thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

A 3D Look Into the Future

By on March 7, 2012

Screens_lrgCustomer 3D organizations are really good at creating concepts of the ways customers want them to be doing business in the future and then turning those ideas into reality. In contrast, companies with one-dimensional views of customers try to hold onto today’s (and even yesterday’s) reality as long as they can.

In Designing for Growth, Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie describe how thinking about and responding to possible changes in a specific market would be approached by two different teams: a traditional team composed of MBAs contrasted with a team of design students.

The MBAs want an ordered approach because their world relies on economics and logic. Because of their proclivity for rational, quantifiable answers, they believe that, with proper analysis, they can prove one best answer. They don’t like to admit any uncertainty with their solutions. They want to tweak the status quo.

Designers, on the other hand, would use data to lay out future customer scenarios rather than spreadsheets. They would brainstorm how specific customer personas would react to different scenarios and might create variations of their business for the future and solicit feedback from customers and the advantages and disadvantages of those models. They believe that the status quo can always be improved.

Traditional companies think that future problems are puzzles, which can be precisely solved if they have the right amount of data. Exceptional organizations envision future problems as mysteries, which requires systems-thinking, prototyping and experiencing situations the way customer would encounter them. From a customer standpoint, conventional businesses see reality as exact, while Customer 3D organizations take the designer approach and see reality from the perspective of the humans in it.

The Customer 3D™ system approaches the future the way the design thinkers do. Liedtka and Ogilvie summarize it this way: “Don’t let your imagined constraints limit your possibilities. Aim to connect deeply with those you serve.” New ideas that benefit customers don't have to be night-and-day different. Customer-centered champions recognize that solutions are simply better iterations of today’s reality; but they also understand that even better models can be found by continuing to experiment with new approaches that will add even greater value in the future.

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2 Responses to “A 3D Look Into the Future”

  1. Brian Kane says:

    These comments are so true. I've encountered this very often: the expert believes he knows better than others what the solution is. Little credence is given to those who are on the ground and have direct experiences to share. When you focus on the customer, your ego is no longer a problem. You're prepared to listen, incorporate what you hear into your own thinking and devise a solution that works for and is appreciated by the customer.

  2. Bill Self says:

    Brian,
    You're right. When innovators are thinking like a customer, they are open to a variety of scenarios which they can explore, rather rigidly analyzing data to arrive at a single solution. Design thinking is about possibilities, rather than declaring a single decision the best one (and perhaps finding out later that it was not the best available).

    Thanks for your comment,
    Bill

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