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If you do a Google search on “UX pyramid”, you get lots and lots of UX pyramids. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that most people agree about the bottom of the pyramid. Applications should be functional, usable, reliable. No arguments here. If things don’t work, the UX will suck. If we move up to the mid-section of those pyramids, we see that there is also a consensus about the niceness of the experience. Experiences should be desirable, esthetically pleasing, pleasurable, enjoyable, delightful. There are more different terms that we find here but the gist is the same: the experience should be nice. So at the bottom, the pyramids say the application should work, in the middle they say they should be nice. A good application works and is nice to experience, looks nice. Good applications solve the majority of business needs. It takes a lot of skill to make a good application. But I am interested in the top of the pyramid, when we move from good to great. …


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In my previous essay, I started thinking about a more holistic view on design. I thought about how design is not just beauty, not just problem solving, but also problem finding, questioning. How design is all of that. The head, the heart and the hands. Today, I wanted to take this train of thought one step further. Today, I wanted to think about how to connect these three functions of design and how design can help bridge the gaps between strategy and operations in most organizations. …


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Under the banner of the term design thinking, design has been going through a transformation this past decade. More and more people are discovering the power of design to solve problems. The way that designers think, turns out to be a good addition to the traditional thinking in businesses when it comes to solving (business) problems. Especially when it comes to problems that require navigating uncertainty in complex situations.


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UX design has the potential to change people’s lives. It can change the way we behave, think, see, collaborate, organize ourselves, what we value, our motivation. Each application we use has a bias, a workflow, a mental model of the world, a vision of how we should to things, an opinion about what is important, an effect on our inner psychology. Whether you see it or not, it’s there. Applications might seem innocent, but they impact our inner world more than we think. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. UX design can have a profound impact on our lives and with that the bottom line of organizations. But getting to that level of impact is more difficult than you might think. Getting there is not about crafting cool solutions but about uncovering the right problem to solve.

The UX pyramid

When we think about the levels of impact and meaning UX design can have, the UX pyramid is a useful mental model. It shows us that applications can not only be useful, but also convenient, pleasurable and meaningful. The base line is about reliability, functionality and usability.


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What is your superpower? I dunno. We all know this type of workshop ice breakers. What am I good at? What do I love? What does the world need? What can I get paid for? If you combine all these questions, you will find the reason you exist, your Ikigai.


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Change is something that is not controllable. To call the process of change change management implies that it can be controlled, that all you need is a sound strategy and a plan to create change. It creates the illusion that managers can come up with that plan and then everything will be changed according to plan. My experience with change is different. Here are some of the lessons I learned from various change processes…

1. Big words don’t change things.

Artificially created senses of urgency in powerpoint decks don’t change things. Stop pretending they do. Big words will come up during changes. Accept that most of them will be bullshit. You’ll laugh at them later and see that change came from somewhere else. Don’t be afraid to use big words that turn out to be stupid. It’s all part of the change process. …


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When it comes to digital transformation, a lot of disciplines need to come together. This is complex. They don’t all seem to come together from the start. There seems so be some kind of evolution in digital transformation in which an organization goes through phases, insights, crisises. There seems to be a ladder that needs to be climbed in which progressive insight leads to new challenges. I look at this from a designer’s perspective. Design can add a lot of value on this journey. But not all steps are equal and if I look at these phases, I see design offering value in different ways in the different phases. But before I dive into the ways design can add value in all these phases, I wanted to check if this ladder of digital transformation makes sense to you. So please have a look at it and let me know if this is an adequate representation of the journey that digital transformation is.

Here is the model I came up with until now:


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How can a designer add the most value? That question is one of the questions that occupy my mind. On a personal level, there is a drive to be valuable but also on a professional level. Valuable can be measured in terms of business value. That is the most direct way to add value in a professional context. But I also see it in a broader context. The well-being of humankind is also something that can be increased through business activities. …


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For years, Stanford has been teaching non-designers to think like a designer. They called it design thinking. The term design thinking lowered the bar for people. You can’t teach people to become a designer in a two-day boot camp. That is ridiculous. Designers are people who follow a calling since their early childhood. They were the kids that could draw when everyone else couldn’t. They read design blogs, go to museums, and wear designer clothes. They live and breathe design their whole lives. There is no way one could catch up to that. It’s a lost race. But design thinking is something else. You don’t have to become a designer, you just have to learn to think like one. And since designers do more than they think, this shouldn’t be too hard right? …


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Saying Agile doesn’t work is like saying a pencil doesn’t work. Agile is a tool. And the goal of any tool is to enhance human capabilities. I have seen Agile fail. Failing to deliver. Failing to deliver quality. If the goal is to deliver the best possible product within the best possible budget, Agile is an excellent tool. But not a simple one. There are a couple of underlying concepts that need to be thoroughly grasped for it to work.

Value creation

One is value creation. Building stuff costs money. Ideally the returns are higher than the investments. At the core of any project is the business case. The goal of a project is to maximize business value.

There are two challenges with creating business value:

  • One is that business value is hard to determine.
  • The other is keeping it at the center of all decisions despite the fact that it’s hard to determine.

One thing that should be kept agile is the business case. Most Agile practitioners keep the investment fixed during a project. This is practical but unwise.

First of all, upfront investment decisions are made up out of guesswork and assumptions. So sticking with those decisions as the project advances and knowledge grows and assumptions get validated, is not a smart thing to do. Before you start, you have no clear picture of what your money buys. …

About

Dennis Hambeukers

Innovation Project Manager @ Zuiderlicht / Design Leadership Forum Member @InVision / Design Thinker / State Secretary of Integration @ Ministry of Design

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