Tuesday, January 29, 2008

One Stop Shopping

Two concepts collided in my cranium today that reminded me of the importance of keeping things simple, especially when it comes to communicating ideas.

A couple of days ago, Andrew at Kazsas forwarded me a link to Guy Kawasaki's interview with Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick. It was a healthy reminder that if you want a concept or an idea to catch on, you need to keep things simple and concrete.

Then, as I was reading The Art of Innovation, Kelley talked about the early days of IDEO, how it was a merger of four firms, borne mainly from feedback from customers that they wanted "one-stop-shopping".

You know by now that a year ago we merged with Maskery, one of Canada's top human factors firms, and an incredibly bright bunch of people. Someone mentioned to me that it must be an advantage to our clients to be able to one-stop-shop - get design and engineering services from the same firm. I sort of dismissed the comment, thinking that it's too simplistic, and that customers will think that we're jacks of all trades. So I went off to brainstorm of more complicated explainations for why customers should fall head over heels for what we affectionately code-named Maskadamain.

Andrew's email made me think back to a project we collaborated on with the Maskery team about five years ago, long before we decided to merge. While the end result was brilliant, and the client loved it, the project was full of speedbumps. Neither of us had alloted enough time for coordination between our two teams, and the client was stuck in the middle. He assumed that one of us would manage the coordination and handoffs from design to engineering, while we were looking to him for the same.

If you're heading up a product group, managing two or more firms that depend on deliverables from one another can be a real pain. If they aren't talking daily, the design group could be heading in a direction that could be difficult or expensive to build, or the engineering team could misinterpret specs from the design team, and end up negating their hard work. If one is late, the other is complaining that their team is idle. Provided that you can find a firm that has both, at the very least the buck stops somewhere, but in the best-case you get some wonderful collaboration happening that avoids the aforementioned problems and results in a better, more tightly designed product. I happen to know such a firm if you're interested...

On the topic of simplicity and stickiness, my colleague Teresa at Macadamian is working on a new format for our case studies that dispenses with the marketing-speak and simply tells the story about what we did, and why it was cool. I can't wait to post the first few on our site. I promise they won't contain the words synergy or synopsize, and no assetts will be leveraged.

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