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Update from Fortune Brainstorm Tech 2012

Synapse CEO and co-founder Scott Bright has been in Aspen, CO this week attending the 2012 Fortune Brainstorm Tech Conference. He's been keeping us posted with daily updates on what's been happening there. Of particular interest to Synapse was today's panel discussion "Design Matters – The Role of Design in New Business Models", which featured, among others, Doreen Lorenzo, president of Synapse partner frog design.

The discussion began with the moderator, Brian O'Keefe, assistant managing editor of Fortune, asking participants to briefly respond to the question: “From where does good design come?”. The responses were as varied as they were fascinating.

Doreen Lorenzo: Good design comes from understanding for whom you are designing and working to solve their problems.  Many of Frog’s customers don’t know their own customers well enough, and today the consumer should be an active participant in the process of designing products and services, called it ‘the cult of me’ phenomenon.

Tony Fadell (CEO, co-founder Nest): Good design comes from frustration.  Finding something that doesn’t work and asking ‘why not?’ Fadell also noted that good design is in the DNA of an organization--that’s why Apple will continue to produce good design without Steve Jobs.

Yves Behar, Chief Creative Officer, Jawbone; Founder and Chief Designer, Fuseproject: I don’t believe in so called ‘Design Thinking’.  Good design is not about the outside finish or appearance. It is about how everything inside is integrated. Customers will never know what they want ahead of time.   Most companies are ‘siloed’ and incapable of cross-group collaboration to achieve focus on good design, thus the need for external design consultancies (like Fuseproject).  Don’t blame the lack of good design on design school – blame it on design companies' inability to efficiently integrate their talent into the greater mission of the organization.  Good design groups need ‘T-shaped people’ with deep vertical niche competence as well as broadly reaching ability to connect and work across disciplines. 

Behar added that whereas most companies bring in new talent and then try to shape them to fit the org, it would be better for organizations to allow their new people to change the group by adding something new to it. This particularly resonated with me considering Synapse's "Culture Organic" philosophy has been fundamental to our success and has played a crucial role as we've grown from 50 people to well over 200 in less than two years.

Rebekah Cox, Product Design Manager, Quora: Good design starts with choosing which problem to solve.  Quora decided to focus on the Social Q&A platform for this reason – its about the questions.


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