What Enterprise Architects can Learn from Designers

Warren Berger from the Harvard Business Review Blogs posts a really good article titled The Four Phases of Design Thinking. he contrasts the lessons we could learn from traditional designers.

The four lessons are:
1. Question
2. Care
3. Connect
4. Commit

These are great. I agree a great deal with the article entirely there is a lot of truth to what is being said. I had to laugh for a minute when I read the piece about responses to questions being asked. I used to hear the 22 year bit a great deal when I was in Financial Services space but now I hear more ego or territorial responses in the other industry segments. even though you get those responses it is important to be persistent. I talked a bit about this in my response to the "State of Enterprise Architecture" post.

The care element is not new in principle but is typically stated as "Trusted Advisor" or "Relationship Management". Either way, I like the empathy element of this. It's more than just understand the issues but to empathize with the current pain points, what the customer is not receiving, or the history of events that led up to this point. Enterprise Architects and other roles like them are well equipped for this job. They should be the front line for customer care. Empathy based relationship management should be core.

Connect is critical as well. If you delver a product that is unusable or is not as desired your customer will not use or will not get the right level of adoption you are looking for. As Enterprise Architects we need to sniff these issues out. If a product isn't usable it shouldn't of been built at all.

Very simply, commit equals credibility. This is all about agile delivery of frequent deliveries for rapid feedback. This is where Agile processes like Scrum fit well. If you can not deliver you will not be trusted, you will not have a seat at the table to ask the right questions, to be empathetic, or deliver on a well aligned and useful product. This makes it real.

Here is a portion of the article:

Question. If you spend any time around designers, you quickly discover this about them: They ask, and raise, a lot of questions. Often this is the starting point in the design process, and it can have a profound influence on everything that follows. Many of the designers I studied, from Bruce Mau to Richard Saul Wurman to Paula Scher, talked about the importance of asking "stupid questions"–the ones that challenge the existing realities and assumptions in a given industry or sector. The persistent tendency of designers to do this is captured in the joke designers tell about themselves. How many designers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Does it have to be a light bulb?

In a business setting, asking basic "why" questions can make the questioner seem naïve while putting others on the defensive (as in, "What do you mean 'Why are we doing it this way?' We've been doing it this way for 22 years!"). But by encouraging people to step back and reconsider old problems or entrenched practices, the designer can begin to re-frame the challenge at hand — which can then steer thinking in new directions. For business in today's volatile marketplace, the ability to question and rethink basic fundamentals — What business are we really in? What do today's consumers actually need or expect from us? — has never been more important.

Care. It's easy for companies to say they care about customer needs. But to really empathize, you have to be willing to do what many of the best designers do: step out of the corporate bubble and actually immerse yourself in the daily lives of people you're trying to serve. What impressed me about design researchers such as Jane Fulton Suri of IDEO was the dedication to really observing and paying close attention to people — because this is usually the best way to ferret out their deep, unarticulated needs. Focus groups and questionnaires don't cut it; designers know that you must care enough to actually be present in people's lives.

Connect. Designers, I discovered, have a knack for synthesizing–for taking existing elements or ideas and mashing them together in fresh new ways. This can be a valuable shortcut to innovation because it means you don't necessarily have to invent from scratch. By coming up with "smart recombinations" (to use a term coined by the designer John Thackara), Apple has produced some of its most successful hybrid products; and Nike smartly combining a running shoe with an iPod to produce its groundbreaking Nike Plus line (which enables users to program their runs). It isn't easy to come up with these great combos. Designers know that you must "think laterally" — searching far and wide for ideas and influences — and must also be willing to try connecting ideas that might not seem to go together. This is a way of thinking that can also be embraced by non-designers.

Commit. It's one thing to dream up original ideas. But designers quickly take those ideas beyond the realm of imagination by giving form to them. Whether it's a napkin sketch, a prototype carved from foam rubber, or a digital mock-up, the quick-and-rough models that designers constantly create are a critical component of innovation — because when you give form to an idea, you begin to make it real.

But it's also true that when you commit to an idea early — putting it out into the world while it's still young and imperfect — you increase the possibility of short-term failure. Designers tend to be much more comfortable with this risk than most of us. They know that innovation often involves an iterative process with setbacks along the way — and those small failures are actually useful because they show the designer what works and what needs fixing. The designer's ability to "fail forward" is a particularly valuable quality in times of dynamic change. Today, many companies find themselves operating in a test-and-learn business environment that requires rapid prototyping. Which is just one more reason to pay attention to the people who've been conducting their work this way all along.

Full Article
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/07/the_four_phases_of_design_thin.html

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s