100 Conversations · Desk Notes · Innovation & Creativity · Strange Geometries

Leadership and innovation: what does it take?

I’m going to narrow the scope of my reply to this question, Leadership and innovation: what does it take? to the realm that I know best. B2B operations. Small scale and low-key, not with bajillions of parts moving all the time which is a completely different mob of questions that will come up, from the original one.

As a trained engineer, I like to break things down into units that we can take on, one by one. Calculate the way towards the solution. As a designer, I like to focus really tightly on that massive question, ‘What is the problem we want to solve?’ Okay. So when you know that, you can get going taking steps to find out.

Now. The answer to what does it take on the part of leadership is not who is the __est, fill in the blank, as you like. It’s what question are we trying to solve, here, and who wants to be ready to ask that question? I think a lot of people in business leadership positions want to pretend like they know already (or that you shouldn’t be asking such petty things). I mean. You see it. Allllll the time. But what does that get you?


Never moving past Step 1 looks like this

It gets you to Step 1. And not anywhere near 1034, which is where you really want to be, for true breakthroughs. Innovations can’t happen if people aren’t allowed to move around and play a lot. And then you fall, tinker, manage to figure out something else, and boom, step by step by step by … you see what I mean…. and then you make something truly interesting. But. A lot of people don’t want to go past Step 1.

They think it’s nuts, maybe, that anyone would ask, ‘Okay, but what other problems might we ask about? What else is there? Can we look around a bit?’ Maybe take a week to think it over. Take two weeks. Wow. Who has that kind of time, some people say.

I know who. The people who have what it takes.

What are you doing to move the ball past the beginning of the football field? How are you creating a culture of innovation that will allow people to dream big, like really big, and get to the moon and back? I mean. Why not. Ask this, anyway, if you start to get some magic tinkling feelings that have stirred up something you have not thought of in a long time, then we’re on our way to somewhere. That matters.

Stuck at the beginning stage? It’s common. Get unstuck when you work with me, here at Design Kompany. We will go through the brand strategy process. We will think it out, together. Some testimonials are here. B2B, small scale, let’s go.

S P A C E publishes weekly. Membership information is at http://gumroad.com/designkompany/membership


Image source: MIT

Desk Notes · Ideas of Curiosity · Innovation & Creativity

4 things I’ve learned in 20 years in media (newspapers, and what used to be called ‘new media’)

Twenty yers of writing and publishing; that’s a while, isn’t it?

So yeah. There is no shortage of items one might be able to report on this very topic, but I will adjust things so that they are relevant for the 2023 outlook for media. I mean, a business trade journal isn’t exactly something that people where I am (Cambodia) would want to read. I think it’s more about quick lookbooks, and pictures, and snippets, these days. Scanning. Short. And readable.

So here’s my first four thoughts on what constitutes ‘what I learned’ if you wanted to hear it in this way. Wow. This is my first listicle. Coolio.


4. Know when to exit

I went to a bloggers conference in 2006. I went back to my newsroom. I said we needed a blog. They said no, we didn’t. Honestly I cannot believe that but it was really real. That same year, I started my design studio, this very site.

The conference was mind-boggling then but totally and completely normal, today. It was before smartphones took off, so people had their laptops out and were typing away. While the lectures were going. While. I mean, that. Was. Different.

It was GnomedexBR, an editor acquaintance, had tipped me off to the event, and how to get a media pass. Nothing I’m doing today would have happened, without that. It’s a good thing I follow up on everything nine hundred times, else I never would have reconnected with B on a different continent, and caught up, and heard about the thing.


3. Remember to be real

I think one of the hardest part for a lot of people who wanted to start their businesses was that they kept trying to pander to what they thought people wanted to buy. I mean, there’s a ton of fakeness out there. But if you are not genuine it will catch up to you. Really.

Either you’ll burn away from the inside because you are in conflict with yourself, or you will get called out somewhere when the actions and the words do not align. Because that kind of moment can and will happen. You see it a lot. Fakeness. Liars are easier and easier to see now, what with the way the world is online all the time. And by the way, did you read The Catcher in the Rye? I wonder what HC would have thought about instagram, lol.


2. SEO is weird and curious.

And fascinating. I have watched what Google does with my domain for 20 years. It’s neat and fun to see too that I am still there, in Seattle, with ‘branding’ and ‘design’ attached after the city’s name, in the search bar. How does that work? Nifty.


1. Focus, focus, focus

Not possible to stress this enough. All the business management consulting types say it. Do not get lost in ‘brand extension’ or do a fail like New Coke. Just do what you do and do well. One day, like that Rilke poem said, Letters to a Young Poet, you might just walk into the answers. You’ll know what that is, by the time you’re ready. To (re)launch. Or not. It’s 2022. Everything came undone at the seams, so who knows what will work, next. Except: being who you really are.


I’ll put the other four, which are much more personal, into S P A C E. Membership info is at: http://gumroad.com/designkompany/membership