We live in very challenging times. The world around you – and your business – is filled with uncertainty. Cyber attacks, globalization, fast moving technologies, natural disasters, the pace of change is accelerating. But within that uncertainty exist innumerable opportunities to design (or redesign) game-changing business. When you look at the most successful businesses, they have one thing in common: they turn uncertainty into an advantage. Opportunities are there for the taking, if you know how to look for them. So how can you embrace uncertainty?
1. FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
First of all is that you need to feel comfortable when operating in uncertain times. More than 50% of people find this very difficult. They feel uncomfortable when there is no clear path ahead, when they feel they are not in control or when their brains are not rested which in the end will lead to bad moods. Contrary designers love uncertainty like it is cocaine for the brain. At the moment you feel uncertain, you know that you will get somewhere and in the end reach your goal. Emmanuel Buttin, CFO BNP Paribas: “I believe people need to step out of their comfort zone. That’s not to say you won’t be anxious the first time you step up. I believe being anxious enables you to be more open to new environments and opportunities.
Satisfaction is the beginning of dissatisfaction: you must always look further than today, because tomorrow there can be someone more innovative. Insecurity must be something that makes you feel comfortable because in that way you will always stay sharp in terms of innovation, trends, ideas and improvements.
‘SATISFACTION IS THE BEGINNING OF DISSATISFACTION’
2. KILL THE BLABLABLA
Being operationally minded, you will have a hard time to shift your focus beyond the annual plan. Your world exists of execution and short time results. In such environment people feel comfortable by seeking for certainty and they make assumptions for feel certain. You have to beware though that you might fool yourself by assuming certainty. People assume they know their customers, they assume they are in control when they invite you to their meetings, they assume they know what will come ahead because they have written this all down in a plan. They also assume they know what their customers want. But this is all blablabla. Once you can not support your assumptions with real market data, consider it blablabla. It is up to you to identify this and kill this by going out of the building and test your blablabla assumptions.
3. DESIGN YOUR POINT OF VIEW
Every design journey starts somewhere and every journey starts with a point of view. This provides the litmus test for what’s real and what’s just a mirage. As a designer you are responsible for actively shaping your point of view based on what you learn along the way. When you are a startup, you have hope in your heart that your company will become the next big thing. You work hard at developing and selling your product – but often, the harder you work, the further away dreams seem to be. When you are an established business, you’ve been driving the same executional strategy for many years. To create change, you must start with your point of view, even when the odds seemed stacked against you.
Even though the route is not always as clear and uncertain, you can set a point on the horizon for the purpose you want to achieve. Ralph Hamers is a good source of inspiration. He, as the chairman of the ING Group, wants a digital bank. Only how is still uncertain. He embraces this uncertainty by looking for ways to fulfill his purpose. Under Hamers, ING is really looking through data analysis what kind of customer someone is, what he or she wants and how the bank can meet those needs. What is your purpose? When you pair your point of view with specific tools, skills and a mindset to match, you absolutely can create the change you’re looking for. Be a rebel, you do need to question the establishment and bring to the table those big ideas that you feel in your gut are worth exploring. Set your point of view and design it.
It can be scary to go out of the building, but it will help you to look beyond today, discover new trends, view other players in the marketplace, and get to know your customers well. After all, you must set up your vulnerability and be sincerely interested in who the customer is and what he or she wants.
We put our trust in managers who specialize in something and shrink away from asking questions for fear of sounding ignorant. History, however, shows that courage and persistence in asking design-minded questions – like, ‘why’ and ‘what if?’ – set the foundation for discovery and innovation. By asking honest questions of your customers – questions that aren’t focused on making the sale or showing off knowledge, but are genuinely intended to get a better understanding of who they are and what they need – your customers will feel appreciated.
5. BUILD A PROTOTYPE
Do you have any uncertainty about the operation of your concept? Build it at low cost and see what happens. In any design process, it is vital that the design team understand the design as intimately as possible. What are you creating? How does it work? How does it feel? Prototyping it, and interacting with it, will give you many more ideas about how you might solve problems, how your customers will react, and what your next steps will be. Once you have figured out that you really want to know, it’s time to design the minimal prototype that will fit the bill. Always ask yourself: Can it be made even simpler?
IDEAS, FORM AND FUNCTION’
SO, WHAT NOW?
What is your point of view? Think about what you want to achieve and set your point of view. Be curious, ask design-minted questions to set the foundation for discovery and innovation. Build a prototype if you have any uncertainty about the operation of your concept.The key to prototyping is: define what you want to learn, get started, and keep it simple. And don’t forget that feeling uncomfortable is the new comfortable feeling. Do you want to learn more about how to embrace uncertainty and how to design a better business? We would love to help you out.
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