Page 4: Small businesses and the economy
In a competitive environment, innovation is a key activity for all organisations, both large and small. In recent years in the UK, there has been a resurgence in the development of small businesses, which continue to play an increasingly important role within the national economy.
Small businesses today can have problems in obtaining the resources and the financing to support the ideas of their owners. They also have to cope with complex legislative requirements. Nevertheless, they operate in a sector in which individuals have the freedom and flexibility to react quickly to new challenges, issues and business opportunities as they arise. The quality of their response is closely linked to their familiarity with, and confidence in, the role of design.
Some recent examples of successful innovation based upon design include:
- Tomb Raider, featuring Lara Croft, used design led development based on a detailed understanding of the needs of customers to produce state of the art computer games with unique characterisation.
- IKEA focuses clearly on design in its products, the brand of the company, its communications and the way the whole business operates. This has helped to give IKEA continuing commercial advantage worldwide despite increasing competition.
- Tesco has developed a uniquely successful e-business operation by designing the service from start to finish to meet customer needs. They now have a joint venture aimed at saving the struggling e-business of a major US supermarket chain.
- Low-cost airline Go was set up by British Airways to offer an entirely new service to customers. Design was key to their thinking, from advertising and communication, through to the booking process and website and the on-board experience. Go has been successful enough to be sold by British Airways.
Developing a strategic approach to design: Renray
Renray manufactures specialist furniture for hospitals and care homes. Renray wanted to introduce new ranges that would:
- meet the changing requirements of its customers
- enhance the environments in which they were used.
To do this, Renray called in a design advisor from a Business Link to help review the company’s approach to design. One conclusion was that while Renray had good in-house skills and facilities to build prototype test products to manufacturing standards, it lacked the design skills to explore and develop suitable concepts.
Using specialist designers, Renray developed a new series of designed products that understood and anticipated customer needs and were therefore well accepted by the healthcare sector. This strategic approach to investing in design and upgrading design input has added to Renray’s understanding of markets and healthcare issues. At a time when the UK government is looking to increase expenditure on healthcare, Renray’s design-led approach has provided it with a secure base for further developments.