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Businessifying Design (Whating the what?)

29 February, 2012

NB: A version of this post, written with Justin Barrie, is also published at DMA/We Think

Design the new business - quotes

I recently saw ‘Design the New Business’ I’d heard about the movie for many months and finally had the opportunity thanks to Damien Kernahan from Proto Partners and the Canberra Service Design Drinks to see it.
 

A quick movie review

If you’ve seen ABC’s Deep Dive about IDEO and it inspired you to believe design really was a vocational pursuit in a business context beyond graphic design, Design the New Business will show you how design has evolved to help business solve new problems and deliver on opportunities by providing a perspective that traditional change or program methodologies can’t. Not that these methodologies are ineffective, but design’s point of difference is utilising:

  1. Customer experience as the driver of change activity
  2. The back and forth we call prototyping and iteration to progress towards better business outcomes.

 
A longer movie review

My longer take on the movie itself is that three key points resonated with me (consider some of the following as my notes from the viewing and some quotes from the film):

  • The notion of people/customer/consumer has evolved
    Customers expect authenticity from businesses as much as they expect adaptiveness in services that are interconnected with other channels, services, experiences. More and more, people aren’t alike which means traditional segmentation (which business still likes and asks for) needs new ways of describing customer ‘types’. These types matter because ROI is in brand loyalty and in real connections to and with the audience.
  • Prototyping and iteration is design’s point of difference
    Sometimes analysis isn’t enough, sometimes you need to synthesize – and this back and forth we call prototyping and iteration is how we progress in design. We have to do that because in the design space you either optimise or you evolve something without knowing upfront what the end result will be. And you must ‘fail-to-learn or you’ll maximize your risk to fail big’ (I think Alex Osterwalder said this).
     
    This point might seem obvious, but when you’ve operated this way for 12 years, you sometimes forget that’s not how most people, and business or change methodologies work. This was my wee revelation on the night and I’m now no longer frustrated/fascinated when people won’t pick up a pen and start capturing their thinking until they think it’s ‘perfect’.
  • It’s not systems thinking, it’s system humanizing
    Design provides a way of managing the complexity, and provides clarity to the fuzzy stuff, (fuzzy in nature, in complexity and because people are human…and some are even fuzzy). It can do this because it has the tools to guide the fail-to-learn process. Design exists in a dynamic context and needs to respond to the complex systems in which it supports. Business is one of those systems, as is government, as is society. Design must impact all these systems. It must translate and interpret need (whether at customer or citizen level) into business propositions that can be acted upon, and sustained.

 
 

Post-it's by candlelight

So to some evolved definitions

What it made me (and my biz partner Justin) think about was how we define what we do, because when we talk amongst ourselves, talk with clients, or talk with people not in the ‘biz,’ we find ourselves adapting our language, but always keeping on message with key elements. And sometimes, when we hear designers or clients speak the oft heard mantra about ‘customer first’ it just doesn’t stack up if they’re actually thinking ‘customer only’.

It also made me revisit some of the definitions I’ve posted here in the past. So taking that and the awesome power of the collaborative conversation here are the definitions that work for me as at….now!.

NB: These aren’t meant as ‘lift speeches’ – they’re more the summary of points that govern our thinking and keep us honest about what we actually want to do, and how we want to create change that actually makes a difference.

  • Service (for other designers)
    The seeking and receipt of a specific outcome of a customer/user across a range of interactions and touchpoints over time. The value of the service is as much about the quality of the experience for all the people involved (customer, service provider) as it is about the resolution.
  • Service design (for other designers)
    The conscious & creative process of crafting meaningful connections (be they tangible touchpoints and interactions, or more intangible experiences) between customer, business/provider/government goals and outcomes (be they effective and efficient operations, social good/improvement, or positive profile).
  • Service design (for clients)
    It’s an approach that helps you understand if your services are working how you want them to; and how your potential/current customers want or need them to work or evolve. The approach, which is collaborative, iterative and focuses on what people actually think, do and use, means you can make decisions on opportunities for improvement, consider how your strategy and set-up drives your efforts, and consider the impacts of any decisions you make to change will have on services, staff and customer experience, and to the way your business works.
  • Service design (for our mums, friends and strangers at parties….prefaced by asking them to name a service experience they’ve recently had)
    We work out how all the bits you see (so all the online and paper stuff, and the lady at the counter) and bits you don’t see (so the processes that help that lady do her job, and systems that help everyone else do theirs) fit together so that when you use that service the experience is good for you (which may mean you don’t even notice it), and that it’s also good for the people and systems that need to work to deliver what you need (which means everything is doing what it’s supposed to).
  • Design management
    Understanding the world of the client from the client perspective in order to guide the design process to ensure the right people work together to get the best results applying the appropriate design approaches integrated with business practice.
  • Design thinking
    Puts people as sources of experience (as thinkers, doers, users) at the centre of the problem solving process, and then collaboratively visualises, iterates, prototypes and facilitates the conversation and action in order to identify the best possible solution for the system in focus.

 
So there you go. As always happy for feedback or critique. And see the film if you can ; ) It’s worldwide release is 6 March 2012!

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