Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I just finished the inspirational book ‘Change By Design’ from Tim Brown. You can feel the passion as Tim describes the difference between being a designer and thinking like a designer.
That passion, like most other passions, is contagious.

For me it was revealing, because it explains why service innovation or service design are still relatively new topics in the business world. I have been working in that area for more than 20 years, but service innovation was always part of marketing or business development. And it was never called that way. And there was no R&D department for services, even though most of the revenue and the profit were provided by services.

That is still the case in many companies. In Western economies services accounts for more than 80% of GDP, but there are not many service companies who have their own ‘innovation labs’.  This is a huge opportunity AND a must as well. A must, because services (and experiences) are the only sustainable way of growing and competing in todays turbulent marketplace.

We all know that only a fool tries to do the same thing over and over again and expects different results. So, there is a MUST for innovation.
Tim Brown says: “In any case predictability leads to boredom and boredom leads to loss of talented people. It also leads to results that rivals find easy to copy. It is better to take an experimental approach: share processes, encourage the collective ownership of ideas, and enable teams to learn from one another.” I couldn’t agree more!!

This creates a management challenge, as a shift is needed from a culture of hierarchy, efficiency and fear to one of risk taking, exploration and freedom. In service companies where people are your product it is imperative to put people first. If you grow your people, you will grow your business! And .......”it is not about ‘us versus them’ or even ‘us on behalf of them’. For the design thinker, it has to be ‘us with them’. <> Innovation needs to be coded into the DNA of a company if it is to have large-scale, long-term impact.” NOW, there is some work to be done!

Therefore it is not a luxury to invest in systemic, design-based innovation that engages PEOPLE – employees, customers, suppliers, partners and other stakeholders – at the deepest level. Hence, people skills like coaching and knowing how to change behaviors, are just as crucial as innovation and design skills.

So, what is really happening? “We are in the midst of an epochal shift in the balance of power as economies evolve from a focus on manufactured products to one that favors services and experiences. Companies are ceding control and coming to see their customers not as ‘end-users’ but rather as participants in a two-way process.”

For service companies it is of utmost importance to structurally and sustainable embed innovation in their businesses. With people at the HEART of this approach.

When are you starting?


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