Design Thinking And The Pursuit Of Valid Results

Rockefeller had his share of success and failure with Standard Oil


This is about failure.


The average large company will never have a sweet 16th birthday.  The average small business will not get a chance to blow out 10 candles on their cake.  It seems that the odds of longevity in business are stacked against us. Fortunately for you and I, average does not mean all.

If the average business fails, then what business model can you and I design to be successful?

This is about success.


There are over 21,000 companies who have lived for over one hundred years. Fiskars now know for their famous orange handled scissors, axes and knives was born in 1649.  Hoegaarden’s distinctive beer flavour was first sold in 1445.  Keiunkan hot springs hotel in Japan has got great reviews since 705.  In 1670 the Hudsons Bay Company started it’s retailing roots as a fur trading company in North America.  Statistically speaking, these companies are not the average, they are the misfits.  These are the outliers.  It’s from outliers such as these, and not the average, that we should learn from to gain real insight and innovation.

What we’ve learned so far is that these kinds of companies have four common traits.

  1. They are sensitive to their environment.
  2. They are cohesive and have a strong sense of identity.
  3. They are tolerant of experiments and eccentricities within the boundaries of the cohesive firm.
  4. They are financially conservative.


This is about exploitation.


Many business strategies are rooted in rules of thumb.  The four listed above are good rules to follow and there are many more.  A few of the common examples are:

  • 20% of your customers generate 80% of your business.
  • Be sure to work on your business, not just in your business.
  • Value your customers.

From this day to my last, I intend to look on these rules of thumb as you might, as guides for business growth and longevity.  I intend to use these reliable rules of thumb as guides for my problem solving approach.


This is about exploration.


Make no mistake, I am interested in predictably reliable outcomes.  However in a world where the fast beats slow, where disintermediation is rampant and where David beats Goliath, I’m not convinced that reliable solutions from yesterday will be reliable solutions for tomorrow.

I’m obsessed about how to remain sustainably relevant in a dynamic marketplace with an abundance of competition. The rules of thumb listed above can be more than just reliable frameworks for decisions. I believe we can use the many known rules of thumb to test and validate new knowledge and valid formulas that generate sustainably profitable results.  These old rules of thumb can provide fertile ground for investigation.

It is my nature to be inquisitive. I incessantly ask questions like:

  • How might we best show our customers that we value them?
  • How might we learn which 50% of our advertising is wasted?
  • How might we create more customers like the 20% that generate 80% of our business?
  • How might customers become part of our marketing strategy?
  • How might we use customer lifetime value to improve our competitive advantage?


This is about Design Thinking.


Design Thinking is a human centered process used to solve business problems and create new opportunities.  As Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Business says,


[box] Design Thinking balances analytical thinking and intuitive thinking, enabling an organization to both exploit existing knowledge and create new knowledge. A design-thinking organization is capable of effectively advancing knowledge from mystery to heuristic to algorithm, gaining a cost advantage over its competitors along the way.[/box]






This is about you.  


How might I help you stay ahead of the competition?



Interesting Reading:

Small Business Lifespan

Large Business Lifespan

World’s Oldest Companies

The Secret Phrase of Innovators

Wicked Problems

Design Thinking

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