New Thinking, Outstanding Execution and the Awesome Power of Influence

We used to understand there were two kinds of reasoning: deductive and inductive. Then we heard about a new type of reasoning: abductive – the ability to take incomplete information and proceed to the likeliest possible explanation (Einstein’s work, for example, was not only deductive and inductive but also abductive: creative conclusions about time and space that required leaps of imagination).  All three types of reasoning can be used in a system called design thinking to solve knotty problems and meet new challenges. Monday afternoon at the Private Brand Movement sponsored by IIR USA we got a taste of the best of all types of thinking.

The business world is replete with deductive, analytical thinkers.  But Rob Wallace of Wallace Church wonders if analytical thinking has turned innovation into iteration: easy, near-in, me-too types of line and brand extensions.  So, in his excellent presentation, Design Thinking Driven Innovation, we got a taste of thinking differently.  Through the application of design thinking, we can not only design products for the known unmet needs of consumers (e.g., Apple’s desktop computer, Dyson’s vacuum), we can also think differently to design products for consumers to meet needs they don’t even know they have (e.g., Apple’s iPhone, P&G’s Swiffer)!

The best design thinkers are the ones that can bridge the world of the creative at the front end of innovation with the world of analytical thinking at the commercialization end of value creation.  Two such thinkers were on center-stage in the afternoon:  Matt Rompala of Avery Dennison and Connie Walsh of Staples.

Matt provided several examples of how Avery Dennison used design thinking to enable product launches that had strong consumer appeal, unique package design and excellent supply chain cost savings (more examples can be seen at  Connie laid out great thinking in four areas (quality, value, sourcing, and innovation) and how Staples has driven innovation into previously inactive product categories to drive new value.

But Patrick Hanlon, CEO & Founder of Thinktopia and author of the book Primal Branding, opened us up to thinking beyond our own brands.  Beginning by sharing examples of global change and social challenges, he also shared the principle of hyperdyatic spread – how it’s possible for you personally to influence your friend’s friend’s friend: three degrees of influence (when you share with one friend, you reach 100).  Given this awesome power to influence, isn’t it possible to think beyond ourselves and our brands to address global issues to benefit real people with real needs?  If so, Patrick’s presentation title, Something Wonderful is About to Happen, may be true.