How well your business adapts to changes?
The world is in constant change. Design knowledge is a vital competence in making companies ready to face changes in their environment. Design`s starting point should always be customers and their needs. Design thinking helps forecast the future and develop organization`s operations to be more flexible, resilient and adaptable.
The importance of design capabilities in safeguarding strong and sustainable business was the topic of Design Forum Finland`s panel discussion in October 2021. The panelists included Satu Heikinheimo (Fraktio), Aino Vepsäläinen (DFF), Minna Koskelo (11Helsinki), Jenni Tuomisto (Schibstedt), Juha Salmela (Spinnova) and Nora Haatainen (Fiskars Group).
Design as part of the business strategy
Senior service designer Satu Heikinheimo underlined that design belongs to all of us, and should not be isolated from the everyday life. Everything around us has been designed: every artefact, service and space is result of a design process. Whether you buy a bus ticket with the HSL app, reserve a medical appointment, or visit a library, all these have been designed by someone.
Employee experience is something that many organizations have recently started to design in order to make employees feel well at the workplace and at the same time increase the productivity and innovation. The physical working space, small services and well-thought details can make a huge difference in improving the commitment, cohesion and work ethic of the employees. Free breakfast in the morning, inspiring artwork at the office lobby or a joint Christmas tree decoration event among the employees may not be huge financial investments for the employer but can improve remarkably the employee experience.
Business models are also under enormous change and re-design process. In a relatively short time frame, new services and new ways of providing them have emerged. At the moment, world`s largest accommodation service is AirBnB which does not own one single hotel or apartment, world`s largest taxi service is Uber which does not own one single car, and world largest online shop is Alibaba which does not own any of the items it sells. Also, the covid pandemic forced organizations to impose remote work in a large scale which has enormously changed the ways people work and organizations operate.
Platform economy has created totally new business models and all organizations are under pressure to revise the current models and adapt to the new expectations of the customers. The re-designing of business model forces the organization to conduct an in-depth inventory: who are our customers, what is our focus, how do we best serve our customers, and how do we differentiate from our competitors?
Design`s main objective is to bring clarity into unclarity and obscurity, and to make products and services as desirable as possible so that they fulfill the multiple needs and motivations of the customer. In design, people are put in the center. The starting point is to explore the real problems and then design a solution to them, versus having a solution and trying to sell that to customers. Without conscious design, services are often burdensome to implement and don`t solve the real problems people have. Hence, design saves money, reduces risks and improves the customer experience.
The best take-away from the panel discussion was the note that a designer should always find out the challenges and problems first, and not start with designing a solution. Design is not about innovating and creating, but rather about diving deep into the life of the customers and asking questions.
Where does the design process end, and when can a service designer consider the service as being ready? According to the panelists, service design is a constant learning process and effectively a service is never completely ready. A permanent learning mind-set is an important capability that a designer should acquire.
Designing the future
According to Minna Koskelo the evolution of design starts with the product design, develops through service design and business model design up to the future design. Organizations that are resilient and have invested in designing their future are 33 % more profitable and grow 200 % faster than their competitors. Still, many organizations don`t actively and systematically forecast the future and prepare for it because they focus on short-term wins and profit. Investing in long-term future forecasts does not fit well in the quarter economy.
Future forecasting is not only about recognizing the signals, but also how to interpret them from the organization`s point of view. Most importantly, organizations and private persons should understand their role as active architects of the future, and stop being passive victims or spectators. Future is something we all create every moment.
Future cannot be discussed without mentioning circular economy and sustainability. Three companies presented their businesses that strongly lean on sustainability: Tori.fi (Schipsted), Finnova and Fiskars. Tori.fi platform facilitates the selling and buying of second-hand items. Every single day a stunning number of 20,000 deals are being agreed in Tori.fi, meaning that all those items find a new life and virgin resources are not exploited to fabricate new products. Someone`s trash can be a treasure for someone else.
Finnova produces environmentally friendly textile fabrics from wood and waste using zero harmful chemicals. Finnova already has created partnerships with renowned brands. Fiskars aims at gaining 50% of the revenue from circular economy products and services by 2030. Renting and sharing are gaining ground also in the sector of small products and kitchen utensils. Tableware can be rented instead of buying, and old frying pans can be renovated instead of throwing them away.
Crisis and frustration contribute to change
Human beings inherently feel fear towards new things. In abnormal circumstances, such as the current pandemic, the need for social cohesion and forgiveness increases. The constantly changing world does not allow any organization to stay static.
On the other hand, not all innovations become shooting stars and not all can be scaled up. This is something that needs to be accepted as being part of the game. If an innovation does not work, it is better to let it go and start looking for new solutions. We can learn from our successes and failures but also from others`. As Minna Koskelo put it: frustration is an important resource. The annoyance contains the seeds for change. If everything goes too smoothly and nicely, it is difficult to find motivation to develop things.
Already now practically all sectors have adopted business models that are based on streaming and platforms. What will be the next step? How could we solve the challenges these new ways of delivering services have created? For example, a family may have five different subscriptions of program streaming, a Wolt driver has no right to benefits and sick leave, and not all Tori.fi sellers are trustworthy and can steal your money. While these services are here to stay, we must find solutions to the current problems and design them better.
Organizations should take a longer and wider perspective when forecasting and planning the future. It is worth looking across different sectors and analyzing drivers that are not directly linked to one`s own business: political, social, technological, legislative etc.
We cannot control the entire future, but we can control how it is being designed. It is important to pay attention to who is using the power when we talk about future. Who`s vision of future is it?
– Laura Ekholm