Recently, I had the absolute privilege of presenting at Creative Dundee’s Pecha Kucha Night Vol 14 . An event which I have attended myself many times before and one that I have always left feeling inspired and awe struck as a result of the amazing things that businesses, charities and individuals are doing in and around Dundee.
Pecha Kucha or ‘chit chat’ in Japanese, is a simple and fast paced format for presenting. Each presenter shows 20 images for 20 seconds (no text) on any topic which inspires them! The concept was developed by Klein Dytham Architecture, in Tokyo 2003 and has gone global with over 800 cities now hosting PKNs. On paper it sounds simple but I have a lot to say and am definitely a chatter box so trying to fit everything into such a short amount of time was a real challenge.
Implementing a design-led strategy
My topic was of course Scott & Fyfe but more specifically on the transformation the company has undertaken over the past 5 to 6 years developing and implementing a design-led strategy. The entire evening was filmed and streamed live online by Stream Scotland and of course, watched by the sell-out audience of roughly 400 creatives. Not half piling on the pressure.
You can watch the video of the night here, (I am on at 1 hour 54 minutes).
Togs for Tots to Teens
There were so many fantastic speakers on the night that I thoroughly enjoyed every second and was (almost) able to relax and forget the nerves. One or two standouts included Jordan Butler who as Managing Director of the Social Enterprise “Togs for Tots to Teens” uses creative thinking and an ethos of “Creating Kindness” as the building blocks to the fantastic work she does distributing clothing and equipment to struggling families. This can be in the form of clothes, toys or even bed linen and Jordan explains just how much of a difference something as seemingly small as bed linen can make by sharing the feedback she received from one mum. This feedback was that the family with 3 young boys had their first good night’s sleep because their 3 year old slept in bed for a full night because he loved his new dinosaur covers.
Another fantastic speaker was Dawn Walton, a cognitive hypnotherapist who showed us how to banish our negative thoughts – like a thought ninja! And alongside this, explored exactly how and when we lose our ability to be creative. Her accompanying images were simple and hilarious and I think it is extremely relevant to the way we work at Scott & Fyfe. This is because all of the work that we carried out with the Glasgow School of Art (which I will speak about soon) was to coax the creative side back out of our employees. We soon realised that they could all still think creatively and solve problems it was simply that this had gotten a little lost in day to day adult life!
Then it was my turn…
After watching the diverse range of speakers it was then my turn to change topic completely and give my take on design from a business point of view. Explaining exactly how our traditional 150 year old manufacturing company transformed itself into a forward thinking, “google-esque” type company with a design-led strategy. 150 years fit into 6:40 minutes.
Adapt to Survive
Design led and creative are not exactly the first words that spring to mind when discussing a traditional manufacturing company, let alone one which has been established for 150 years. So for bragging rights, it would be nice to be able to say that the company’s decision to take on this new approach was due to an inspired notion. However, the transformation to a design-led strategy was not carried out from a comfortable position but rather through the knowledge that Scott & Fyfe needed to adapt, and adapt quickly, in order to survive.
The struggle to survive came ironically as a result of the company’s success. Scott & Fyfe was extremely successful for a long time with the company’s main product ranges acting as great cash cows. Due to this, the company rested on its laurels and placed no emphasis on the need to produce new products that would be commercially successful and whilst there were many talented employees, a lack of communication and insight was blinding. Unfortunately this short sightedness meant that we did not notice our main markets going into decline and when the recession hit we began to lose money fast.
Creating Cultures of Innovation
As we began to struggle, we were introduced to a new team at the Glasgow School of Art (GSoA) who were looking to teach design principles to non-designers in a project called Creating Cultures of Innovation. This was the birth of our NOW team (New Opportunities Within). We got to work with these guys, sending a group of employees from all areas of the company to learn different problem solving tools and methods of working collaboratively.
Learning to use Design Tools and to work in Cross Functional Teams
All of the design tools learned with the GSoA fit into the Double Diamond model above. This is a framework we use for our new product developments. It encourages us to look outwards, to speak to the market whether this is our customers, through networking at exhibitions or by linking in with academics etc. It then forces us to make sure that we really do listen to them before bringing the insights back to spot the opportunities as a team. From there on, we develop and push these ideas and begin to develop prototypes before ultimately finalising a product which then stands a real chance at being a successfully commercial innovation.
Teamwork is one of the key takeaways from our design approach. Employees from all over the company have fantastic ideas and vital insights that were missed previously when only one or two employees had any input. The design tools are used to aid this, dotocracy and 6 hats for example both empower employees and give them an equal say to their colleagues irrespective of their time served or status in the company. For more on these tools have a look at
our previous design tools blog.
The new market-focussed POD structure of the company enforces the design-led strategy even further by ensuring we put the market and customers at the very top of our priorities and, of course, by running the POD’s with cross functional teams.
This is a Work in Progress
Ultimately, this sums up the transformation in a brief way, the reality is a very lengthy process and I think that most employees would admit this is 100% a work in progress. We are not there yet and are constantly seeking advice, making mistakes, learning, failing and adapting. Implementing the design-led strategy has not been a magic wand but it has, in my opinion, kept the company afloat in recent years and hopefully the rewards will really start to show.
Doing the PKN simply reminded me just how inspiring an environment it is to work in!