Design — The not-so-secret strategic weapon

Imag­ine, for a moment, that every­body in your organ­i­sa­tion from CEO down­wards, gets the job title of a ‘Design­er’. Unless you con­sid­er your­self to be a part of the brethren of design­ers, this will be a very dif­fi­cult thing to imag­ine for most of you. ‘Design­er’, the skill set, and ‘Design’, the thing that they do, has a cer­tain con­no­ta­tion in the world of busi­ness, usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with aes­thet­ics at best case or with incon­se­quen­tial look & feel at worst.

How­ev­er, in the words of Steve Jobs — “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. It is how it works”. Now, from the per­spec­tive of Steve Jobs, if you imag­ine every­one in your organ­i­sa­tion to be a design­er, it might be eas­i­er to com­pre­hend that every role, no mat­ter where they sit in the organ­i­sa­tion, and no mat­ter what their job descrip­tion says, is design­ing expe­ri­ences for inter­nal and/or exter­nal cus­tomers and part­ners. And the sum total of those expe­ri­ences, as deliv­ered to your employ­ees, cus­tomers and part­ners, is what your brand stands for. While design-cen­tric think­ing was first applied to the cre­ation of phys­i­cal objects, it is now increas­ing­ly com­mon for lead­ing organ­i­sa­tions to apply it to the more intan­gi­ble aspects, for exam­ple, how a cus­tomer feels about their expe­ri­ence with their brand across the entire deci­sion jour­ney con­sist­ing of aware­ness, pur­chase, deliv­ery, ser­vice, returns and loyalty.

Remem­ber, busi­ness­es cre­ate, oper­ate and opti­mise process­es, but cus­tomers, employ­ees and part­ners, con­sume experiences.

The focus on design­ing expe­ri­ences, forces organ­i­sa­tions to think beyond the tra­di­tion­al busi­ness process reengi­neer­ing levers for improv­ing organ­i­sa­tion­al per­for­mance. Does this design-cen­tric think­ing pay off in terms of improv­ing oper­a­tional per­for­mance of organ­i­sa­tions? Stud­ies say yes. After a decade of obser­va­tions, it is clear that com­pa­nies who focused on design and have con­sis­tent­ly won the Inter­na­tion­al Design Excel­lence Award out­per­formed the S&P 500 index by over six-and-a-half per­cent annu­al­ly. Top tier ven­ture cap­i­tal firms in Sil­i­con Val­ley are employ­ing design part­ners to help com­pa­nies in their port­fo­lio to devel­op design-cen­tric organisations.

What does this mean for a mar­keter in a dig­i­tal world?

Today’s dig­i­tal-savvy cus­tomer expects – whether or not they explic­it­ly artic­u­late this – high­ly per­son­alised, rel­e­vant, and near real-time expe­ri­ences. These per­son­alised expe­ri­ences need to be designed and deliv­ered, usu­al­ly by the mar­keter. In fact, research shows:

Organ­i­sa­tion are fast real­is­ing that it is extreme­ly chal­leng­ing to cre­ate the desired expe­ri­ences, at scale and in a sus­tain­able man­ner, with­out first adopt­ing design-cen­tric think­ing through­out the com­pa­ny. This shift may, at first, be chal­leng­ing for some depart­ments to accept. The finance depart­ment, for exam­ple, might design and man­date a pay­ment process based on what is oper­a­tional­ly effi­cient inter­nal­ly. How­ev­er, pay­ment sys­tems touch points can com­plete­ly shape a customer’s per­cep­tions about the com­pa­ny. Cus­tomers have lit­tle tol­er­ance for cum­ber­some pay­ment process­es and unless designed from the per­spec­tive of deliv­er­ing fric­tion­less com­merce in todays dig­i­tal world, this process can impact cus­tomer expe­ri­ence and con­se­quent­ly brand per­cep­tion sig­nif­i­cant­ly. Mar­ket­ing has a piv­otal role to play in mak­ing oth­er parts of the organ­i­sa­tion aware of such a con­se­quence, as well as a key role to play in lead­ing the charge for embed­ding a design-cen­tric mindset.

Design-cen­tric organ­i­sa­tions focus on the hard prob­lem of mak­ing their customer’s life eas­i­er rather than theirs.

Today’s cus­tomers want their brand inter­ac­tions to be sim­ple, intu­itive, and plea­sur­able and to accom­plish that, the entire organ­i­sa­tion will need to start using the vocab­u­lary that embraces the emo­tion­al ele­ments of a user’s expe­ri­ence through every phase of their jour­ney with your brand. Think­ing in terms of engage­ment, expe­ri­ence, desire, and delight is need­ed to empathise with your customers.

While the tran­si­tion to design-cen­tric think­ing may feel awk­ward and fleet­ing at first, the rewards are tan­gi­ble and can result in long-term, sat­is­fy­ing, and prof­itable rela­tion­ships with your customers.

If you are inter­est­ed in explor­ing more about a design cen­tric mind­set, and how it can broad­ly sup­port your busi­ness, I rec­om­mend our EMEA Adobe Sum­mit event this May at the ICC ExCeL Lon­don. Learn how you can com­bine cre­ativ­i­ty, con­tent and data to cre­ate com­pelling expe­ri­ences for your customers.

adobe summit emea 2016