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Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale and Agility

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Expert advice from Coca-Cola’s vice president of Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Learn how Coca-Cola uses design to grow its business by combining the advantages of scale with the agility to respond to fast-changing market conditions.

In today’s world, every company is at risk of having a “Kodak Moment”—watching its industry and the competitive advantages it has developed over years, even decades, vanish overnight. The reason? An inability to adapt quickly to new business realities. Established companies are at risk, but it’s no easier being an agile startup, because most of those fail due to their inability to scale. Tomorrow’s business winners—regardless of size or industry—will be the ones that know how to combine scale with agility.

In Design to Grow, a Coca-Cola senior executive shares both the successes and failures of one of the world’s largest companies as it learns to use design to be both agile and big. In this rare and unprecedented behind-the-scenes look, David Butler and senior Fast Company editor, Linda Tischler, use plain language and easy-to-understand case studies to show how this works at Coca-Cola—and how other companies can use the same approach to grow their business. This book is a must-read for managers inside large corporations as well as entrepreneurs just getting started.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published February 10, 2015

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David Butler

10 books

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5 stars
69 (20%)
4 stars
147 (43%)
3 stars
98 (28%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 38 reviews
Profile Image for Sana Vasli.
Author 1 book5 followers
February 25, 2017
There is so much that I want to learn from Coca Cola. None of that was in this book. No new concepts here if you've read a handful of books on start ups. :(
Author 32 books61 followers
April 18, 2020
Not a very well designed book. Ramblings, running all over the place, lost and forgotten threads.
Profile Image for Anne Nguyen.
14 reviews11 followers
July 16, 2018
Cuốn sách cho thấy một cái nhìn khác đằng sau những thiết kế, những tư duy đột phá và những chiến dịch quảng cáo thành công của đế chế Coca - Cola, đó là tinh thần không ngừng học hỏi và khuyến khích sự sáng tạo, mình cho rằng chính điều này đã giúp Coca - Cola đứng vững trong suốt 128 năm qua (theo cuốn sách, còn bây giờ đã là 130 năm rồi). Mình cũng rất thích quan điểm của David Butler về thiết kế, ông cho rằng thiết kế là phải gần gũi chứ không phải những thứ quá hoa mỹ, hoàn hảo. Ở trang 214 của cuốn sách, ông có nói rằng "Đừng để những suy nghĩ và lo ngại về khía cạnh thẩm mỹ ngăn bạn phác họa ý tưởng. Mục tiêu là thể hiện ý tưởng của bạn dưới một hình thức cụ thể để mọi người có thể bàn luận chứ không phải tranh đua với Picasso".
Profile Image for Filemon Schoffer.
6 reviews1 follower
February 22, 2017
Although the book claims to be for everyone, I strongly felt it was targeted towards more senior executives.

If you're already familiar with innovation strategy or the startup environment, this book adds little knowledge to your repertoire. To me, the case studies from Coca-Cola weren't inspiring enough to really find it worth the read.

If you're a fan of coca-cola and fairly new to the startup world of "lean, agile, and design for scale", I can imagine this can be a great book for you. If you already have some decent experience in this field, this book has little to offer but coca-cola case studies.
Profile Image for Amyth Banerjee.
36 reviews2 followers
July 21, 2017
Design is a very subjective topic, but this book does a brilliant job in simplifying the understanding of design. I clearly understand people who are looking to dive deep into the process of Coca Cola Company with its intricacies to scale into a billion dollar company may not quite find dope on those lines. But that is the point, coca cola is merely the premise, the author has focused on his ability to present a story where he provides a structure, a journey map to arrive at a place where brands can sustain.
A good book to making your foundation of design stronger and ready to apply.
Profile Image for Chris Esposo.
671 reviews31 followers
February 2, 2019
Not really much new here. Large corporations have to be agile and scale to compete against small ones. Some small tidbits on the history of Coke and its business marketing strategy, too little of that. Significant portions of the author's commentary on the nature of startups is redundant with any number of dedicated books that have been released on the subject previously. Some of the design insights were interesting, especially on the brand design of juices across geographies, but not enough of that sort of commentary. Just meh
Profile Image for Jonathon Hagger.
224 reviews3 followers
April 9, 2016
This book is big on sweeping generalities and light on substance. Many issues or are alluded to but very little how to is actually given. The best part of this book starts on page 201 and those are the recommended readings from other authors.
August 4, 2015
Excellent comparison of past, present and future on Company Design..Holistic approach decoded on Scale and Agility
Profile Image for Tathagat Varma.
357 reviews43 followers
May 4, 2018
Most literature on agility and scaling tends to be either terribly lopsided or hopelessly commercial (as in selling the scaling agility models without even understanding what is scaling all about!). This is a great book that sorts out these two issues pretty well and helps readers understand what scaling is all about and how does an organization go about scaling up. It adds credibility to know that examples are from real-world atomic products such as a bottle of Coke.

I would strongly recommend it to all business leaders and process thinkers. Especially all the so-called agile coaches who think scaling up is only a matter of applying the latest version of their scaling framework.
Profile Image for Oswaldo Rhyslie.
24 reviews
January 7, 2017
To sum it up, this book shows a round-up exemplary of how Coca Cola could make the most of its portfolio and assets, while in the same time pursue agility through relentless efforts in learning and develop their both tangible and intangible assets.
I believe it is a good read for any start-ups and corporate facing their maturing phase.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rafo Zarbabyan.
163 reviews1 follower
January 6, 2022
Իրականում էդքան էլ «մուռու» չէր, բավականին հետաքրքիր էր: Գիրքը գնեցի՝ պարզապես լինելով «Կոկա կոլա» բիզնեսի սիրահար: Բայց հասցրեցի մի քանի հետաքրքիր միտք գողանալ:
Խորհուրդ եմ տալիս, եթե ցանկանում եք հասկանալ՝ ինչպես կարելի է դիզայնի օգնությամբ շատ ավելին անել Ձեր բիզնեսի համար, քան պարզապես «սիրուն պակեծիկներ տպելը»:
Profile Image for Tomas Nilsson.
89 reviews2 followers
May 4, 2022
Suitable complementary books in this genre include those written by Eric Ries (lean startup) and Clayton Christensen (innovation and innovators). Read this book fast, think about it holistically and don’t spend too much time digesting individual chapters (be forewarned that some chapters don’t make much sense, such as the last chapter).
3 reviews
November 11, 2017
Good book to understand the locus of design

Excellent opinion that design is not only for branding products but the entire systems of the company.
Actual cases of application to the CocaCola system are not written.
Profile Image for Bárbara Bravim.
12 reviews
May 18, 2022
Livro interessante e didático, com exemplos bem práticos sobre a implementação do design como forma de interligar intencionalmente as coisas com o propósito de resolver problemas, e não somente como arte e criatividade.
Profile Image for Austin Tam.
7 reviews2 followers
November 4, 2018
Good case studies from Coca cola and good insights into when to design for scale vs agility and combining the two. Could remove repetition and be more concise
Profile Image for Dat.
347 reviews14 followers
July 21, 2021
Hay nhưng cũng không hề dễ đọc. Tiền đề cho design thinking thịnh hành hiện nay?
Profile Image for Kirk Gray.
29 reviews
November 16, 2022
Some interesting anecdotes and good lessons hidden amongst a lot of fluff. Could have been better if it was shorter or better organized.
March 18, 2023
Cuốn sách không tập trung và tinh gọn, cảm giác viết rất ngẫu nhiên và kể nhiều. Tuy những ý tưởng rất hay nhưng mình muốn có thêm sự truyền đạt dễ hiểu hơn nữa
Profile Image for Marko jr.
7 reviews
March 21, 2017
Interessante a forma de pensar o design como um reconhecimento de padrões e entender que as soluções nunca são isoladas, recomendo.
Profile Image for Darren.
1,193 reviews49 followers
February 10, 2015
Even today many people forget that there is more to the Coca-Cola Company than just the brown, fizzy drink that bears its name!

It is the world’s largest beverage company with over 500 different brands, serving over 1.9 billion drinks each day in 200-plus countries. A lot of this growth is quite recent in terms of the company’s existence too! There has been a few bumps in the road along the way, and here a Coca-Cola insider lifts the curtain a smidgeon and shows how the company uses design to grow its business in the face of rapid-changing, global market conditions.

The world is getting smaller thanks to new technologies and it is increasingly easier for a company to establish a presence around the world at a much faster pace. However with these benefits come a number of potential disadvantages. It is easier for your competitors to compete and for new ventures to sprout up, allowing advantages that a company may have enjoyed and developed over years or even decades be rubbed out over night. Existing companies can be too complacent, less agile, poorly focussed or just unable to see the wood for the trees. The corporate world is littered with once great brands that are a shadow of their former self or a dim and dusty memory. New companies don’t always have it easier. They lack the vision, the ability to scale and the flexibility to react. Who or what will succeed in the future? Something that can combine a clear vision that scales up and reacts to changing circumstances, one envisages.

This book is not just an academic, theoretical look at what should be done. It draws extensively on what the Coca-Cola Company has done to date, sharing in its successes and tribulations whilst showing candidly how other companies can adopt a similar approach to benefit their operations. Even the Coca-Cola Company has to look ahead, as relying on its 100-plus-year old brand and primary product is not enough to guarantee it is around in the next 10, 50 or 100 years.

Did the company react just in time after a few small knocks? For its first seventy years the company had one brand, one product, one package size and mostly one price: its only real development was to expand its sales territories around the world. For many, Diet Coke has been on the market forever, yet it only came to be in 1982. What problems this brought for the company. Two products to deal with! The next cultural tremor came in 2001 (yes, 2001) when it decided to become a “total beverage company” – less than 15 years and hundreds of brands later the company is still there, fighting its corner in an incredibly complicated, complex, diversified market.

On so many levels this book provides a fascinating insight into the Coca-Cola Company and business generally. You don’t even need to like their products, although with 500-plus brands and 3,500-plus products including even milk drinks there’s a good chance that at least one Coca-Cola product touches your lips sometime, even though it might not be a Coke. What draws them all together? Most products are cantered around water but it is a lot more than that. It is a desire to be everywhere, for everyone and to win. So climb aboard and take a look around the Coca-Cola Company and see how it is rapidly transforming after years and years of effectively pushing in one direction with a narrow focus.

This book is a fascinating, engaging read and a lot better than one expected. It will be interesting to look back at this book and the company in say a decade’s time and looking just how accurate its prophecies and forecasts turned out.

Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale and Agility (and How You Can Too), written by David Butler & Linda Tischler and published by Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781451671827, 256 pages. YYYY
Profile Image for Jeff.
236 reviews52 followers
March 6, 2017
This is a brilliant book written by a friend and someone I admire, David Butler.
David is VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Coca-Cola. Maybe you've heard of Coke?

Whether you work for a large organization or have a dream to start your own business, Design to Grow provides great insights to help you grow and move forward. Here are some of my takeaways:

* Design is about intentionally connecting things to solve problems. Design is only good if it solves a problem. Good design makes something easier to read, easier to understand, easier to use. Good design makes a difficult task less complicated.

* Designing on purpose refers to design that is strategic, with a clear connection to a growth strategy; design that creates scale and agility -- across markets and media; and design that inspires people. Designing on purpose should ultimately be design that leads culture.

* Your goal is to make sure the visible stuff (your products, communications, team, etc.) connects to the invisible stuff (your partnerships, processes, culture) in a way that helps you succeed.

* Designing for Scale: Scale is the ability to increase in quantity without reducing quality or profit.

* To achieve scale, everything must be simplified and standardized. There are two rules to design standards: 1. Think Small. (simplify, simplify, simplify) 2. Make it easy to do the right thing.

* Resilience instead of strength, which means you yield and allow failure.

* Any team or company can launch a new product, campaign or initiative the way startups do. Learning what people need or want, building a prototype, measuring what worked and what didn't, then doing it all over again, are techniques that anyone can embrace.

* Get out of the building.

* Too many traditional marketers plan big campaigns, spend big bucks, only to search at the end for favorable data to justify all that money spent. Next time, determine who your target customers are and the key assumptions you have about them -- then brainstorm a few quick, low-cost experiments to test your assumptions. Find out what those customers really think, what they will really buy and how much they will really pay for your product or service. Then iterate - react to what you learned and try it again. Get results - then plan.

* Spend time on finding a real problem. Then, build around that.

* Prototying is critical for startups and new ideas. Prototypes exist to help you learn faster. The key to understand is that you won't get it right the first time -- the only way to maintain the kind of agility you need is to focus on learning by doing.

* The key to success is learning by doing. Constant iteration, a willingness to test ideas with real customers and gauge their responses, then pivot if they're not working, is critical. Rather than betting the ranch on a big idea, small tests can help a team determine if an idea has the legs for a bigger rollout.
Profile Image for Bharat.
44 reviews
December 6, 2015
With Coca-Cola in the title of the book itself, this book got into my must read section. That the book is on the design process within the company and outside raised my curiosity and I immediately started reading this book on my pad.

The world is no more as we knew it, so would say the old timers. For a 125 year old company like Coca-Cola many things have changed and evolved, except maybe for one thing – the uniquely great taste of Coca-Cola. Not many people know the complexity behind the powerfully innocent fizzy drink. There is obviously more to the world’s largest beverage company than the fizzy drink that bears its name.

The book is not about design, as the conventional design that we know of. It details the concept that design thinking is not for the specialists alone! It is something that can, and should, be applied by anyone in the organization to get through almost any challenge. It is not a cosmetic change applied, but a methodology of integrating different disparage items into a well-oiled orchestra, to produce a symphony. Design is about bringing in cohesiveness amidst the entire chaos.

The book is filled with anecdotes of how little changes done at the elementary background level made huge impact. Among many examples, my favourite is the one on “Design Machine”. As a regular user of the tool, it intrigues me that why could someone not think of this earlier. As a matter of fact, it is still not implemented at most of the major MNC’s I know of. Such simplicity with such wide scale system wide impact, removing layers of redundancy and saving on costs, bringing in agility in the execution.

Agility. A key trait of a startup and a desired quality by every organization worth its salt. The author suggests planning backward for agility. Instead of the normal process of planning and then measuring its results, start with results and then form your plans around it.

The design with purpose process can create real substantial value only when scale and agility are combined, and this achieved with the power of Design.

A good book for anyone interested to know the workings of a company and a must read for startups.

This review was first published at http://bharatjhurani.com/2015/12/desi...
Profile Image for Soundview Executive Book Summaries.
232 reviews29 followers
December 22, 2016
Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale & Agility (and How You Can Too) by David Butler and Linda Tischler was chosen by Soundview Executive Book Summaries as one of the Top 30 Business Books of 2015.


In today’s ever-changing marketplace, every company is at risk of having a “Kodak Moment”— watching its industry and the competitive advantages it has developed over years, even decades, vanish overnight. The reason? An inability to adapt quickly to new business realities. Established companies are at risk, but it’s no easier being an agile startup, because most of those fail due to their inability to scale. Tomorrow’s business winners — regardless of size or industry — will be the ones that know how to combine scale with agility.

In Design to Grow, a Coca-Cola senior executive shares both the successes and failures of one of the world’s largest companies as it learns to use design to be both agile and big. In this rare and unprecedented behind-the-scenes look, David Butler and Fast Company senior editor Linda Tischler use plain language and easy-to-understand case studies to show how this works at Coca-Cola — and how other companies can use the same approach to grow their business.

Design to Grow is a must-read for managers inside large corporations as well as entrepreneurs just getting started.

Soundview's in-depth, 8-page Executive Summary of Design to Grow is available here.
Profile Image for Lesego.
33 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2018
A stunning book written by the authors. The back drop of the story of Coca-Cola gave some inspiring and practical insights as to how the company transformed from startup to a billion dollar company. Design thinking played an integral role in relaying the developmental phases in which the company had to go through to stay relevant to the vagaries of the market.

I can conclude that Design thinking is a mindset that we all have, we know when something works and doesn't; we can differentiate between good and bad customer experiences. In a nutshell design thinking is not all about aesthetics, but rather the invisible things that connect together to give us great product or service experiences.

I have deduced that design is about how well a product or service is connected in itself, and also how well it connects with the hearts, minds and spirits of people who use these products and services.
Profile Image for Simon Leung.
11 reviews
October 5, 2015
This is a quick and simple read and as such, I mostly skimmed. The best parts are David Butler's stories about specific examples of how Coke succeeded. For example, he talked about how in Japan, they successfully penetrated the water market by designing a bottle that was much more eco-friendly and compactible by examining space and waste issues in the marketplace. The bottle "went viral" and created separation in a commodity (water) business. David is quite earnest in his remarks and I think the idea of being "agile" instead of "scalable" is important for businesses to consider. However, it's difficult to start imagining how to implement without a near reconfiguration of entire company cultures.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 38 reviews

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