DESIGN PRACTICE TODAY—LARGE AND SMALL—IS CHALLENGED BY A TSUNAMI OF FORCES THREATENING BOTH OUR PROSPERITY AND AUTHORITY IF NOT OUR VERY SURVIVAL.
For the past two decades of my four-decade career, it has been my job and my passion to understand and overcome these challenges at CannonDesign. The formation of this Advisory concept is the next chapter in a career devoted to advancing the voice and authority of the design profession by extension of this privileged experience. Whatever the issue, whatever the objective, I can help – or I know someone who can.
For proven, effective strategic counsel, let’s talk.
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VISION AND PURPOSE
The concept of “vision” as an effective organizational tool has a long history but the process and its impact remains often misunderstood, misapplied and, therefore, of limited value to too many firms. While it is rare today for any organization not to have a Vision Statement in its arsenal of corporate collateral, it is even more rare for an organization to be fully vested in the potential power of vision theory to truly fuel growth, change and prosperity.
Visioning process is a catalytic event: it offers the opportunity to transform an organization. It requires suspension of all cynicism and prejudice and the nurturing of strategic optimism. It begins with the formation of understanding the vital relationship of organizational Vision and organizational Culture. It is the foundation upon which to build a practice seeking greater impact, greater prosperity and greater sustainability.
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DIFFERENTIATION AND BRAND
“In the absence of measurable distinction in the work… We compete on personality and price.”
In the fiercely competitive world of design practice today, distinctions are becoming increasingly difficult for clients to make. In the context of almost every project short-list, arguably every firm walking in the door offers talent, portfolio, tools, technologies, whiz-bang PowerPoint shows, models and messages that could almost be interchanged. So we thrive on the basis of being better positioned (always a good thing in any case) or cheaper (God forbid) or being “really on” that day.
You cannot prevent your competition from being good. You only control your own impression and you cannot afford for it to be anything less than true and flawless.
Brand is not just a logo. It’s not just a slogan. It is an enduring impression; a living memory; a collective perception. Brand is the way we perceive ourselves; the way we define ourselves.; the way we prove ourselves; the way we differentiate ourselves.
A comprehensive Branding Program can stimulate new clarity in structural and communications strategies, new behaviors and a true and enduring market advantage that yields more and better business. If you are seeking greater authentic distinction in your practice, let’s talk about the concept of brand.
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PRACTICE STRUCTURE AND STRATEGIES
At the core of the concept—however we may structure our organizations—success in design enterprise relies on the balance of three essential elements: Marketing, Operations and Practice. So simple to understand and so hard to build, this is nevertheless the touchstone in the formation of balanced leadership in the most successful design practices. It is the sacred triad.
The first part of the concept is simple: Marketing – all about winning the work; Operations - all about getting the work done; and Practice – all about the work itself. The hard part is how the pervasive urgency of marketing and relentless gravity of operations conspire to diminish if not extinguish the will and the apparent wherewithal to invest in this elusive thing called Practice. And if that is not enough, there is the ironic propensity in the best of times to act as if we don’t need it and the worst of times as if we can’t afford it. And yet, that is where both our hearts and our futures reside.
What should you be investing in Practice? Perhaps it’s worth a discussion.
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CAMPAIGN AND INTERVIEW STRATEGIES
Are you positioning as well as possible for key opportunities? Are your proposals getting you to the short-list at least 4 out of 5 times? Are you winning at least 2 out of three interviews? Do you know why or why not?
I have led or participated in countless interviews in my career and I have had numerous occasions to sit on “the other side of the table” in presentations by firms large and small. I have collaborated with “star” designers. I have constructed successful associations, joint-ventures, design-build and P3 teaming strategies. I have written and edited countless proposals and coached countless teams.
I have discovered that there is no guaranteed strategy. There is, however, very specific criteria by which to improve your performance – and they are not the same as they used to be.
Whether you are looking for a comprehensive review of your marketing and business development program or focused short-term critical counsel for a specific project pursuit, I will bring the benefit of massive BD experience to your Team. If increasing your hit rate is on your agenda, let’s talk.
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RESEARCH IN DESIGN PRACTICE
While innovation will always be an intrinsic part of design process, the discipline necessary to commissioned work rarely supports the full depth of exploration and experimentation required to thoroughly expand the traditional boundaries of design process. In contrast, a practice based research initiative aims to compel the persistent development and application of new knowledge and creative invention and, in the process, provide true and measurable value to the market and distinction to a firm.
I spent over a decade designing and promoting one of the most robust research initiatives among design firms in the US. This unique structure consists of four interdependent components:
- Primary research… the development and documentation of new knowledge through proven quantitative and qualitative methodologies;
- Secondary research… the access and review of existing knowledge;
- Prototyping and invention… the conduct of specific design initiatives related both to the processes and products of our work; and
- Futures platforms… the ongoing deep-dives into the variables influencing strategic capital investment in core markets.
Research can enrich your practice, enhance staff recruitment, stimulate innovation and provide both value and competitive advantage. If you want to know more about this industry model, I would be eager to share more.
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No two practices are the same. We all possess unique aspirations, unique idiosyncrasies and unique challenges. While the menu of topics here represent the five areas of practice which I have seen yield the most profound impact on organizational growth and change, none may precisely fit your most vital concerns. If advice of any kind would be useful to your considerations of your future, get in touch. If I am not the right person, chances are I know who is. I am not interested in earning your business as much as earning your trust.