While many organizations are investing in data and design capabilities, only those that tightly weave these disciplines together will unlock their full benefits.
Often in business, the biggest breakthroughs come when organizations connect different, and seemingly disparate, ideas and approaches. Diversity of perspective has been shown time and again to foster fresh thinking to solve tough problems. Such is the promise for organizations that can effectively bring together data and design.
Data are often prized for their indifference to intuition, stoic reflection of the facts, and ability to shatter our assumptions—veritable superpowers when put into the hands of decision makers. While data have always been an important business input, recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI)and other analytics are only increasing the number of organizational arenas in which decision makers can activate data’s superpowers, from hiring to product development to customer engagement.
Separately, design thinking has spread like wildfire across industries after some iconic brands and born-digital companies (think Apple and Google) demonstrated the revenues and customer satisfaction it could drive. Harnessing qualitative insights, creativity, and a relentless focus on end-user needs, the approach is typically aimed at product and service innovation.
Yet, while organizations are increasingly reaping the rewards of data and design, we find that many are missing out on the benefits they offer when used in combination. Simply hiring both designers and data professionals to perform their discrete functions (even when on the same project) isn’t enough. Organizations need to enable the two to effectively work in lockstep—so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Getting this interplay right unleashes the ability not only to create killer, user-centric products and services but also, as we illustrate throughout this article, to improve business processes, an area in which the combination of data and design is greatly underutilized by many organizations today. In fact, we’ve seen, on average, a 10 to 30 percent performance improvement among companies that tightly interweave data and design capabilities to solve business problems far removed from product innovation but undeniably critical to the organization’s success.
But how do companies knit data and design together more effectively? Three key shifts are required: moving from silos to squads, from disconnected workflows to deep synchronicity of skills, and from product innovation only to operations-wide use.
From silos to squads
In a study of the design practices of 300 companies, we found that the top financial performers had integrated design across the organization rather than creating design units within specific departments, such as marketing or customer service, or within discrete functions, such as customer experience management (exhibit).