Australia is a “risk adverse corporate culture” where exciting innovation is driven by “punchy, little, disrespectful start-ups”, the agIdeas Business Advantage Breakfast Seminar heard yesterday.
George Bej, general manager of marketing at The Laminex Group, also said the “gap between entrepreneurs and corporate has never been larger” during the four-person panel discussion.
“Some of the most exciting innovation that is going on in the business space is coming from punchy, little, disrespectful start-ups without any access to capital or resources, that are taking on very large global segments and brands,” Bej added.
Bej was speaking at a panel yesterday at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall where his fellow panellists discussed the impact design has on businesses’ bottom lines.
The panel featured representatives from a broad range of industry sectors including travel, sports and fast moving consumer goods.
Katie Saunders, general manager of the Golden Circle business unit at Heinz Australia, said it is “critical” to have design included early in the product development, launch and relaunch process.
Whilst the 70-year old Golden Circle brand is trusted and well liked, Saunders said it has had an issue with relevance and uniqueness.
“Design has really been a competitive advantage that we really had to bring to the forefront over the last few years,” Saunders said.
When discussing the Golden Circle rebrand Saunders said: “We bought our design partners in from the very start and certainly that has made all the difference in terms of consumer attitudes and usage of the brand.
“In the market today I think you will see Golden Circle really standing apart from its competitors and that is largely to do its new design.”
Brian Cook, CEO of the Geelong Football Club, said design plays a “huge role” in its master plan.
“We work in a really equalised industry where talent is shared amongst all the clubs equally, supposedly, as is income,” Cook said. Leadership, values and culture therefore become the AFL Club’s competitive advantage and design is used to visually represent them.
Bej argued that the key to The Laminex Group’s design is its customers and the insights it gathers via observation, not research.
“What we are after is not a 200-page report; it’s an insight, a little frustration expressed by your customer,” Bej said.
“You might have to sit there with them the entire day and be very neutral and open in your questioning and just watch long periods of silence. But invariably you will get to a little bit of body language or a little bit of a rant, and that rant is really a physical manifestation of what I like to call the ‘customers work around product or service incompetence’.
“Often your customers have to design ‘work arounds’ in order to be able to be able to do with your product what should have been designed in there in the first place. That is a moment of gold.”
Bej said The Laminex Group’s approach is all about celebrating failure.
“When you celebrate failure in product design you learn about a mistake you would have otherwise made and learnt about after launch.”
“Risk is being dealt with in our organisation by incorporating design and design principles right at the start of the process.”
Taking risks in design and pushing the envelope is key to continued success but Soren Ingomar Petersen, CEO of ingomar & ingomar, said the time to take design risks is when you are at your best.
“The worst time to start experimenting is when you are at your worst,” he said.
He pointed to BMW who he said brought out cars “that everybody hated”, the only reason they were able to weather the storm was because they were “super successful” at the time.
Now the series has been embraced. Petersen argues that the risks with stepping outside of incremental design and into breakthrough are greater as it takes consumers time to come to terms with the new product. But he says the risks are worth it, using the vehement response Australians had to the now loved Sydney Opera House when it was first proposed as an example.