What is Good Design? Ask the Humans

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Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie challenge managers to think like designers, with three key words to remember: empathy, invention, and iteration.

Dr. Stephen Walls, who teaches design thinking (among other marketing disciplines), recently asked me to consider the question of what constitutes good design, drawing on my own life experience. Being a bit of a Debbie Downer, I began by reflecting on bad design and immediately thought of two annoyingly crafted products that I  regularly use every working day.

These products aren’t terrible as in Pinto-exploding-gas-tank-bad. They merely represent the type of inconvenience and frustration that seems hardwired into our society, almost as if a segment of the population is intentionally focused on making simple tasks more complicated.

Designers with an evil mission? Of course, it’s not that diabolical. I postulate an alternative cause — a case of the missing humans.

Design Fail No. 1: Building an Edifice for Automobiles

Designing a parking garage must be an awful assignment for an architect. I mean no disrespect, but seriously how much enjoyment could there be in unveiling your vision for fitting 1,330 vehicles into a seven-story facility of concrete, steel, and entry/exit gates?

And yet, at the minimum, a parking garage should be crafted to satisfy the needs of the intended user. Or, should it be? Consider the following example:

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 1.02.04 PMYou are looking at one of the main entry gates of a popular parking garage near my office. It’s the garage I use every working day.

Note the woman entering the facility. She’s walking through the gate where cars enter. She’ll squeeze past the arm that blocks the entrance, weaving around any entering cars, while avoiding vehicles driving inside the garage directly behind the gate. This route is not the planned entry point for pedestrians, yet hundreds of people will follow this same path every day.

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Leading in Higher Education with Emotional Intelligence

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Organizations thrive when they learn to ask HOW before WHAT.

When I first joined the leadership team at a top-tier business school, eager to apply my skills as a graduate of the MBA program and a brand consultant in the corporate world, I discovered that our strategic goal was to become the best public business school in the United States.

It was a laudatory aspiration to be sure. Who could argue with it? However, I soon realized the plan was heavy on things we would DO to gain that goal, but very light on HOW we would do it. In an academic environment, with its fiefdoms and diversified management perspectives, this encouraged a focus on the productivity and results of our individual programs and departments, rather than the broader school or the university.

“We Will Be the Best!”

That outcome-focused approach did not encourage sharing of resources or information. If the undergraduate program gained deep insight into the consumer behaviors of Millennials, there was little incentive to share that insight with the MBA program, and no process or expectation that such sharing would happen.

As a school-wide brand builder, I witnessed how counter-productive it was to engage in this siloed thinking. It isn’t that we didn’t have very skilled and motivated leadership or that we weren’t very pleasant with each other in meetings and in the hallways. I’m simply talking about the missing element that could have lifted us to the next level, and that is a focus on HOW we would go about pursuing our common strategic goals.

Finding the Missing Motivation Through EI

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Young PR Professionals Don’t Expect to Confront Ethical Issues; What?!?

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Your PR team needs to get confident about ethics, particularly the younger members who haven’t yet witnessed ethical crises in their career.

This finding may not be surprising on the face of it. A recent study of Millennial-age public relations practitioners found them to be earnest, eager, and…naive.

The study, funded by the Arthur W. Page Center at Penn State and sponsored by the PRSA Board of Ethics & Professional Standards was administered during September of 2016 to newer members of the Public Relations Society of America.

The majority of respondents said they felt ill-prepared to advise their clients or employers about ethical issues related to their work, and in fact did not even expect to face ethical dilemmas during their careers.

Yes, this is a facepalm cue for us older more experienced members of the communications world but should we be surprised? These talented, young pros learned the craft from us.

It’s a lack of ethics education, not desire or skill

Unsurprisingly, those who had mentors and had completed adequate ethics training felt more prepared and were more likely to speak up when faced with an ethical dilemma.

Four factors were found to significantly impact Millennials’ confidence in discussing ethical concerns with supervisors and clients.:

  • Mentors
  • College ethics courses
  • Employee training
  • Professional association training

While the majority of millennials in this study had completed an ethics course in college, most were not receiving ethics training at work or through an association. This critical lack is not just debilitating to these young professionals but also hampers their ability to contribute fully to their firm’s mission.

Even good people do really lousy things

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Around the World in 80 Min. w/Admiral Bobby Inman

Economic growth follows stability, and it flees from disorder and strife. For business purposes that matters more than the form of government.
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Bobby R. Inman, Admiral, U.S. Navy, (Retired). Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair in National Policy

Navy Admiral, spy, technology innovator, university professor, corporate executive, board member, and savvy global investor, Bobby R. Inman is counted among the best and wisest who have held each of these titles.

Knowing the global breadth of his knowledge as it pertains to governments, societies, economies, and enterprises, we were delighted to entice him to speak at a Texas Enterprise gathering on the UT Austin campus on a topic he knows better than most, the international marketplace.

His full video remarks are worth the time, but following is a summary and partial transcript of his presentation. A few comments have been slightly reordered so that countries are appropriately grouped, but I’ve done my best to preserve his original meaning.

What do you need to find opportunity at the international marketplace?

  1. Stability. Economic growth follows stability, and it flees from disorder and strife. For business purposes that matters more than the form of government.
  2. Capital availability. What kind of investment climate do you find, and what is the tax climate? But I never saw a sound decision made purely on the basis of taxes…if there really wasn’t a solid business purpose underneath it, it turned out to be a bad outcome.
  3. Capable workforce, and an
  4. Education system that produces a capable workforce.
  5. Rule of law. If there are clear rules, regulations, and laws then it’s much easier to conduct business.

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Top Five Brand and Innovation Tips From 2014

Research insights from the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin

Texas EnterpriseI work among brilliant people at the McCombs School of Business. For your benefit and mine, I keep my eyes open and watch for the big ideas that are most useful for brand builders and innovators. Here are five of the best tips gleaned from Texas Enterprise during 2014.

1. Don’t Tell Me About Your Brand, Engage With My Life

Febreze BottleProfessor Art Markman reminds us that communication is only one, and not the most important, factor in engaging consumers with a brand. “We are all lazy creatures,” he writes. “That means that [marketers] need to help customers to arrange their environments in ways that support the continued engagement with a product.” He points to a redesign of the Febreze container, designed to encourage consumers to leave the product out and visible rather than hidden away under the counter. Usage and sales increased.

2. Your Personal Brand is About Relationships, Not Just Connections

In a must-see presentation for professionals, especially those currently looking for a job, Rajiv Garg uses his research on social networks to show that the quality of your professional network will advance your career, not the size. While having hundreds of LinkedIn connections may reward your ego, when it comes to leveraging your network when you need it most, there is nothing that replaces trusted colleagues who know you well and are willing to vouch for your abilities. Garg offers three key suggestions for building your personal professional brand: Identify, Connect and Convert.

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