup could offer something at that price and hope to turn a profit. And it’s not just that your production process was big; it was the perfect balance of lean and complex. You effectively managed throngs of international suppliers so that each part of your operation was conducted at as low a cost as possible. It would take years for a new upstart to develop the international relationships and physical infrastructure necessary to compete!