If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
~Isaac Newton 1675
One right of passage for designers at Schipul has been uploading and editing “before and after” plastic surgery photo sets for clients like MyBeautifulBody.com. It seems like a pretty far stretch, but I would say that most of our non-profit clients like the Zoo and Children’s Museum owe a great deal of thanks to plastic surgeons.
As innovators and early adopters, groups like MyBeautifulBody.com help to develop innovations that benefit other clients. So you might say that liposuction is good for donations, and doctor videos help museums give visitors a taste for the exhibits. Plastic surgeons are one of the groups that I think help to “blaze a trail” that others can follow. For those “trail blazers” I am thankful. So, let’s take a closer look at what causes innovation from a pretty personal level.
Innovation happens at Schipul as a result of three major catalysts:
- Early Adoption
1. Early adopters pay more money, face more risk, undergo more stress and experience lower efficiency. So why do groups like plastic surgeons take the chance. Because it can pay huge rewards to be number one. MyBeautifulBody.com has placed well in Google for years, now getting pretty close to a decade. They have had a dynamic web site long before competitors ever saw the need to generate “gobs” of content for visitors to digest. MyBeautifulBody.com has thousands of photos that help visitors determine the quality of their surgeons and also to find before and after images that closely resemble themselves. They have run pay-per-click campaigns, tracked online contacts, built multiple sites, sold product, and interacted socially. Each venture has had different levels of success, but success was there.
In 2003 Schipul developed the “contacts report” that tracked submissions from contact forms in order to optimize the traffic flow of a web site (today this is common place). After this report was developed we had a method of measuring how effectively we got business leads for clients. We could also get an estimate of our “cost per lead”. Today, clients benefit from the knowledge, experience and reporting that was funded by groups like plastic surgeons. In effect, standing on the shoulders of giants.
2. Innovation also happens through Stress. Imagine not getting sales for six months!!! That could be a little stressful. The 2001 post 9-11, dot-com-burst, Enron, MCI, internet world went through massive change over night. Projects before 2001 were mostly custom, extremely flashy, and pretty shallow – and also expensive. After 2001 buyers were pragmatic and painfully skeptical. The change was as surreal as watching Buckaroo Bonzai. (Ah hell, here is the video so you know how weird it was)
Post 2001 stressful innovation at Schipul resulted in a focus on “search marketing” after 2001 and development of our software now known as Tendenci. The search marketing push was directly tied to getting business for existing clients to maintain longevity. The development of Tendenci resulted from the extinction of custom code projects and the leveraging of reusable existing code. Stress innovations are difficult internally as they often do not afford the time luxuries of innovation developed through early adoption or culture. In addition, these developments are also most closely tied to supply and demand economics.
Another great example of stress innovation is our use of open-source software to fill the needs of clients after 2007. Content management systems since 2007 have grown to a saturated marketplace, with open-source projects dominating lower cost and semi custom development. In 2007 we added WordPress and Drupal developers to be able to add aditional product lines and service the demands of the customers. It is important to not give in to internal stress barriers, but change with the external stress factors.
3. Finally, Culture can lead to innovation. They don’t let me design projects anymore, but when I did I looked forward to the phrase, “Aaron, that sucks.” I needed to hear other designers tell me that the work wasn’t yet good enough. That indeed, “I sucked” and needed to put in more time and effort to make my work better. The culture at Schipul is fun but direct. From the stockdale paradox, to candor, to no excuses, to a very transparent work environment – the culture here is a great culture for innovation. Also, I believe the culture for innovation does not include “silly shit” like team building workshops, or thinking cap analysis, etc. A culture of innovation is a culture that faces the facts and does something about it.
At Schipul we believe in complete knowledge transfer, both internally and externally. This type of culture gives the crazy-diverse people we have the opportunity to manipulate knowledge through differing viewpoints and to develop new strategies to solve problems.
What does that mean?
- If you have programmers that are willing to write a navigation as a dynamic list,
- And you have the CSS coders that can design rollout menus from a dynamic list,
- And you shared the knowledge the two of those “knuckleheads” have locked in their brains
- Then you are likely to develop a CSS based navigation that clients can edit themselves using pretty ajax.
That is a culture of innovation.
So, thanks for reading. And thanks for giant shoulders to stand on.