Robyn Bolton challenges an article posted in Fast Company that claimed the most popular design thinking strategy is BS.
How might we ruin a perfectly good and useful tool?”
This might not be the question that innovators, design thinkers, and brainstorm facilitators wanted to answer. But it seems that it’s the one they did.
“The most popular design thinking strategy is BS,” proclaimed the headline on a June 28 article in Fast Company. “The ‘How might we’ design prompt is insidious, and it’s time to bury it.”
I’m a sucker for provocative headlines, especially ones that challenge that status quo, so I clicked and read the article. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
The reason “How might we” (HMW) is so insidious, the author asserts, is that the “we” in HMW refers to the people in the room, not to the users, customers, or populations for whom teams are designing their products and services. The prompt looks inward instead of outward, encouraging people to build solutions that suit their own needs and experiences. They end up with offerings that don’t serve customer needs and may even hurt the people they’re meant to help.
The problem (and solution) of “We”
Fair. As I recounted in last week’s episode of “What Matters in Innovation,” I saw this exact worry come to life when I was an Assistant Brand Manager on Swiffer WetJet. While the brainstorming promotional ideas as a brand team, the most senior member suggested a Valentine’s Day promotion encouraging men to buy a WetJet, then priced at $50, for their wives “because she’s worth it.” Everyone in the room nodded in silent awe and acceptance, except one person. Me. The only woman in the room.
Key points include:
- The solution (and problem) of “How might”
- The problem (and solution) at the end of “How might we”
- HMW is not BS. How we use it is.
Read the full post, “How Might We” is not BS. How We Use It Is, on MileZero.io.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Colleen Miner. Colleen Miner spent three years as a consultant and Instructional Designer at McKinsey, and has just started her own consulting firm to work on education innovation and future of work projects. Prior to McKinsey, she was Senior Director, Content Strategy for 2U, Inc. and the Digital Learning Project Coordinator at The Museum of Modern Art.
Colleen has particular expertise in digital learning, design thinking, and capability building programs at scale. She is currently traveling through the Midwest with her husband and training for her next marathon. Colleen is happy to collaborate on projects involving design thinking, instructional design, or online learning.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Christopher Rischard. Christopher Rischard spent eight years as Digital Leader in the TMT practice at Booz & Company based in Paris and Madrid focused on digitalization, data and tech-enabled growth strategy. After several years as a Principal, he set off as an independent consultant in London in 2014. Prior to Booz and his MBA at INSEAD, Christopher lived in Washington DC where he was raised and he worked for 8 years in enterprise solutions sales at MCI Telecommunications. Christopher would be delighted to collaborate on digital strategy, digital transformation and digital value creation engagements for both corporate and private equity clients.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Amit Bhagat. Amit Bhagat brings together a combination of corporate and consulting experience. In the corporate world, he was General Manager of a $300M business unit of a public consumer goods company. In addition, he was Head of Strategy and M&A. Within his portfolio of responsibility, Amit led teams in each of corporate strategy; M&A and post-merger integration, business insights and analytics; and transformation. In the consulting world, Amit was Managing Director at PwC Strategy& focusing largely on M&A related engagements – post-merger integration planning and execution as well as post-merger growth strategy. Amit is based in Toronto.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Yi-Hsin Chang with Chang Unlimited. The secret to Yi-Hsin Chang’s success, no matter the industry, company or situation, is her creativity, tenacity and hard work. She is single-mindedly driven by a need to succeed and to make a positive impact on everything she does.
Yi-Hsin has developed and implemented growth strategies, and led transformational change in companies small and large. She is particularly adept at assessing and adapting to new situations, and managing challenging personalities.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar, Yi-Hsin started her career as a reporter at The Wall Street Journal and then as a writer for The Motley Fool at the height of the dot.com era. When she decided she wanted to run businesses, not just write about them, she went to business school at NYU Stern.
Yi-Hsin’s business career started at McKinsey & Company and Goldman Sachs. She later transitioned to industry so she could have direct, hands-on impact on businesses, including The Kessler Group, Hanover Insurance, and DTN (Data Transmission Network).
Most recently for nearly a decade, Yi-Hsin worked alongside The Kessler Group’s highly successful Founder, Chairman and CEO Howard Kessler(inventor of the affinity credit card) as Chief of Staff/COO, and was instrumental in running the credit card advisory firm, developing creative solutions for major bank clients and their cobrand partners.
Yi-Hsin founded her own independent consulting firm Chang Unlimited, LLC to partner with clients to do deals, build businesses and maximize value. Leveraging her experience in a wide range of industries, business lines and functions, she is highly versatile and capable of solving complex problems and helping companies grow.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Marla Malluk Gozman. Marla Malluk Gozman spent nearly ten years at Bain & Company in their Boston, London, and New York City offices. Since then, she has been an independent strategy consultant and also spent three years as Sales Strategy Director with Zearn, a nonprofit education technology organization. Marla has expertise in growth strategy and strategic planning, market and competitive analysis, and pricing, as well as advising start-up and nonprofit organizations. She has experience in many sectors, including health care, education, consumer finance, retail, hospitality, and telecommunications. Marla lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and son. She is happy to collaborate on growth strategy and market/competitive analysis projects in the greater New York City area.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Sai Patil. Sai Patil spent seven years as a strategy consultant at Bain & Co and then three years at Mattel leading strategy and marketing teams. Sai has particular expertise in growth strategy for consumer/retail companies as well as retail promotional strategy and marketing optimization. Prior clients include Fortune 500 companies in beauty, fashion, home decor, coffee, printing, pet food and education. Sai is highly strategic with deep expertise in utilizing consumer and market insight. She lives in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband and 3 elementary age children and new dog, Lucky.
Sai is happy to collaborate on projects involving competitive/market analysis and growth strategy in the U.S.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Lawrence E Adjah with Adjah. Lawrence is a community builder and business advisor who began his career as a management consultant for McKinsey & Company in its New York office, helping to serve some of the world’s largest professional sports organizations and media companies. After McKinsey, Lawrence served as the Senior Director of Business Development at a premiere sports and entertainment marketing agency in New York. He later became a direct advisor to some of the world’s leading media & entertainment companies through his own advisory consulting firm, Adjah.
He’s the Founder and Chairman of Family Dinner Foundation, whose mission is to connect the world as a family at and beyond the dinner table. Inspired by the growing epidemic of loneliness and isolation, the foundation launched its first initiative, Our Family Dinner in 2008 which reached nearly 50K people across 35 cities.
Lawrence lives in Jersey City, NJ and is happy to partner on projects in the sports, media & entertainment space, as well as projects across all industries that involve growth strategy or strategic sourcing and procurement
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Surbhee Grover with Steel & Graffiti Strategy consulting. With 18 years experience in consulting and brand management, Surbhee Grover provides growth strategy, innovation, digital and marketing advice to leading companies across consumer oriented industries (incl. food & beverage, beauty/ cosmetics, education, hospitality, luxury and digital media). She gained considerable experience during her six year tenure with Booz & Company (2004-2010). Her work has included projects such as the development of an innovation strategy & processes for a global beverage firm; creating a digital strategy for a leading educational entity focused on its international markets; determining global sales capabilities and Go-To-Market strategies in emerging markets for a leading consumer electronics company; and developing a growth product roadmap for a leading European food player.
In addition to this, Ms. Grover honed her product management expertise with firms such as L’Oreal and Marico Industries (Asia) and Colgate Palmolive (N. America). Finally, in partnering with clients across Asia, North America and Europe (UK, Denmark, Netherlands, and Ireland), Surbhee has developed a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities that confront global businesses. Apart from advising senior leaders at global corporations, Surbhee advises several early stage start-ups. She is also a freelance travel writer for the Forbes (Asia).
James Black shares the first post in a series that explores the development of customer understanding in 2020.
To kick off the new year, I suggested ‘20 Questions to Help Your Brand or Business See 20/20 in 2020.’ To help brands and businesses assess the state of your business and identify opportunities, I wanted to take a closer look at the topic of Customer Understanding.
Developing a deeper Customer Understanding is helpful to identify opportunities to strengthen your business. If you didn’t enter the New Year feeling like you had a deep understanding of your customer, here are some tips on how to quickly build your fact base. At P&G, business understanding always began with a robust “WHO” Understanding – that is, the consumer who used the product and the shopper who bought it.
Questions asked and explained include:
- Do we have a clearly defined target customer?
- Do we have a clear understanding of the end benefit the customer is seeking?
- Does our offering fit with his/her desired benefit?
- Do we understand the customer’s unmet needs vs. current offerings?
- Are we conducting the right mix of research (qualitative and quantitative)?
- Do we prioritize what we do (and don’t do) and what we invest in (and not in) against customers’ needs?
Read the full article, Seeing 20/20 in 2020: Part 1 – Customer Understanding, on LinkedIn.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Travis McElveen with Matterhorn Advisors. Travis McElveen spent nearly 4 years at McKinsey & Company in a variety of roles, including Engagement Manager, where he served companies in the transportation, aerospace, and basic materials industries across multiple functions, including operations, pricing, advanced analytics, and growth strategy. Additionally, Travis has extensive experience serving organizations in the federal and non-profit sectors.
After starting his career at McKinsey & Company as a Business Analyst, Travis joined the US Navy as a pilot, ultimately becoming a Tailhook qualified aviator landing on aircraft carriers. Travis rejoined McKinsey in the Charlotte office following his military service.
He lives in Charlotte, NC, with his wife and two children and is an avid skier and outdoorsman.
Kaihan Krippendorff asks a most pertinent question to help companies identify a strategy that will improve customer relations and revenue.
The former president of Starbucks, Howard Behar, told me a few months ago that the most important decision Starbucks made, that led to many of the disruptive choices this category-defining company made, was their decision to be “in the people business serving coffee” rather than the “coffee business serving people”.
In other words, Starbucks decided to view their “customer” as the worker in their store serving coffee. Their purpose was to create great jobs and lives for them.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, said, “We were going pretty well as a shoe company but our growth really took off when we realized were a customer service company that happened to sell shoes.”
Hartford Steam Boiler, whose strategy I will dig into in a later post, seems to be an insurance company but actually sees itself as and, more importantly, acts as an engineering company that happens to monetize through insurance.
This article explains how the following questions help define a growth strategy.
- What is our actual business (e.g., consumer electronics and not medical devices)?
- How does that kind of company behave differently?
Read the full article, The Most Important Strategic Question To Ask: What Business Are You In?, on Kaihan’s website.
Eric Hiller’s company blog takes a look at the strategy and growth probability of the Ride-hail market from the perspective of the Lyft CEO.
Summary for Lyft CEO
Ride-hail is not going away, but it must to get profitable. You can try to ‘grow to profitability’, but as we have learned in the past, that is a risky proposition.
Uber is expanding, but it is already bigger than Lyft. Is that strategy profitable, and if it is, is there enough room for two players in it. Simultaneously, the path to profitability is getting harder with cities pushing back on Lyft and Uber, and as Lyft and Uber attract new customers, they may be less profitable riders. Consider another option: an alternative targeted and differentiated strategy:
Lyft should double-down on a long-term strategy of letting Uber attempt to own the market… but in reality, building the interstate for Lyft to toll
Continue to build cultural allegiance driver, rider, and city — which will differentiate and win in a commodity market in the longer-term, as Lyft captures share in an increasingly regulated environment
Follow to profitable geographies
Long term invest in autonomous public transport, leveraging massive experience with app / software and routing vehicles to individuals.
Read the full article, Lyft vs Uber – What if You Are Driving Lyft as a Company?, on the Hiller Associates website.
Jason George uses the evolution of the aviation industry as a means to explore the cost of risk aversion and how it can stymie growth.
Building in every possible contingency as part of a strategy can end up producing something so encrusted with extraneous elements that agility is compromised. Alternatively, it may hew so closely to known and safe paths that it ends up losing the novelty that would make it compelling. If you can’t cut yourself loose from a certain strategy or mental model, your degrees of freedom become limited. In the process new paths are closed off, even though they might unlock a different way of operating. Sometimes caution is a crutch whose real costs are not adequately calculated. A better path might involve getting rid of the safety net.
When faced with ambiguity too often we choose the guaranteed loss, which might be greater than the as-yet unknown costs of taking the riskier path. The safe route may be comfortable, but it is costly.
Points explored include:
- Contingency as part of a strategy
- Product cannibalization
- The cost of the safe route
Read the full article, Calculated Risks and the Costly Status Quo, on Jason’s website.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Seline Karakaya with Excelerate Global. Seline Karakaya is Founder and Managing Director of Excelerate Global, a venture capital and private equity advisory group. In this capacity, Seline has worked with closely with companies ranging from start-ups to multi-nationals to support their growth priorities. She works closely with founders, CEOs, and Boards of Directors—often as an interim CXO—on the most pressing issues, from hiring to pricing, strategy to fundraising, organization to business
Prior to founding Excelerate Global, Seline was a Director at American Securities, a New York-based private equity firm with one of the most successful track records in the industry. During her tenure, Seline co-led the development of the Firm’s “Shared Vision” process for value creation and alignment, advised portfolio company CEOs across a variety of industries and business topics, ranging from strategy and growth to talent and change management, and led the execution of a number of high priority initiatives. She also developed and oversaw the Firm’s commercial due diligence efforts.
Prior to American Securities, Seline was a management consultant at Bain & Company, where she spent over 6 years advising Private Equity, Retail, Consumer Products, Tech/Media executives on M&A, corporate strategy, change management, and growth initiatives ranging from product development to new market entry. Seline was among the original members of Bain Los Angeles’s Private Equity Group.
Seline was Chief of Staff at FEI Women’s Health, overseeing all strategic initiatives across the commercial aspects of the business leading up to its strategic sale to Barr Pharmaceuticals. She has also held positions at Amgen, Cerberus Capital Management, and American Express in a variety of capacities.
Seline graduated with the highest honors from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business Honors Program with a B.S. in Business Administration, Strategy & Finance. She is also an active advocate of children’s causes in developing countries and animal welfare around the globe.
Seline is happy to collaborate on growth strategy and commercial value creation projects in the Western U.S.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Katarina Podlesnaya. Katarina spent 8+ years across management consulting at BCG, venturing and blockchain product development at ConsenSys, advising multiple start-ups, and serving as an owner of a retail business.
Katarina’s expertise focuses on growth strategy, procurement and negotiation, technology, operational improvement, and organizational design.
She currently resides in New York City and maintains a strong network and presence in San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Dubai, UAE. Katarina is happy to discuss collaboration opportunities irrespective of global location.
Luiz Zorzella explains why non-strategic projects can be a distraction that get in the way of real strategic work and what you can do about it.
When companies define their strategic priorities, it is common to include in this list items that are not building blocks of the company’s strategic goals. At least directly.
Some of these items are extraneous, pet projects and/or impositions from third-party actors or the result of internal politics and accommodations and at best do not add any value and at worst hinder the strategic agenda.
However, there is another type of priority which, if properly managed, can help you break into a vault full of riches that are unreachable to you right now.
Points covered in this article include:
- Three categories of items
- How to prioritize and implement items
Read the full article, Break into the Strategic Treasure Vault, on the Amquant website.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Michael Casaburi with Revulus Growth Partners to our community. Michael Casaburi spent 13 years at Bain and has been running a boutique consulting firm focused on market due diligence for investors and growth strategy for companies since 2013.
Michael brings top tier consulting approaches to investors (e.g., PE firms), the middle market, and BUs of large companies. He’s worked with some of the largest investors/companies globally as well as smaller firms/companies.
Michael lives in a Chicago, Illinois suburb (Naperville) with his wife and children. Michael is happy to collaborate on projects involving market due diligence, growth strategy, and strategic planning.