Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The One Thing Your Company is Missing in Innovation

Proposed Retail. Thor Equities Building Wrap, New York City
Demographic data. Data, data, data.
Please. Wait. Don't run away.
I know, just the words 'demographic data' fill you with fear and loathing. You picture reams of data in boring spreadsheets. I can relate. In the course of my career, I have dug for data on Census.gov and requested trend data from countless other sources. I have sorted and analyzed it any number of ways. I can be the long and lonely work in vetting the viability of a company, a product or determining which markets to enter.

Now for the good news. Finding and sorting data has never been easier. Technology now allows us to have nearly limitless data points to pull from. Granted, you still have to have the skill (or hire the expertise) to identify what is valuable, and extrapolate how the information relates to your product or service. How you can use it to create positioning, naming and branding that will resonate. Determining where you will locate your restaurants or retail locations, and what sales you might expect.

Demographic data has also never been more important. In the hyper competitive marketplace of today, it is the smart products aligned with the smart marketers drawn to the right places that win.

That is why I wanted to highlight a site that offers some incredible data. I recently discovered it through and article in The Atlantic highlighting age distribution disparities between metro areas. But the data has much more depth than that.
The Urban Institute has long offered great data insights through their MetroTrends portal.
Now they have also launched a new Metropolitan Area Data Dashboard that offers a really great array of data from jobs to age distribution. It also offers maps of each metro area with the data shown on a simple map (see below).

I look forward to using this tool for clients to help them further understand their marketplace and the marketplace of the future. That is what we do and what all businesses should be doing.

I would like to hear from our readers as well.
Where do you go for relevant data?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Best 15:37 of Your Day: Rob Forbes on Ways of Seeing

This TED talk delivered all the way back in 2006, is even more relevant today. Looking at the world and interpreting the patterns and designs around us becomes more difficult by the day.

Rob Forbes, the founder of Design Within Reach, and more recently PUBLIC, a design-based alternate transit business, takes us on a tour of how he views the world.

Mr. Forbes shares some great ideas in his TED talk. Here are a few more ideas to consider when working to spark your own creativity:
1. Walk the streets. Walking in places both familiar and new will bring new ideas and patterns to you. You will be able to experience them with all of your senses and consider how they function collectively.

2. Put down the phone. You can only experience the world when you are in it.

3. Pick up your phone, but as a camera. Archive your experiences. This can be accomplished by photos, notes, sketches or verbal notes. Whatever works for you. Organize them in different ways. Consider viewing your various collections by color, or subject. You might be surprised what ideas develop.

4. Small can be huge. The smallest vignette sometimes brings the biggest ideas. I like to call them the 'unexpected delight.' These can be a sidewalk pattern, a handwritten sign, most anything.

5. Be a consummate student. Ask questions. Read, read, read. Then read some more. Learn about the bridge you walk over daily. Find out why that sculpture you enjoy is there. Knowledge is truly power.

6. Don't view the world with a commercial mind. If you are seeking a specific product to develop or monetize, you won't get the full value of your experience. File away your specific challenges, but stay open to simply experiencing the world around you. Then overlay later how those ideas may be used to address your challenges.

7. Frequency equals success. The more often you can turn your mind to truly viewing the world, the more you will get out of it. Try an attempt it once a week on your walk to lunch. Then continue to increase the frequency.    
As we enter 2013, we should all take a fresh look at how we view the world. We are entering a time that Mr. Forbes saw forming years ago. An age that values fewer material goods, but ones that are quality and well-designed. An age of curation over our lives and our possessions. It is exciting, but will require that the innovators work hard to interpret our world and respond to it.

Enjoy. Then start really seeing your world.