As a designer of experiences and services, I like to think that our profession is well on its way, maturing and moving away from the consumption based design of “toasters and coaster” to processes, systems and organisations. Whilst the digital world has embraced design thinking, I think business consulting in general has been slower in taking up the design thinking mantel, especially in Australia.
We don’t need to search hard and long to find many examples of great design which has inspired people to made radical shifts in their behaviour. Companies like Google, Apple, Ikea and others have given us wonderful products, which have challenged the way we go about our daily business and created huge market opportunities whilst delivering customer value to consumers. So whether it was a Prius, an iPhone or simply finding your way around via Google Maps, the way you do things in everyday life have been changed by design. But products according to Marty Neumeier are not the only possibilities for design.
Dr Deming (think six sigma quality control and Systems of Profound Knowledge), inspired managers to think outside of the system and reduce their reliance on technology to tackle business problems. Getting incrementally better is not wrong, it is just that it is no longer an adequate option on its own, that will create better market opportunities for business. For the past 30 years businesses have been automating their systems and processes. But at the end, customers are voting by making their choices loud and clear. It is no longer sustainable for businesses to stay mechanical and not immerse themselves in what their users want. People want compelling products that stir their emotions and desires, brands that are aligned with their values and an ethical stance that can stand their customer’s scrutiny.
For businesses to bottle the kind of experiences that rivet the minds and run away with hearts, not just one time but over and over, they’ll need to do more than hire designers. They’ll need to be designers. The narrow-gauge mindset of the past is insufficient for today’s wicked problems. We can no longer play the music as written. Instead, we have to invent a whole new scale.¹
What are the ingredients to create customer value and new market opportunities (win-win situation)? Differentiation drives innovation and customers to your door so what drives innovation?
It doesn’t matter whether you call it design, design thinking, design anthropology or Design for Six Sigma (DFSS). It doesn’t really matter if you are in the business of immersion in customer experience, user journeys or voice of customer. Practice being “designful”. This means identifying your intent, knowing the context in which your project is operating in, developing an empathic understanding of your users (problems they face and the workarounds they do), effectively communicating your gathered knowledge to stakeholders. Once this is complete you can jump into the world of possibilities. This is when your team can make that radical leap to make change happen. It requires building on patterns and insights gained. Brainstorm, sketch, prototype and tell stories about your design’s engagement within the identified context. Sometimes being designful means recognising the need that you can not proceed at this particular moment, till you put your house in order. Sometimes it means killing some sacred cows in the process and wearing the cost.
Immerse yourself in your customers’ interlaced systems. All touch points are important in the immersion stage. Discover hidden or not so hidden opportunities by getting in the field and observing your customer’s customers! Interview experts and users alike. Go and walk a mile in their shoes. Find new ways of connecting to customers, their lifestyles and values. Share this vision with all the stakeholders in the project. Get feedback often and early. Create rough and ready prototypes as a tool for dialogue, so you can discover what processes need improvement. This will go a long way to provide answers to whether the project outcome will meet your customer’s needs and how to serve them best.
This article has been authored by Julie Cook.
¹ Marty Neumeier has written 3 exciting books including: The Brand Gap, Zag and The Designful Company.