As feedback and questions come in on the role of synthesizers I was drawn to frame the sythesizer thesis put forth by David Armano as it relates to Chrysler and their new CEO Robert Nardelli.
Business Week's Bruce Nussbaum and Jesse Scanlon (Cofounders of the Innovation & Design Channel) were able to capture a couple of insights from perhaps the TEMPLATE of what a good synthesizer can look like. This person is Larry Keeley of Doblin in Chicago (A company that was recently aquired by management consulting outfit Monitor). A few choice quotes from Larry on Chrysler.
These guys are trying to focus on the same old market segments. It is just so tired. Every single company at every brand offers every single variant. I can get an SUV from Porsche, from BMW (BMW), from Cadillac (GM), from Mercury, from Ford, from Chevy, from Buick,..
I mean come on, guys. That only makes sense if you look at the industry from the vantage of a manufacturer. It only works if you think about the world in terms of factory efficiency.
The industry knows nothing about the frontier needs of the consumers. Every time a team does work in that area, the managers say, "Yes well that is an interesting vehicle, but we wouldn't be able to produce it at a mass scale and so my manufacturing wouldn't be efficient."
Six Sigma fights innovation every time. It's about performance of known attributes in a known market. That's a very different approach than learning from the periphery.
That would require getting some teams to travel to different parts of the world and getting them to see and understand people who don't own cars, who don't know how to drive a car. It also means recognizing that if all of those people started to own cars and adopt American driving habits, the planet is history. He has to take a Henry Ford approach of revolutionizing transportation. And again, I don't know how he can do that in a company on such a small leash to show improvement. This is at least an eight-quarter project.
He should tell his team, "Guys—if you want to keep your jobs, here's what you have to tell me in three months. How can we produce vehicles that everywhere in the world people would be excited to own, that are relevant to the lives they are living rather than the nostalgic idea of American car ownership, that responds to their busy lives, their terrible traffic jams, etc. Tell me about cars that are so compelling that people everywhere would want them and be able to afford them."
What's compelling about Chrysler's challenges is also what's compelling about software and the Web too. Our models of working on the Web and in creating software and our strategies for doing it are really focused on US, the doers of the work. Sure, sure, we talk about the user all the time but the reality is that information technology groups and the designers that work with them are often pushed into the model or path of least resistence or the fictional promise of 'write once, run anywhere.'
This is why we pushed ourselves away from the desktop and towards the Web for application development, because it made it easier for IT. It certainly opened up a wealth of new opportunities for users of the applications and products and services too because it enabled a much easier way to make software available to people. But the price we paid was compromised functionality and performance for better access and immediacy. The promise of the Web 2.0 that's been delivered on (at least from a user experience perspective) is that is makes those experiences far superior to what we were used to (At least in a browser).
So as the Web get' better and better it's smooth sailing right? Wrong. It's wrong because today's global consumers abhor ubiquity and commercialization and by making the same mistake with the Web that we previously made with the desktop we are going to get into trouble. Right now smart advertisers and marketers get that the NETWORK is the platform and that the desktop and Web are merely inputs into that channel and either inside or outside of the enterprise it's largely these folks that are calling the shots on the consumer facing aspects of IT.
What these guys want to do is to tailor the experience in the digital realm just like they do in the real world of multiple physical channels. They want an optimized experience for people to enjoy in their living rooms, on their phones or any other channel where they'll have an interaction or a conversation with their customer. And is this world, a simple repackaging of the Web and a shoe horning into other channels isn't going to fly because honestly, if we all wanted that we'd ALL be driving the same cars, wearing the same clothes and listening to the same music.
Now you may think that's STILL the case but look back at the world of 1950 and compare it to today and we'll see that the long tail of capitalism will go far beyond just what we buy, consume or experience but also the manner in which we choose to do those things too.
This means a couple of things from a design and technology perspective. One, it means that the technques that we use to find new markets, apply technology correctly and satisfy users are more important than ever if we are to create these tailored experiences that get us out of the one size fits all ubiquity of the Web. Two, it means that designers need to work hard to develop those synthesizer muscles to effectively interact with the other parts of the enterprise that need to make these investment decisions correctly--a rather big challenge when we look at how the entrprise measures ROI and risk today.