Businesses that lead with design will have a competitive advantage over others as digital consumers place a greater emphasis on design-led attributes such as usability and experience. Instead of confining themselves to their ecosystems, companies that make user-centric design a shared responsibility rather than a separate function will thrive in the digital age. 

Adopting a design-thinking framework leverages a human-centred approach in which users are at the forefront, providing insights that can bring about meaningful change — define a problem, and then solve it.

Fundamentally, it’s all about designing an experience that guarantees effective human interaction with a product or service, while catering to the users’ needs. An environment that encourages learning, testing, and iterating with consumers to develop solutions increases the likelihood of creating game-changing products and services while lowering the risk of errors.

Organisations that consciously foster a culture of sharing early prototypes, focusing on the right experience with a set of users, and using the feedback to optimise the next model can understand what works and what doesn’t while efficiently addressing the stumbling blocks in the process. 

Design-centric companies realise that a product launch isn’t the end of the iteration. Implementing a fluid, flexible, and hands-on consumer-focused approach is the way forward in the quest to elevate the customer experience.

Applying The Right Framework

Here are a few golden rules that you can follow to implement design thinking within your organisation and successfully bring in design-led product transformation:

Rule 1: Empower All To Be A Designer

Firstly, the design first approach enables different players of a project to align, create, and share ideas—and by doing so, improve the product.

Secondly, close collaboration with stakeholders doesn’t just generate ideas and product champions, it also increases product engagement and lowers the churn rate. More product data from various perspectives, as well as the participation of multidisciplinary teams and skill sets, leads to a better and more inclusive design.

Rule 2: Change And Disruption As A Path To Innovation

Change inevitably creates friction, which is why empathy and alignment toward different users are critical. Understanding their motivations, needs, and pain points along the digital journey is imperative. 

Time-to-market and time-to-value are the leading performance indicators. So, adjusting the product’s success metrics and developing a continuous design practice that supports these metrics will be the differentiating factor.

Rule 3: Customers First. Technology Second

Design-led experiences seek to provide a seamless, personalised journey to customers by incorporating technology into the background of all interactions. 

The idea is to shift the focus on customers and their underlying human needs to help them achieve their goals and build long-term emotional connections through functional, economic, and aesthetic design.

Rule 4: Refocus Your Lenses To Look At The Big Picture

As digital ecosystems become complex, so do customer journeys and the gamut of entities and systems associated with them. Businesses should adopt a service design approach to visualise, investigate, and understand the path their customers take across their interaction lifecycle and touch points. 

A bird’s eye view will not only give a glimpse of interactions where the brand fails to impress but also highlight areas where there is room for innovation.

Rule 5: Get Everyone Involved From The Beginning

It’s easy to believe that design comes first, and development comes second. However, this does not preclude engineers from being involved in the design process. Designers have a better understanding of user requirements, whereas engineers can provide critical technical insights into how to implement them. When designers and engineers collaborate, these issues can be identified and addressed immediately rather than after the designs have been approved.

Think of it as the democratisation of product: Like any effective democracy, design-led growth requires traditional decision-makers to open up the decision-making process to a larger, more diverse group of stakeholders. Does this create more difficult, complex discussions? Yes. Do difficult, complex discussions lead to better, more innovative business decisions? Absolutely.

About the Author

Priyank Kapadia, Head of Product & Technology Transformation at Accolite Digital.

This article was originally published in INC42. 

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