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You’re never too old to think like a startup, you just need to design for delight

Friday, 22 August 2014 | By Nicolette Maury

Innovation that makes an impact doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by design.


Getting to a desired end point can take a range of different paths but at Intuit, we believe the starting point is always with the customer and the final offering must always go beyond the customer needs. It must surprise and delight. It must be simple and powerful.


This reflects the innovation process which guides our work – a process or philosophy we call Design for Delight. It involves truly understanding how a customer does their job to see how you can improve their experience.


Whether you’re just getting started, or have been in business for years, Design for Delight is an innovation process that can help you deliver better services and products.


There are three key steps which, when applied to your business, will result in more delighted customers, leading to positive word of mouth and business growth.


1. Develop deep customer empathy

To deliver a truly sensational product, you need to know your customers better than they know themselves. Beyond talking to your current or prospective customers, the key here is to spend time observing them as they work, particularly as they work through a challenging task. This will help you to find the core problem or issue you need to address, and often it’s something that the customer has not articulated.


So don’t just stop at what customers tell you – look at their behaviour and try to uncover those insights that will help you exceed their expectations in the product or service you deliver.


2. Go broad, then narrow down

To get one great idea, you actually need to create lots. This is where good old-fashioned brainstorming comes in.


Try brainstorming with a small group or working with a variety of stakeholders to gain as many different perspectives on an issue and potential solutions as possible.


Once you have heaps of ideas, go back to the core issue and narrow in on the ideas that actually address this.


3. Conduct rapid experiments with customers

Caution and consideration are sensible but not to the point that you end up paralysed or labouring endlessly over an idea.


As such, a key issue many businesses face is labouring too long over ideas to get them ‘just right’ before taking them to customers. Sometimes, it’s actually more important to get some perspective on an idea before you put too much effort into developing it.


So, once you have an idea, the best thing you can do is get out of the office and talk to customers – test your ideas with them and ask for feedback.


You’ll quickly find out what works and what doesn’t, then you just need to pivot and adapt your approach until you nail it.


Here, more often than not, your initial hypotheses will prove to be wrong – and this is a good thing. The trick is to savour the surprises and use that data or feedback to improve your offering.


4. Think like a start up

Intuit is often described as a “30 year-old start up”. So, even though we have 8000 employees, we put key product decisions in the hands of small teams. This allows us to be fast and nimble so we can consistently generate new ideas.


We also use customer feedback and ‘follow me home’ visits with our users – both small businesses and their trusted bookkeeper and accountant advisors – to help develop the deep customer empathy from which our ideas flow.


But it doesn’t matter how large or small you are, or how long you’ve been in business, you can still think like a start up.


Challenge yourself and others to generate new ideas and solutions – from product development to sales strategy, business operations and beyond, designing for delight can offer powerful insights and incredible rewards.


Nicolette Maury is managing director of Intuit Australia.


Image credit: Flickr/christiaantriebert


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