The last couple of days have been quite hectic. A lot of meetings and I was on TV and papers and in all the social media in Iceland, I was talking about challenges and opportunities of building startup companies and being an entrepreneur in Iceland. I will write more about it in the coming days.
Lets talk about Design, I believe that design of a product is your new Intellectual Property. Please bear with me on my hypothesis. I know I know all the lawyers out there are going to cry foul and all startups should be filing for Patent and Intellectual Property protection and what not. To be honest, when you are building a product it is too uncertain to know the exact path it is going to take to file for a patent or IP. I believe we need to abolish software patents. They are not the right principle. Copying software design and reusing it in different ways is what is so cool about software. There is a reason why open source movements have unleashed a flurry of innovative software solution and I believe this is also the reason why the technology adoption cycle has been getting shorter and shorter.
I have been thinking a lot about the Design and Arts in Iceland. I got introduced to Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir who was a professor of product design at the Iceland Academy of Arts. She created Spark Design Space, a studio space in downtown Reykjavik. SPARK is a platform for excellent design projects with a focus on local initiatives that involve collaboration between designers and other professions. Each exhibition normally lasts for two months. After the exhibition the design space stock the items from the show in their shop part of the space and very slowly they are building up a stock of things they love. They call this their slow shop. Spark Design Space was founded in 2010 by It is the only design gallery in Reykjavík.
I went there yesterday and met with her team as they are putting a workshop together as part of the Reykjavik Art Festival which is happening May 24th to June 14th. They plan to have 3D Printers and encourage everyone to stop by and participate. I am really excited about this. Design is unique, it is clever and it is like a fingerprint. Yes, someone can copy it but if one is able to leverage the network which is the Internet to create a network effect on your design then copying becomes a lot harder. I saw a number of clever products and designs that have been created by the students on display in the space. Sigridur came to our Rotary meeting and told why she created the space, it was a great story and the bottom line is before SPARK a lot of great designs made by the students during a semester was just thrown away at the end of the semester and she wanted to create a space to showcase them.
Check out the designs in the shop. I really think they are awesome and clever. While building a team having people from diverse backgrounds especially from the arts and design is a critical success factor. I have written a lot about putting teams together and I believe in diversity in teams to make them stronger and bring different ideas. I just want all the students from the Design and Arts school to talk to the Business School to talk to the Software Engineering and Engineering schools. The mashup of these skills is what creates magic in companies. It seems so obvious to me but as they say common sense is not common practice.
Bala, this is an interesting take. I personally believe that design unfortunately is not taken seriously in business and in most cases by startups. While perception is not everything it is crucial how you present yourself and your product or service. I would therefore argue that in today’s business world and startup community, a sense of design thinking is crucial and an important element of success. I am not saying that design should come before function, but it should be included in the overall process and business development. If an entrepreneur does not have a sense for design, hire a designer or team up with one. This includes integrating innovation, customer experience and brand value. A company that has specialized on this and has successfully introduced innovation to a wide variety of businesses is IDEO, a design consultancy. There are lots of points from the various presentations and books written by Tom Kelley of IDEO. Another one that should be part of the entrepreneur book list is a called “Design Thinking” by Thomas Lockwood. BUT and this is crucial, you don´t have to be a designer or to become one to be successful but rather understand how important design is and how you can implement it into your business, either through outside help or hiring the help you need.