Balance & Alignment
There’s a word we’re all a little tired of — innovation. Businesses are tired of it because it represents waste and confusion. Designers are tired of it because it represents effort and energy expended for something they knew wouldn’t work. It represents the effort of enterprises to remain relevant, to grow, to compete… yet according to Deloitte’s Doblin Group, 96% of that expenditure fails to even achieve ROI. What are we doing wrong? What could change this repeated fumbling? Where is success for effort?
Let’s start by setting a definition of innovation for the purposes of clarity. For the business leaders, it should be the efforts of an enterprise to find new revenue or refine & improve existing systems to increase revenue. For those who build and design, it should be about uncovering user & customer needs & pain points and creating magical experiences to address them. This difference in point of view is the heart of the current problem: those who decide the budgets and set the strategy are totally removed from the context that would direct effort & funds in the correct direction, and those who know the user or customer best & build are removed from the greater context of purpose, agenda, and business strategy. There is no shared view of the landscape, regardless of altitude, to achieve alignment. There is no balance.
We at Five Points have been putting our experience & efforts towards creating that alignment. In rethinking how to enable & empower enterprises to not only achieve ROI, but to thrive & grow in a relevant, authentic way. This gets a little out there but hear me out.
To gain the much-needed balance & maintain living context from top to bottom, the full business space needs to be mapped, without agenda beyond true reality. The user/customer as a whole person who exists beyond the enterprise’s silos, digital within the context of the physical, sources of data, moments of revenue, the service blueprint that delivers service, channels, platforms, devices, etc. Mapping this in a way that business leaders can quickly confirm, prioritize, and understand the real opportunities. Simultaneously, AI & teams can begin to parse areas of opportunity, identify blockers, and surface insights via a living platform to which multiple lenses for executive or designer to reflect the context most needed for their individual & organizational goals. This is the start of creating alignment. This is how you enable a business to function as a design led business, without the impossible culture change.
To be clear, design-led doesn’t mean the folks with the crayons run the place, it means that the business is focused on the customer experience, and data shows that the businesses that DO this, outperform the S&P 500 by 219%. Alignment AND revenue all from shared context? Yes, and no. There are other factors to consider & unpack to enable success. Most important is understanding what BRAND means in the 21st Century.
Brand is a hot-button word that causes people to behave like seagulls unlike any other. Mention it, and people will parachute in to declare their ownership, their opinion, and their guidance. This is core to the problem… people generally don’t have a clear picture of what, exactly, brand means now.
Brand isn’t just paintjob & message. “We have a logo, a tagline, colours, fonts, marketing messages… that’s our brand.” It isn’t anymore. It was in 1967, but brand is much more complex now… it is the cumulative result of many efforts, many owners, and the resulting experience that all of this provides. In the simplest of descriptions, brand is the connection of purpose to experience. We’ve all heard Simon Sinek preach “start with why”, but few realize how you do that consistently, completely, and with quality. Purpose is the statement of why. Why does the enterprise exist? What is the evergreen intent of the organization? Why are people on board with contributing to this goal? Why are customers attracted to this shared truth? How are you manifesting experiences that authentically reflect this purpose? Clarity at the foundation of this construct will provide the lens, the tools, and the measurement of success in a larger sense beyond revenue (although that is most certainly a core KPI). Knowing whether something can be done isn’t nearly as important as knowing that you really should.
Combine this clarity & foundation with the above-mentioned holistic opportunity mapping, and you have the recipe to achieve balance & alignment throughout the organization. You can empower downward. You all understand context regardless of altitude. Now you are achieving growth by wrapping around the needs of people, be it your own team, or your customers. Growth driven by the human factor.
By starting right, you can achieve this Human Positive Growth, and then the word “innovate” will no longer leave a bad taste in our collective mouths.
— Michael “Howie” Howatson