Testing The Limits Of Design Thinking

Hugh Evans

 

The following is an excerpt from our whitepaper Experience Architecture: Testing The Limits Of Design Thinking. To read more about FromHereOn and the application of experience architecture to organisations take a look at our work or download the whole whitepaper here.

 

We are in a new era of humanism.1 Soon, through augmented reality devices, digital information will no longer be consumed through rectangular phones and screens but will be overlaid onto our physical environment. Already, customer and employee experience is the axis of business strategy for brands seeking to build loyal followers and advocates in an increasingly fragmented and volatile marketplace.

Industry leaders like Intuit, Electronic Arts and Disney are employing design thinkers in order to solve difficult business problems and to better understand the people they serve. They understand the power of forging trusted connections with their customers and staff in a targeted and personalised way. They also appreciate the challenge of bridging the chasm between a bold customer-centric vision and its realisation. Design Thinking is a key discipline for envisaging future possibilities, however, without a comprehensive understanding of the wider organisational context and a means to demonstrate traceability from the desired experience to realisation, Design Thinking is only part of the answer. Those who intend to lead in this new era also need a design-driven Experience Architecture.

 

 

The Design Thinking Wave

The rise of design in business is happening on multiple levels. UX designers are continually improving digital experiences. Service designers are improving customer journeys. Strategic designers are helping executives to solve wicked business problems and guide strategy. Design missionaries are converting business leaders to become design-led, helping them to understand that design is not just a practice but a mindset. At its core, the design mindset is about the belief that, through good design, the world will be a better place. When applied in the context of business the value of design is greatest when it is applied to those challenging problems that deliver the most meaningful outcomes.

Multinational consultancies are each investing in Design Thinking to enhance their existing toolkits. McKinsey & Co acquired Lunar, Accenture acquired Fjord and PwC acquired Stamford Interactive. IBM and Infosys are running massive programs to embed Design Thinking into their way of working and service delivery. Fast growth design-led organisations like Atlassian are struggling to find quality designers, having to relocate talent from design hubs in Europe. It’s a good time to be a designer, but design alone is not a panacea; we must take a step back and look at the big picture. Where is this all heading and for what purpose?

 

Building Trust in the New Era of Humanism

We are in a new era of humanism. The Millennial generation, born between 1982 and 2000, already form 25% of the workforce in the US and account for over half of the population in India. By 2020, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce2. They favour brands that have personality and appeal to their core values. They seek connection to a brand’s purpose, its social and environmental impact and its reason for existence. These digital natives are fickle, forthright and tribal in their behaviour. To meet these demands business needs to take a more sophisticated approach to building customer relationships. It’s no longer good enough to push products to market segments. Business needs to better understand people at a human level, connecting with individual tastes, preferences and desires. Technology is providing the means to disrupt markets with new, customer-centred propositions, and it’s also on a trajectory to humanise brands by delivering more natural, organic, immersive and therefore desirable experiences.

Digital technology, human-centred design and sophisticated data management capabilities now enable these kinds of relationships, delivering experiences that create delight, loyalty and advocacy. This approach engenders trust, however, building trust requires more than a good experience; it requires the business to understand every interaction a customer has with it and respond accordingly. Like we might expect of a friend, a business now needs to know its history with us, engage with our values, recover graciously from mistakes, be reliable and to deliver on its brand promise. In this new era brands that can uphold these expectations while also delivering superior experiences will win.

 

A Promise Kept

Much focus is being given to customer experience by the more progressive consumer-facing organisations. However many of these organisations are missing the point. Loyalty requires more than a good experience, it requires trust. Trust comes from ensuring your value proposition and brand promise are met, or exceeded, consistently. In the recent Brandtrust survey3, commissioned by FromHereOn and our partner DPR&Co, an issue of trust was highlighted in the Australian banking industry. While all four major banks in Australia have substantial customer experience capabilities they still rate poorly on trust, largely due to a discord between their brand and promise to the Australian consumer and the consumer perception of their behaviours. The challenge for these banks is the same challenge for the rest of industry; that is consistently delivering on their promises to build lasting customer relationships.

A brand promise kept is more than an outcome for customers; it’s also an outcome for staff. Shep Hyken and Richard Branson are variously attributed with championing the notion that before you can look after your customers you must first look after your staff. Employees understand the circumstances of the organisation, living the political, financial, operational and technological realities on a daily basis.

As consumers continue to expect more humanistic relationships with brands, we seek the attributes of transparency and authenticity. For a brand to be authentic its promise must permeate all aspects of the business; the organisation must truly live its values. The actions, behaviours and motivations of staff say more about the organisation they work for than any marketing campaign. In the new era of humanism, this is the competitive platform. It’s why there is a shift towards social enterprise and purpose-driven organisations, because for the new consumer market it is good business to be a good business.

 

Doing Things on Purpose

The bias of Millennials towards brands that have meaning and deliver social impact is matched by a trend towards impact investment. In fact a growing community of consumers, employees and investors are now consciously voting with their feet as they choose to buy, work for and invest in organisations that add value to the community and make the world a better place. This is where designers and the new breed of business stakeholders intersect and why design is now increasing in value as the trend goes mainstream.

A clear purpose that is evident in every decision and action enables a business to be best placed to deliver a compelling brand promise that will activate consumers and staff, generate loyalty and advocacy and potentially disrupt an industry. However, as businesses seek to achieve this state they face a challenge of alignment. How do they align their business model, brand promise, value proposition, service offering and the organisation to deliver it in such a way that they uphold the integrity of the core purpose for which they exist? A business needs to complete the execution loop of brand experience, customer experience and employee experience and make that happen with integrity.

 

Experience Loop

Share you thoughts in the comments or if you are interested in finding out more reach out we’d love to talk further about how we could partner with your business. 

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