Category: design thinking
Shamir Duverseau

Maximize Data with Lean Thinking

Build. Measure. Learn. Those three words are at the core of Lean methodology, a way of doing business that incorporates elements from Six Sigma, agile development, design thinking, and other sources. Lean methodology is a modern application to business that has a longer history in the manufacturing industry, originating in the Toyota Production System in the 1950s. It has since been used by successful startups and large corporations alike, across industries. Lean’s continuous improvement cycle enables companies to make meaningful progress by getting the best use of customer data and intelligence.

When it comes to the digital experience, Lean thinking can be a tool of immeasurable power. From acquiring qualified traffic to converting those prospects into customers to retaining those customers to build lifetime value, a Lean viewpoint can help optimize every touchpoint of the customer journey. As this is especially the case in a considered purchase industry, Lean is now at the heart of how we at Smart Panda Labs are helping our clients drive customer lifetime value.

Here’s how.

Build

Everyone knows that building products and services that meet customer needs is a primary goal of any business. But customer needs are varied and nuanced, requiring answers to a long list of questions. If you wait to answer all the questions at once, or worse, assume you already know the answers, you risk high costs and wasted time at best. At worst, you risk the failure of an initiative, a division, or an entire organization.

This is why the term “minimal viable product,” or MVP, has become so popular and so important. A tenet of Lean and Agile methodologies, an MVP is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product development.  Each iteration of this streamlined product or service is meant to answer a question or two, or meet a set of demands, but not all demands at once.

We have learned the value of MVPs for our clients’ products as well as our own. So, we build new services and processes, not as fait accomplis, but as MVPs in order to ensure that are meeting client needs.

Measure

Objectivity does not come easily to modern day organizations. While gathering unbiased data is becoming easier, there remains a persistent risk of a biased interpretation of the data.

Lean accounts for this through customer-centric experimentation and measurement, allowing customer interactions and feedback to live at the center of the story. Actionable metrics inform whether your customer is experiencing your product in the way you hypothesize, or if you need to pivot. Either way, customer data and creative intelligence are guiding your decisions, thus maximizing the results.

Our own actionable metrics include feedback from our clients. How do they feel our innovation is helping them? Is it making things easier or harder? Is it aiding them in meeting goals or communicating with teams? The answers to these questions, along with many others, will help us to know whether or not we are moving in the right direction. And these decisions can be based on real feedback, and not simply cool ideas that we fall in love with but bring no benefit to the client.

Learn

“If you cannot fail, you cannot learn.” Eric Reis, the author of The Lean Startup, makes this simple but important point. Not everything works out the way you envisioned. Lean tells us that with every failure comes a wonderful opportunity to learn and iterate. The key is to embrace the opportunity.

For example. One of our clients engaged us to run an experiment on their website. The first test we helped them run failed miserably and quickly. It was designed to be a quick win … but turned out to be far from it. However, the resulting learnings from this failure yielded another experiment that was impactful in both its effect on the business goals (adding seven figures of incremental revenue for the year) and the additional customer insights it yielded.

Failure can’t always be the primary concern. Whether or not we are learning from these failures is what matters. We use our learnings to improve products and services on behalf of our clients, and also to improve the client experience we provide. What makes us better at our jobs also makes for better relationships.

Build. Learn. Measure. This is the backbone of how we harness data and creative intelligence to help our clients drive value from their customers, and it is becoming the method by which we serve our clients, period. If you are reading this, you are more than likely someone’s client. Should you expect any less?

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Lean methodology is a continuous improvement approach that enables companies to make meaningful progress by getting the best use of customer data and intelligence.
  • A key tenet of Lean is the “minimum viable product,” or MVP, which encourages the release of a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future product
  • Lean also emphasizes customer-centric experimentation and measurement, so that customer data and creative intelligence are guiding decision making.
  • Lean tells us that with every failure comes a wonderful opportunity to learn and iterate. The key is to embrace the opportunity.
  • As applied to digital marketing strategy, a Lean viewpoint can help optimize every touchpoint of the digital experience—from acquiring qualified traffic to converting those prospects into customers to retaining those customers to build lifetime value,
  • Lean and its backbone of Build, Measure, and Learn is now at the heart of how we improve products and services for clients. It also informs how we improve the overall experience we provide our clients.
Category: design thinking
Cheryl Myers

Diversity and Inclusion by Design

Early last week, Starbucks shut its stores to conduct an inclusion class for employees. The following day, the ABC network canceled its hit sitcom “Roseanne” due to racist twitter remarks by its star. It’s 2018—why are we as a society still struggling with diversity, inclusion, and race? And what can we do about it?

I recently attended the Design Management Institute’s first Design Leadership Conference on Innovative Thinking on Diversity & Inclusion, a two-day event in Cincinnati, Ohio. Industry leaders from Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Carnegie Melon, McKinsey, Google, and others converged at the LPK Mansion in the heart of downtown Cincinnati to brainstorm, collaborate, and share ideas that will help the design community lead the charge in shaping conversations around diversity and inclusion.

Sessions covered topics like inclusive design, gender dynamics in the workforce, designing for sustainability, and other discourse intended to help participants and presenters chart a path forward for our field. As Proctor & Gamble’s William Gipson put it, “diversity and inclusion should be led by design.”

Gipson was referring to the practice of design thinking, an iterative process focused on developing an understanding of and empathy for users of our products or services. This process-heavy, people-oriented approach includes researching existing products, interviewing and observing customers, quick and iterative prototyping, and resonance testing–all with the goal of achieving a deeper understanding of the user and designing better solutions. It is practiced by some of the world’s leading brands and is taught at top universities around the world. (Watch this video by MIT and Altitude | Accenture to see a demonstration of design thinking in action.)

The outcome of design thinking typically includes solutions that were not previously considered because our perspective is challenged. And, it is this shift that gives us the ability to understand real needs and help us connect with those around us.

“If we ask questions, seek differences, and gain an understanding of others’ needs, this engagement will drive inclusion,” said Patricia Pope from Pope Consulting during her presentation, The Illusion of Inclusion. She is not referring here to simply making better products, but creating more diverse workplaces. If you aren’t creating an inclusive work environment,” she added, “you’re putting your company’s future in jeopardy.”

In recent years, there has emerged a core business case that can be made for diversity. Research by McKinsey, for example, shows that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially. Recent studies by Cloverpop show a direct link between inclusive decision making and better business performance:

  • Inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time
  • Teams that follow an inclusive process make decisions 2X faster with 1/2 the meetings
  • Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results

In other words, if you want to create an uptick in your bottom-line, you need to create a diverse and inclusive environment.

And yet, here we are, struggling as a nation to embrace diversity and to reap the true benefits—morally, socially, and fiscally—of inclusivity. It’s time to think about the problem in a new way.

“Solving any problem is more important than being right.” — Milton Glaser

In my work, and as a company, it is our practice to prioritize the customer’s needs when creating digital experiences and analyzing the data we gather about their behaviors. Doing this allows us to better connect the products and services of the companies we serve to the emotional responses that drive user intent. Likewise, being fearless in our testing approach is also a product of design thinking. We aren’t afraid to test and retest until we deliver the right kind of experience at the right time.

Of course, we tend toward diverse and inclusive thinking somewhat naturally; Smart Panda Labs is founded by minorities, and our team comprises a majority of women, many of whom are working moms with flexible schedules. We highly value this inclusivity and try to serve the needs of the individuals that make up our team. In return, our team provides our clients with a range of expertise, a unique set of perspectives, and a passion for pushing the boundaries.

Thank you to everyone who participated and shared during the dmi: Design Leadership Conference. Each roundtable, breakout session, keynote, and panel were deep exchanges of knowledge, from which I know we all walked away challenged and changed. Here are just a few of my favorite takeaways from the two days:

  • Practice Empathy: The key to understanding and better serving your market is to be empathetic to their needs.
  • Diversity ≠ Inclusion: It’s not just about checking a box. We need to seek, lead, and engage across differences. Be curious and ask questions.
  • Follow the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated. Not only will this make our workplace relationships more effective, but we’ll also create more valuable products and services for our customers as a result.

This conference was a great reminder to myself—and let it be an inspiration to you, too—that taking a design thinking and human-centered approach not only helps us create better services and products but can connect us more meaningfully to the people around us.

Key Takeaways
  • Design thinking is an iterative process focused on developing an understanding of and empathy for users.
  • This process-heavy, people-oriented approach includes researching existing products, interviewing and observing customers, quick and iterative prototyping, and resonance testing.
  • The outcome of design thinking typically includes solutions that were not previously considered because our perspective is challenged.
  • In our work at Smart Panda Labs, it is our practice to prioritize the customer’s needs when creating digital experiences and analyzing the data we gather about their behaviors. Doing this allows us to better connect the products and services of the companies we serve to the emotional responses that drive user intent.
  • Taking a design thinking and human-centered approach not only helps us create better services and products but can connect us more meaningfully to the people around us.