Here is an excerpt from an article written by Deepa Prahalad for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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There are plentiful examples today of companies using design to create value for consumers and shareholders. Despite the growing interest in design across industries, there are also persistent misconceptions that keep many business leaders from realizing its potential in their organizations. Here are the most common ones:
1. Quality is more important than design in my business. Quality is important in every business and always will be. However, quality is the price of entry in many industries and it’s rarely enough to win market share and loyal consumers.
There’s a persistent belief in a trade-off between style and substance. In reality, design is a way of conveying quality. Data suggest that companies gain the luxury to focus on design when they have mastered quality, distribution, and understand their markets well enough to create a relevant offering. Google, Coca Cola, HP, Procter & Gamble—are just a few examples of firms that are high design and high performance.
What’s true in the lives of individuals applies to companies as well—when you’re exhausted, overwhelmed or confused about what to do next, you never look your best. Consumers look at a dirty store, picked-over merchandise and bad service and come to the same conclusions. Good design is like putting on a suit for an interview—it shows the other person that you care about the relationship.
2. It is more important for me to offer a great price than a great design. Some great designs and brands do cost more, but there is no absolute correlation between price and design. Great design exists at all price points. Some of the best-known examples are companies such as Target, IKEA and LEGO that offer goods in a budget-conscious segment. The pattern continues with the Top 20 global brands, which include luxury retailers but also accessible goods and services like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Google and Gillette.
More importantly, some of the most innovative designs today were created with affordability and scarcity in mind. The Tata Nano, the award-winning portable ECG machine from GE and One Laptop per Child were just a few notable efforts that challenged assumptions about price-performance relationships and generated design buzz. The push for sustainability across industries is likely to amplify this trend.
3. I would like to have a great design, but I have to launch on time. Design by definition must include execution. Focusing on design forces an organization to test ideas, synthesize feedback, and generate new concepts at a rapid pace. Historically, designers were brought in at the end of the launch process—and creating concepts under intense pressure is still the norm.
Look at the many of the companies that are strongly associated with design today. Apple, P&G, Target, Amazon, LEGO and others expand their portfolios and launch products more frequently than their peers. Design efforts don’t slow down product launches. Indecision does. A widely shared set of decision criteria around design can make the process more efficient.
4. Design and aesthetics are too subjective—I need data to make decisions. Although great design speaks to a consumer’s needs and emotions, there is no single aesthetic that companies must drive toward. Consistency between the brand values and the physical design is what creates a superior consumer experience. BMW, Honda and Hyundai have deep consumer loyalty with very different looks and features. Moreover, design priorities are based in actual data. Consumer testing and feedback can be achieved at low cost today with the Internet and social media.
5. I will create the product or service; I trust the advertising experts to tell the story. The worlds of brand, advertising and design are rapidly converging. Well-crafted marketing and branding can boost the impact of a great design, but unless the message is reinforced by real-world experience, the effect is usually temporary.
In the best cases, the design itself can become the advertisement. Some familiar success stories—Dyson, FlipCam, the iPod, Method—illustrate this point beautifully. These designs fuel demand and propel brand loyalty. It’s no accident that great companies often have great ad campaigns and use social media effectively—they are leveraging the same deep understanding of the consumer.
Business leaders don’t need to go to design school to bring great design into their companies. They need to remember bring their own core skills—listening to consumers, asking questions, and openness to new ideas—into the design process. Design doesn’t work in a vacuum—it’s the alignment with the right business model and service that creates a compelling consumer experience. Getting to great design requires looking at consumers, not competing products, more thoughtfully.
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Deepa Prahalad is a strategy consultant and co-author (with Ravi Sawhney) of Predictable Magic: Unleash the Power of Design Strategy to Transform Your Business, published by Wharton School Publishing (2010).
Here is an article written by Penelope Trunk for BNET, The CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.
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It’s amazing that people admit to being perfectionists. To me, it’s a disorder, not unlike obsessive-compulsive disorder. And like obsessive-compulsive disorder, perfectionism messes you up.
It also messes up the people around you, because perfectionists lose perspective as they get more and more mired in details.
We can never achieve perfection — any of us. Yet so many people keep trying to reach this elusive goal and they drive themselves crazy in the process. So cut it out. Accept that it’s okay to do a mediocre job on a certain percentage of your work. If you need convincing, consider this: Perfectionism is a risk factor for depression. No kidding. Sydney Blatt, psychologist at Yale University, finds that perfectionists are more likely to kill themselves
than regular, mediocre-performing people.
Here are three steps to take to avoid the perfectionism trap:
1. Allow yourself to be wrong in front of others.
Try having an opinion that is wrong. Tell a story that is stupid. Wear clothes that don’t match. Turn in a project that you can’t fully explain. People will not think you’re stupid. People will think you spent your time and energy doing something else — something that meant more to you.
We all have many competing demands. We do not presume to know other people’s demands. But we are all sure of one thing: Our work is often not the most important thing on our plate.
Also, you’ll notice that people are not particularly vested in you being right. They don’t care if you’re right or wrong in what you do or say. They just want you to get stuff done well enough that they can do what they need to do. And this is usually a far cry from perfection.
The other huge problem with perfectionism is that people stop learning when they’re constantly afraid of being wrong. We learn by making mistakes. The only way we understand ourselves is to test our limits. If we don’t want anyone to know we make mistakes, which is how perfectionists tend to behave, we are actually hiding our true selves.
2. Being hard working is not the same as being a perfectionist.
You can be a hard-working person and cut corners. In fact, it’s often a requirement: Smart people cut corners. The art of being a star performer is knowing which corners to cut.
Focus on your goals, and be honest with yourself about whether your goals require perfectionism along the way. A lot of times perfectionism is a way to avoid focusing on goals. Real goals, after all, almost always require a little bit of luck and assistance along the way — factors the perfectionists tend to dismiss.
3. Spend your energy making yourself likable.
And, Casciaro found that if someone does not like you, he or she will decide you’re incompetent whether you are or not. Sad, yes, but the converse is true as well. You can do a poor job and no one will notice if they like you. And, newsflash: In many instances, this is good for business — teams do better work when everyone on the team likes everyone else. So don’t worry about doing a perfect job. Do a decent job, but leave yourself enough time to manage your relationships at work. Take lunch. Participate in office politics, because office politics is really about being nice
— which, frankly, is more healthy and certainly more achievable than being perfect.
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I highly recommend Tal Ben-Shahar‘s book, The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life, in which he explains that many people fail to lead a full and fulfilling life because they do not allow themselves “to experience the full range of human emotions” and thus limit their capacity for happiness. “They need to give themselves the permission to be human…to ground [their] dreams in reality and appreciate [their] accomplishments.” Throughout the book, Ben-Shahar refers to negative perfectionism simply as perfectionism and to positive perfectionism as optimalism. “The key difference between the Perfectionist an the Optimalist is that the former essentially rejects reality while the latter accepts it…as a natural part of life and as an experience that is inextricably linked to success.”
Penelope Trunk is the founder of three startups, most recently Brazen Careerist, a professional social network for young people. Previously she worked in marketing at Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hyundai. Her blog about career advice, blog.penelopetrunk.com, receives half a million visits a month and is syndicated in more than 200 newspapers. She frequently appears as a workplace commentator on CNN, 20/20 and FOX News. She’s also the author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, a bestselling career advice book for Generation Y.