This week’s New Yorker magazine has The Back Page by Roz Chast and it’s a cartoon called The Big Book of Parent-Child Fights. The Table of Contents has 12 entries starting with Food Arguments and ending with Miscellaneous Battles. It left me in stitches–I have two teens at home. It also made me love the way it takes a complex idea, the relation between parents and their children, and makes it super simple to understand.
Most organizations and leaders don’t know why they need designers. To put it into perspective, think about when you need a lawyer. Or when you need a plumber. Easy, right? The answer is not as easy or intuitive with design.
If you know why you need design, you can double your growth. You can build trust with your customers. You can get better at navigating the world of uncertainty with agility. I call this having a high Design Quotient (DQ).
If you don’t know when to call a designer, or how to have design embedded into your company culture, you fall behind. You follow versus lead, others eat you for lunch.
With inspiration from Chast, here is The Big Book of When to Call a Designer. If you answer Yes (Y) to any of the points, it’s time to talk to a designer.
1. You want to increase your revenues radically, and faster. Y/N
“Top-quartile MDI scorers increased their revenues and total returns to shareholders (TRS) substantially faster than their industry counterparts did over a five-year period–32 percentage points higher revenue growth and 56 percentage points higher TRS growth for the period as a whole.” The Business Value of Design, Mc Kinsey
2. You need to lower your risks but want to increase your rate of innovation. Y/N
The design process inherently reduces risk–its multiple ideas, iteration, rapid prototyping, testing, and reiteration means you can fail fast and at a low cost until you have a winning idea.
“Prototype ideas from low fidelity to high fidelity with increasing evidence that your ideas are going to work.” Alex Osterwalder, author, Business Model Canvas
3. You want to build your customers’ trust and be close to them. Y/N
Organizations that use design tools regularly, such as co-creation and user-journey maps, develop empathy for their users. This leads to a better understanding of their needs, leading to better solutions, and eventually and most importantly, leading to trust.
4. Your C-suite doesn’t include a design function. Y/N
Most organizations do not have a design function in their C-suite. Yet design can bring user experience-centered, multi-functional vision building and decision making at the highest levels. Having someone at the top who does this helps to embed it internally and creates long-term returns as noted in point #1.
5. Your organization is siloed, and it gets in the way of effective collaboration. Y/N
Design is collaborative. Designers are generalists. Often what they don’t know, and want to learn, that makes them great at bringing cross-functional teams together. In fact, their superpower is synthesizing diverse knowledge and input into a coherent vision.
6. Your research generates insights that everyone has. Y/N
If you want innovation, you need innovative research tools. Designers constantly invent new qualitative and quantitative research tools–researching other industries, studying outliers, using AI and machine-learning to generate permutations–that bring new insights to old problems.
7. You listen to the customer’s voice, but do not imagine the customer experience. Y/N
Channeling Henry Ford for a moment, the customer’s voice gives you a faster horse. Customer experience, on the other hand, gives you a Model T. Design brings physical, digital, and service together to define experiences that improve our lives.
8. You have dichotomies, but do not know how to resolve them. Y/N
“Less is more” is my favorite dichotomy. Good design at an affordable price is Target’s. Simple and high performance is Apple’s. Each is a strong design organization with an embedded design culture, and each creates long-term, high value through the resolution of dichotomies.
There’s no one easy answer to when to call a designer; there are many good reasons. But can you afford not to? The answer to that is simple and best said by, Ralph Caplan, author, and National Design Mind Awardee:
“Thinking about design is hard, but not thinking about it can be disastrous.”