I’ve been coaching Slalom’s Experience Design (XD) leadership team as they explore new ways to expand their influence and take more control over their pipeline of work.
This is a highly talented group, capable of developing and delivering innovative work. Yet previous efforts have put them on a hamster wheel of ideas focused on the creation of artifacts - "we should create better case studies of our work", or "let’s hold a webinar for our sales team".
While potentially useful, these efforts don’t go far enough to get them a seat at the table during the earliest stages of business development because they fail to support a meaningful connection at the basic human level.
So I decided it was time to take a different approach, one that was grounded in empathy. During one of our working sessions we took a step back and focused on one of the XD team’s biggest allies in growing their business: the Client Services (sales) team. Then we went deep in considering what they actually need to perform well in their role - or more simply, what they need as individual human begins performing in a particular role.
At first this was challenging. It required imagining what it might feel like to be a member of the sales team pursuing new business on any given day. But soon words like "competence", "responsibility", "trust", and “ease” entered the room, and the discussion took on a whole new dimension.
We were able to envision new ways of interacting with the sales team based on these needs by (what they value), what kinds of obstacles the XD team inadvertently creates that block those needs being met (things to stop doing), and enablers we could create to better address them (things to start doing).
By examining needs before developing artifacts we were following one of the core principles of human-centered design, and paving the way for higher value interactions with our sales colleagues.