Over a leisurely Sunday breakfast on a weekend trip to the coast, I picked up one of those ‘weekend magazines’ from the table of papers while waiting on my order. I find these mags usually have content that’s a little more thought out than a standard newspaper article and are a pretty decent compliment to your breakfast.
One particular article about a Sydney based industrial designer was a particularly good read. There was a couple of paragraphs that really summed up the article and the subject’s (Marc Newson) recipe for success.
“I look at myself as a gun for hire,” he says. Most companies I work are large corporations, whether it’s Qantas or Ford or Nike. They all have in-house design capability; it’s not as if they can’t do this stuff with their own resources. But, for one reason or another, they choose to go outside their typical way of thinking because, on some level, they’re not capable of doing things in a different way.
“They’re not only looking for answers to questions they’re having trouble with, they’re also having difficulty expressing the questions. That’s where I come in.
It’s a matter of demystifying the issues and trying to give things a handle to grab on to. I look for simple things – the straightforward parameters of a project – and once I’ve digested that and created the framework within which to work, it’s joining the dots really. I have to make it rational because I’m working with such a broad range of industries – whether it’s designing a boat for Riva or a camera or a mobile phone – that I’ve got to look for logic somewhere.
More often than not it’s a very straightforward and methodical process, so much so I find myself scratching my head, thinking, ‘You know, that wasn’t that hard, was it? I wonder why you couldn’t have done it by yourselves.”
Newson identifies the problem domain where companies are often impeded from making their own decisions or doing most of the work themselves, and it’s the following sentence that provides insight to why this happens…..
“They’re not only looking for answers to questions they’re having trouble with, they’re also having difficulty expressing the questions. “,
It appears that the inability, difficulty or frustration of not being able to frame a problem with the right question/s is a driver for an organisation to get outside assistance.
Newson also goes on to mention that he has to make it rational, and that he has to look for logic somewhere, as he is working with a broad range of industries. So what tools or techniques can we employ to provide something against which we can build rationale and help people express the right questions on the journey to solving their problems?
In my next post I’ll outline one such technique, where you can get resources and delve into the world of sense making and issue based information systems.