Brainstorming Brainstorm Business People Design Concepts

How new tools and ways of working mean that design is now more important than ever when building a successful business.

By Liya James

Managing growth in any small business is demanding. There are suddenly so many new things pushing for attention and often distracting the founder(s) from their biggest responsibility: looking after customer needs.

Here’s three suggestions we’ve been using at Idean to help founders and small business owners integrate design into their business strategy:

1. Always stay customer-focused as you grow

As your company grows, it’s crucial that you find ways to expand the customer focus that got you going in the first place.

It’s not just another thing to put on the list, or something that your newly set-up marketing department can take care of. In fact, it’s essential to sustaining your company’s growth.

The good news is that the most successful and skilled founders are able to keep their eye on the user experience ball naturally, with a little help from the latest techniques of Lean Research and prototyping.

For example, we’ve found that:

  • You need to make understanding your customers as part of your business strategy — and make it a shared responsibility throughout the company.
  • Encourage your marketing specialists to constantly share their quantitative data.
  • Blend the quantitative understanding with day-to-day touchpoints with your customers so you know how they behave and why they behave the way they do with your product or service.
  • Consider investing in training for Lean User Experience for all of your team members and help them understand how to apply it in their day-to-day role.

All of this will help close any emerging gaps between your company and its customers, and ensure you’re growing in a way that strengthens your offering.

2. Nurture a culture of ideation, prototyping and testing

A vital source of strength for a young company is to engage the wider team in ideating and creating prototypes. Building a culture of continual testing and sharing of ideas should be at the center of any young company.

You can use the new wave of innovative, easily affordable design tools for this.

  • Make sure you’re constantly setting targets based on new data and ideas.
  • Bounce ideas off your real users. You don’t need a dedicated design team to do this.
  • If you’re a consumer company, you can literally pull in people off the street, find them in coffee shops, airports as you travel etc..
  • Call your best customers and get 15 minutes with them (and say thanks with a gift card).
  • Try a web-based option, such as

Above all, don’t lose the connection with your customers — because it’s very easy to lose touch with what’s outside your building as you grow.

And finally, prepare to be surprised. The best prototyping tends to lead to ideas and answers that you didn’t see coming.

3. Make sure everyone on the team cares for your brand as much as you do

If you’re a founder you simply have to accept that as your team grows, you will not have total control over your brand any more.

This is tough. It’s a bit like a village raising your child. Suddenly, the most personal, subjective decisions are part of a collective process and you’re worried about your vision being diluted.

But for service design and user experience, it’s also an opportunity. If you nurture an engaged team who are really inspired, you’ll reap rewards later on.

People will love and care for the things that you allow them to take responsibility for. Your team will have ideas about the brand attributes, but you have to be open to receive those ideas.

  • Embrace different perspectives.
  • Expand your original vision.
  • Create shared understanding of all your customer experience touch points.
  • Create a culture where people with radically different skill sets, from different areas of expertise and sectors, listen to each other.

Overall, putting design at the heart of your business is now essential. Whatever size you are — or you want to be — there are service design and user experience methodologies that can ensure you’re always in touch with your customers, grow your market and deepen relationships. And, it is important that founders and business owners understand how to leverage design to grow and drive integration and adoption.

Liya James teaches leaders of all types create strategies for leveraging design to win at the Idean Design Leadership Academy. Visit