Design and the changing workplace.

Teknion photo collage for blog (1).png
A third in our series on Global Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Marketing.

Next year (2019) will mark a century since the opening of the Bauhaus, Germany’s iconic interwar design and art school that introduced and popularized modern design for decades to come. Much of this all-encompassing field has since been a reaction to the production of that school and its spiritual peers.  In the same way that jazz and responses to it created modern popular music, responses to modernism have shaped the last century of popular design by taking its ideas of both radical simplicity and mass appeal to their conceivable limits (think IKEA). These concepts have weaved their way into every facet of life and, more recently, to the interior of the workplace.

The days of labyrinth mazes of drab felt-lined temporary walls and grids of individual cubicles that multiplied at the end of the last century are now fading, allowing both the modern and communal to rise in their place. While the very concept of an individual workspace has left some offices, in most it will simply be a drastic restructuring -- an elimination of full cubicles in favor of compact, capsulated desks that are mobile.  This way, an employee can work individually or collaboratively in one of many open, well-lit areas nearby.  Temporary walls continue to provide a barrier from noise and unwanted attention, but they’re now produced in material such as glass to provide a seamless continuity – and privacy – to the existing structure.

Most importantly, workplace design is evolving to combine modernist sensibilities with universal human needs.  Wellness, ease, flexibility, talent and creativity, collaboration and engagement are increasingly coming to the forefront of structural considerations. This new – perhaps even modern – understanding and approach to productivity has encouraged more traditional industries like financial services, pharmaceuticals and healthcare to embrace a new workplace concept.

One company at the forefront of this evolution is Teknion, a Canada-based workspace design supplier. KSW Consulting recently visited their Los Angeles showroom (in photos), which remains true to the multi-use, multi-functional modern design. The space boasts floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city with natural light permeating an open concept workspace divided into zones.   These spaces are separated by massive, transparent metal sculptures or walls of glass, and dotted with furnishings that combine light wood finishes and well-appointed upholstery. Each section includes options, such as retractable desks, benches, sofas and ottomans, that can theoretically work for any client. Each piece acts as both a functional part of a modern workplace and a small sculpture.

Teknion can produce its showroom with only its own products in part because of an innovative business model that prioritizes flexibility and customization. The company sources components internationally to prioritize quality, but since those components are always prepared ahead of time and the company’s factories are all in North America, they control their lead times, design choices, and economies of scale. Teknion can produce unique finishes for a small, creative client that may need just five pieces, but they can also produce that same product with the same finish 10,000 times over for a larger client looking to fill a larger project.  Because of their flexibility, Teknion is able to tackle unique problems – such as producing a non-Pantone colored finish – for no extra charge.   This has been true for their projects with The Da Vinci School in LA and outfitting select design and structural interiors inside a major technology company's headquarters in Cupertino.

Teknion’s core competencies of customization and scaling are a direct result of their focus on controlling their own relatively centralized manufacturing, something that allows them to act logistically in North America while selling globally to clients throughout the world.  With that level of control, Teknion is able to bring any office in the world to the forefront of the modern workplace movement – one that prioritizes form, function and flexibility.  

To learn more about design and the changing workplace, check out these great articles.

The “crafting” of food and beverage launches another revolution...

A second installment in our series on Global Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Marketing

We’ve all heard of craft breweries – a known staple in the San Diego market, if not the home of this particular revolution, with many local manufacturers now increasingly exporting their products overseas.  It happens to be one of the most in-demand exporting industries in the region.  “Craft” is the niche, quaint byproduct of the organic, personalized movement in the food and beverage industry.  One that declares itself the creative, Einstein-like child of mass-market parents.  It has not only changed the way we taste food and beverage, but also how it is distributed and shared with us.  And, the concept is gaining traction as it spills into yet another staple segment - coffee.

KSW had the pleasure of getting to know Tom Ryan, co-founder of San Diego’s Ryan Bros Coffee Company, and his craft coffee houses.  He’ll tell you that the modern American coffee shop model makes little to no sense. Since this sort of shop generally tries to offer the same sorts of espresso-based products that Starbucks has made so popular nationally, its owners have to start by buying complicated and expensive equipment for creating espresso shots. The coffee itself is bought in bean form, roasted elsewhere, and purchased with instructions on how to make the final product, ensuring that the barista at the counter has a sizable hand in the actual outcome of what the customer drinks. This leads to prohibitively expensive drinks that vary in quality sold at a relatively small profit margin at a rate much lower than the average national chain.

By contrast, craft breweries have introduced the idea of unique products that can be prepared by the same master brewer, then sold to national chains and locally-owned shops alike, guaranteeing an awe-inspiring variety of uniform products for any customer no matter where they choose to drink. Previously, this sort of model was impossible for a coffee shop to replicate, and since this meant that three shops on the same block could serve the same beans in the same drink three different ways, suppliers of different blends had little to no brand recognition with the final consumer, the daily coffee drinker. Now, however, the advent of keg-stored cold brew has opened up an entirely new avenue for coffee distribution.

For Ryan Bros, this means a chance for their decades of experience roasting and brewing coffee to translate directly to a product that can be sold the same way anywhere across the country. The result is a flagship location in the Barrio Logan neighborhood that looks every bit the part of a brewery, with a line of taps across the store’s main counter offering teas, non-dairy mochas, and a drink brewed from green, unroasted coffee beans, all unique products that could be served at an identical level of quality at any location with the ability to tap a keg. The model opens up new avenues for mid-sized shops like Ryan Bros, not just as roasters, but also as brewers. And, because the product takes up only the space of one keg and can be sold anywhere, it also opens up the same sort of collaborative marketplace for coffee that beer has enjoyed in a city like San Diego, where collaborations between wholly separate corporations and guest brews on tap are commonplace at even the biggest retailers in the restaurant/hospitality industry.

While the craft, cold brew revolution has paved the way for an entirely new angle on coffee-making, Ryan Bros is looking to reinvent espresso, the side of the business that has dominated the North American coffee scene for the past two decades, as well. The result is a handheld espresso machine based around the traditional French press, one with none of the intricate parts that make a traditional espresso machine so expensive and difficult to maintain. Matched with a simple milk steamer and a water heater, this device has already replaced the traditional espresso machine in the company’s flagship location, and a crowd-funded rollout to the home consumer will soon follow. Once paired with a countertop milk steamer, the company hopes that this product will allow the average coffee drinker to replicate the espresso bar experience at home in a way that has previously been impossible.

Getting to know the Ryan Bros model shows us that “crafting” of food and beverage takes a certain innovation and entrepreneurship to get it right, and with the right marketing and distribution, the wheels of revolution keep turning in the coffee industry, regionally and globally.

Electric cars find a new niche in auto racing...and fuel further innovation.

Part of a series on Global Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Marketing

Since the 1950s, Formula One (F1) has billed itself as the ultimate engineering challenge, the penultimate arena for an automotive manufacturer to prove their prowess in building the fastest, most efficient and innovative cars on earth. In recent years, however, the sport has struggled to maintain relevance, with high budgets and cars built around mechanical ideas that will never see their way onto the road.  Combined with a static schedule of tracks well outside of major cities, the series is failing to draw in new fans.  Grand Prix-level racing was once a monument to automotive modernity and innovation, but interest and involvement has shrunk over the past decade. If even the top-level of auto racing is struggling to draw interest from the world’s leading manufacturers, and fellow established top-level series have also struggled over that span, where is the money and engineering talent going?

Enter Formula E (FE), a radically different organization that brings auto racing into the 21st century with a fresh set of ideas and values that, by its 2010-2020 season, has attracted the likes of Jaguar, Porsche, Nissan, BMW, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Mahindra, and Citroen. It has the eyes and wheels of more established race car manufacturers, as well as those just emerging from a newer, burgeoning auto industry from the developing world.  While every other major racing series on earth runs cars that are primarily gas or diesel-powered, FE’s competitors run all-electric open wheel racers.

The focus on electric power is emblematic of a series-wide focus on innovation. By mandating electric power, the league allows factories to use competition to develop their future electric technologies, driving efficiency and new ideas in the same way that auto racing has driven development in more traditional cars over the past century. Immediately, the series answers a key issue that its competitors have tried and failed to solve with smaller pushes toward road relevancy. 

The innovative, everyday aspects of FE don’t end at the power sources. While F1 races almost exclusively at the same closed-circuit tracks miles from city centers year after year, FE runs on temporary street circuits around a rotating cast of ten cities a year. Where F1 runs advanced slick tires that only provide optimal grip in the dry on a clean racing circuit, FE’s cars run on a Michelin compound with grooves that operates in both wet and dry conditions, a tire closer to a road equivalent than any used in any other major racing series. While Liberty Media, F1’s American owners, has finally pushed F1 toward social media in 2017, FE has been running a fan vote on multiple platforms that actually provides additional temporary speed boosts to more popular drivers since its first season. All of this happens on budgets that are miniscule in comparison to the nine-figure annual cost of a top-tier F1 program. 

The future of the automotive world may not be entirely electric, but it certainly seems to be at least one of the ways the market will remain relevant going forward. While its traditional channels have struggled to adapt, FE has found a niche that skews towards younger, leaner, and more socially-conscious - in both cars and audiences - than its older brother. It may never replace F1, and it may never find relevance within the U.S. of series like NASCAR or IndyCar, but in a marketplace that has become increasingly unsustainable, FE has something not one of these three series can claim: A clear vision for a way forward that translates across manufacturers, economies and cultures. 

by Hunter A. Smith

KSW and Global Chamber San Diego host global cyber event - watch it!


Global Chamber San Diego, led by Kuntal Shah Warwick, hosted a successful multi-metro roundtable with co-host ScaleMatrix at their Launch Center on July 27th.  Our speakers discussed the current threats in cyber, technology integration challenges and possible solutions, as well as opportunities to partner across borders.  Watch the video.

Global Chamber Nashville member The Tisdale Group offered their insights on cyber technologies, challenges and solutions in the counter-terrorism field.  The Tisdale Group was founded with the single-minded purpose to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the effects of extreme violence, both at home and abroad. Their leadership team and most of their team members are former military and have a passion for preventing and reducing the effects of violence thru technology and their vast real-world experiences. The scientists and engineers at The Tisdale Group share this passion and the two different worlds come together to develop truly outstanding technological, tactical and commercially viable solutions.

GetGlobal 2017 brings together world's business elite.

 Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez giving the keynote speech at last year's conference.

Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez giving the keynote speech at last year's conference.

As a representative for Global Chamber San Diego, KSW Consulting has had the privilege of coming into contact with some of the most innovative companies and promising opportunities in global business.  One of these is the GetGlobal conference (to which GCSD is a strategic partner) that is designed to fuel international growth across sectors.  In its second year, GetGlobal is expecting to attract almost 2,000 business professionals and executives from around the world who will meet at LA Live in Los Angeles, CA from October 25-26.  Topics to be covered this year include Managing IP Across Borders, Global Communications Strategy, Strategic Market Expansion, and Doing Good While Going Global.  This year’s top speakers include Andy Kaplan, President of Worldwide Networks, Sony Pictures Television; Blake Irving, CEO,; Rajiv Kumar, Indian Central Bank; Rebecca Alexander, Founder and President, Socialyte Collective, among many others.

Find out more and register for this premiere global conference bringing together people across industries and sectors.  We look forward to seeing you there!




Risks and rewards of social entrepreneurship.

A few years ago, KSW Consulting began to engage with clients who are in the social entrepreneurship space.  A combination of global venture capital activity, technology and innovation, increasing population and socioeconomic challenges has fueled this emerging industry.  

The definition of social entrepreneurship varies depending on whom you ask.  We found that The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship has the most comprehensive definition and guidelines for this type of work.  They explain:

Social entrepreneurs drive social innovation and transformation in various fields including education, health, environment and enterprise development. They pursue poverty alleviation goals with entrepreneurial zeal, business methods and the courage to innovate and overcome traditional practices. A social entrepreneur, similar to a business entrepreneur, builds strong and sustainable organizations, which are either set up as not-for-profits or companies.

A social entrepreneur is a leader or pragmatic visionary who:

Achieves large scale, systemic and sustainable social change through a new invention, a different approach, a more rigorous application of known technologies or strategies, or a combination of these.

Focuses first and foremost on the social and/or ecological value creation and tries to optimize the financial value creation.

Innovates by finding a new product, a new service, or a new approach to a social problem. 

Continuously refines and adapts approach in response to feedback. 

Combines the characteristics represented by Richard Branson and Mother Teresa.

We’ve worked with two great companies that are mirroring this definition in real terms and making strides in social entrepreneurship around the world: Y-Center, a digital and in-person learning program for creative problem-solving and entrepreneurial thinking in Mozambique and India, and VACID Africa, an ICT-based social enterprise that services agricultural development in Kenya.  Both companies are leading the way in connecting government, education, technology and entrepreneurship in creative ways to alleviate AND enhance social conditions.

It takes a vision, passion and fearlessness to embark on a social entrepreneur’s journey.   Funding and the ability to translate the mission to measurable results and ROI are often a challenge.  Corporate and community partnerships are key.  When you’re able to do this well – as the University of San Diego has been able to with their Social Innovation Challenge – the rewards are amazing, financially and otherwise.

We’re proud to have been part of our clients’ journeys and we look forward to supporting future initiatives with exceptional marketing and partnership strategy!

"Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast"

From Cultural Factors in Web Design by Creative Bloq, 2013

A still relevant article from a great site.

Over the past three years, we’ve been captivated by media queries. Our focus on responsive design has been incredibly successful, especially when you look at statistics saying the majority of web users demand mobile ready sites. I believe that something is still missing. By looking so exclusively at technology and code, we have largely ignored cultural differences and the global mindset necessary in our connected world. We need to start using cultural queries in our designs as a way to adapt content for different groups of people.  Read More...




Marketing 102: Unleashing the genie in the bottle.


Marketing and communications strategy typically requires a very focused, targeted approach, and for good reason.  It's cost-effective, measurable, scaleable, and helps channel the creative sensibilities.  For that reason, most marcomm and ad companies follow a general, agreed-upon script with particular variants in terms of industry focus, target audience, and creative delivery.  But, when you think of the most iconic and everlasting campaigns, the script is very likely thrown out the window.

We think of Just Do It, Where's the Beef?, Rolex, Mac, iPOD Nano and iPhone ads, among a few others.  For anything earlier than 1970, just watch the Mad Men series to get a better idea of brands that made their mark.  These were excellent campaigns -- they transcended gender, age, socioeconomics, culture and borders.  What did their success come down to?  In some cases, it was a catchy phrase, a funny, crazy concept, a relevant (or completely irrelevant) story, or a simple extension of a great, unique product.  Ultimately, they all connected to the spectrum of human emotions -- a sense of thrill, excitement, anxiety, happiness, irritation, exhiliration, adventure, love, youth.  Even a 50 years from now, some college course on the next iteration of advertising will be referring to the Nike or Mac campaigns.  And, likely these ads extended their companies' longevity.

Unleashing the genie in the bottle often it has NOTHING to do with the almighty mantra of marcomm and advertising: demographics.  Yes, it's important, because you need to know who you want to be talking to.  But, it really starts with a great concept, content, and creative.  This is what pushes all that other stuff over the edge.  So, it truly is Don Draper's world, no matter what the Pete Campbell's might say.  You can take all the delivery methods you want -- whether it's billboards or Twitter -- but it's not going to do a damn thing unless you have something really relevant, interesting and impactful to say.  Then, let that genie soar. 



Internationalizing global business.


It's not enough to talk about being global, even though we all do it.  What does it really mean?  That you work in many countries, speak multiple languages, travel the world, or that your company has offices in multiple regions?   All of this is important, but it's process - important process, no doubt.  

In the time that KSW Consulting has provided communications and cultural strategy services, it's been amazing to see how much importance companies large and small place on their regional and national cultures.  We think of the multinational corporation as transcending local and regional customs  -- this was true 20 years ago.  An interesting phenomenon is happening now -- the global is becoming local again.  MNC's, while expanding their global operations, are in fact hiring more locally for their in-country offices.  Local language training is a must.  Business operations and strategy are stratified by region.  So, now, what does it mean to be global?

We think it means providing an insightful understanding of how business gets done in a particular part of the world, but keeping the international market in mind.  It also means delivering ideas and executing programs that are culture specific but still delivering impactful results across borders. At the end of the day, being global means having the ability to connect with people, places, ideas, and help companies of all sizes internationalize their approach to reaching their business objectives.  The global market is interconnected, active, receptive, evolving and profitable.  And, this is just the beginning...