5 Tips for successful product design

As you design new products, you will find yourself facing countless possibilities. Your choices can very well affect the success chances of your product, which is why the design phase is such an important part of the production process. Below, you will find a few tips that are worth taking into account when designing a new product:

1. Create interdisciplinary product development teams. Talent is of course important, but various educational backgrounds will mean more perspectives when designing the product, which leads to a better devised product.

2. Find the perfect balance between functional and aesthetic.  Depending on their background, some team members will focus on the materials and reliability of the product, on its size, and on increasing the efficiency of the production processes; others will focus on the features, customer needs and/or interface, and so on. It’s vital that the entire team works together in order to come up with the best product idea.

3. Don’t complicate things. If you look at the most successful designs on the market, you will find that they are mostly simple, functional, and easy to use. Don’t try to make your product look eccentric; you’ll greatly narrow your targeted market.

4. Learn from the competition. Competition is not necessarily a bad thing – there’s a great deal to learn from their products. Analyze successful products and see what makes them so. Analyze products which don’t sell that well and see why. Implement features that sell, and avoid those that didn’t catch on. Avoid major design changes – deep down, people don’t like change, and will not like major changes to products they are familiar with.

5. Test your product. Testing your products before giving the ‘go ahead’ will save you money and increase sales. Create prototypes of your product, either in plastic or foam, or functional. Get the opinion of experts in the field, but also those of potential customers – through interviews, focus groups or surveys. This gives you access to a pool of innovative ideas which you can use to further perfect your design before starting production.

We hope these tips will help you create better products – better suited for the needs of your clients, and better adapted to an ever evolving market.

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Creativity in business: the spark of creativity is essential to light the fires of change

The significance of creativity is not up for debate; it is quite simply the most powerful force of change and progress for the human race. It would therefore seem obvious that creativity should be nurtured, cultivated, embraced, and celebrated. We talk about changing the world, or making it a better place, yet they only remain words to some people. If you are serious about making an impact on the world around you or your respective industry or field of expertise, then thinking outside the box and seeking creativity in all its forms is essential. In my years of experience as a business consultant, I witnessed a number of strange behaviors from companies. Many would be desperate for growth, to increase their efficiency, or to stand out from their competitors, but they failed to see the value of creativity and the exploration of new ideas. The risk was too great, perhaps, so I had to explain the fundamental nature of being creative, and convince many people that there is no such thing as progress without the invigorating risk of a creative venture.

Some businesses listened to my advice; others did not. Looking back, those companies that chose a creative, innovative path found themselves heading towards success and industrial prominence, while those who refused to take a leap of creative faith have faded into the background of obsolescence. Now, to be clear, many companies can survive for years, even decades, without implementing creative policies to stimulate change and evolution. Some eras of a specific industry or discipline can last for a decade or two without any major shifts, so this lack of daring goes unnoticed, or at least unpunished by the dynamic market. However, the reason I chose to write this book now is that the world is speeding up every year. Change is happening faster, society is shifting at breakneck speeds, and there is no longer a grace period where people, cultures, industries, or fields of expertise can simply lounge about without keeping an eye on the future. There is no denying that we are in the midst of one of the most dynamic and revolutionary periods of human history. We see it all over the world and in every aspect of life from music, film, and architecture to politics, business, and the environment. This is the time to grab onto the reins of creativity and ride towards the future, whether you are a scientist, philosopher, poet, or marketing genius.

All of my years spent advising others on how to improve their personal lives or companies have led me to this book. Instead of doling out my advice one person at a time, I wanted to compile not only the insights of my experience, but also the undeniable evidence of modern creativity in the world around us. My efforts as a business educator has also put me in contact with normal, non-business people who are eager to find update their perspectives or become more in tune with the modern world. Those experiences, combined with my observations of creativity in every aspect of life, motivated me to put this guidebook for creativity together. I have already released a number of books that specifically catered to business professionals, MBA 2.0, Cool Boss, Happy Company, but I know that creativity is a subject that is relevant to far more people. My goals have shifted from expanding business knowledge to widening the breadth and accessibility of knowledge for everyone. In my opinion, the wider the audience, the greater the chance of stimulating change and inspiring new perspectives. Creativity is one of the most important and unifying aspects of the human condition, but it can also be an intimidating and risky road to embark on. My hope is that the fascinating and enlightening examples within Go Nuts: The Art of Creativity and Innovation will inspire a new mindset of creativity for everyone who reads it, and de-bunk some of the most common misconceptions about the creative process. There are no rules or boundaries for creativity; we have all seen that first-hand in society’s monumental leaps forward that have occurred even in our lifetime. There is no telling how far we can go, but one thing is for certain – the spark of creativity is essential to light the fires of change.

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How Google Really Works

For centuries, the idea of power within our global society has been perpetuated, transferred, and grasped at by nations and empires; the political lines of countries and continents have formed the outline of existence for billions of people. This arrangement provided some modicum of stability, a foundation for individual cultures to flourish, and a framework for economic activity. However, as with any manmade structure, certain elements decay, new pieces are added for support, and eventually, its composition is irreparably changed.

While business and trade have been a part of our human consciousness since the first humanoid traded a sharpened rock for a piece of dry wood, in recent decades, industry has exponentially evolved and assumed a much larger role in the daily lives of people across the globe. People used to identify with nations, pledging their allegiance to one king or another, but the broad boundaries of loyalty, as a concept, have expanded. From birth, we are trained to ally ourselves with groups of like-minded people, whether it is the other members of our hometown, believers in a certain faith, or devoted fans of one musician or artist. Industry was somewhat late to this game, and for many years, the business world was purely a place of commerce, a place where needs were met.

As companies swelled in size and began overflowing into other regions, nations, and continents, familiarity created a superficial form of popularity or brand loyalty, but that was primarily based on availability. However, the influence of corporate entities has never stopped growing. As we look around the world today, we see that where loyalty, wealth, and power used to remain firmly and undeniably in the hands of nations and political entities, businesses have gradually reached the same echelon of influence.

This is not to say that foreign relations and global politics have become any less important in the progress of the world; they merely have to share the stage to a certain degree with other very important economic and industrial actors. The intermingling of business and politics has become a tangled, indecipherable web that touches, restricts, or drives every country on earth. In reality, the number of sovereign states is anywhere between 195 and 203, depending on who you ask and what country they’re from. However, for all intents and purposes, the number of sovereign nations on the planet should also include the massive political and economic clout of a few dozen corporations that exist and thrive around the world.

For example, in 2013, Google reported a net income of approximately 12.92 billion USD. According to the IMF’s report of global GDP (Gross Domestic Product), Google is wealthier than 64 sovereign nations. A single corporation, which is less than 20 years old, has managed to develop enough of a loyal following around the globe to outrank roughly 1/3 of the planet’s nations in terms of individual wealth. If you consider Google’s net income, which is a more accurate measurement in comparison to GDP, then this search engine titan brings in more money per year than 114 nations of the world. These numbers and comparisons may be staggering, but you must also consider that Google is only a single company out of hundreds of multi-billion dollar corporations. Google isn’t the most wealthy – not by a long shot. It doesn’t even make it into the Top 50 (#52, according to Forbes, 2013).

The point is, the days of thinking that the world is run by presidents, parliaments, dictatorships, and democracies are over. Although we may not like to admit it, money makes the world go round, and the significance of business and industry are undeniable. Unlike nations, where citizenship presupposes a certain amount of loyalty, the vast majority of global businesses participate in a free market, meaning that people can pick and choose which golden idol they want to worship. Competition is a cornerstone of commerce, which means that companies are desperate to grow, influence, impress, and engage more and more potential customers as possible.

Certain companies seem to have found the secrets to success, the magic words that cause millions of people to flock to their doors, wallets in hand. Certain companies have the advantage of supplying a necessary (or perceived as necessary) product, such as oil companies and other energy providers, but the truly visionary companies are those that are not “essential” in the Maslowian sense of the word. The past two decades have seen the astronomical rise of tech companies as the Digital Age moved from dawn to daylight. Many of the most successful and wealthy tech companies have rather inspiring origin stories, but Google’s rise to dominance has been particularly profound and thought-provoking.

By largely throwing out the model for successful business practices and reconstructing a strategy for success from scratch, Google has been able to grow faster and more efficiently than almost any company (or country) in history. For that precise reason, millions of hungry, eager eyes look to the company for inspiration on everything from product design to company culture, but on a purely quantitative level, the growth of Google is what fascinates people. This search engine, which at first glance is no different than many of its functionality competitors, has created an empire that spans industries, oceans, and generations.

(This in an excerpt from the Book: How Google Did It)

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Pareto’s Principle

In business, there’s something known as Pareto’s Principle. Pareto’s Principle says that 80 percent of a company’s profits come from 20 percent of its products. Pareto’s Law was developed in the late 1880’s by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Originally, Pareto observed that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. Later, he observed that 80 percent of the peas in his garden were produced by 20 percent of the peapods. Thus Pareto’s Law – a principle that extends beyond business sales and productivity – was born. In business, although you will always have less successful and more successful products, you can try to focus your efforts so that you don’t have 80 percent of your products only yielding 20 percent of your sales.

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Innovative companies face failure

Innovative companies face failure. Innovation involves taking risks. As such, it means that innovating involves a certain amount of failure. It’s important to understand that that is just part and parcel with innovation and that you need to accept that it will happen, yet still pick up and move on. Every innovative company has faced some pretty substantial produce failures along the way.

In April 1985, Coca-Cola released New Coke. It did really well in blind taste tests but it failed spectacularly in the real world. New Coke only stayed on the market for three months. Overall, we certainly don’t think of the Coca-Cola company as a failure. Today, Coca-Cola owns Minute Maid, Powerade, Capri Sun, and around 100 other brands. Despite that highly publicized failure, the company picked itself up, moved on, and created countless other profitable and successful products.

Although Nintendo has been an extremely successful company and one that has managed to remain relevant in the highly competitive and ever-evolving world of gaming, Nintendo has drunken the bitter draft of abject failure. In 1995, the company released a product called Virtual Boy. The system attempted to make use of 3-D graphics, but they were rudimentary, the system’s headgear was bulky, and the product price was high. Virtual Boy only stayed on the market for a mere six months.

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What is convergent thinking?

The concept of convergent thinking refers to a problem solving technique through which you synthesize ideas from different fields in order to find the best solution to a clearly stated issue. Convergent thinking involves starting with a number of options, a limited number, and then choose one of them.

The term was first proposed by J. P. Guilford, an American psychologist whose area of expertise was human intelligence and the processes involved in problem solving.

Based on his research, he noticed that people usually preferred one of two distinctive ways to approach problems instead of using both of these approaches, depending on the context. He called these two approaches to problem solving convergent thinking and divergent thinking.

Convergent thinking is the choice of most people, as other researchers have shown, possibly because it is the problem solving style encouraged by the educational systems worldwide; during schooling, students need to look for the ‘correct’ solution instead of finding creative answers.

Convergent thinking is based on logic, speed, and accuracy, and previous knowledge of the subject. It also involves creating strategies and techniques which optimize solving of future similar problems. For this reason, convergent thinkers will have a harder time dealing with new types of problems, or with finding innovative solutions to problems.

The process of convergent thinking is logical, systematical, unlike divergent thinking which is spontaneous. Divergent thinkers try to look at a problem from various angles and come up with a creative solution. They tend to look at the bigger picture, and excel at innovating and finding creative solutions to problems. At the same time, they are less efficient in situations where logical solutions are needed.

Convergent thinking is best suited for those situations in which we have the information we need in order to identify options and choose the optimal solution.

 

Understanding these problem solving approaches can be helpful in the workplace. A mixed team of convergent and divergent thinkers can ensure that a team will be able to find the best solutions to any problems the company is confronted with.

 

 

 

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This book explains Game Theory and Strategy

Do you feel as if your work life is not quite as productive as it could be? You go to work every day, but you feel like your business is absolutely not booming?

Trust me, I know how that feels, and I know that this is the book that will change your career for the better!

In this book, I talk about game theory for business, a proven strategic method that really works.

You can use game theory to boost your work life permanently, and learn how to make good decisions that will benefit you—something that everyone should know how to do.

In this book, you’ll learn:

– An introduction to the basic concepts of game theory
– A brief history of game theory
– Nash equilibrium for business strategies
– Competitive games
– Noncompetitive games
– Practical application of game theory

And lots more!

No more procrastinating. Read this book!

Order here.

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National Geographic is a great example of a company that completely reinvented its image and focus

National Geographic is a great example of a company that completely reinvented its image and focus. In 1914, National Geographic magazine made a big splash with beautiful color photographs. Over the decades, that’s what National Geographic became known for – it was a magazine with stunning photography. However, that product appealed less and less to younger generations and by the 2000’s, the magazine was relying on a smaller and smaller aging customer base. From the 1980’s to the late 2000’s, English-language National Geographic subscription number were halved.

Fortunately, the company’s CEO John Fahey realized that the company needed to innovate if it wanted to survive. It needed to be more than a magazine with stunning imagery. Although the company already made documentaries, in 2001 it spiced up its entertainment options with the launch of the National Geographic Channel. The channel features what Fahey calls “factual entertainment” – sensational programming set in foreign prisons or following troops overseas. At the same time, National Geographic began having its reporters post online content more regularly, a significant move away from the monthly magazine model upon which the publication was founded.

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4 steps to strategic planning

Proper planning is vital to the success of any enterprise. It keeps the company focused on the needs of its customers, and helps it adapt quickly to any changes that might jeopardize its operations. However, regular planning based on forecasts is not enough. Instead, companies should engage in strategic planning, a process through which the goals and strategy of an organization are clearly stated, including at the same time progress evaluation parameters and allowing decision factors to take the steps needed to keep everything going smoothly.

Although that might sound a bit difficult, the strategic planning process only has four main steps:

1. Get a feel of your current situation

The SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis will help you obtain the information you need regarding your company’s strong points, the things that can be improved, the current opportunities on the market that can make things easier, and the main threats your company is confronted with. You need to be objective in the analysis, and try to get an idea of how things really are – and not how you perceive them to be.

2. Establishing goals

Based on the information from the SWOT analysis you can develop a plan for the future of your company. You need to make the best use of your strengths and opportunities, and to determine the best way to address the weaknesses and threats. This leads to determining your priorities and stating goals, which should be SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-related).

3. Assign people responsible of goals

Reaching these goals means managing resources – budget, time, and human resources. You need to delegate responsibility for easier, more efficient management.

4. Evaluate and adapt

Plans can fail for various reasons, and in order to avoid that, you need to regularly evaluate your progress. This can be done through formal team meetings, preferably once a month – depending on the goals and time needed to see results. If something doesn’t work out as well as you’ve thought, don’t be afraid to adapt.

Strategic planning makes your business more efficient and more responsive to changes on the market. Laying a strategic plan for your business could help you realize what your priorities should be, and keep you focused on them.

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Starbucks Case Study

There are plenty of people who say that in tough economic times, a brand like Starbucks shouldn’t be as successful as it continues to be, but reality tells a different story. Year in and year out, Starbucks continues to expand and diversify its offerings to new markets around the world, while still maintaining a firm grip on its domestic dominance in the United States. If there was only one or two pillars of Starbucks’ success, than cracks would almost certainly begin to appear, and the era of luxury coffee might show signs of coming to an end, but that isn’t the situation. By investing time, energy, and resources to perfecting their business model on all sides, Starbucks has weathered countless economic storms and cultural trends that have drowned competitors in myriad industries.

It’s difficult to envision Starbucks as a company that operates under the “slowly, but surely” philosophy, but that is precisely how they’ve achieved such monumental success. The company doesn’t implement new business ideas until they are polished and perfected, nor do they cut corners to save on expenses and improve their bottom line. The company takes calculated risks and solidifies its position in every new market, ensuring that previous ventures are secure and successful before moving onto the “next big thing”. All of this progress is dependent on their outstanding employees and baristas, who are consistently praised as some of the most superbly trained and empowered workers in the retail industry. Combining that personal presence with unique marketing strategies and an increasingly global presence results in a solid and unwavering level of success in an extremely competitive industry.

Shifting a consumer product from a novelty to a necessity is every retail establishment’s dream, yet Starbucks has actually achieved it. They’ve created and maintained a loyal customer base that spans more than 60 countries, and they’ve achieved this by remaining consistent in their underlying vision, while displaying dynamism in their individual practices. For a massive international company, they are surprisingly flexible and adaptive, owing to their empowered and independent retail locations that can make their own decisions and implement their own strategies based on their individual marketing experiences and innovative ideas. While this business model isn’t possible for certain industries or companies, the fundamental ideas that drive Starbucks are universal: investing in employees, unique marketing techniques, intelligent globalization, and customizing your offerings to your target markets, among others.

Every company is different, and every road to success has its own unexpected pitfalls and obstacles, but if one thing can be learned from Starbucks four decades of success, it is this: if a company establishes a feasible goal, delivers what it promises, takes calculated risks, and refuses to compromise on quality, then it will inevitably succeed. If this sounds condescendingly simple, that’s because it is. Sometimes the simplest mantra is the one that will result in the best outcome. The most powerful corporations have to start somewhere, even if that now-legendary company began with little more than a dream and a handful of coffee beans.

(This in an excerpt from the book More Than Coffee: The Secrets of Starbucks Success)

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