November 2, 2007

Food for thought from a recent SCORE, "Counselors to America's Small Business" newsletter

I found a fascinating interview with business writer and lecturer Dan Pink in a recent SCORE (Counselor's to America's Small Business) newsletter. He says, "you can’t compete by process or economies of scale, but you can differentiate yourself through design, storytelling, the ability to see the big picture, and empathy."

Q: You stress the importance of design in right-brain thinking. What does that mean?

A: It's not solely about image. Design is utility enhanced by significance. You understand who your customers are, what they need and why, and what it takes to give meaning to your product or service. For example, many studies have found that the environmental aspects of health care facilities can enhance the healing process. Now, these facilities are being built with more natural light, meditative gardens, and other features to enhance the patient's experience.

Q: How does the design concept apply to small businesses?

A: Small business owners should be more attuned to a high-concept design because for them, it's a matter of survival. How you position yourself and the processes by which you serve your customers are all design decisions because they differentiate your business from something that may otherwise be perceived as a commodity. Many functions that professional services firms used to provide are now automated—e-filing taxes or checking mortgage rates online, for example. A high-touch approach may be your only way to offer customers something they can't find anywhere else.

Q: How can a small business owner develop design literacy?

A: Do things to enhance your sensibility to design, such as keeping a design "diary." Jot down any examples of good and bad design—whether it's a store layout or a company's customer service process—and review them periodically. That kind of awareness sharpens your eye and enhances your level of understanding.

To view the newsletter in its entirety, visit:

September SCORE Expert Answers

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