Thursday, 24 March 2011

Neither "Design Thinking" Nor "Social Marketing" Actually Exist, Folks...

My comment (rant?) in response to a FastCompany.com > FastCoDesign.com article on so-called "Design Thinking" by Helen Walters:

Helen, "the formal discipline is still pretty new"?!?  I beg your pardon!

The crux is very, very simple.  In this post-economic-decline era every major magazine and consultancy is screaming "INNOVATE" and "LEVERAGE DESIGN THINKING" (along with "leverage 'social marketing'!").  So-called "design thinking" is almost impossible to breakdown simply, but allow me to have a go at it:

1)  Articulate the challenge/issue/problem,
2)  Research thoroughly (leave no stone unturned),
3)  Analyze all the info with a totally open mind,
4)  Wait for the threads you've come across to coalesce into an breakthrough new concept/idea/approach. 

Please explain to me what is in any way revolutionary, or different in any way, in this approach that what the Greek philosophers, or any genius in history from Copernicus to Einstein, used? 

The one thing that our politically correct modern culture exclude us from pointing out is that ALL of those rare individuals had the mental acuity for #4 to happen inside their big brains.  This process cannot be taught, or applied, or generated.  It isn't something new, and it isn't unique to design, it's just the way some rare creatively brilliant human brains work.

It has been said that we all have moments of genius -- geniuses just have them all the time.

All that can be done is for companies to scour their ranks for employees with the ability to think in leaps of inspiration, as many are currently ignored or entirely underutilized (many of them aren't the most socially adept of creatures).  Sit these individuals down with the first two points above in front of them, motivate them and wait.  Voila: innovation.

Innovation and 'design thinking' training courses for the vast majority of the bell curve are just an enormous scam, as is "social marketing" (people are either going to talk about your product/service with their social circle because it is worth talking about, or not).  We cannot train people to become geniuses any more that we can manipulate people into talking about products -- the moment they are manipulated they lose all credibility. 

We are living in the age of enriching and proliferating "the brand experience" (more literally: analyzing/improving how consumers experience your product/service and finding innovative ways to get more of them to do so).  The only monumental change that has happened in the past decade is the death of 'push' marketing at the consumers' insistence (as a result of their newly public chatter over the Internet) and the growing dominance of 'pull'. 

No one ever liked or wanted 'push' marketing any more than Libyans wanted Muammar Ghaddafi as their leader, marketers simply had the ability to shove it down consumers' throats through what is now being called "legacy media".  Where the majority of marketing budgets should be shifting is NOT to 'social media' (more 'push'), but to 'experiential marketing'.  Yes, at a MUCH higher cost per impression, but XM is all about "facilitated trial" and leads to instantly loyal consumers.

The current hyperbole about 'design thinking', 'innovation' and 'social marketing' is just an awful lot of 'push'.  For those people out there who can nab large chunks of corporate training budgets to peddle this snakeoil, I say "Bravo!", but in the end it just leaves a disappointing, malodorous whiff in its wake.  A worthwhile investment would be in training how to identify and support the true innovators in any company's team.

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