In my last post I talked about how the truly scary thing about innovation from an organizational perspective is at it can't be controlled by senior management in traditional ways. However, the inability to know whether is project is on track through Gantt charts or adherence to processes doesn't mean that it can't be controlled at all.
In the same way that people and teams working on breakthrough innovation projects must learn a new way of working, the role management plays must follow a similar path. Here are a few shifts in perspective that can help.
Instead of trying to control, focus management efforts on support. Teams working in the area of disruptive innovation are already treading into uncertainty. They need to know that they are supported as they go to where their research takes them. When I mention this, the first question is often about how to make sure that a team knows when to stop or change direction. This is a valid concern, and leads to my next points.
Understand the difference between uncertainty and ambiguity. Very simply put, uncertainty is the degree to which you know the difference between a right and a wrong answer; ambiguity exists when there is more than one right answer. When approaching a disruptive innovation project, the most important thing that the team needs to do is to figure out the difference between right and wrong answers. I often call this defining the criteria for the success of a proposed solution. At this stage it's also important to define the criteria in such a way that the ambiguity of the problem is maintained. We want there to be more than one possible solution at this point.
Look for gaps in logic, not faults in solutions. At senior management checkpoints in the project, the leadership should be questioning in such a way that logic breaches are revealed. This is helpful to the team, rather than challenging in unproductive ways.
Help the team to make their thought processes transparent. If the team is immersed in their research as deeply as they should be, they will be making intuitive leaps that will be very clear among the team members, but less apparent to an outsider. Leadership should help the team to recognize when this is happening, and pose questions to that end.
Recognize when good ideas should be peeled off and sent to development. Often the team comes across low hanging fruit in the form of solutions. Help them to transition these ideas to a development group so they can stay focused on the broader picture.
Timelines and schedules should be established based on what decisions need to be made at different points in time, and not based on the number and types of tasks or process steps that can be completed.
Don't be afraid to try something new. If after a leadership review you notice that the team is focusing too narrowly, then reassess what happened at the review. Most likely, the team felt that they were either being pushed toward a specific direction, or pushed to do something new that isn't supported by the work they've done.
Disruptive innovation is new for everyone involved within the company. You are part of the team, and your innovation results will reflect the extent to which that idea is respected.
We know that innovation is scary. It should be. We've evolved to learn that it can be dangerous to do things differently, to leave our comfort zones, and to to embrace uncertainty. But we've also learned intellectually that we need to do these things so that we don't get caught behind the rest of the world. These are things that can be identified and expected as we embark on innovation programs.
But I see it a little differently. While I do think it's true that innovation is scary for all the reasons stated above, I think that organizationally there is something else going on. In my experience, it's about control. In an organization, innovation cannot happen in a top-down manner. Yes, innovation programs need support from the top to be realized, but when it comes to actually doing the work - the consumer research, translation of insights, creation of new offerings - this has to happen from within the organization.
This is true of all the other work that happens in an organization as well. Typically the CEO doesn't run the manufacturing line, but there are clear mechanisms in place that will let the CEO know immediately when something is going wrong. These mechanisms - the project schedules, budgets, benchmarks - all enable corporate leadership to stay in control. With innovation projects, these mechanisms are not relevant, and corporate leadership cannot tell so easily if a project is on track.
I believe that this is why it's so common that innovation often defaults to incremental evolution from what exists today; projects are too often limited by what senior management can control in traditional ways. This is not to say that I think senior leaders need to adopt an anything goes attitude when it comes to innovation. Far from it. But they will need to shift their perspective from being in control of, to helping to guide, innovation projects. I have some thoughts on what this can look like, but I'm interested to hear what others think about this issue of control. Does it resonate with you?
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I want to take a minute to talk about prototypes. When most people think of prototypes, they think of product samples used in what I call Focus Group Fashion Shows. The prototypes are paraded out on the "runway", and consumers got on which they like best. The problem is that this is not the context in which they ill be used, so this type of research seldom yields realistic results. I tend to think bout prototypes differently.
Early on, the prototype takes on a very different function in my work. A the beginning of a project, prototypes are used primarily as thinking tools. Very early prototypes are often crude, but they allow the team to get a sense of what it will be like to handle a product or experience a service. They help us to recreate and experience the consumer's motivations as they choose what they will buy - or rebuy.
As the project evolves, the prototype also evolves and becomes a tool for eliciting feedback about specific benefits the product will offer. For this reason, they usually contain attributes that are pushed to extremes to understand the extent to which the benefits they offer are important. Prototypes used in this manner are very good at getting consumers to make trade-off decisions. The best result is to have very different embodiments that consumers have a very difficult time deciding between. What that means is that very different sets of benefits are highly important, which may not have been uncovered in traditional consumer research. The information this gives us is that the final product needs to judiciously incorporate the benefits that each can offer.
However, this blending must be accomplished judiciously. Rather than patching features together like a Frankenstein, we need to think about which benefits each set of attributes delivered. We then need to think about how to embody multiple sets of benefits, but ensure that a cohesive whole product is not lost in the process.
In the end, the final product may not fully resemble any of the earliest prototypes. However, if they have been used appropriately, they will have ensured that the final products will be comprised of attributes that will deliver desired benefits from within an appropriate context. This is far more likely to yield a good market result than any focus group fashion show.
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I'm often asked how to teach the skills necessary for innovation. Based on my real world experience, I usually focus on the hands-on aspects, encouraging people to choose a small, manageable project and just get started. Usually this works best with a mentor, or experienced person guiding the project in some way. in many cases people decide that they are best suited to other types of work, since the ambiguous nature of the work isn't for everyone.
However, in writing the chapter Innovation and Neuroscience for the forthcoming book I mentioned previously, I've expanded my views on teaching skills for innovation. In writing the chapter, I learned from Professor Bill Duggan (in conversation and from his book Strategic Innovation) and Dr. Robert Burton's book On Being Certain, that the way the brain naturally processes information is very conducive to making the connections necessary for innovation. This made me step back and really think about how to teach innovation. If we are predisposed to this type of thinking, then why aren't more people successfully innovating more often? What makes it so hard?
The answer I found surprised me. From several sources, but most completely described in Professor Greg Berns' book Iconoclast, it became clear that although our brains are predisposed to the type of thinking necessary for innovation, our brains are equally predisposed to block this type of thinking. As Berns describes it, there are three main cognitive barriers to innovation:
Perception - if we cannot perceive a situation differently, then we will not be able to make new connections. Instead, we will cover the same ground over and over, based on current perceptions of the problem, situation, or general context. This perception could mean physically seeing information differently, or it could take the form of allowing yourself to truly see a situation through someone else's eyes.
Fear Response - people tend to fear uncertainty and public ridicule. Since innovation requires forging into new territory, high levels of uncertainty are guaranteed. In fact, the only way to drive out the uncertainty of new territory is to fully understand the uncertainty itself. It requires that uncertainty is embraced. Avoiding it will surely result in failure. And since new ideas will often be scary or threatening to others, the chance of facing some degree of public ridicule is higher than staying with the status quo.
Social Intelligence - it is necessary to socialize new ideas to help others to become more receptive them. People need time and repeated exposure to new ideas so that they can become familiar. Sometimes an initial association with a currently accepted idea can help as well. Intelligently socializing new ideas is a necessary skill, without which new ideas are often rejected.
It became painfully clear to me that the ability to build the skills necessary for innovation lies deeply within our own psyche. I have always known that a scripted process, or strict adherence to specific tools, will not produce truly innovative results. However, I have shifted my focus from a discussion about teaching skills necessary for innovation, to a discussion about how best to help people to prepare themselves for innovation.
This also illuminated why my focus on the hands-on approach works well. People need to get involved in a project in order to experience the perception shifts, and live through the initial fear of uncertainty that's necessary for a successful outcome. However, now I will also focus on highlighting fear responses exhibited by those who decide that this type of work is not for them. If they realize that they are caving into fear, will they be able to change their perceptions of their own ability?
I also made me realize the true value of some of the tools and techniques that are commonly used, either deliberately or intuitively. The true value of tools is that they can help to break down information to help to change a perception of a situation. Analogies can help to socialize an idea and make it more acceptable to others. But in the end, nothing will work if we cannot learn to push back on our response to fear. It's not that people who are good at innovating do not experience fear. They do. They just use it differently. I've personally been working in the innovation space for over 15 years, and I still experience that deer in the headlights feeling. For me it's an indication that I'm onto something truly new and different. This fear becomes fuel.
So what we're left with is that the best skill to teach is the ability to perceive fear as a guide forward, and not a caution to stop trying to understand new situations we encounter. I'm curious to hear how others have handled this in their work.
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In writing the Innovation and Neuroscience chapter, I was surprised to learn the extent to which our brains are "wired" in a way that is conducive to innovation. In Professor William Duggan's book Strategic Intuition, he explains how the neuroscience field is revealing some interesting insights into how new ideas are created. He cites several important works that do two things:
They debunk the long-held idea that the two halves of the brain are either creative (right brained) or analytical (left brained). Everyone thinks with their whole brain.
The process of solving a problem is based on the idea of "Intelligent Memory", whereby the brain selectively searches stored memories in an answer to a problem.
What this means is that our brains are "wired" to seek out relevant solutions to posed problems without bias as to whether they are creative or analytical. This supports an idea that I have long held that random idea generation is of little value in the innovation process. If we want to find new ideas that are useful, the most important thing we can do is to do the hard work of clearly defining the problem we are trying to solve. This is easier said than done, and honestly, where the bulk of the work in innovation needs to happen. We've all had this experience. Once we struggle with finding a new solution, when we are able to reframe a problem it seems to solve itself. This requires us to let go of our initial perceptions about our innovation goals, and when we allow a new perception to emerge, then the problem can be defined differently, allowing a new solution to follow.
This then leads to the question of how we know a problem or solution is right. When random idea creation comes to a close, the ideas selected are often the ones we already know are right. How do we know when a new idea could also be right? Dr. Robert Burton focuses on this question in his book On Being Certain. In that book, he describes the mechanism for how we know what it is that we know. This post won't do the details justice, but suffice it to say that Burton and Duggan build on the same recent neuroscience research, and although they have a different focus, their work is highly complementary. Both of these thought leaders emphasize the importance of intentionally directing our mental focus on our specified goal. Both of them also recognize the importance of being able to let go of an initial perception so that the brain is free to fully explore new connections.
When it comes to establishing a process for innovation, it is important that we establish conditions that enable our brains to a) know what we are truly searching for and b) allow them to search our memories freely and "intelligently". When I was researching the topic to write the chapter, it made me think about how modern day management techniques can actually be counterproductive for innovation. I see organizations either micromanage or over-prescribe a solution, or go the opposite direction and allow random idea generation into the process. Neither way will work. In the next post, we'll look at some specific ways we put up mental barriers to innovation. For now, start to become conscious of how you are thinking about a problem, and how you are establishing criteria for success. Try to make sure your initial goal is to define the right problem, not prescribe a type of solution.
I recently contributed a chapter for a forthcoming book, "The Global Innovation Science Handbook", which will be published by McGraw Hill Professional some time this fall. The chapter is titled Innovation and Neuroscience. When the editor approached me to write this chapter, I was equally excited and a bit nervous about it. After all, I'm not a neuroscientist. However, I have come to the conclusion that most successful innovation can be attributed to the cognitive attributes possessed by people who are good at innovating. I thought it would be fun to explore the latest research in neuroscience and see if I could glean any insights that could help to codify the innovation process. I hadn't seen much written on the topic, so I felt that my expertise in innovation would be my guide as I searched for ways to better understand and articulate what goes on in the minds of successful innovators.
This quest to codify the innovation process began several years ago when I worked in a product design and innovation consulting firm. I found that I was very uncomfortable with the standard reasons why my team was able to help clients innovate; that we used multidisciplinary teams, or that we did ethnographic research, or had our roots in design didn't feel quite right to me. These statements were true, but I saw many unsuccessful innovation attempts result from many of the same types of ingredients to the process.
I approached my research for this chapter as i would approach any innovation project. I began with researching the typical sources of innovation; topics on creativity, lateral thinking, cognitive connections. I followed where they took me in terms of how I could identify what it was that truly set innovative people apart. My overall goal for years has been to be able to articulate what to look for in a person with the aptitude for innovation, to be able to teach innovation if it could be taught beyond introducing new ideas to people with the right aptitude, and to build solid processes for innovation within large companies.
Along the way, several of my initial assumptions proved to be valid. Innovation is not random, cool spaces and total absence of structure will not enhance the process, consumers cannot solve the problem for you, and that the current business environment is not conducive to innovation. On the other hand, I was able to change my mind on several assumptions. From my research, it appears that our minds are naturally geared toward the type of thinking that is conducive to innovation, but we are also naturally geared to thought processes that can simultaneously keep it from happening. Innovation can be taught, but only to if we are able to encourage the cognitive processes that are conducive to innovation, and discourage the thoughts that keep them from happening.
I love it when my work changes my mind; without continuously learning and changing we will never move ahead. I feel that the topic of how to consistently innovate, and why most companies find it difficult is the key to many economic struggles we are currently encountering. I'll begin a series of posts relative to my recent findings and the types of reactions I get as I put them into action.
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By now it seems to be common knowledge that when talking about Innovation and New Product Development, the Fuzzy Front End is where the magic happens. However, I've come to the conclusion that it's not that way at all. All the fuzzy magic people are talking about really happens in the middle. Here's my logic.
Let's assume that the true beginning starts with the identification of an opportunity. This typically happens from observing the environment (let's say this is the market, but it could be any context), and deriving the reasons why the environment behaves the way it does. In the consumer world, this is where we derive the consumers' motivation for their behavior. The goal is to to take this knowledge about what motivates the market, and translate it into a viable product or service that will satisfy motivations better than the currently available alternatives. In other words, we want our consumers to love us so that we can crush our competitors.
Yes, it does take work to derive a consumer's motivations from their behavior. It also takes work to come up with a creative solution in the form of a product. But what happens in-between the two steps? Consumer motivations may be real, but they are very intangible, and in their pure form they are not satisfactory product requirements.
What's required in the Fuzzy Middle is the translation between the two worlds. It's almost impossible to make a direct, linear link between the attributes of a caterpillar and those of a butterfly, but what goes on in the chrysalis is what I'm talking about. That's the Fuzzy Middle. In the product development world this is a very confusing, scary place. Most companies are designed to optimize the manufacturing process. Developing something new goes against the grain. Market research often happens in companies, but that's because the specific activities involved can usually happen without disrupting the manufacturing process. But when we try to implement what we learned the antibodies come out in full force.
In order for companies to innovate in truly meaningful ways, there must be a place where the Fuzzy Middle can survive and thrive. This is difficult because it combines simultaneous measures from both worlds. It's where new ideas are developed, concepts are refined, and business models are born in order to satisfy new opportunities. It's where research is simultaneously generative and evaluative; product concepts are often developed to generate new information, not to be manufactured. They are evaluated based on how well they deliver an experience, and how well they help us to define success criteria for final products. It's where there is more than one right answer; but there is clearly a difference between right answers and wrong answers. It's where the balance between the competing points I just mentioned must be rediscovered for each new project. There is no clear, repeatable model or process to get from one side to the other.
If that doesn't describe fuzzy, then I don't know what does. If the above paragraph makes no sense to you, then you probably spend your days on one side of the fence or the other. If you're smacking your head with the sudden realization of why you've been so frustrated lately, then it's likely that you've been living in the Fuzzy Middle without knowing it. This isn't hard to do, since most companies sort of shut their eyes and muddle through hoping they get out alive and with an acceptable product intact. Instead, rather than pushing through to get to a defined product as quickly as possible, try using the Fuzzy Middle to translate intangible opportunities into tangible solutions in a deliberate way. Work to embrace ambiguity of multiple right answers while driving out the uncertainty of not knowing the different between the right and wrong answers. These ideas may be difficult to grasp, but if you do nothing else, just try to recognize the Fuzzy Middle that's passing through your development process - and enter the chrysalis...
Last week I attended the International Society of
Professional Innovation Managers (ISPIM) conference in Barcelona. I had never
been to this conference before and had no idea of what to expect. I had decided
to attend because they had accepted a topic I had submitted to present. I
welcomed the opportunity to speak about translation (more on that later), but I
was also curious about this group that had been in existence for so long that I
had known so little about.
The first thing I'll say is that the conference was
excellent. Next year it is in Helsinki, and I'm pretty sure I'll be going back.
It was formally founded in Norway in 1983, as the result of an initiative by
Prof. Knut Holt to study Needs Assessment and Information Behavior (NAIB) as a
way to inform the innovation process.
Why it had never crossed my radar before is a mystery to me, but the
membership is largely European.
The conference is a nice blend of academics and industry
people, many of whom give presentations on interesting work they are currently
doing. It was very different from the Front End of Innovation conference held
every year, which seems to be the "go to" innovation conference in
the US. Unlike the FEI conference, ISPIM was not filled with semi celebrity key
note speakers. It was much smaller and had a much larger percentage of
attendees presenting their ideas. As a result there were few if any people
there on corporate boondoggle trips, and the experience was extremely rich and
engaging. It was not for anyone who wanted to sit back and be informed or
entertained. Here are some key ideas I
It was refreshing to be with a group of people who
understood that good ideas are developed and inform new offerings, rather than
expecting fully formed products to pop up from brainstorming sessions. In fact,
brainstorming wasn't mentioned once in three days, even in sessions on
creativity and ideation. Did I say refreshing? Yes!!
As can be expected, large companies are lagging in terms
of developing very innovative offerings, as well as incorporating innovative
ways of working. The few who stood out were General Mills, who acknowledged the
challenges in getting a huge company to work in new ways, and focused the
presentation on how they are doing it. A
great presentation from Sara Lee focused on how following the consumer too
closely can get you into trouble. This wasn't a new idea, but they offered a
very good example of a product that failed as a result of getting this wrong.
It was a very humble and gutsy presentation.
I was surprised at the number of national governments
that are sponsoring projects between academia and industry in an effort to spur
innovation. There was a lot of very progressive work being done through these
collaborations. One of these ideas is a tool called Living Labs. I thought this
work was very interesting and will post about it separately. The government of
Norway is funding similar projects which seem to be gaining a lot of traction.
The idea of Design Thinking was alive and well, and I
knew i was in good company when all but maybe 1 or 2 people felt that the term
was problematic in terms of furthering
the intended goals. I saw more great examples of the principles put into action
than I have ever seen come out of the design community in the US. More on that topic later as well.
Speaking of Design Thinking, the Australian government
really blew me away with a presentation of their focus on learning about the
needs of their constituents to develop new solutions to existing problems. They
started with a simple project in the tax department, where they learned that
many people don't file their taxes, and audit rates were high because people
had a difficult time understanding what they needed to do. Tis resulted in a
first step in redesigning the tax forms.
Sounds simple, but the result of redesigning the forms to meet the needs
of the people who actually used them has been a huge success in solving the
problems. They are now progressing to use this process to influence policy
development. It is helping them to transcend the party driven method of policy
development. (I don't know about you, but I can think of another government
that would benefit from a new method of policy development.)
As far as my work goes, I presented the concepts of
translation that I've been working on lately. More on that topic later as well,
but the idea that people respond go product attributes in predictable ways, and
that they can be deliberately worked into the design of an offering to make it
more consistent with a consumers needs was new to many people. I walked away
with several connections that I hope will lead to collaborations about how to
define the skills possessed by people who are good at doing this type of
As you can imagine, there were many, many more things I
took away, but these are just a few of the top lines. The conference was very well organized, and I
came away excited about the ideas and connections that I'm sure will blossom in
the next year.
What do Innovation, Tempered Radicalism, and Breakfast at Tiffany's have in common? I just read a fascinating book called "Fifth Avenue, 5am", by Sam Wasson. It's about the making of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. I picked it up while on vacation expecting a fairly light, easy vacation read. What I found was a book that describes many of the same organizational challenges experienced by companies trying to innovate, but written in a much more engaging way than most business books.
The organizational story starts with Marty Jurow and Richard Shepard, two producers looking to make a great movie, not unlike entrepreneurs looking to start a new business. They ran across the script and against the judgment of others decided that hidden beneath the surface, it had the makings of a good, romantic comedy.
However, the story romanticized the life of a call-girl. In the Hollywood of the 1950’s, this just wasn’t done. In order to make the movie, there would need to be serious work to make the story palatable within that environment. There were strict regulatory boards, serious politics over talent selection, and too few resources to work with. Getting all the requisite approvals for a movie that was far from the “standard Hollywood formula” would be nearly impossible. Starting to sound familiar?
The book goes on to tell the story of how Jurow and Shepard navigated the environment. Whether it was intentional or not, the creators of the movie followed a lot of the advice given to large corporations about how to enable innovation to occur within their companies. Here are a few:
They recognized the initial insight illuminated by the original book, written by Truman Capote. The main character tapped into a nascent shift in the zeitgeist. The world was changing, and the book was a harbinger of what was coming. This is not unlike finding an unmet need in the market.
They took advantage of timing. At the time, the current Hollywood formula was at risk of being disrupted by the mass adoption of TV. They were able to use this to their advantage when dealing with the regulatory groups to loosen the grip on what was deemed appropriate subject matter in the movies. How often does it take the threat of death of the establishment before meaningful changes can be made?
They took risks to hire the right talent. In some cases, it involved allowing the screenwriter who was selected “politically” to write parts of the script and fail. That gave them the freedom to choose the person who did not have the experience, but did have the capability to do the job they needed. How often are people hired in large companies based on how well they did existing roles, and those skills may not be relevant in the new role?
They also understood the importance of casting a “girl next-door” like Audrey Hepburn in the lead role. Her reputation and past roles enabled the audience to accept her as a fundamentally “good girl”, and her quirky nature enabled her to be credible as a character living a very non-traditional lifestyle. This is not unlike the ideas in Maureen Scully and Debra Myerson’s article “Tempered Radicalism and the Politics of Ambivalence and Change”. From the article’s abstract; “Tempered Radicals” are individuals who identify with and are committed to their organizations, and are also committed to a cause, community, or ideology that is fundamentally different from, and possibly at odds with the dominant culture of their organization”. Casting Audrey Hepburn enabled the movie to fit into both worlds.
In my personal opinion, the ability to find such Tempered Radicals is key for any organization looking to do something different in a traditional environment. Jurow and Shepard may not have done this consciously, but if you read the book closely, their ability to hire people who could “walk on both sides of the fence” was key to the ultimate success of the movie.
As we all know, the movie was a great success, and the book illuminates many issues that business books try to dissect. What makes this book useful as a business book is that it focuses on all the irrational behaviors that exist in human nature, and their impact on the end-product. Most business books focus on the rational aspects of organizational issues. But let’s face it, organizations are collections of humans, and as long as that’s true, books like Wasson’s will impart many lessons to those willing to acknowledge human nature.
I don't usually do this, but it's time to air a little pet peave of mine. It has to do with the use of the term 'font' when what is meant is 'typeface'. In art school I studied graphic design which required quite a bit of focus on typography. I'm not the best at handling type, but I did learn enough to recognize awkward kerning, poor leading, the fact that a quotation mark should sit outside of the paragraph line, and the fact that Garamond is a beautiful typeface - but not a font! This mix-up never really bothered me much, as I don't expect people who never took a typography course to fully understand the difference. However, I do expect those who are in the business to get it right. When I use software on either a PC or Mac product, it bothers me that in the menus I'm asked to select a font, that I need to choose a font-size, and that the term typeface is nonexistent. Really? The people who write the software used to handle type ARE in the business, and they should know better.
What is the difference? I found an old article from AIGA way back in 2002 that gives one of the easiest explanations to understand. Here it is in full:
They’re not fonts!
“What font is used on the Absolut Vodka bottles”?
“Can you identify the font used in the new Star Wars movie”?
“Do you recognize the font in the attached PDF”?
I get questions like these daily. I don't mind them. Fact is, I enjoy the challenge. What I don't like, however, is the nomenclature. It seems that just about everyone is using the word“font” when they are referring to a typeface. “Fonts” and“typefaces” are different things. Graphic designers choose typefaces for their projects but use fonts to create the finished art.
Typefaces are designs like Baskerville, Gill Sans or Papyrus. Type designers create typefaces. Today they use software programs like Fontographer or Font Lab to create the individual letters. A few still draw the letters by hand and then scan them into a type design application.
Fonts are the things that enable the printing of typefaces. Type foundries produce fonts. Sometimes designers and foundries are one and the same, but creating a typeface and producing a font are two separate functions.
A little history may help. John Baskerville created the typeface design that bears his name. Creating the design was a multi-stage process. First, he cut the letters (backwards) on the end of a steel rod. The completed letter is called a “punch.” Next, Baskerville took the punch and hammered it into a flat piece of soft brass to make a mold of the letter. A combination of molten lead, zinc and antimony was then poured into the mold and the result was a piece of type the face of which was an exact copy of the punch. After Baskerville made punches for all the letters he would use and cast as many pieces of type as he thought he would need, he put the type into a typecase. The resulting collection of letters was a font of Baskerville type.
Over the years, there have been hand-set fonts of Baskerville type, machine-set fonts, phototype fonts, and now digital fonts. Currently, there are TrueType and PostScript Type1 fonts of the Baskerville typeface. There are Latin 1 fonts of Baskerville used to set most of the languages in Western Europe and Greek and Cyrillic fonts that enable the setting of these languages. All these fonts are of the Baskerville typeface design.
Maybe it's OK for the folks that set the neighborhood church's newsletter to call them fonts; but those of us who claim to be typographers and graphic designers should refer to our tools by the correct name. So, what font is used on the Absolut Vodka bottles? I don't know. But I can tell you that the name “Absolut” is set in the typeface Futura Extra Bold Condensed.