Imagine visiting a new city and experiencing every sight, every neighborhood through sound. Each location with its distinct soundtrack bringing you closer to the emotion of the place and its people. This was the vision shared by a student of David Jaggi, global director of strategic initiatives at Wrigley and an adjunct professor at ID, the graduate school of design at Illinois Institute of Technology, a national Ph.D.-granting research university with programs in design, engineering, human sciences, applied technology, business, law and more, located in Chicago.
“This was a fantastic idea that nobody had thought of yet, so he had no idea what to do with it,” Jaggi remarks. For many, the natural temptation would be to focus on how to implement the idea. Jaggi recommended against that first step.
“Think about it, it’s really complex to go figure out how you geotag music around a city,” Jaggi says. “What kind of infrastructure do you need? How do you talk to people on their cellphones? I think that’s kind of complex for a student body person of one to do.”
Instead, Jaggi suggested the project start with a different set of questions: “Why would anybody care? How are you going to figure out if anybody cares about this idea?”
Minimum viable product
The student lived near the L, Chicago’s elevated public train system. “So on a Saturday morning, he got up and put his stereo system out on his balcony and a flat-screen TV with a big, text message for the people on the L that simply said that if you want to hear a song, text it to this number,” Jaggi recalls. “People started texting him songs to play. Half of them probably had ear buds and iPods or other music players they could listen to but they were happy to have him play it through his stereo system. So check, he got passed the minimum type of understanding for this project, and it didn’t cost him anything”
Although this brand experience was a service not a product, Jaggi believes “the same rules apply to the CPG world. We spend a lot of time potentially over complicating things. I always like to ask my team [at Wrigley], can we strip it back to the bare essentials?”
To help develop design professionals with that sense of direction, Jaggi works with not only the single student who wanted to create a musical landscape for cities but with IIT as a larger organization to teach students about minimum viable product.
“If you are a big company, you may have a lot of money, you can put together this very large research project, you can map out a two-year plan to market and trudge through it,” he explains. “But if you’re a small company, you sometimes need to learn really fast and inexpensively. If you are a start-up, you have to understand what are the minimum things that you need to learn to decide whether the idea is worth moving forward.”
Innovation and business strategy
Although Jaggi does want to help designers be entrepreneurs if they desire that path, he also wants to create designers who are successful in big business. “We started thinking about where are the gaps in education today,” he recalls. “What we saw was that there’s plenty of programs out there that teach for the entrepreneur. But most of us don’t work in little companies, we are not working out of our basements hopefully. Because the success rate is pretty low and we all have to pay our bills. So we created something that was a bit more meaningful for big business.”
Part of that is helping students have an understanding of business strategy from an innovator and a designer’s perspective. “Innovation is a great if overused term,” Jaggi argues. “It can mean anything from small productivity or efficiency improvements to new-to-the-world, life-changing ideas. At the end of the day, none of it matters unless you can bring it to the consumer and you can connect the brand with the idea and launch it. It has to fit in a bigger context within a business strategy.”
Another core business skill he teaches is the ability to create processes that deliver repeated successes. “The process should be repeatable but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same, which is kind of a conundrum for certain people,” Jaggi says. “The goal was to at least understand the structure around where you want to go. Pure design, even white-space thinking or blue-sky thinking, has a structure around it.”
Drawing upon his technical background, which includes a stint as vice president of engineering at HLB, and his creative experience, Jaggi has developed five tips for creating a repeatable project:
1. Focus on solving the problem
2. Tell the story internally and externally—designers need to put things in a vocabulary that everybody else will understand
3. Create a cross-functional team
4. Balance product desirability with the business needs and the brand needs
5. Know the assets, both financial and nonfinancial, available to the project
The power and challenges of languages
Expounding on his second tip to create repeatable success, Jaggi adds, “Designers are great at bringing things to life. So it’s our job to do so, not only for the external consumer but also for internal constituents. We have the obligation to tell the story internally and externally, and bring this to life at multiple levels.
“But we need to use a different language when talking to somebody from finance versus somebody from marketing,” he says. “They both have their own vernacular, and you need to speak to them in their language.
“Last week, I was in a meeting with a couple of associates who were sharing a very nice PowerPoint deck of about 30 pages, but I had to ask, ‘What are you trying to do here? It’s a great deck, it’s got all types of great personas, and it built the whole story around design. It talked about tradeoffs between different components and aspects of the design and why they were relevant. I loved it; it was awesome. But I had to ask, ‘Who is this for? We need to make sure that if you’re showing this to a senior executive vice president who is in charge of commercial, we tone down a few things because he’s not going to understand any of this. If you’re going to talk to finance, it needs to be something else. If you’re going to talk to the marketing team, maybe we’re perfect.’
Language is also important when working internationally. “Working cross borders provides all sorts of crazy opportunities not the least of which is scale,” says Jaggi, whose work often takes him to Asia. “There are language barriers that have to do with the actual words. That’s the easy part, actually. A word that in the United States doesn’t mean anything bad then you say it in the wrong context somewhere else and you get stares. And while Americans tend to let things slide pretty easily. That’s not true everywhere else. You send the wrong message to somebody in a different business culture, and that negative impact can last a while. It takes a while to get your credibility back and to be part of the conversation.”
Seeking worldwide impact
Having a large and positive impact on a global scale was something that Jaggi identified as a life goal early in his career. “There are a lot of people who have had impacts that aren’t so positive depending upon your perspective,” he says. “I want to do something good for society. I like to believe through some of the work that I did in the medical world, both directly working for a medical company and working in the consulting world, resulted in good for humankind. I have the opportunity to have a bigger impact with my mentoring and teaching. But how do I take it to the next level?
“Now that I’m working in a fantastic CPG company, I have the opportunity to make such a difference,” Jaggi adds. “We [humankind] use a lot of packages. So working for a big company like Wrigley, like Pepsi, Coke, P&G, etc., you can have a small change to a package that reduces usage of natural resources or reuses them. Designers can make so many things where any small change has massive, positive impact. So it’s a great place to be.”