Focusing on the customer

This week we spent time looking at value propositions and how they are critical to all your businesses.  The value proposition canvas sits between business strategy and brand strategy and is a good way for you to quickly distill and then test your value propositions.

“Getting out of the building” and obtaining feedback from your early adopters is as essential to testing value propositions, as it is to the product/service itself.

What’s at the very heart of your value proposition – the customer!  In your rush to build out your businesses don’t forget that everything revolves around the customer.  The emotional aspects, their fears, wants and needs are hugely important and need to feed into your product’s user experience, features and benefits.

I thought you might enjoy this podcast interview I recently did with Jeremy Fennell, the MD of Carphonewarehouse.  It is of course a much larger business, but the one thing that comes across loud and clear during the interview is Jeremy’s laser like focus on the customer and their customer experience…

Alice in Wonderlondon

Sustainability is exciting.

 What? Hard to believe, isn’t it?

Well. Let me tell you a story.

It begins with a young woman coming to work and study in London.



As we all know, London is one of the most expensive cities of the globe. As many immigrants, she found a hourly paid role as a shop assistant. Our young lady wasn’t poor, but wasn’t wealthy either. Soon she realised that she couldn’t afford the lifestyle that she had always led, because London’s rents, bills and transports were basically sucking out her whole salary. That’s when she started to apply design thinking to her own life.

Wait – is this story about sustainability (exciting sustainability) or design thinking?

Well, it’s actually about both. Or, rather, it’s about how design thinking is the key to be sustainable, and how sustainable design is not just making our life easier, but also more exciting. But let’s go back to the young lady. Shall we give her a name?

Let’s call her Alice.

John Tenniel, Illustration from The Nursery Alice (1890)

Yes, like Alice in Wonderland.

Why? Because to find solutions to her issues she needed to wonder “how might I overcome these issues?”.

It was clear for Alice that she couldn’t cut on rent, because that wasn’t depending on her.

How might Alice have cut on bills, food and transports?


Apart from taxes, definitely water consumption, the heating and electricity usage were responsible for the high bills. Therefore, during her showers, she started to turn off the water while she wasn’t rinsing her body or hair. And she started to wash her body with colder water. Yeah, it was kind of freezing at the beginning, but then she got used to it, and also discovered the health benefits of cold showers. Speaking of temperature, she found out that drinking hot drinks keeps the human body warm for up to several hours when the weather is cold, as well as the cool it down when it’s hot. So she made herself an herbal tea every time she was cold, and, of course, she wore layers, so that she could keep the heating off for most of the time. In terms of electricity, she made her washing machine run on cold water, cooked with the dishwasher, turned off her laptop, unplugged her phone charger and small kitchen appliances every time she wasn’t using them.

2 – FOOD

Let’s say that our Alice wasn’t eating at 99p, because she couldn’t really live on cookies and crisps, and, yeah, she was kind of trying to be healthy. Alice discovered that the main responsible for food prices in supermarkets was the supply chain[1]. Of course she couldn’t change the market, at least not alone and not immediately, though. So how might she have spent less on food? By buying in bulk, so that she cut the cost of small packaging and several transport costs; by purchasing seasonal local food at farmers markets; by bringing her own mountain backpack when shopping, so that she could go home walking instead of taking the bus (and doing some physical activity, too!). She then started to reuse food containers (instead of buying new ones) to keep her leftovers in the fridge or freezer, also reducing food waste and therefore making the best out of the food she bought. After a while, she discovered that she could also save money by homemaking staples that she would otherwise have purchased, such as fresh cheeses, spreads, sauces, dips, soups, pizza, wraps, bread, jams, cookies and cakes. Oh, and homemade staples became her choice for her friends’ birthday presents, too.


Well, moving around London is such a pain, isn’t it? It’s pricey and hectic.

At the beginning Alice decided to rely on buses, the cheapest public transport. She would have liked to cycle, but she was too afraid of cars. Soon she realised that London was so big that reaching certain locations meant taking 2, maybe 3 buses for a one-way journey. Not that cheap. So what? As she didn’t have wings, Alice couldn’t fly, but she did have legs. She started calculating her journeys including a 20-30 minutes (1-2 miles) walk within the route and discovered that walking could actually save her a lot of money and even time, especially during rush hours.

Through all these small solutions Alice managed to cut her expenses by 30%, being able to live on her small £750/ month salary and also having extra money to go out sometimes with friends. Great, isn’t it?


If we further abstract from the story we may define Alice as a design thinker. She encountered constraints – being financially sustainable was one of them – and found solutions not by breaking down ideas, but by building ideas up. She integrated ideas and solutions that she found on her own or through research, in order to get to a new way of accomplishing her financial sustainability. (Bishop in Signer, 2011: 3).

Moreover, we may actually see her as a sustainable design thinker, because of the impact that her behaviour change had on the environment and the society. By cutting energy usage (water, hot water, heating and electricity) she saved on CO2 emissions and on water consumption; by buying in bulk, backpacking to the market, reusing food containers, reducing food waste, homemaking staples and walking to reach bus stations, she cut down again her carbon footprint; finally, by shopping at farmers’ markets she contributed to the local economy and biodiversity.

Alice had quite an impact, hadn’t she? Oh, and she saved a lot of money, too.

Was Alice following a good ethic? Not exactly. She was actually acting for her own good, but she influenced other people’s lives, too.

This is the key concept of sustainability, and what makes it so exciting.

 Being able to design sustainable solutions makes us helping the environment, the society and the economy, while also helping ourselves as individuals, too.

Let’s now make another abstraction (it’s the last – I promise!) and try to see Alice as a Business that has to reduce costs. Let’s assume that these costs are caused by the consumption of nonrenewable resources as coal and petroleum and by the consumption of renewable resources like water and timber.

What would the company do? It would would analyse each link of the value chain[2], from the supply chain, operations and workplaces to returned products, and then design solutions to cut the costs. Available tools such as enterprise carbon management, carbon and energy footprint analysis, and life-cycle assessment would help the enterprise to identify the sources of waste in supply chains. (Nidumolu, Prahalad, Rangaswami, 2009: 7)


Cisco Chief Globalisation Officer Wim Elfrink's Keynote - at The Role of Technology in Enabling Sustainable Growth

Cisco Chief Globalisation Officer Wim Elfrink’s Keynote – at The Role of Technology in Enabling Sustainable Growth

For example, in 2005 Cisco found uses for the returned equipment by internal customers that included its customer service organization and the technical labs. Cisco managed to cut recycling costs by 40% and the recycling unit has become a profit center that contributed $100 million to Cisco’s bottom line in 2008. (Nidumolu, Prahalad, Rangaswami, 2009: 8). By substituting 40% of its recycling with reusing, Cisco also had a positive impact on the environment (because of reducing energy consumption for recycling), on the society and the economy (because the company created a new profitable unit and new jobs).


Silo Brighton

The British chef Douglas McMaster, after working 12 years in several famous restaurants between New York, Copenhagen and Melbourne, was disgusted by restaurants food waste. His experience made him thinking about how to innovate the supply chain by designing a solution to reduce/ eliminate food waste. In 2014 he opened the very first Zero Waste restaurant, Silo, in Brighton, UK. By buying in bulk, making sure that every source is either un-packaged or recycled, purchasing only local raw materials (Silo mills its own flour from raw grains), reusing edible leftovers, brewing its own cider and beer and making its own bread, Silo manages to actually have zero waste. The compost machine for food scraps also helps: in just 24 hours it produces a ready-to-use compost which is given back to the farmers from whom Silo buys its raw ingredients, closing the supply chain circle.

Silo Brighton

Moreover, Silo uses a sophisticated electrolysed oxidised water system. The system turns tap water into anti-bacterial water through electrolysis. It kills the 99% of bacteria, three times more then average hand soaps. The water system also involves the coffee machine: the purified water goes for coffees, whilst grey water goes through pipes to flush the toilets.

Every technique for eliminating Silo’s food waste (and the footprint) that I listed above is also helping it to be economically sustainable, because it’s seriously cutting the restaurant costs to minimum. Thanks to the water system, they don’t even buy any chemicals to clean. Moreover, Silo benefits the society, too, because it prepares organic, locally sourced food that is also super fresh because all the ingredients arrive as raw. This means no processed foods or preservatives, which is good for customers’ health.

These businesses represent the sustainability approach that acknowledges the interdependencies among healthy economic growth and healthy social and ecological systems. (Larson, 2011:79)

Exactly like what we discovered about the impact of our Alice.

Oh, and if you wondered if Alice was myself…I’d say follow the White Rabbit 😉

Francesca aka @persulla



I made a public folder on Dropbox. It contains a bit of this and that about sustainability and business. Here’s the link:

[1] A food supply chain is a network of food-related business enterprises through which products move from production through consumption, including pre-production and post-consumption activities. (Stevenson, Pirog, 2013: 1)

[2] The value chain describes the full range of activities which are required to bring a product or service from conception, through the different phases of production (involving a combination of physical transformation and the input of various producer services), delivery to final consumers, and final disposal after use. (Kaplinsky, Morris, 2001:4)

How to test your money-making idea with Shed Simove

Shed Simove is a performer, author, entrepreneur and motivational speaker on creativity and innovation. Harnessing a constant stream of ideas from his astonishingly active mind, Shed has learned to transform his unconventional concepts into lucrative new business ventures which form the basis of his completely unique stand-up routines and inspirational speeches.

Shed will be launching his new app, Sellervision. You’ll get to trial the new app and give feedback, plus gain invaluable insights into the process of bringing an idea to reality!


You need to see it to believe it – just go!

Sign up:

Shed Simove


The following is a just a few of the impressive successes that make up Shed’s CV.

· Degree In ‘Experimental Psychology’ At Balliol College, Oxford

· Beat Thousands Of Candidates To Gain A Place On Planet 24’s Graduate Trainee Scheme

· Boss Of ‘The Big Breakfast’

· Boss Of ‘Space Cadets’

· Boss Of ‘Big Brother’

· Books Published: ‘Presents Money Can’t Buy’ & ‘Ideas Man’

· Products Created & Sold:

· Over 5,000 Limited Edition ‘Clitoris Allsorts’ Packets Sold

· 281,636 Units Of Control-A-Man And Control-A Woman Remote Controls (And Spin-Off Remotes) Sold

· Over 60,923 ‘Cock-A-Doodle’ Pads Sold

· Over 74,463 Units Of The ‘Designer Beaver’ Sold

· 163,891Units Of ‘Who’s Counting’ Candle Packs Sold (THESE WON ‘GIFT OF THE YEAR’)

· Over 4,000 Greeting Cards Sold

· Over 20,000 – ‘Hen Night Sticker Packs’ Sold


· Creator of the ‘MARTIN LOOFAH KING’

· Creator of the ‘CREDIT CRUNCH’ CEREAL

· Over a hundred and fifty gigs performed since 2006

· Finalist in “The Comedy Factor” Comedy Competition (placed Third)

· Semi Finalist in the “So You Think You’re Funny” and “Laughing Horse” Competitions

Creative Confidence, a review by Fernando G Trueba

Nothing short of an eye opening, mind expanding and self reflective experience is how I would describe the Kelley brothers’ book Creative Confidence. Having just recently begun studying my postgraduate after a couple of years away from academia labouring in a very technical position where two plus two equals four and creative problem solving wasn’t always something that we practised with consistency, my introduction to design thinking by our course leaders and lecturers was a refreshing experience to my brain. During our induction week, we were given the Creative Confidence book to read by Janja, our lecturer, and after an engaging week I was very keen on reading it.

The Kelley brothers both own a design company revolving around design thinking, empathy and human centered solutions named IDEO and also run the inside Stanford University. Their design company has been highly regarded for their unique approach to innovation. They have mastered the ways to come up with solutions that contain the perfect balance of feasibility, desirability and viability. The Creative Confidence book decomposes the different processes which are involved in achieving complete creative confidence.

One of the biggest gaps that has inhabited in my mind was successfully bridging the framing of problems I encountered each day and applying the problem solving process. What do I mean by this? I never thought that my daily problems or unconformities actually could be solved, and that I didn’t have to be an inventor or designer to solve them. A big part of design thinking and creative confidence is failure. It can even be said that failure is encouraged in design thinking. Why? Because, as cliche as it sounds, it is technically impossible to reach solutions without actually trying. As with all great inventions, it takes thousands of failure to finally reach a finalised prototype. I also learned that cheap prototyping is possible and a great way to present your ideas.

The book talks thoroughly about empathy and focusing all your efforts during the problem solving process into putting yourself in the users’ shoes. The book boasts that having a human centred approach to your solutions will almost always have a successful outcome. What I liked about the section talking about empathy is the real life examples given, especially the group of students that sought to solve the issue with the deaths of premature babies in India, specifically those born in rural areas, by designing a low cost and highly efficient incubator. Once they designed something that met their criteria, they were quickly met with failure because they forgot to brainstorm with empathy in their mind. This led them to travel to rural areas in India and actually live for a while with the families affected by infant mortality to fully understand what the problem was and how it could be solved. After pinpointing the issue at hand and living side by side with the people who they were designing for, they came up with a better product which had a valuable impact in the lives of thousands of people. Without exposing yourself to the situations and environments that your users are facing and living in, your product will never meet their needs. The importance of empathy is emphasised throughout the whole text.

Another example the book gives about how empathy helped Doug Dietz, designer for General Electric Healthcare, redesign an MRI machine to a more engaging and enjoyable one. Doug had just finished designing the machine and was eager to test his creation. The excitement of trying out his machine for the first time came to a harrowing halt after he experienced just how frightened some of the younger patients felt before a scan with the machine. He sought to solve the issue at hand and worked alongside child experts to make the diagnoses a happier endeavour. The redesign didn’t change much of the existent machines, but instead what made the most quantifiable change was the transformation of the machines to entice imagination and calm down the patients. From spaceships to pirate fleets, the MRI machines and the rooms were painted to look more like playrooms. It took the young minds of the patients and the parents to sensorial adventures. This resulted in less young children needing sedation before the scan and reduced the parents’ stress levels by making these trips easier for their children.

Another great anecdote the book poses is about the company Intuit. The company is responsible of many web services such as TurboTax and Quickbooks, which are two services I’ve been a user of for the past two years so take my word when I say that they have embraced and implemented design thinking successfully, specifically the empathy practices of it. Intuit stagnated after the initial success of the company, so they brought Kaaren Hanson onto their team to refresh the business practices. The company shifted its ways and implemented more empathy to their customer service and simplicity to their products. This has become a great success because they are widely known, at least in the United States, for being such an amazing service for corporate and personal finances. Ask anyone in the US if they know what Turbo Tax is and I assure you that if they haven’t used it, they know at least one person who has because of its ease of use and how intuitive it is. I guess they’re living up to their Intuit name.

A subject I touched but did not further develop on the previous paragraph is how important and powerful creative confidence is when practiced in groups. Anyone and anybody can be a creative individual. I am guilty of having the cliché ideology that only people with artistic talent are and can be creative, but the book emphasises that creativity is a skill that can be developed and honed through practice. The people at Intuit trained their employees to be more creative when dealing with customers directly and led to an increase in customer satisfaction. Doug Dietz redesigned his machines with a group of child experts and artists to create an imaginative trip for young patients to take.

The biggest lesson I learned from the book is the importance of empathy when designing a product or service. Users are more savvy when it comes to purchase decisions and are more informed of where they buy, what they buy and who they’re buying from. It has become such a prominent trend that well established brands are looking for ways to further practice empathy and engage with their audience. Alternatively, the fear of failure has dissipated from our team meetings with Emperatigo and it is something we now value. Critically looking at the world around me has been a bittersweet practice I’ve taken into consideration in my daily life. Sweet because it has opened the landscape for me to seek ways to improve my life; bitter because now my mind is racing all the time thinking of ways to improve my life. All in all, I thank Janja for giving us this great book.

Fernando G Trueba

Creative Confidence

Building a Culture With Story

When I spoke at the Masters in Creative Economy class at Kingston University last week I spoke about the The Red Cross. This was a pivotal moment in my life where I realized how much my past was holding me back.

But even though some stories have held me back in my life others have propelled me forward.

The moment I could reframe my past stories it set me off on a new tangent. I was able to quit full time work and start my consultancy in which I could exercise in a wider range of my talent. However, I’ve found that that momentum is hard to maintain without having people around me who can support me.

If it’s true that the shortest path between two people is a story then it must be true that stories can be the glue that both attract and hold like-minded people.

Here’s what I’ve found though. Whenever I’m in front of someone I really want to work with I don’t tell a story. Instead, I try to impress them. I say “I’ve done this and this and this and this and this and do you like me yet and do you like me yet and do you like me yet I hope you like me now.” I don’t reveal any emotion. This is something I’ve had to work on.

If you’re around a group of people who want to build a culture together – a community, a team, a tribe – consider what stories you tell to each other, if any.

What stories are worth sharing to build culture? It’s the stories which reveal trial, toughness, hardship. These stories, the ones that we so seldom want to tell, are the ones that reveal how we’re the same. They bind us.

And if you’re just starting a new community consider what you want that community to be. It takes individual leadership to paint a vision of the future. Be brave enough to tell stories of what change you want to see in the world. And to tell stories of what you’ve experienced that has driven your desire for the change.

Go deep. Be deliberate. Start sharing. See what happens.