So, I once had a client who's MD would blow hot and cold and run through the office demanding another eshot be sent out. It had worked well in the past a few times. And revenues were down. He was under pressure to hit targets. So, as MD, he had the answer. Buy more data. Send more eShots. Obvious.

I had a meeting once with a local newspaper editor. She was struggling. Ad revenues are down. People aren't reading it. But people weren't really going on-line either. The business section was almost non-existant. The advertising was the usual tired windows, cars and properties. It had been suggested that the paper could do with a design overhaul but she couldn't afford a designer. Her answer: Reduce the cost of the paper, reduce the advertising prices and try and attract more advertisers.... i.e. old thinking.

Design thinking and creative professionals would gasp in horror. Old thinking. Stuck thinking. Broken thinking. And no attempt to sit down and work out “What on earth is actually our problem?”. As Confucious said, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance”.

You see, the very first thing that a creative organisation must be prepared to happen is for the senior management and 'experts' to accept that, just maybe, they are wrong... or they don't know. They often are wrong by the way. And they need to execute some serious Design Thinking in order to stop doing what they've always done. And getting what they've always got.

If that won't happen, then they're slowly but surely doomed. A creative culture must mean that the “boss” is also able to answer the key question in Design Thinking – which is “Why?” [NB: in successful businesses, senior management spend twice as much of their time in 'planned innovation' than non-successful companies... Good to know!]

Why are revenues really down? Because, in my story above, most of his staff knew. It was because their USP (yes, they actually had one due to some technology) that used to be 'amazing' 10 years ago was now no longer special at all.

I suggested to the newspaper lady, “Why can't you just get all the design course college students in the region to enter a competition to re-design the newspaper?” Answer: Absolute rejection. That would mean admitting she didn't know what she was doing and admitting weakness. Oh dear.

Oh well. Another local newspaper eventually bit the dust.

Search deeply into What your problem really is by asking Why? A lot. Again and again. Get your team involved. Get your customers involved. Why? Because they really know. Why? Because they're experiencing it every day. And put ego and fear to one side whilst admitting all your weaknesses. It's refreshing and, eventually, will yield results.

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