Learn, Look, Ask, Try: IDEO Method Cards Turn 7

method cards
Learn. Look. Ask. Try. These are the cards we’re dealt in the people-centric design approach used by the global design innovation provocateurs at IDEO. Back in 2003, IDEO began dealing these four “suits” in a pack of 51 Method Cards.

What the Cluetrain Manifesto did for marketing strategy, IDEO and specifically the Method Cards did for design strategy. In the same way Cluetrain saw and named what was happening in a “small pieces, loosely joined” world, in the Method Cards, IDEO saw and named a design strategy that was for and about interconnected everyday people. If all markets are conversations (Cluetrain), then all useful design is indeed conversation as well.

So, for instance, in designing an airplane interior, the IDEO design team used “Bodystorming.” In bodystorming, people act out scenarios and roles, paying close attention to the intuitive responses prompted by the physical enactment. Method Cards let us all in on this and 50 other IDEO trade secrets. At the core of the Method Card method is the notion that it doesn’t matter how cool, or wonky, or geeked-out something is; If it’s not intuitively useable, beautiful, or (best of all) both, you’re automatically diminishing your return on R & D investment.

I use the Method Cards mainly as tools for process design. They are great for groups who are working on solving a particular “how do we get from here to there” kind of problem. In this, I’m part of an unexpected cohort. In receiving feedback IDEO found: “In its first year, the Method Cards appeared to have unexpected relevance to groups that are not necessarily engaged in design initiatives. Clients report using the tool to explore new approaches to problem-solving, gain perspective, inspire a team, turn a corner, try new approaches, and to adapt and develop their own methods.” Exactly so in my experience.

Oh, and I like that this is such a tactile tool. I can pull the deck of the shelf, rummage through and look for an idea that fits my need at the moment. I can put them in the middle of a table and let a group of people paw around in them like a discount bin at *insert favorite clothier here*.

So happy 7th birthday, Method Cards! Thanks for the help and inspiration!


6 Reasons I Love Brains on Fire

Brains on Fire is an identity development/word of mouth marketing shop in the micro city of Greenville, South Carolina. I learned of them just a few months ago, and this little shop away from the traditional meccas of marketing deserves the growing reach it is extending as ambassadors of cool but conscientious marketing strategies. Here’s a few reasons I love ‘em:

1. The People.

I don’t know the whole gang, but the folks I’ve been in touch with over the past few months, Spike Jones (Chief Fire Starter) and Geno Church (Word of Mouth Inspiration Officer) have extended kind words and precious time to me again and again. Geno and Spike respond to my tweets and crazy e-mail questions. We’re not in each other’s back yard throwing another shrimp on the bar-bee, but they know how to keep it real with cyber relationships. They’re good folks.

2. The Haka.

Haka is a traditional dance of the Maori people of New Zealand.  As a demonstration of team and community building, BOF choreographs and performs haka dances. Here’s their explanation and a haka performed at this years’  Fire Sessions

3.  Fire Sessions

An annual gathering, the FIRE (Fascinate, Inspire, Reward and Engage) Sessions bring together best practitioners in branding and word of mouth marketing. They invite speakers like John Moore (Brand Autopsy and now WOMMA), Jackie Hubba (Church of the Customer) and Dan Heath (Made to Stick), providing a great learning environment with thought and practice leaders from far-flung places.

4. Memorable Origins Story

In 1998, two local Greenville shops came together to form Phillips, Goot, Greg & Greg. Most agreed this was a bad name with which to launch into a positive future. One day, during a particularly memorable rant about a particularly potent idea, the ranter (Greg Cordell) mussed up his hair and said, “That really sets my [blinkering] brain on fire!” History was thusly made.

5. Passion

These people are passionate about the work, and about things that touch them. I probably would not know about Love 146, an anti-child sex slavery organization which BOF tirelessly promotes. When BOF get a new account, they throw a giant “Jolly Roger” pirate flag (with skull aflame) over the side of their building. Arrrr! And you should learn more about their tequila shots.

6. Thanks to BOF, pinking shears are back, baby!

One of the most storied case studies in the BOF portfolio is Fiskars, a Finnish maker of crafting and gardening tools, in business since 1649. BOF found the fans of their products, and the “Fiskateers” were born. BOF teaches us how to stoke the flames of fan-dom.

Are there other good regional ad shops around who are doing similar things to BOF? Probably. But they’re in my orbit because they preach AND demonstrate the power of relationship. They remind their clients that it’s the customer who really owns the brand. They set my [blinkering] brain on fire.