I continue to find the idea of meaning a very interesting concept. One that all of us ought to become familiar with and then begin to spend time thinking about…as it pertains to our business. In Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean, meanings “reflect psychological and cultural dimensions of human beings (p. 52).”
One key to the idea of meaning is that they can change over time. For example, there was a time when watches were thought of as jewels and purchased in jewelry stores. The introduction of quartz technology allowed cheaper production, mass production, and watches became thought of as a tool and added all kinds of functions that they never had before (calculators, stopwatch, calender, etc.). The development of the Swatch brand moved the meaning of a watch again…to fashion accessory. Not necessarily expensive. Swatch watches often retailed for less than $40. But fashion.
Follow so far? Here’s why understanding the idea of meaning is important. With the introduction of quartz technology, the Swiss share of the low end watch marketed plummeted. “Almost 1,000 of 1,600 Swiss watch companies closed within ten years (p. 68).” Jewel to tool as meaning caused that. The tool to fashion move created an opportunity for Swatch.
How does it affect all of us? What if the meaning that underlies what we do is due for a change? What if it is overdue? Think about the Swiss watch companies closing. Sound familiar?