Art of the idea

In a recent blog post I mentioned that a recession is the right time to innovate.  Looks like BusinessWeek agrees.  The March 23-30 issue, “Game-Changing Ideas for Business,” highlights breakthrough business ideas that have emerged during tough times when companies need new ways to manage and grow.  In the article “There Is No More Normal,” BusinessWeek discusses how Cisco innovated during the dot-com crash and emerged from the recession “more profitable than ever and went on to outperform many tech rivals.”

You can innovate and deliver results now.  For instance, the Emerging Experiences team from my employer Razorfish is researching ways that computer screens can interpret human gestures like the wave of a hand or touch of a finger (commonly known as gestural interface design).  The latest Emerging Experiences research, DaVinci, explores the application of Surface in commercial environments.  But these are not pie-in-the-sky ideas.  In 2008, Razorfish helped AT&T create the world’s first retail application of Surface at AT&T wireless stores, where Surface helps AT&T sales people demonstrate wireless phone capabilities in a more fun, interactive way.  Following the pilot launch in New York, AT&T now has 50 Surface tables operating in 12 stores.

DaVinci (Microsoft Surface Physics Illustrator) from Razorfish – Emerging Experiences on Vimeo.

Similarly, at the Razorfish Living Lab in New York, Razorfish employees have created Carville, which uses Surface tables to show you how learning about automobiles at a car dealer can be fun and educational.  Inside the Living Lab, Razorfish designers experiment with ways in which people and technology interact. Past Living Lab projects have focused on the connected living room and digital youth.  It’s a place where clients can envision how technologies can help them succeed — not tomorrow, but today.

Carville – A Razorfish Surface Application from Bryan Hamilton on Vimeo.

AT&T isn’t the only Razorfish client that’s using gestural interface design to innovate during a recession.  Recently Dockers worked with Razorfish and OMD to design the world’s first “shakeable” ad designed for an iPhone.  On your iPhone, a model appears wearing Dockers khakis, and you can make him dance by shaking your phone.  It’s a good example of where advertising is headed — physically involving the consumer through a playful experience.  Dockers can also track consumer engagement by seeing how long people shake the ad (and then follow up with more content).

At the 9th annual Razorfish Client Summit April 21-23, Razorfish will showcase its Marketing Lab as we do at each Client Summit.  The theme of the 2009 Client Summit is “Art of the Idea,” and the Marketing Lab is one of the ways Razorfish will show our clients what we mean by that.  At the lab, Razorfish will feature three “slice of life” vignettes to demonstrate the impact of digital on everyday life.  For instance, the Home Entertainment vignette will show you consumers can interact with a 30-second ad on TV.  And in the Retail vignette, we’ll demonstrate how consuemrse can use digital to locate goods and services more effectively in a store.

Razorfish clients like AT&T and Dockers aren’t waiting for the recession to end in order to innovate.  Many of them will appear at the Client Summit, and some of them — like Ford, Intel, Levi Strauss & Co., Mattel, McDonalds, Nike, and Terra — will share their experiences on the agenda.

What’s the best example you’ve seen of a company using an economic downturn to innovate?