Recently, I’ve become interested in business strategy, so I’ve been devouring books like The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Lean Startup. And what I’ve come away with more than anything is how much of business strategy is just good old-fashioned user-centered design.
To take one example, startup consultant and founder Steve Blank encourages startups to “get out of the building” and listen to their customers. He advocates for a systematic process of making hypotheses and testing them with real customers. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying it, but this sounds like good old fashioned user research to me. Eric Reis, a student of Blank’s, takes the idea even further by marrying it with agile development in the book, The Lean Startup. I came away from Ries’ book more convinced than ever of the value of prototyping and user testing in helping to create a minimum viable product.
Clay Christensen, the author of Innovator’s Dilemma, popularized the notion of “the job to be done” where you design a product around a customer’s need, not that customer’s superficial demographic profile. In other words, understanding the job to be done requires direct observation of the customer. In essence, it’s contextual inquiry!
Now, I’m sure I’m oversimplifying these principles somewhat to make them relate to me and my work. But it shouldn’t really be that surprising that basic user-centered design goes a long way towards making a great company and a great product. If UX designers started talking less about user research methodologies that put executives to sleep and more about “minimum viable product” and “the job to be done” we might win more allies in the C-suite.