Multidisciplinary Perspectives

It’s important to approach strategy from mul­tidisciplinary perspectives. This is the biggest mistake that most leaders make. They feel that only they will truly understand the organiza­tion’s opportunities or that this information is so critical that it can’t be entrusted to many in the organization. The result is that leaders unintentionally misinform themselves about market, customer, and their own corporation’s requirements, and they fail to involve and in­form the rest of the organization in details criti­cal to supporting the decided strategies. So, as with the development process, it’s important to involve others in the organization that may know the requirements better and may see opportunities that leaders don’t. Stakeholders outside the organization can be key contribu­tors as well. Strategic alliances with suppliers and partners often yield sustainable, competi­tive, and differentiable strategies. Likewise, “participatory design” involves representative customers on the development team to help ensure that offerings create value for them.

It’s critical to include customer or user research during this phase because this represents a deeper understanding of customers than tra­ditional market research uncovers. This is the most common mistake leaders make when investigating and formulating strategy, and it represents the first point at which sustainability criteria intersects the development process.

It’s important to approach strategy from multidisciplinary perspectives.

This is the biggest mistake that most leaders make.

Often, support for sustainability in all its forms (social, environmental, and financial), at both the corporate and customer levels, is lacking or invisible because traditional, qualitative market research techniques aren’t adequate at measur­ing or uncovering aspects of customers’ needs and desires at the levels of emotions, values, and meanings. These are where sustainable values intersect the customer experience. So it’s easy for quantitative market research to show that the most important driver of custom­er decisions is price (because it’s most easily measured). Even qualitative data show, time and time again, that customers regularly spend more—whether they intend to or not—when their values or emotions are triggered by the product or service options.

Sustainable values, too, are triggered by offer­ings, and these triggers change depending on the customer segment and category of prod­uct or service. If an organization has no way to discover these, it has no way to appreciate them when making corporate strategies. This is exactly where designers can have the most impact in an organization (either their own or for a client). The designer’s customer research techniques are particularly good at uncovering evidence of emotions, values, and meanings, and designers are particularly adept at com­municating often ethereal or esoteric informa­tion. To be sure, designers need to understand their audience (leaders and managers) as well as they do their users, in order to successfully communicate this information in a way that fits their culture, but it is often the only access to this critical understanding that these strategy – makers ever get.