Who We Are
ReD is a strategy consulting company based on the human sciences. Clients come to us with business problems that are big and fundamental in nature, and characterized by a high degree of uncertainty. Most of our work centers on helping our clients get an outside view of their business. The anthropologists, sociologists, economists, journalists, and designers who make up ReD employ the methods of social science to study human behavior and help our clients develop a new perspective on their business. Our unique approach marries methods from the social sciences and traditional business techniques to provide clients with a clear and comprehensive direction for moving forward.
For over a decade, we have conducted projects in a number of different categories (ranging from consumer goods to pharmaceuticals) and in a number of different business units (ranging from marketing to engineering) all over the world. We benefit hugely from having a very international staff: our diversity of perspectives enables us to ask culturally relevant questions and to explore the world in open-ended ways.
We always emphasize long-term problem solving over quick fixes. In many cases our work has led to sharp turns in strategy or dramatic internal reorganizations. We enjoy working with clients who are ready to embrace bold ideas and are looking for a radically new way of thinking.
In addition, helping the client team execute on our insights and recommendations is essential to our practice. We work with our clients to ensure that our advice and strategic recommendations are anchored in the client teams and companies we work with. We commit to working with our clients on a long-term basis which is why 80 percent of our projects are repeat business and many clients have been working with us since the beginning.
Over the last ten years, ReD has led a quiet revolution in business thinking. In a world characterized by increasing change, traditional strategy tools are no longer as relevant as they used to be. Traditional tools are useful when tomorrow can reasonably be expected to look like yesterday; when you have an assumption or hypothesis that you can feel reasonably confident about. But when change is happening at a faster rate, when knowledge is less reliable, and challenges are less foreseeable, your hypothesis is likely to be wrong and conventional models often fail. This is the world where ReD’s non-linear, human-science approach to strategic problem solving has proven successful with C-suite executives in some of the world’s largest and most admired companies.
The tools from the social sciences are most helpful in these moments. They allow us, and the executives we advise, to understand the business challenges they face when business as usual is disrupted by changes in human behavior. They help describe the world as it is experienced and draw from the complexity of humanity to discern what is real and important to people. Instead of minimizing complexity, the tools we use help us to tackle and make sense of it. To reinvent and refresh any category means to go back to the mess of reality and identify something truly new again. This is a non-hypothesis-driven approach that entails building a picture of a situation from the bottom up.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
Studying consumers on their own isn’t enough. We look at all the data we can—technology, marginal practices, client and industry data—and speak to many experts with knowledge on the topic. We analyze the assumptions underlying what we observe happening and identify the gaps (e.g. between the client’s assumptions about their customers and what we observe in the real world, or between the industry’s assumptions about the future and consumers’ marginal practices). Analyzing these gaps helps us see white spaces that have impact in the market, which allows us to advise our clients on where the market is likely to be years out and ensure that our recommendations are actionable.
The philosophy behind our approach to researching and yielding insights is phenomenology, the science of how things are experienced. We start by working with our clients to identify a human phenomenon that is at the heart of their business—a task that is simple in concept but often hard to execute. For example, to develop a strategy for retirement-planning products, we start with the experience of aging and the life events that trigger concerns about money; to build a product roadmap for a toy company, we start with the phenomenon of childhood play to understand what motivates kids to play and how they go about it. Using the idea of a phenomenon as a framing tool places the business interest in the realm of social science—and in doing this, we unlock the use of techniques developed by anthropologists and sociologists over hundreds of years to get at the truth of the matter.
WORKING WITHOUT HYPOTHESIS
We believe that in any search for new knowledge, you have to abide ignorance for a while. This is why each project is designed without hypotheses. The approach is helpful for avoiding confirmation bias and uncovering new insights about why people think and behave as they do.
These techniques are as old as academia itself, but their application in business strategy is novel. In using these methods, we swap out dated models that are no longer competitive for new hypotheses about what will move the market and the business.
What happens when number crunching fails to solve a company's problems? In Sensemaking, Christian Madsbjerg argues that many of today's biggest success stories stem not from "quant" thinking but from deep, nuanced engagement with the culture, language, and history of customers. In a time when liberal arts graduates fear for their prospects, Sensemaking is a welcome, transformative vision for success in the twenty-first century.
The Moment of Clarity
In The Moment of Clarity, Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen examine the business world’s assumptions about human behavior and show how these assumptions can lead businesses off track. But the authors chart a way forward. Using theories and tools from the human sciences—anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and psychology—The Moment of Clarity introduces a practical framework that gives executives a better way to understand business challenges involving shifts in human behavior.