On Innovation: Design-driven Success



Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

~ Steve Jobs

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Imagine that the iPhone does not yet exist.  Mark Zuckerberg is still enrolled at Harvard.  Barack Obama is a hopeful state senator in Illinois.  The final episode of Friends has just aired, with 52 million people tuning in. Not a single viewer tweets about it.” (Story and multiple references credit to Robert Safian of Fast Company magazine.  See full article here).

The year Mr. Safian writes about was 2004, the first year Fast Company devoted an issue to the intersection of business and design.  That was the first time Fast Company readers were introduced to Jonny Ive, the now famous product designer at Apple.

At Alytis, we are undergoing a reemphasis on the power of design in our quest to delight customers.   We use the term “experience design” to define our approach, although we don’t necessarily believe we came up with the phrase (see this Wikipedia entry for more history on the concept.  I also encourage you to check out the related link on the role of a Chief Experience Officer.)

According to Mr. Safian, when many people think of design, they may first think of tangental aesthetics and fleeting style trends.  The real principle behind design, and experience design in particular, is that good design is really about problem solving.  It is a more sophisticated perspective on modern business challenges than traditional spreadsheet-based approaches.  Mr. Safian points out that you could go to consulting firms like McKinsey and get an answer based on established business models or you could go to one of the rising design firms, such as Ideo, and maybe you’d come up with something never before seen.

It is the latter approach that Alytis is pursuing to serve our customers.  Well-designed businesses – ones that deliver customer delight – have significant competitive advantage.  Apple is a great example of the financial results achieved based on this strategy.  As other companies relentlessly apply the same principles, they can also improve their expected results.  An executive would do well to consider how the power of design-driven innovation will accelerate their business success.

As you begin the final work week before the Christmas holiday and wind down the year, I encourage you to consider how you are approaching design in your organization.  Is the customer experience the focus of your strategy and innovation?  Do you spend the same, if not more, time on designing that experience as you do on resolving operational issues?  I recommend that you do and predict the payoff toward expected results will be accelerated over a focus on operational improvements.

Choose to think in terms of experience design.  Choose to be customer-centric in your go-to-market strategy.

Choose greatness.


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