Archive for January, 2012

Philip Crosby shook up the business world in 1979 with this big idea: 

Quality is Free…but it is not a gift

Crosby forever changed what people expect from manufactured goods. He did this by re-framing the cost-quality equation. Previously, corporate leaders assumed it would be prohibitively expensive to build quality into every toaster and automobile. This belief led to a norm of low expectations. Consumers bought junk and accepted product failure. They couldn’t imagine a different, far less costly way of doing things.

Building on the work of W. Edwards Deming (largely in collaboration with Japanese companies, who were first to grasp the quality equation), Crosby’s Quality is Free opus made it obvious that poor quality was ridiculously costly and enormously wasteful.

Today people expect products to be well-designed and durable, because quality standards are widely understood to minimize overall costs.

In an era of unsustainable health care expenditures, it’s time to extend this revelation beyond man-made objects to encompass quality of life in our man-made environment.

Accordingly, today we launch our rallying Cause health, to accelerate demand for design that enhances health and prosperity on a global scale.

We believe that tolerance for wildly expensive pathogenic places must fade into history – to become as dim in anyone’s memory as a broken, ugly Pre-Crosbian Era toaster.


– Tye Farrow and Sharon VanderKaay

Salient questions are an antidote for blind spots. 

But how can we get in the habit of asking better questions?

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Maybe someday in the future somebody will build a ?-shaped learning center to emphasize the value of asking better questions when making important decisions.

A major “aha!” occurred for me about 15 years ago as I began to absorb the decision-making research of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Their “loss aversion” theory focused on “people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains.

In 2002, Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work (with Tversky, who died in 1996) on cognitive biases.

The significance of Kahneman’s work is highlighted by Janice Gross Stein in this Globe and Mail review of his recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow:

“It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of Daniel Kahneman’s contribution to the understanding of the way we think and choose…Kahneman has reshaped cognitive psychology, the analysis of rationality and reason, the understanding of risk and the study of happiness and well-being.”

Understanding loss aversion and cognitive bias research is vital for innovators who seek to attract support for their ideas. In my view, it underlines the importance of asking investigative questions in every encounter with potential clients, as well as with current project stakeholders. Otherwise, we may hear what we want to hear, interpret meanings that mislead us, and frame our pitches in ways that intimidate our audience unnecessarily.

– Sharon VanderKaay




  • About The Nature of Innovation

    We see our collaboration with clients and colleagues as providing a living lab for enriching the creative process. Farrow’s built work has been internationally recognized for leadership in human-centric design. This is where we come to discuss our ideas as they hatch and our experiences as they happen.
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