Understanding people’s needs and goals is the best way of setting a course towards sustainable business, as well as being the basis of a well-functioning society.
Exceptional and uncertain times can make us want to curl up in a corner somewhere. Won’t it blow over soon? Unfortunately, there is no returning to past certainties or escaping change. Even the new normal is changing rapidly.
We must therefore find ways of reinventing ourselves.
Decisions to do so should be made on the basis of information about customers’ needs and goals. As a service designer and consultant at Gofore, I’ve been able to work with a range of fantastic organisations. My own and customers’ experiences suggest that listening to employees’ and customers’ needs is more helpful than historical data when seeking a future direction.
In the midst of uncertainty, certainty can be increased by understanding what customers value.
Service design is one means of renewal
Operations can be profitably developed by understanding customers, employees or partners. The keyword is ‘systematic’ – customer surveys or service design should be a continuous approach rather than individual projects.
Service design is a fascinating blend of human science and technology. It combines the best of both. When we combine understanding — gained by observing human activity, and from interviews and other participative means such as workshops — with data obtained via data analysis and artificial intelligence, we can solve problems of greater complexity than before. The cumulative effects of dozens of individual problems in the service-event chain can be hidden from view. These are child’s play for AI.
The root causes of problems are identified in this way. Once such causes are known, solutions can be developed that generate value at both the human and economic levels. This provides a basis for creating agile services that can and should be scaled and duplicated because they were made to be self-renewing.
For example, systems must not burden people during widespread uncertainty. They must adapt and reform. This is what I regard as business creativity, the starting point for creating sustainable value.
How to ensure continuous renewal?
Renewal must occur at both individual and organisational level. As a service designer, I continuously update my expertise because I know that only this enables me to help customers deliver positive value and grow sustainably.
I view continuous renewal as unavoidable. It boils down to three sub-areas:
(1) Listening to employees, customers and other key partners must be systematic and continuous. Credible changes arise from using a range of expertise to collect and analyse a range of data.
2) You need the courage to try. Even the best-informed guesses are no substitute for experimentation. Understanding people and practical experience of how solutions work helps to clarify, or even find an entirely new focus for, business and one’s own place within it.
3) You have to pick your playing field and understand your strengths in relation to those of others. Now more than ever is the time to be a team player. Not everything is worth doing yourself — finding a partner can lead to significantly better outcomes.
Business creativity and renewal are based on systematic teamwork aimed at making life easier for people: a comfortable workplace, good service and a thriving business. Every step towards a seamless service experience is a step towards good, profitable growth and a thriving business. That’s why even small steps should be taken right now.