Big Business Joins The Proverbial Quilting Circle

Ben McConnell made a post on his blog about Intuit rewarding failure as a mean of encouraging experimentation. Graham Hill responded, and thanks to his efforts we now have a new term to toss around.

Intuit’s approach is a brave example of what is known as “Patching”.
Patching breaks down the business into a quilt of smaller patches, each of which looks for improvements in its own area, and at the knock-on effects of improvements in neighbouring areas. As some of the areas find improvements that make the business more effective, neighbouring areas adjust to the changes. The next iteration of the business emerges improved and more effective through a process of many small, inter-linked improvements.
That doesn’t mean that a business needs hundreds of patches at the same time. Companies like HP, Compaq, Dell and British Petroleum have all used patching to tackle business problems like divisional realignment, product development and restructuring, often with a relatively few patches.
Take a look at Stuart Kaufmann’s McKinsey Quarterly article “Escaping the Red Queen Effect” and Kathleen Eisenhardt’s HBR article “Patching: Restitching Business Portfolios in Dynamic Markets” to learn more about how patching improves business performance.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I like the idea, but not the “new” name. Doesn’t it seem like repackaging an old idea? Sometimes I think HBR articles are partly hot air from consultants who are tyring to generate buzz for themselves.
    The business case analysis was interesting, but the new name seemed gratuitous.

  2. Rona Subotnik says:

    I am writing a (non-profit) article about the quilting group in our community and I wanted to put in some facts I had once seen about quilting being a$$$ industry and the income range of woman whose livelihood comes from quilting and what the range os income would be. I cannot find that inormation and just want to write a few sentences in the article about that. Does anyone know where on the Internet I could find those figures? Many thanks.
    Rona Subotnik

  3. Check with the Quilt Musuem in Lancaster, Pa