March 7, 2019
Varun ‐ Design Lead UK
What do we mean by the word vision? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as 'The ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom'. However, within a commercial context, I have come across a vision which seems to have no real purpose, isn't backed by evidence and lacks the practicality to drive the business towards its desired future state far too often.
First of all, this lack of clarity could be due to a misunderstanding of what a vision is. Therefore, this article provides an overview of what a vision is, the benefits of having a well-informed vision, and how to create a vision that can be practically implemented.
A vision is not:
- A set of objectives or targets - '£750k by Q4'
- A statement of intent or mission statements - 'Most trusted advisor'
- A new corporate strapline - 'Working to make you secure'
- An action plan
A vision should:
- Clearly and tangibly describe a future in which your business is achieving its commercial objectives.
- Be complete and well-informed in order to direct your business's decision making.
- Be vivid, and exciting but practical enough to motivate your team.
- 3–5 years out.
"By [future date]… we will be [outcome]… by [approach]."
However, you may be thinking 'Okay, great! Now I know what a vision is and is not, you've provided some sort of template, but how do I create one that will impact my business?'
Strategic Vision Design
'Strategy' implies being able to influence decision-making by jointly taking into account the desirability, viability and feasibility of a potential outcome.
'Design' principles, tools, methods and outputs are used to extract insight and direct activities towards the right kind of outcome.
Desirability - The'human' perspective refers to the extent to which a project outcome meets the needs of people.
Viability - The 'business' perspective refers to whether the outcome can be sustained within the organisation effectively enough to generate value - through brand equity and customer satisfaction - over the medium to long term.
Feasibility - The 'technology' perspective refers to whether the outcome can be given a tangible form in the present or in the foreseeable future, with the available resources.
- Challenging: look to break conventions, not reinforce them.
- Openness: strength through diversity and the power of different perspectives.
- Explorative: leverage design tools and methods to stimulate and expand thinking.
- Rigorous: utilise data and insight to direct decision making.
- Test-driven: wherever possible, test hypotheses in live environments.
Vision design process
This process is based upon the principles of divergent thinking (go far and wide) and convergent thinking (filter and bring in). This approach aims to reduce the number of assumptions a team has around a specific challenge, by forming hypotheses and testing them with the target people.
In practice, the process is non-linear and iterative, E.g:
Research brings up very obvious issues that need to be (or could be) fixed immediately. If so, you need to implement them.
You realise that an idea or concept doesn't work during prototyping, in which case you can go back.
Through the strategic design process, you are able to uncover new customer, business and market opportunities to implement in the long term to establish leadership and be truly transformational.
In addition, the process also uncovers areas that can be enhanced and improved within the short/medium term that act as hygiene factors to create efficiencies and ensure the right conditions to capitalise on opportunities for growth.
Research is geared towards understanding each perspective - human, business and technology. In parallel, we collect qualitative and quantitative data to help the project team understand the customers and service best practises, the business and the market in which they operate, existing technology and future trends.
Methods and outputs range from:
Desk research, ethnographic research, participant research, co-creative workshops, technical audit, jobs to be done, future trends, service best practises, etc.
This stage of the process enables the project team to analyse all findings with different underpinnings, making data sets richer and more comprehensive. To optimise analysis it's important to visualise the data. This gives a relational structure to complex information, identifies patterns and uncovers existing gaps.
Methods and outputs range from:
Persona creation, existing customer journey maps, existing employee journey maps, system maps, value proposition design, business model canvas, competitor matrix, etc.
Ideation is the process of generating, diversifying, developing, sorting, ranking and selecting ideas, based on the synthesis of all research information. They need to be generated systematically, mixed, recombined, distilled, evolved or parked. At this stage, people who have subject matter knowledge need to be involved.
Methods and outputs range from:
HMWs (How Might We), lightning demos, Design Thinking workshops, journey map ideation, system map ideation, brainstorming, bodystorming, etc.
The design stage consolidates all prior information, research, synthesise and ideation to inform how the vision will work and be effective. Vision statements, solutions or concepts are mapped out then created, prototyped, tested and iterated, with varying levels of fidelity. This process of trial and error helps to refine ideas which will be implemented.
Methods and outputs range from:
Future customer journey maps, future employee journey maps, future system maps, storyboards, concept posters, service blueprints, vision statements and principles, etc.
Implementation describes the step beyond experimenting, designing and testing, moving into the realm of production and rollout. The aim must be to have an impact on people, organisation and the bottom line. The implementation of strategic design projects can involve various fields such as change management for organisational processes, software development for apps and software or the redesign of an environment.
Methods and outputs range from:
Vision wheels, solution flat plans, vision videos, innovation roadmaps, action plans, backlog items/stories, etc.
The result is an innovation roadmap that outlines the components required within the organisation's ecosystem to achieve their vision.
Remain Competitive (Hygiene)
- 0–12 months out.
- Explore existing markets that the company currently serves and existing technology that is used.
- Enable rapid technology change, to optimise the chance of executing the strategy.
- 12–36 months out.
- Explore existing markets that the company currently does not serve and existing technology that is not used.
- Define how your customers want to interact and engage with your products and services.
- 36+ months out.
- Explore new markets and new technology.
- Create new and innovative business models, process rethinking, organisation structures and leadership.
A persona is a profile representing a particular group of people, such as a group of customers or users, a market segment, a subset of employees, or any other stakeholder group. This profile is not a stereotype but is an archetype based on real qualitative and quantitative research.
Personas can be used to share findings and insights within the project team, across different departments or even across organisations to develop empathy and shared understanding of the customer or target groups.
Journey maps visualise the human experience of a target over time. For example, an end-to-end customer journey map can visualise the overall experience a customer has with a service, a physical or digital product, or a brand. They help us to find gaps and pain points in customer experiences and explore potential solutions.
A storyboard is a linear sequence of illustrations, arranged together to visualise an experience.
- Visualisation: illustrating a concept or idea creates clarity. An image speaks more powerfully than just words, by adding extra layers of meaning which also aid in ideation.
- Empathy: storyboards help people relate to a story. As human beings, we often empathise with characters who have challenges similar to our own real-life ones.
- Engagement: stories capture attention. People are hardwired to respond to stories - which is vital when presenting visions.
Business Model Canvas
The Business Model Canvas is a template to sketch out a business model using nine core building blocks. It can be used to understand the influence of various options on the employee and customer experience as well as on the business impact. BMCs can also be used to map competitors and compare their business models with your company's. This could give you insights into where you need to differentiate from your competition.
Service blueprints can be understood as an extension of journey maps. They are set up to specifically connect customer experiences with both frontstage and backstage employee processes as well as support processes.
- Frontstage: refers to people and processes with which the user has direct contact.
- Backstage: represents people and processes that are invisible to the user.
It is a visual representation of how activities by a customer trigger service processes and vice versa: how internal processes trigger customer activities. In addition, through a set of ideation activities, you are able to pinpoint external and internal opportunities.
Prototyping helps businesses:
- Quickly identify important aspects of a new service concept and explore different alternative solutions.
- Systematically evaluate which solutions might work in the target customer's everyday reality.
- Effectively create a shared understanding of initial ideas and concepts, enhancing communication, collaboration, and participation of interdisciplinary stakeholders.
Vision Wheels contain around their central proposition a small number of customer experience principles that help to qualify the big idea. These experience principles are used as a reference to inspire practical solutions and to sense-check decisions. This occurs at the end of the investigative and imaginative stages.
From the centre outwards:
- A central foundational idea that encapsulates the role you want your business to play in customers' lives or the main benefit you want your customers to enjoy.
- A set of statements that substantiate and help qualify this central idea, written as though to your customers, not an organisational objective.
- A set of distinct offerings, features and experiences - also known as 'hallmarks'
Flatplans act as a brief for high impact opportunities.
For example, through the process of service blueprinting, you may identify an opportunity to implement a new system which will improve organisational efficiency whilst enhancing your customers' experience. This summarised document will act as a high level brief for those designing and building the system.
Through the process of research, synthesis, ideation, designing and testing we have a validated proposition and are more accurately able to describe a future state. The resulting final outputs could be a set of videos or even concept posters of future which present the future vision. That vision can be linked to either showcasing new product and service concepts, enhancements in the customer and employee experiences or how future trends can impact the market you serve.
In addition, these outputs can serve multiple purposes, as through the power of storytelling you can engage your target market by providing a more tangible view of the vision and potentially impact your organisation's thought leadership position, external/internal communications and project investment.
15 years has taught us the only constant is change and businesses lose their competitive advantage when:
- Organisations are no longer aligned to a common goal.
- Technology becomes a constraint rather than an enabler.
- Customers’ expectations outpace their experience.
WORTH enables your business to harness change.
- Creating a compelling design-led vision that aligns and leads your teams to a common goal.
- Constantly examining the landscape, we can better identify opportunities on the horizon.
- Engineering solutions that are adaptive and tailored to your customer and business needs.
- Crafting seamless experiences for your external and internal customers.
If you need any help with your organisation's vision and strategy or you have any questions regarding our approach and outputs, just get in touch!
Want to read more from our Design Strategist Varun? Check out this blog about Design Thinking for Non-Designers!