1. Design is the Differentiator
Ford design chief J Mays believes that only a distinctive look and feel will give customers a compelling reason to buy what is essentially a commodity. Ford has put design at the forefront of its competitive strategy—and it's betting big that Mays has a winning blueprint for future growth.
2. Those Who Write the Rules, Rule
All-star architect William McDonough dared to break with the past and create a new road map for manufacturing environmentally sustainable products. In doing so, he's getting the likes of Herman Miller and Berkshire Hathaway's Shaw Industries to play by his rules.
3. Confront the Unfamiliar
BMW Group DesignworksUSA president Adrian van Hooydonk frequently asks his car designers to work on products (from Nokia cell phones to John Deere tractors) and his product designers to contribute to cars (BMWs, to be precise). The constant round of fresh, unfamiliar challenges inspires maximum creativity from everyone— exactly what van Hooydonk is looking for.
4. Make It Real
Target had the foresight to bring high- concept design to the masses. But it was up to the company's former trend-spotter, Robyn Waters, to help translate Target's inspiration into real products that relate to its customers.
5. Get Emotional
Truly innovative products speak to their users' emotions, counsels Yves Behar, who designs for Nike and Toshiba, among many others. When you make an emotional connection with your customers, you win their loyalty.