by: David Armano

Great article in Businessweek written by Diego Rodiguez of IDEO.  In it, he talks about considering the entire "business ecosystem" when looking to connect with customers.

A few select excerpts:

“1. Ensure desirability for users
The design of successful business systems begins where good design thinking always does: from a point of empathy for end users. This means getting insights by going out into the world to understand and observe people interacting with products, services, and environments. The insights that led to the Sony (SNE) Walkman (and its progeny, the iPod) didn't come from traditional market research but from observing behavior. Empathy is the wellspring of value creation.

2. Balance desirability for stakeholders
As your user-centered point of view develops, cast a wider net. Add in empathic insights for all the stakeholders in the business ecosystem: employees, shareholders, business partners, society, even government. What does each person and entity want and need in order to make this thing fly?

Amazon (AMZN) is a shining example of the value of designing back-end systems that meet the needs of customers and business partners. Their affiliate program makes it a snap for an individual blogger to partner with Amazon to sell books. This makes Amazon and the blogger more money and delights blog readers with appropriate book recommendations.

3. Iterate for viability
Developing a great experience requires us to apply the "rapid prototyping" philosophy from the world of physical product development to the task of designing viable businesses. Running quick experiments is a great way to figure out how, when, and why our new experience offering will make money. Pretend for a moment that you're a founder of Skype (EBAY) just beginning to design their VoIP system. Should users pay in the form of a one-time transaction, an ongoing subscription, advertising, or not at all? What would the Skype experience have been, for example, if its creators had decided to charge up front for access? How would you know?

Rather than placing a big bet and swinging for the fence, proceed as design thinkers do, which is to create something quick and cheap, show it to real people, and roll the learning back into the venture.When used as an integral part of the design process of new experiences, iterative experimentation can have a dramatic effect on the viability of whatever ends up going to market. As a case in point, Whole Foods (WFMI) is rolling out bigger new stores in large part because of their greater capacity for experimentation and learning.

HOLISTIC APPROACH. Ready answers may not exist for most of the key questions that matter to your users and ecosystem -- which means that you'll have to design experiments (think of Google's (GOOG) ongoing Gmail beta) to get real information from real people about what works, and then iterate until full business viability is realized.

To meet the rising bar of customer experience, organizations must embrace this holistic approach to designing for business. It's when a company's products, services, brand, and supply chain work together -- think Apple (AAPL) or Target (TGT) -- that the experience is more than the sum of its parts.”

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