Humanising business – the pathway to creating growth

For years companies have talked about the “voice of the customer” but few are successful in putting customer insights central to how they think. In the rush to achieve growth and the best economic outcomes, many companies lose their way and their focus on the human dimension – to understand what people want and value.

Launching WAVE Design, founder and conjoint professor at UNSW, Dr Munib Karavdic said many established companies have forgotten their customers, their workforce, distributors and business partners.

“In fiercely competitive and rapidly changing markets, businesses that are in sync with their customers, staff, distributors and business partners are much better placed for business growth through innovation,” he said. “Established companies are seeing more and more unhappy customers, employees who are less engaged and suppliers who are less cooperative. It is these conditions that create an environment ripe for disruption.”

“Uber is a great example. If customers and drivers were happy with traditional taxi services, Uber would have struggled. The fact is the taxi industry worldwide lost sight of the people it serves,” he added.

Dr Karavdic sighted the results of the US election as another example. “The general public in the US was disillusioned with the status quo and didn’t believe it served them, so they were prepared to give something else a go,” he said.

“People have choice and are willing to try something new if the known isn’t working for them. The challenge for many leaders is that they want to innovate and become more customer-centric, but they are not clear where to start and rightly so. It’s hard to envisage a new way of thinking and how it would make a successful business more productive,” he said.

Dr Karavdic said the ability to innovate by truly understanding what customers want and delivering on it had become a key determinate of long-term success for many established organisations.

He added: “The path to innovation and growth is to apply human-centred design, which is the discipline of delivering solutions for people based on a deep understanding of the problem and customer insights.”

The 2014 Design Management Institute Study found that over a 10-year period from 2004 to 2014, companies that focused on innovating through “Human-Centred Design” (HCD) grew at a rate more than two times greater than others in the S&P 500 index. This included organisations such as Coca-cola, Apple, Nike, Walt Disney, Procter and Gamble and Starbucks.

Technical Director of Coca-Cola South Pacific and an active contributor to Germany’s start-up community, Mr George Droumev said progressive companies are using human centred design because it gives people the tools to understand what the customer really wants and unpack assumptions.

“You start with a problem and instead of jumping into a solution, you ask what needs fixing, and for whom? As crazy as it sounds, this hasn’t been the corporate approach to problem-solving,” he said.

Ms Gail Jones, a Senior Manager of Digital Underwriting at a major Australian financial enterprise said, “We think we are customer-centric but I’m not convinced we truly understand what that means.”

Jones said hthat HCD helps us put ourselves in the customer’s position and find something that works for them as well as us.

“I visited several families during our HCD project and realised how important it is to listen to customers and understand their emotions and desires,” she said.

Dr Karavdic said the WAVE Design mission was to humanise business by syncing customers, employees, leaders and partners through HCD.

Inside Small Business

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