Design: The Agreement
I watched in awe this week as Intuit’s CEO, Brad Smith, unpacked the importance of Design for Delight (Intuit’s design thinking framework) and Customer-Driven Innovation for our Plano employees. In a ballroom in the newly constructed Omni at The Star, Brad — along with our kick-ass GM Cece Morken–-used humor, case studies and hands-on activities to personally teach the behaviors of design to every single person in our company. And it wasn’t the first time.
First, about two months ago, he asked EVERY EMPLOYEE in our company to personally visit and observe two self-employed business people — one of our most important, global customer segments. Then he asked us to each attend a post-visit debrief session. Here, with the help of our Innovation Catalysts (basically Design for Delight Jedis) each employee learned how to craft a problem statement based on observations from those visits. Since then, Brad has toured every location, in every city and country where we have a presence, to teach every employee how to use problem statements to construct an ideal state. How to use an ideal state to inspire a broad range of ideas. How to narrow those ideas to one and then unpack all the assumptions in that idea and determine the riskiest Leap of Faith. How to quickly construct experiments to start testing those assumptions in hours.
A CEO teaching design? I struggled to picture it myself. But Brad isn’t your average CEO. He’s an inspiring presenter. An engaging speaker. No doubt the single most important advocate Intuit’s design organization could have in their corner. And he gets it — you can tell that right away.
As a Design Leader who has led creative departments of all types and sizes, this was a powerful moment for me. Having our CEO set a global expectation that design behavior is THE ONLY WAY to innovate and solve our problems — as product teams, marketing teams, HR teams, and as a company––was pretty powerful. And empowering. In the words of Jared Spool, “Design is a Team Sport.” That is, designers are only as successful as our stakeholders’ belief in our ambitions, processes and focus. To have Brad so clearly and dearly set that expectation for every single employee is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our organization. And for our designers.
There has never been a better time to be a designer at Intuit. There may be no company better poised for transformational innovation. Peering out at the many opportunities to help small businesses grow, worldwide. Putting more money in the pocket of every consumer through better tax products, insights and advice to maximize your tax deductions and improve your credit. Scanning the horizon, evaluating new partnerships to create new value. Uncovering new problems to solve — for our customers today, and for the customers we’ll have a chance to earn over the next five to ten years. Our Mission: Powering Prosperity Around the World is both daunting and invigorating. Exactly the challenge our designers are looking for.
We’ve recently named a Chief Design and Product Officer: Diego Rodriguez. This is a huge move for our company who has just so clearly declared the role of design to innovate for our customers, our business and our future. It means design and product have a voice in the C-Suite. Diego is a Stanford/Harvard/IDEO alum and Intuit boomerang. He gets design, he gets business, and he gets Intuit. Three things that are critical for us to hit the ground, running. And run we must.
With design opportunity comes tremendous responsibility. Designers must be patient as others make the uncomfortable journey from design literacy to design fluency. And designers must be bold, urgent and relentless in our focus on and attack of our customers’ most vexing problems. Designers must be open to grow themselves: better communication skills, better business acumen, better understanding of emerging technology and its impact on our ability to craft new experiences and add new value to our customers. Designers must give differently than they have in the past. They must assume a larger responsibility to teach — and in some cases fight to keep the design mindset and processes pure, effective and intact. They must recognize where ownership ends and influence begins. “Design is a Team Sport,” and to win together, designers need to be great teammates: keep yourself sharp, play your position, call others off the ball when you see you can field it clearly, be there to back up your colleagues in case a grounder gets through their legs.
This is no time for designers to sigh, cross their arms and pronounce “you’re not doing it right.” This is no time for designers to try to own design thinking. This is the time for doubling down on the things that have earned us a seat at the table: strategic thinking, a customer-obsessed lens and an eye and a hand for what the future could actually look like. And it’s time for us to push ourselves and our craft to new levels, with renewed passion, and share it with our teams, our company and our community.