In today’s agile, digital economy, success for any company is determined by its commitment towards delighting its customers. A key pillar of this Customer Obsession is Design Thinking, which is fueled by a deep understanding of the customer pain points, profound knowledge of the company’s strengths and abilities to address these pain points and an empathetic approach to product innovation.
Underscoring this is the culture of iterative refinement of these solutions which encourages engineers to fall in love with the problem, and not the solution. Embracing such a Customer Obsessed culture on the foundation of simple yet powerful values which are known and understood by all employees is a must for chiseling companies.
To achieve this goal of designing a product that delights your customer, every employee should be able to think like an entrepreneur and an innovator. Every engineer should be asking themselves questions like – What problems are customers facing in their businesses? How do they react to their problems?
Customer-driven innovation (CDI) and Design for delight (D4D) are two core innovation principles which goes hand in hand and can aid engineering teams to deliver on Customer Obsession. Observing customers within their real environment offers both surprises and insights into pain points. CDI is the lens through which decisions are made about what customer problems remain unsolved, what opportunities to pursue, what solutions to further invest in further, creating a durable advantage. D4D is a three-pronged concept and is about evoking positive emotion throughout the customer journey by going beyond customer expectations in delivering awesome product experiences. I wanted to share more on this as the cornerstone for solving for your customer.
Principle #1: Deep Customer Empathy
Empathy allows us to get inspired and embrace the unexpected. A huge driver for innovation is to gain a deeper understanding of our customer, getting to the root of their problem, and the emotion connected with it. There are two core lessons to keep in mind – 1) Being transparent with your customer and building relationships – if something is not working, it is okay to go back to them and let them know that 2) It is important to move away from a sympathetic mindset to an empathetic one. Remember when you feel pain for a customer it is sympathy, but when you feel pain with a customer it is empathy.
Principle #2: Go Broad to Go Narrow
To get to one great idea, you need a lot of them. The trick is to go “go broad” first by using creativity to explore a variety of potential solutions (avoid guard-rails to encourage team members to think outside the box), then be intentional about narrowing these down to the best one. To inspire bold innovation, one should leverage go broad to go narrow to chart the path to the ideal state.
Principle #3: Rapid Experiments with Customers
Testing the solution on actual users leads to better decisions. Their reaction to your solution to their problem provides the data you need to move forward. For this, rapid experiments should be performed that catalyse efforts towards building a minimum viable product for your customer. Decisions are better based on facts such as user behaviour rather than conjecture and experiments are usually the best way to get these facts. Experiments can help teams align on the customer and the solution. As leadership, you must encourage your teams to seize every opportunity they get to experiment.
Critical to the success of D4D is to fall in love with the problem, not the solution. This means we are continually on the path of further refinement of our solutions all towards the goal of better serving the customer.
Design thinking isn’t just useful for driving business innovation. It allows the developer to understand how their solutions will impact the customer and the society too. For instance, the use of AI in policing and facial recognition is now being considered as a misuse of the technology, considering the racial bias that comes into play with the use of the technology. If this was developed using the principles of design thinking these challenges would have been anticipated.
As we continue to push the fold of technology and innovation and its place in our lives, technology firms can truly benefit from inculcating a design thinking mentality. Other than creating a product that solves key customer problems, it ensures you are being responsible and ethical too.
Many companies can deliver solutions that are similar to others in the market, what will set you apart is how effectively you’re able to solve the customer’s problems and while upholding all levels of innovation and integrity. Stay rooted in the problem without falling in love with the solution and you can never go wrong.
The author is Intuit India Site Leader & Vice President, Product Development, Small Business & Self-Employed Group