Two years ago, Electrolux institutionalized what it calls an “innovation triangle,” bringing together the design, research and development, and marketing departments to jointly hammer out decisions on new products. Management in Stockholm embraced the idea after it was successfully pioneered by the company’s Brazilian unit. The company tests potential designs with focus groups. Anything with a less than 70 percent approval rating is deemed not ready for prime time.
The introduction of the UltraCaptic illustrates the process. Bagless vacuum cleaners are rapidly gaining market share globally, and Electrolux wanted to introduce a model that would stand out from competitors such as Dyson and Hoover. In watching people vacuum their homes, researchers looked for things that were annoying, says Anton Lundberg, an Electrolux vice president who oversaw the effort. “One of the pain points was, when you emptied the dust, you saw particles flying around.”
A Leica designed by Jony Ive (of Apple fame) and Marc Newson (who has designed cars, airport lounges and many other iconic products) goes on auction at Sotheby’s tomorrow to benefit Bono’s AIDS efforts
I was excited to see a book on Jonathan Ive, the head of Industrial Design at Apple. He is a living legend – with the Queen’s knighthood no less - with the string of runaway hits Apple has had. Stories abound of how the finer things in life from forging of samurai swords to examples from marine biology influence his design thinking. Author Leander Kahney summarizes his enduring legacy with this comment “(Ive) introduced the concept of fashion to an industry previously preoccupied with speeds and feeds”
I was also a bit concerned Kahney would fall into traps authors often fall into when they profile tech executives as I wrote recently – speculation without direct access to the subject, and a chronological version of the subject’s life. Kahney does but it does not affect this book as much. He focuses more on the huge product hits – the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and iPad and uses his long term watching of Apple (he publishes the Cult of Mac) to use alumni and other contacts to weave enough of Ive into the descriptions. And unlike Walter Isaacson with Steve Jobs, he does not focus much on Ive’s youth other than to show the influence his dad and his consulting days in the UK had on his aesthetic sense.
There is plenty of detail to savor – like the Daler Rowney sketchbooks preferred by the ID team, Bondi Blue translucence of the first iMac and Ive's minimalist stamp on the new iOS7. Apple fans will particularly relish these details of two decades of products they have enjoyed. Personally, I liked the design culture Kahney describes that Robert Brunner, IDEO, frog and others brought to the Valley in the 90s that have reshaped so many of our devices since. I also liked the fact he invokes anecdotes from auto, furniture and other product design from Italy, Japan and elsewhere.
I would have liked to seen more on the “industrial” part of ID. The marvel of Apple is it can scale to millions of units within weeks of launch of what appear to be complex, lovingly man-made products. He talks a bit about the Unibody manufacturing process and the Foxconn contract manufacturing role but the majority of the focus is on individual product features.
I also thought there is some hero worship where he describes Ive as irreplaceable at Apple, even more than Jobs was. Apple is a multi-dimensional phenomenon with its retail store experience, its massive apps ecosystem, its impressive supply chain and memorable marketing all as important as the product elegance.
Overall, though I found it an enjoyable read. He fills in some of the gaps in other recent books about Apple. This comment in the chapter detailing the super secret ID studio is telling: “Walter Isaacson was given a tour (of the studio) but he only described the presentation tables in his biography of Jobs”
“Year after year, our Global Innovation 1000 study has demonstrated that it is not how much companies spend on research and development that determines success—what really matters is how those R&D funds are invested in capabilities, talent, process, and tools. In addition to our recurring analysis of R&D spending trends, our ninth annual study of the world’s 1,000 largest publicly listed corporate R&D spenders focuses on the digital enablers of the innovation process: how the most successful companies are—and aren’t—using digital tools and processes to improve speed, decrease cost, enhance quality, reduce complexity, and sharpen insight into customer and market needs to improve their innovation efforts.”
I (virtually) attended Microsoft’s Global Premier Event in Barcelona. It focused on how various customers are using their CRM functionality, and I was struck by the global and technology angles of three of the customers.
These are businesses we could not have imagined just a few, short years ago.
Metro Bank is Britain’s first new High Street bank in over a century. Founded by a US serial banking entrepreneur it is eliminating what it calls “stupid bank rules”. Their branches are called “stores” to provide more of a retail experience (which, btw is dog and kid friendly and open all week long) and the bank uses technology extensively in their stores (in their coin changers and safety deposit boxes among other things) and in web banking.
ServCorp offers Physical Offices and meeting rooms in 140+ locations around the world and Virtual Offices with virtual addresses and local representatives. As businesses, big and small, grow globally, it is a nice option for facilities and communications “as a service”
Pandora Jewelry is another example of a new age global company. Maker of charm bracelets (lots that generate $1.5 bn a year in revenues including my daughter's below), it is a Danish company with majority of manufacturing in Thailand and 10,000 franchises, concept stores and independent retailers around the world. A key element in this supply chain is its “visual merchandising” to strengthen its brand and homogenize displays across its outlets, many of which are franchised.
With that background watch the replay of the Microsoft event and how these 3 companies are managing a new generation of customer relationships here (registration required).
Though it hasn't set up a brick-and-mortar shop (can you imagine?), the Seattle company has opened a photo studio in Williamsburg (in Brooklyn, NY), dedicated to enhancing the fashion portion of its site.
The 40,000 square-foot facility features 28 bays for styling, shooting, and editing apparel. The goal? To make the product shots for Amazon Fashion items look less like stock photography and more like a look book.
In addition to the apparel site on Amazon.com, the company owns the flash-sale site MyHabit.com , shoe-seller Zappos.com and the fashionista site ShopBop.com. Already, Amazon has 35 million active customers shopping for clothes, making the profitable, multibillion-dollar-a-year business the company’s fastest-growing category, said Amazon Fashion president Cathy Beaudoin.
California artist Doug Aitken’s large-scale installations combine video,
photography, sculpture, sound and live performance. For his latest
“happening,” he’s touring the country in an illuminated, artist-designed
train from New York City to San Francisco, making 10 stops along the