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Make the Customer the Centre of All You Do — That’s Innovation!

Alasdair McGill — Ashton McGill

InnovaBuzz Episode 70 — Alasdair McGill of Ashton McGill

In this episode, my guest is Alasdair McGill of Ashton McGill, who help businesses thrive by addressing their strategies, growth and their innovation.

Ali is very passionate about the topic of customer experience and designing products or services for the customer and he states that the way you do this, they way you make the customer the centre of all you do in a business, is innovation.

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

Key points and take-aways from this episode with Ali McGill from Ashton McGill:

  • In a broader sense Ashton McGill are trying to help businesses to thrive, working with organizations of all sorts (e.g. Universities) not just commercial organization. They help people to innovate, help them think differently about what is that they do, help them understand their customers, users and their market and then to design services based on the market needs. (0:14:00)
  • The core of what Ashton McGill do is about helping people to see the world differently and changing the lens with which they see things. (0:16:00)
  • The Edinburgh Tram story and lessons in designing for the user / customer. (0:16:15)
  • In Service Design, the user or customer is at the centre of all activity. This is a philosophy and mindset. (0:09:00)
  • Part of service design is to develop a business based on a service that people really need or want. It means giving conscious thought to any product or service — design a system to be useful to the user!
  • Most people regard an experience as good when an organisation has delivered what it said it would! Not when they’ve gone the extra mile, but just when they’ve done what they said they’d do! (0:25:00) Harvard study about customer expectations shows that 84% of people expect to be let down! So if you deliver on what you say, you actually differentiate yourself from that expectation.(1:01:30)
  • According to a Stanford University study, most businesses that fail, fail due to a lack of product to market fit — they designed something they thought the market wanted, but it didn’t, because they’d made a lot of assumptions without talking to their target market. (0:28:00)
  • The risk of perfectionism — don’t try to be perfect. Push products out rapidly and then listen to your customers. Understand what they think about what you have created and listen to their feedback, and then improve and iterate it. Launching a minimum viable product early and learning from that by listening to your customers feedback, is a much better way to deliver something that the user wants and by improving on an ongoing basis, continuing to engage with and deliver on user expectations. (0:30:00)
  • Experiences and services can be better — as humankind we can be nicer to each other, if we show more empathy and really talk to one another. (0:11:00)
  • Businesses and organisations that use video to document what they do and how they do it, get more engagement and business, than those that don’t. Ali also finds he really enjoys the creative process of editing and post-producing the videos and telling the story. (0:32:00)
  • Video is a very powerful marketing tool, particularly as an interview format (0:43:00) — Example of the Friday post-lunch finance lecture to creative students (0:45:00)
  • One thing everyone can do to improve their service is avoid the “jargon”!
  • 98% of us had the capability to think divergently at 5-years-old, that is a natural curiosity to ask questions — Why, why, why?. At school, that divergent thinking is gradually “educated” out of us. By the age of 20, only 2% of the population has the capability to think divergently! (0:52:00)

Here are Ali’s answers to the questions of our Innovation round. Listen to the interview to get the full scoop.

  • #1 thing to be more innovative — Stop making assumptions. Think like a child and ask lots of questions. Become curious as individuals and organizations.
  • Best thing for new ideas — Don’t do things on your own. Share the problem with others and get their help.
  • Favourite tool for innovation — Design Thinking is a different way to approach idea generation and problem solving. Trello and Slack are our favorite apps for productivity.
  • Keep project / client on track — Proactive communication and active listening. Don’t assume anything, keep asking questions to clarify, and share issues as well as ideas.
  • Differentiate — Make a point, every time, to deliver to your customers what you promised to do. Put in the work to build the expertise and experience. There is no magic pill or shortcut to success.

Cool Things about Ali

  1. Ali wanted to be a professional sports player when he was a young kid. He was a decent golfer, but had to work hard to achieve at a level that was ultimately still not enough to make a living from it.
  2. He is a competitive cyclist.
  3. He has been into mindmapping for a long time.
  4. He comes from an accounting background and over time moved into design — design of the user experience.
  5. “I do what I do because I strongly believe that experiences and services can be better and as humankind we can be nicer to each other.”

About the Author/Podcast Host

Dr. Jürgen Strauss is the founder and owner of Innovabiz. As host of the InnovaBuzz innovation podcast, he has been privileged to interview entrepreneurs from around the world. Jürgen can be reached on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via the Innovabiz website.

Originally published at on April 12, 2017.



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Dr Jürgen Strauss

Dr Jürgen Strauss

Founder of Innovabiz: TRANSFORMATION MARKETING — Building visibility, professional authority and connection with your dream clients