The Design Era
Nicholas Carr has written that IT doesn't matter. Whether or not you agree with his controversial stance, the logical follow-up question to ask is, "What does matter?"
To me, the clear answer is design.
In a world where technology is ever-present and commoditized, function follows form.
Or less sensationally, the design of the consumer experience is more important than the underlying technology.
Need proof? The UK's Design Council recently worked with the FTSE index to track the stock market performance of companies that placed an emphasis on design (they used design awards as a proxy for placing an emphasis on design).
The 63 companies that were consistent design award winners outperformed the index by 200%, with outperformance during both the bull market and bear market of the past decade.
Meanwhile, Virgin--a design-led firm if one ever existed--recently started Virgin Electronics to challenge the Sonys and Apples of the world. Virgin Electronics has a staff of 10; they focus on designing the brand and experience, and let Taiwanese Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) figure out how to make the products.
When good enough technology is available to all, design is what counts. As Seth Godin writes in Free Prize Inside, it's more important to make your products remarkable than to have to latest technology. Design is one of the highest-leverage ways to make your products remarkable.