We are intrigued by businesses that are looking beyond the business world’s traditional models and measures of success; reassessing their own purpose, values, and meaning; and implementing new business approaches that impact the people who work for them, their customers, and their competitors. For example, Deloitte research has recently identified a link between organizations’ instilling a sense of purpose and their long-term success.
10 Business Themes
Through this reflection, we have identified 10 themes that deserve further attention, discussion, and writing. Each of these themes forces us to think more deeply about our practice, the skills that we need, who can teach us these skills, and what impact we expect to have on each of these themes in our role as UX professionals.
1. Avoid silos, which prevent greatness.
The silos and other divisions that exist in business prevent the people on projects from delivering their best work. Silos create roadblocks that deter deep conversations and cross-disciplinary collaboration. (See Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s “Fight the Nine Symptoms of Corporate Decline” and Josh Treuhaft’s How Can We Design Ourselves Away from Blah Conversations?”)
2. Work in parallel streams.
Constraints exist in businesses that stop them from being able to innovate as much as their staff and customers would like. This is the unfortunate reality. Some leaders who talk about innovation don’t create creative environments in which product teams can try out new ideas. However, small teams working in parallel streams can try out new ideas and platforms without disrupting existing businesses. Create sandboxes in which people working on innovation projects can play. (See Dan’s article “Designing for Change.”)
3. Care about your customers.
Customers are increasingly looking for businesses that truly care about them and are willing to relate to them and serve them as human beings. Doing this requires healthy doses of empathy, transparency, and truth in business. For example, a bank should be able to reflect on its current business and the language that it uses and ask how they can do better—from their leadership right down to the finer details of their product set. (See our article “Being Human.”)
4. Make creativity a constant in business.
Businesses sometimes see creativity as the primary responsibility of the artists and designers who work for them. They often misunderstand creativity, limiting it to making things pretty, or try to fix designs without the necessary thinking that should happen beforehand. But creativity is much more. Elements of creativity include giving people in business the spaces, time, and tools to explore new ideas. The goal should be to discover better ways of arriving at ideas and capturing the outputs of our conversations. The lack of creativity in a business hurts it to the degree that the designs of its products and services look the same as others, making them increasingly commoditized. (See Jessica Stillman’s “7 Characteristics of Highly Creative People.”)
5. Get inspired by the people on your team.
Businesses are often conservative by nature and avoid taking risks. But the world needs big thinkers and big dreamers—people who are willing to look beyond the day-to-day operations and current constraints and look for ways to inspire. Inspiration comes from people, so businesses need to attract and invest in people who can dream big. In addition to attracting the talent, they need to create cultures that encourage and nurture this way of thinking. Businesses need to take a deeper look at the skill sets they’ll require to prosper in the future. (See “Tony Fadell: From iPod Father to Thermostat Startup.”)
6. Provide self-service, but give service a human touch as well.
We continue to see people using self-service on the Web and mobile devices as they explore the Internet of things. While people like self-service, they also like to receive help from other people. Digital products are a constant, but they need not necessarily be the answer to all possible customer interactions. Businesses frame self-service as a way to reduce costs by removing the human element. But they should provide human touches at the right time—in a tone that makes sense to customers. (See Micah Solomon’s “What’s New About Serving Customers (and What’s Not).”)