The most mature corporate innovation setups aspire to take a ‘VC-like approach’. They build portfolios of ventures, they release funding in ‘rounds’, they encourage their subjects to take a start-up like approach. Build, measure, learn.

On the one hand, it is easy to see why VCs are idols for innovation. You can barely name a champion of innovation, without naming at least one of the funds that made it successful. For every WhatsApp, there is a Sequoia (who turned $60m into $3bn). For every Alibaba, there is a Softbank (who turned $20m into $60bn).

The theory is sound too. As you might have read in Al’s series on the theory of innovation, capitalism is an effective route to finding winners. Making a number of bets and ‘pruning’ portfolios until a winner emerges. Venture Capitalists are good at capitalism (clue’s in the title). …


Nick Parminter, Founding Partner @ Class35

After hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions globally, the convergence of consultancy and design agencies is now well understood. If you wrote a list of the leading independent design and innovation agencies in 2016, that same list would now be under new ownership. Either by a big consultancy or a systems integrator.

As a founding team at Class35, we have been on both sides of these transactions and in some cases have had the job of running (or more accurately repairing) the integration efforts that follow. …


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Al and Nick have written a few pieces on design-thinking recently — and why design practitioners are getting it wrong. Most of their critique has been levelled at the word ‘Design’, but not the ‘Thinking’ part.

At Class35, we’ve been fortunate to ‘follow the thread’ of our work from upfront strategy all the way through to go-live. Or ‘idea to adoption’ as we prefer to describe it. My role in that is to take clever thinking, business case and vision and make it real.

There is a tendency in strategy-heavy agencies to view delivery as the poor relation. To think in book-ends — feed good ideas on one end, get built things out the other. …


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Few artefacts have been indoctrinated into the innovation establishment quite as much as that venn diagram. Used in slides across the globe to represent the perfect balance of things people want (desirability), that are technologically achievable (feasibility) and make some money (viability), the framework has rarely been challenged as the motif for design thinking.

At some point, a subset of the design community has flipped the rules that make the framework so sensible. They have tweaked its application to serve their own purpose — intentionally or otherwise.

They will rightly tell us that we should focus first on customer value. But the initial idea — that innovation should start with the customer (and not a spreadsheet or a technology solution) has been lost along the way — distorted through the lens of desirability, feasibility, viability. …


“Why do CEOs devote so little of their time and intelligence to the care of their most important asset? — I advance this explanation: Brands are fiendishly complicated, elusive, slippery, half-real/half-virtual things. When CEOs try to think about brands, their brains hurt.” Jeremy Bullmore, WPP

In business, what gets measured, gets managed. The problem is, some of the most valuable financial assets of an organisation are essentially invisible to it. And that puts them at significant risk of harm in a crisis.

Specifically what I’m talking about are the things termed ‘market-based assets’ — the assets that arise from the interaction of the firm with entities in its external environment. …


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RBS announced the closure of Bó last week, saying it was going to wind it down as a customer-facing brand five months after it launched.

The reaction of the fintech and digital agency community is a repeat of the same bank bashing that has prevailed for years.

They all say the same things — big banks simply don’t have the DNA for innovation, the chops to shape digital products, nor the sense of urgency. …

About

Class35

Design for the bottom line

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