When in Rome

It's taken me some time, but finally, a loose, fuzzy, foggy thought crystallized for me and explains why I've been so preoccupied with business literature.

Design Thinking, Big UX, and Strategic IA predicate their necessity on their positive impact on an organization's performance. But no one's actually connected Design to success within an organization's ecosystem.

I have a friend that says "when in Rome, hump a Roman". I've always enjoyed his witticism, partly because it better describes exactly what Romans do, and what you should do if you really want to... enjoy... Roman culture.

You have to get dirty, and you have to get dirty the way the Romans do.

For enterprise IA, big UX, and design thinking innovation peddlers, getting dirty means you speak the language of business, and not just a few trendy acronyms. You should be able to point to commonly recognized performance indicators and draw a clear, bright line from Design's process.

Better management processes are the most efficient ways to improve an organization's performance, so how does design thinking facilitate better management processes?

I'm still clarifying my thoughts, but design thinking seems to impact management in three clear areas:

  1. Design thinking helps leadership clarify and refine organizational goals; Design thinking crystallizes vision and culture.

  2. Design thinking helps organizations understand their competitive advantages and unique operational strengths; Design thinking crystallizes strategy and process.

  3. Design thinking helps organizations innovate execution and fulfillment; Design thinking crystallizes tactics and products.

(You'll note I'm tying back to MIG's trailmarker.)

But where's that bright line? It's still fuzzy. I feel like design thinking is more connected to management processes. I feel like I understand what I do a little better, and how it improves an organization (why I do it), but the direct link, the smoking gun, the statistically quantifiable data points, the quarry's blood trail is still ephemeral.

But less so. Not only am I in Rome, finally, but I'm speaking Latin, and I've got some pick-up lines. 

When benchmarks don’t work

We've been throwing around bencharking as a way to communicate the value of user experience in a concrete manner. "When Benchmarks Don't Work", an article from Working Knowledge, suggests benchmarks may not always be the best way to go (and sometimes may be the worst).

Benchmarking certainly has its virtues. Comparing production time or the cost of a standard process to that of peer companies can yield important insights about your own efficiencies—and ultimately, competitiveness. But benchmarking also has its limits. When you ignore the differentiated output that internal support or shared services groups provide, such straight-across cost or numeric comparisons become meaningless.