A couple of days ago I submitted a brief rant about how Burger King failed. This post is meant to provide a few suggestions for how they could improve -- and solicit additional suggestions if you have any.
1) Cross Promote: Work with the Iron Man franchise, Lego MindStorm NXT 2.0 team, and Burger King to have a drawing for a new MindStorm in the image of Iron Man.
2) Sponsor Burger King Science fairs around the country for kids to build their own science projects. Make the prize a trip to the national Burger King Science Fair in Redmond, Washington or Palo Alto, California. Work in partnership with Apple, Microsoft, HP, Caterpillar, Boeing, Genetech, etc.
3) On a smaller scale - include a coupon redeemable for a free robot kit online.
4) Set up math games online and make it a contest for the chance to win a trip to NASA and meet with some the engineers and astronauts and see a shuttle launch.
5) Tap into kids' creative potential by asking them to design the next toy to go into the Burger King Kids Meal. Define the parameters and provide the tools online they could use to create and submit.
These are obviously some fairly basic ideas. In general, the toys in kids meals are irrelevant and useless. More so when they perpetuate outdated cultural norms like mirrors for girls and guns for boys.
Can more be done? I would like to think so. What do you think?
My expectations for fast food are never very high, but my disappointment in Burger King recently reached an all time low. In my opinion, Burger King failed.
I am a huge fan of Iron Man and superheros in general. In my younger days, I was one... often. Burger King recently offered Iron Man swag as part of its kid's meal. The sack is pictured to the left.
Once I took a closer look, though, my disappointment set in. The boys get action figures and girls get jewelry and mirrors. Is this really how corporation American thinks? Are we still attempting to pigeon-hole boys and girls into assumed roles?
I am the father of three girls -- all who have the capability of becoming scientists and engineers. In fact, my oldest, when she was nine years old, saved up some money and bought her first robot. My son (the youngest) is an incredible artist and has the verbal acuity of his elder sisters. All of them would love to get a LEGO MindStorm NXT 2.0 for Christmas.
It is obvious, therefore, Burger King failed in not recognizing that girls are just as able to become the next Tony Stark as boys. They missed a golden opportunity to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Instead, they opted for the least creative and most unimaginative twaddle, appealing to children's vanity rather than their intellect. They failed to help make society just a little better by inspiring children to pursue the science and technology.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is a major focus of the National Science Foundation as well as the U.S. Department of Education. The STEM action plan for a 21st Century education can be found here.
Here's the full audio of Peter Smith's commentary.
Interestingly, Fast Company also picked up a choice quote on the need for a cultural perspective. In the June 2010 issue, Shiro Nakamura, Chief Creative Officer at Nissan, said, "More designers have to understand the values of society and the people they are creating the vehicles for." This creative direction may be why FC highlighted Nakamura's inspiration as coming from such ordinary, everyday objects like shoes, video games, and bumblebees. He subscribes to the belief: Know Thy Customer.
Kevin McCullagh did a great job covering The Big ReThink by The Economist. I especially appreciate McCullagh coverage of Roberto Verganti. Here are my thoughts -- I hope you find them helpful.
Verganti's research on design-driven innovation is spot on. I appreciate his insight into new product meanings and languages that steep into and influence society. But this is both hard and uncomfortable work. Corporate decision making is all about finding certainty in an uncertain world. Radical innovation is scary. It is a venture into the unknown. Businesses are more comfortable with the devil they know rather than the devil they don't. This leads to incrementalism rather than innovation.
One way "design thinking" is valuable is that its methodologies and processes attempt to force us out of our comfort zones. However, as other studies prove, radical innovation -- that is sustainable radical innovation -- is more dependent on corporate culture than on one time intensives. This is what Verganti's research also showed. Just as products have meanings and languages, corporations can have meanings and languages. Language is culture and culture defines behaviors and behaviors determine actions taken and actions not taken. What the discussion about design allows us to do today, more than anything, is influence the conversation -- as McCullagh, himself, has tried to do by striving to give design more strategic significance.
If we do not first change the language of the dialogue, do we offer anything in the way of elevating the role of design or, more importantly, solving sticky problems and uncovering new opportunities?
I hope to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to respond.
Dan Pink makes a great distinction between mediocrity and failure. We are so afraid of failure that it changes our values and our behavior. Dan: Thanks for the reminder.
Keith Ferrazi also said it well in his book, Never Eat Alone. He wrote, "Ultimately everyone has to ask himself or herself how they're going to fail. We all do, you know, so let's get that out of the way. The choice isn't between succes and failure; it's between choosing risk and striving for greatness, or risking nothing and being certain of mediocrity."
Subject: RE: Design and Innovation Education -- BusinessWeek
Please review...and when ready...give the 15 minute version of why I should need to know more.
This was the response I received when I emailed Gene a link to the BusinessWeek Special Report on Design Thinking: "How best to educate the design thinkers and innovators of the future? BusinessWeek's list features promising programs from design and business schools from around the world."
What follows is my attempt at a 15-minute (or less) explanation of why he should need to know more.
Tim Brown, CEO IDEO, defines Design Thinking as: “Design thinking is really about using the sensibilities and methodologies that designers have developed to create new choices, new alternatives, new ideas that haven’t existed in the world before. But it’s being applied today much further upstream and to a much broader set of problems than it has been traditionally. It’s the same skills that designers developed literally for decades, but [those skills are now] applied on a much broader canvas than they used to be.”
Paula Thornton (@rotkapchen), I think, put it really well: "Design thinking is not about solving design problems, it's about solving problems with design."
Said another way, the skill and talent and methodologies employed to create a “better mousetrap” can and should be used to address bigger, more complex needs and issues. What was originally and narrowly constrained to solving only issues of aesthetics is now a vehicle for developing solutions to problems like patient care, banking, and retail. The mousetrap has been expanded to include things like business models, warehousing, drug delivery, and food distribution.
In his book, Change By Design, Brown writes, “Design thinking taps into capacities we all have but that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It is not only human-centered; it is deeply human in and of itself. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols” (p. 4).
In brief, Design Thinking is an iterative process consisting of the following steps: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. What this means is Design Thinking identifies the problem and the people for whom the solution is to be designed, dives deep in exploring new and old ideas, new and old frontiers, fails early and often to see what works and what doesn’t, and then pushes the solution out of the lab and into the marketplace. The iterative nature of Design Thinking means any one of these “steps” can be revisited and still be considered part of the process.
With that said, here are three reasons why you should know more about Design Thinking:
1. Design Thinking destroys groupthink.
Not surprisingly, researchers from the University of Minnesota discovered that the language most often used within an organization is a cultural signal of how innovative it is (You can listen the BusinessWeek podcast, or download the paper, or see my previous post). What has been observed is dissenting opinions get sidelined for a myopic consensus – i.e. groupthink. Design Thinking helps to change the way we approach the issues so all ideas get voiced and tested.
2. Design Thinking reimagines a better future.
How do we create new services and meet new needs when our own experience is not sufficient? Because it is interdisciplinary, Design Thinking helps to reimagine and create a future borrowing from a world of experiences and perspectives. This can translate into new products, new markets, or new distribution systems – and eventually, new profits.
3. Design Thinking is being used by your competitors.
Chances are one of your competitors has started using Design Thinking or is planning to implement it as a mainstay of their business. Why? Ultimately, they see Design Thinking as the tool that will help them fulfill Peter Drucker’s axiom: "Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business." Design Thinking is centered on observing human behavior in order to deduce latent human needs. People don’t always know how to say what they need, but they often show it. And your competitors are looking to capitalize on their insights into customer behaviors at your expense.
To summarize, Design Thinking is a method for making sure we are working on the right activities at the right times in order to better influence the right results in an increasingly complex world. This is one of the reasons why universities worldwide are beginning to offer hybrid programs that combine traditional MBAs with Design Thinking principles. As Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School, argues in his book The Design of Business: "Neither analysis nor intutition alone is enough... The most successful businesses in the years to come will balance analytical mastery and intuitive originality in a dynamic interplay that I call design thinking." It is simply becoming part of the new “how” of business.
Here are a handful of links that you can review if you want to dig a little deeper:
1. Design Thinking 101 by Daniel MacKenzie
2. Design Thinking, Tim Brown's blog
3. Sparc @ The Mayo Clinic
4. What is Design Thinking, Really? by Vanessa Miemis
6. Why We All Need A Little More Design Thinking by Saj-nicole Joni at Forbes.com
7. Design Thinking Can Give Businesses An Edge by Harold Hambrose
I think there is a lot of information online about Design Thinking. Gene asks an important question: "Why should I need to know more?" I have given three reasons above why Design Thinking is important. Why do you think Design Thinking is important? WHY should businesses consider its application?