Denver - Berlin


Harbor has over thirty years of experience working with clients on growth strategy and new business creation. At the core of our experience is a deep understanding of the technologies, markets and business characteristics—as well as the management and organizational challenges—that companies face when adopting and developing digital and smart systems. We strive to generate deep insight into how emergent technologies and new business models drive value creation and competitive advantage in our clients’ businesses.


Catalytic technologies drive differentiation

Companies can deliberately anticipate creative and catalytic combinations of technologies… innovation that creates new (and unexpected) opportunities can be systematically developed by leveraging cross-industry perspective to solve problems in radically new ways.

Ecosystems rule; the era of flying solo is over

Although many companies have employed alliances to supplement their strategies, the greatest opportunities can be realized by forging true collaboration among peers and recognizing that the era “flying-solo” has given way to collaborative ecosystems.

Strange bedfellows drive unique new experiences

Organizations need to push the boundaries of strategy and design processes to include diverse and unfamiliar participants, viewpoints and feedback – what we like to call  “strange bedfellows” – inviting participation from users, customers, partners and more will drive creativity and expand the universe of good ideas.

Think about opportunities as systems… not products

Innovators like Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs understood the value of “systems thinking” … each understood the value of product innovation and the business system that created entire industries around their products. Their genius lies in the ability to look beyond discrete innovations and conceive of entirely new experiences and marketplaces.

Let creative contention drive business design

The technology architecture to realize new customer experiences and the business architecture that supports it must be viewed in close proximity and be mutually supportive. The continuously evolving relationship between these two dimensions often drives contention but is fertile ground for innovation.

We all need to think and act differently

Organizations have many rules and policies that often seem completely disconnected. We have created language, processes and systems that are a triumph of technique over value. We must resist the seduction of simplicity and safety hiding in Byzantine processes that allow good ideas to fade too quickly.


It is often unavoidable that a company turns to outsiders for help with forward thinking, strategy and solutions design and development. Often this help is of three kinds: industry analysis, strategic consulting and design facilitation.

Each of these types of advisor tends to have its own strengths and limitations:

  • Greater distance and objectivity often give the industry or tech analyst a better view of the competitive landscape than the client can develop alone. The analysts, though, are often so specialized in the study of specific technologies and industry arenas that they usually offer little in the way of processes for making use of their knowledge.
  • General management and strategy consultants, on the other hand, offer plenty of processes and methods —perhaps too much.
  • Design firms bring new processes for discovery, ideation and design, but often lack skills to address the diverse business dimensions that are required to justify investment.

We think this has two crucial effects on new business development teams and solution developers: 

  • First, they need better methods and processes to support an effective end-to-end process.  
  • Second, while they are more likely to consult with outside advisors, they also need new, more creative and effective modes of interaction with them.

Our approach organizes domain knowledge while facilitating frequent and creative interactions to catalyze decision-making. Our goal is to push the boundaries of current practices and include many diverse and unfamiliar participants and points of view – what we like to call “strange bedfellows”.

We believe its about providing deep domain knowledge, market analysis, strategy development and creative design services in a new integrated delivery approach designed to help growth teams make smart, fast, best-informed strategic and solution development decisions.


What we have discovered from our experiences is our clients need more than traditional strategy, design and technical development firms provide individually.  As a result, we combine elements of research, strategy and design in a new integrated set of processes, methods and disciplines — the advent of what we call Smart Systems Design.

If design is about creating unique customer experiences and making them visible and valuable and, if growth strategy is about identifying and prosecuting profitable growth opportunities, then Smart Systems Design is about leveraging both dimensions together.

Imagine the required technology architecture to inform radically new customer experiences is like one side of a coin and the corresponding business model and architecture is the other side of a coin. These two “architectures” must be viewed in close proximity. The two thrusts need to be mutually supportive without inhibiting one or the other. However, trying to coordinate and leverage the respective roles of technology architecture and business architecture often creates contention.

Many of the participants in this emerging arena we work with are coming to see the continuously evolving relationship between these two dimensions as fertile ground for innovation. They need to be interwoven and mutually supportive. In fact, from our own direct consulting experiences, we believe success in either increasingly goes to the company that effectively utilizes the combined potential of both.

To discover, design and develop innovative smart systems, organizations must consider all the elements involved and the “network” context they fit into. The benefits that will flow from the recognition that traditional strategy and product development protocols will not meet the needs of a connected digital business are nearly infinite.

We seek out clients whose strategic and business development mode shows a desire to drive disruption and change effectively, both in their organization and through their relationships in the marketplace. These are the forward looking companies who can benefit most directly from our experience.