Successful adoption of any new methodology requires organizational buy-in. To secure acceptance, you need to communicate the benefits of human-centered design and Design Thinking to key influencers within your organization. The vocabulary that resonates best with business types, is “value”, and it is important to tie “value” back to addressing organizational pain points.

Usually, I tie my pitch back to something as critical as missed customer requirements. Software teams, especially internal IT teams, are especially bad at building and rolling out software solutions that do not meet the needs of their users. And sadly, industry statistics back this up. See the Standish Group’s Annual CHAOS Report.

Why? Failure to understand customer needs or fixing a non-existing problem are at the top of the list. Product development teams are not actively engaging with their customers, nor are they using the goodness of Design Thinking.

Here are a few benefits of Design Thinking that you can use to facilitate the organizational buy-in and adoption:

  1. Design drives business value – Companies that are design-centric show a higher investment return and out-perform the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. The Design Management Institute identified a group of fifteen design-centric companies and found these over a ten-year period, these companies out-performed S&P 500 index by more than 200%.
  2. Design has positive impacts on business – In October 2018, McKinsey & Company published a study of 300 companies that built upon the Design Management Institute’s findings. They surveyed senior business and design leaders and found a clear correlation between a clear focus on incorporating design and having a superior business performance. In fact, companies in the top-quartile of design maturity showed higher returns to their shareholders.
  3. Design helps mitigate risk and failure – If you look at stats around new product development from the consumer world, most products fail. Based on a 2011 study by Accenture and the Consumer Electronics Association (US), 95% of all returned electronic gadgets actually work despite what customers may say or think. 5% of returns were due to actual product defects; 27% were due to buyer’s remorse. Astoundingly 68% percent of all product returns showed they worked properly but were not meeting customer expectations! Or the products were simply too confusing to use. The solution is to incorporate design methods into your work. If your teams become good at human-centered design they will mitigate risk. Most products do not fail because of poor engineering or product quality, it is usually the wrong solution to the wrong user need. Solving the right problem, with the right solution, is hard. It costs most industries real money.
  4. Design reduces overall product development costs – It costs less to identify and fix issues earlier in the process. This sounds straight-forward, but most companies do not follow this guidance. Investing upfront in making products “easy to us” really pays off. Using Design Thinking methods earlier in the product cycles reduces risk, cost, and time, while at the same time improving efficiency, effectiveness, and customer satisfaction.
  5. Low cost to implement – Many project managers expect user research and usability testing to be expensive. Research has shown that you reach sample size “saturation” with a relatively small group of users. That number is about 5 per user group. The best results come from involving no more than 5 users and running user testing (and user research) across several small testing rounds, rather than blowing a budget on a single, elaborate study. When I present this information to a project manager audience, it really turns heads. The ROI break of 5 users to uncover usability defects is very compelling to business. I have heard several times: “this is one data point that I can immediately use in my work.”
  6.   Design helps with solving the right problems – Design Thinking helps teams focus on “doing the right thing”. As I mentioned before, design encourages the exploration of the problem space prior to the jumping into the problem-solving phase. Too often technical and business teams want to jump into solving the problem without fully understanding the problem or the customer’s needs.
  7.  Design Thinking is complimentary with other methodologies, not competitive – Lastly, Design Thinking has a compatible and even symbiotic relationship with other project methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma, Agile, Lean Start Up and traditional project management.

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