June 12, 2022

10 Truths From Building Design Organizations at Scale

Observations from a chief design executive that apply across industries and companies.

Photo by Ngai Man Yan

Having the opportunity to build design orgs in some of the largest companies in the world, I’ve observed that even with completely different cultures, org structures, and industries…some things stay the same.

  1. You will never have enough designers. You will never have enough time. You will always be building the plane while it’s flying. Design is a valuable, scarce resource. The sooner you navigate this truth and use it to your advantage, the sooner you build leverage.
  2. Design transformation is company transformation. The work you’re doing isn’t just for the design org. Becoming an experience-led company transforms the culture. Realize that change management is your job.
  3. Chart tomorrow’s vision while building for today. North stars are in the ether if you’re not improving current experiences. Drive impact in the short-, medium-, and long-term. Short-term wins become proof points that build reputation and provide runway. The medium-term is where the magic happens.
  4. Show up as a company leader, not just a functional leader. Design cuts across orgs and teams, which provides a unique view of the environment. When you make that mindset switch, you’ll get pulled into the conversations and decision making you wanted all along.
  5. Always be recruiting. The coffee chat you have today might be a future hire five years from now. You are responsible for treating your talent pipeline like a supply chain, always keep it moving.
  6. Your “first team” is your boss and peers, not your directs. If you only focus down, you’ll realize you’ve been neglecting across and up. That’s where important communication, relationships, and visibility is required for the success of your organization.
  7. Be the matchmaker. Connecting the dots across the company will unearth teams that don’t talk to each other, duplicative efforts, and opportunity areas. Build the network, streamline the work, and unearth new business models.
  8. Trust is the foundation of all great teams. Take the time to build trust with your team, throughout your org, with your peers, and your manager. Take a 360 degree approach, and be the constant gardener.
  9. No one understands what you do, so explain it to them. Don’t leave the design process in an opaque box that produces magic. The more people understand the complexity and rigor behind the work, the more others will respect and champion Design.
  10. As you scale, the talent you hire and the mechanisms/levers you create will determine how your culture evolves. Make sure you’re minding the shop and sharing artifacts that guide decision making and incentivize desired behaviors.

March 10, 2022

How Design Thinking and Emerging Technology Will Enhance Travel Experiences

Customer experience has become a significant competitive advantage in the travel industry, magnified by shifts in what travelers value. We’re on the cusp of an evolution in how emerging technology will enhance the travel experience from start to finish, moving from reactive to anticipatory and proactive customer experiences. 

Evolving expectations 

With more ways to spend their time and money than ever before, people expect more from their customer experiences. Today’s experiences are benchmarked against the best across all industries, which means companies compete with experiences completely outside their category for mindshare and wallet. So, when a company disrupts an industry or makes their service incredibly easy or more delightful, consumers wonder why everything can’t be that simple. Turns out, travel and technology are good companions. 

In the past, when a flight was canceled, it was enough for a travel company to supply travelers with the connection points and contact information to fix the issues themselves. We’re no longer in that era. Now, travelers will compare the self-service experience of dealing with a flight cancellation with the ease and simplicity of their favorite app — regardless of industry. The end-to-end service travelers receive is considered part of the product experience itself. 

The shift of customer focus from products to services to experiences has been happening for years, and the pandemic has only amplified the need for meaningful connection. Travelers are placing greater value on the trips they’re taking and the memories they are making. A recent report from Expedia Group found that 50% of travelers plan to spend more on trips than they did prior to the pandemic. 

Higher consumer expectations, coupled with an increased emphasis on the role of travel in our lives, has raised the bar considerably for travel providers who want to deliver great experiences.  

Human-Centered Design 

To become a traveler-centric company, we must put our deep understanding of traveler needs, preferences, and behaviors at the core of our work. Human-Centered Design allows our cross-functional teams to activate our expertise and innovate in real time: connecting travelers with inspiring ideas to explore their world, streamlining the planning process, and keeping relevant information at their fingertips throughout their trip. 

While historically, travel providers have viewed the transaction as the end of a traveler’s experience, Human-Centered Design enables an experience-led product and service design process that maps the traveler’s journey end-to-end and informs every touchpoint they have along the way. 

A shift to holistic thinking and personalized experiences 

The travel industry has a history of optimizing experiences for search and transactions. Instead of focusing on the transaction, travel providers need to focus on the relationship travelers have with their brand and use that to build more intuitive, personalized, and proactive experiences. Taking a more holistic view of the experience frees us from thinking in transactional silos and highlights how all the pieces interconnect. From discovery and planning, to booking, in-trip, and post-trip — it helps connect the journey across all channels and time. 

Travelers don’t see parts of the experience or features in isolation, to them it’s all one experience — and that’s exactly how companies need to see it too. 

Making technology human 

Technology is an enabler of great experiences. Leveraging artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and predictive analytics, companies can create hyper-personalized interactions that adapt to a traveler’s context and work across every aspect of their journey. At their core, experiences need to be humanized, starting with a cohesive design and conversational tone, removing jargon, reducing complexity, and streamlining interactions.  

Once that foundation is ready, companies can deliver real-time, personalized experiences that meet travelers where they are and provide the right information, at the right time, in the right context. Personalization unlocks a new level of experience quality. It moves us from a ‘one-to-many’ to a ‘one-to-one’ conversation with customers. Reflecting people’s needs and preferences while providing value at every interaction also builds trust. Companies can use data to anticipate issues and solve them using customer preferences and light touch interactions. 

Natural language processing allows for multimodal interaction, so travelers can interact in the most natural way for them — whether that’s through typing, tapping, or voice. Voice interaction will become increasingly prevalent over time, enabling a new generation of experiences that deliver actionable insights and real-time personalized interfaces. 

What’s next – hyper-personalization and prediction 

What’s considered bleeding-edge now will become table stakes in the future as customers’ expectations evolve. Where we’re heading is hyper-personalized interactions that adapt to context, work across the entire journey, and solve problems before travelers even know they have them — the future is predictive and proactive.  

This shifts us from a place where flight cancellations cause additional time and stress, to a world where issues are solved before travelers even know there’s a problem. A world where flights are rebooked and itineraries updated before travelers even know their flight was canceled, with orchestration happening behind the scenes, reducing the complexity and stress when things change. Systems that get better the more you interact with them, increasing value to travelers by anticipating their needs. 

This is where the power of journey orchestration and proactive experiences really come into view. Travel providers that take advantage of this trend can create better customer experiences, achieve higher conversion rates, and increase the value of each trip. They also can build long-term relationships with travelers instead of just transactions.

Originally posted at MyCustomer

June 25, 2020

The Business Impact of Design

I had the pleasure of being interviewed for Forrester's report The Business Impact of Design, which was published in June and recently promoted by InVision.

Envisioning and designing great experiences is only one lens of design leadership — you have to be able to demonstrate the business impact your work is having. Without that, it's just a shiny object.

May 8, 2020

Making Digital More Human

The digital usage numbers are big right now, with analysts saying much of that uptick will stick. But I’d like to look at this through a different lens for a moment… taking a more human perspective, both on future expectations and behavior.

Just because customers are using digital channels more, doesn’t mean that they will automatically be satisfied with their experiences. In fact, they will come to expect more from digital experiences. The pandemic has been a digital forcing function for consumers and businesses, with many people becoming familiarized with experiences they haven’t used much in the past. Once they get acclimated, that’s when the expectations rise. Especially when they continue to use other digital experiences as the benchmark — not just financial institutions.

As people’s lifestyle and behaviors are changing across work, home, and social interaction, so are their behaviors related to the products and services they use, enjoy, and find valuable. While some people’s lives have been adjusted or evolved, some have had their worlds turned upside-down. And with wellness taking center stage when people take stock of what’s important, a part of that is financial wellness.

How does this change our mindset in how we approach our work? How does this shift what is important in the experiences we deliver to our customers?

As customers’ priorities and lifestyles are re-evaluated, how does that influence their behavior going forward and what do they expect from us? What should they expect from us? How will we evolve with the changing landscape to best meet their needs in this new world? How do we make digital more… human?

From virtual parties to ordering food, how Americans are using the internet
JD Power Covid-19 Pulse Surveys
5 Human Truths That Experiences Need to Address (pdf)
A gigantic experiment reshaping how we work and live
The Virus Changed the Way We Internet
Remaking banking customer experience in response to coronavirus
This is how COVID-19 could change the world of work for good
COVID-19 Is A Before-And-After Moment In The Digital Transformation

April 9, 2020

Transforming User Experience in Banking – Business Insider Report

Last December, I had the pleasure of being interviewed for a report released this week: Transforming User Experience in Banking.

“A human-centered design mythology offers the best way to truly understand customers and develop solutions that meet their needs — solving real customer problems and delivering experiences that resonate in market. However, it’s just one part of the whole. In order to be successful, this approach needs to be customized according to your company culture and DNA.”

The report outlines strategies that financial institutions are using to deliver a superior customer experience. It covers org structure, practice/process, research, measurement, and the importance of keeping the customer at the center of design initiatives.

December 17, 2019

Design Trends – Talent

“ You can't be a successful unicorn hunter if you’re going to bring people into a horrible culture. You have to create an environment that creatives want to be a part of.”

https://www.invisionapp.com/talks/design-trends-talent
https://www.invisionapp.com/design-trends-report-talent

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