A “design attitude” or a “decision attitude”? Two must haves for Service Business CEO’s

I read with interest a recent article by Lucy Kimbell where she related what I see as one of the key differences between a Design Thinking approach and more traditional management approaches.

There is no doubt that the traditional management approach is no danger of going anywhere and nor should it. It is well entrenched and serves to enable people in organisations to make the majority of decisions quickly and efficiently.

For those very same organisations who have larger and more important decisions to make and more often than not  ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ there is another option to complement their traditional approaches. Using a Design Attitude enables organisations to develop a range of new and alternative options instead of forcing them to choose between their current options.

Most CEO’s will move in order to move forward make a decision based on current options and why wouldn’t they? They have achieved that role as a result of making decisions in the traditional manner – why change a proven formula?

Because the world they now operate in is different to the one that those successful decisions were made in. Companies now face far more channels to market, a greater potential for disintermediation from new competitors and are far more removed from customers than they have ever been – despite drowning in data.

We recently undertook some Service Design work in the financial services sector and after spending time with customers, staff and then more customers uncovered a large problem. It was large because it was preventing their most profitable customers from doing more business with them and it was caused by their chosen business model.

A big problem.

On the surface, changing a company’s business model is not a quick, easy or inexpensive decision. The Management’s approach was to face the issue that was preventing significant customer growth by choosing between available options – a Decision attitude. ‘I have 3 options which is the best (or least bad)’.

Using a Service Design mindset we first set out to establish the ideal Customer Experience and work back from that point using the two other filters of feasibility (can we do it) and viability(can we make money from it )

In taking a Design attitude, we approached the problem by deciding there was very little chance they could or would change it and anyway we had the skills and a Design attitude which enabled us to look at a variety of ways we could solve the customer problem by generating new options to choose from.

The outcome, the requirement to invest $5 million was removed from the decision set and a variety of alternative methods to achieve the same outcome with no capital investment added in.

When next you are asked how you demonstrate the value of Design Thinking and Service Design, connect the cost of the traditional decision versus the cost of using a  ‘Design Attitude’.

In this case, an annual interest cost of $200,000+ versus just a fraction of that.

The take-away – there is a time and a place for both. Its important to know when and how to use both to maximise all stakeholders value.

Lets not be shy in highlighting the significantly greater potential for transforming growth by using a Design Attitude versus the more traditional Decision Attitude.

For more information on how to balance the two, give Proto Partners, Australia’s leading  Service Design consultancy a call.

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