Design versus Planning

Great post from Farnam Street Blog this Sunday:

There was a fascinating section on the difference between designing and planning that caused me to pause and reflect.

While both activities seek to formulate ways to bring about preferable futures, they are cognitively different. Planning applies established procedures to solve a largely understood problem within an accepted framework. Design inquires into the nature of a problem to conceive a framework for solving that problem. In general, planning is problem solving, while design is problem setting. Where planning focuses on generating a plan—a series of executable actions—design focuses on learning about the nature of an unfamiliar problem.

When situations do not conform to established frames of reference — when the hardest part of the problem is figuring out what the problem is—planning alone is inadequate and design becomes essential. In these situations, absent a design process to engage the problem’s essential nature, planners default to doctrinal norms; they develop plans based on the familiar rather than an understanding of the real situation. Design provides a means to conceptualize and hypothesize about the underlying causes and dynamics that explain an unfamiliar problem. Design provides a means to gain understanding of a complex problem and insights towards achieving a workable solution.

To better understand the multifaceted problems many of us face today it helps to talk with people who have different perspectives. This helps achieve better situational understanding. At best this can point the way to solutions and at worst this should help with learning what to avoid.

Designing the Right Financial Products for the Market

Human Centered Designs are becoming the focus of the financial products market, especially since financial institutes strive to understand how the human element impacts the progress of these products. Initially, most financial products were designed for the big account holders of a bank or the wealthiest buyers, but now financial institutes are offering more and more well-suited financial products to the low-income market as well.

However, how are these products designed in the first place? Compared to other types of product designing processes, coming up with a design for a financial product can be quite a challenge as security and regulatory concerns have increased tenfold.

First off, you have to remember that financial institutions are always required to abide by some regulations. These regulations also persist when it comes to creating a product design since every financial institute is first required to have a standard produce design process or policy in place. Every time the institute needs to come up with a new product, it has to follow through with this standard procedure.

For the right product idea, the best people financial institutes need to consult are their own customers. Sure, they can get a big marketing team and the best professionals for the job, but the real product idea always comes from the customers. However, the right insight cannot be achieved by simply asking the clients question about the institute’s products. Companies need a deeper insight into the lifestyles of their customers, something that comes from observing their surroundings and home.

The insight you get by observing their daily habits can be much more useful in designing a better, customer-centric financial product for the market. However, it is important to remember that it is not about talking to 1,000 people for a few minutes; a chat based on hours with just a dozen people is likely to give you more insight. You can use these in-depth conversations to draw patterns that can then be used as the basis of creative ideas.

In order to turn insights into the right product design, financial institutes would need an experienced product design firm. In the end, it will not simply be about creating the right product, but also about providing the right user experience as well. The marketing messages, idea implementation and support services offered should all be integrated and well-matched with the product design.

You should also use prototyping to test different product ideas before you finally go about turning them into designs. Prototyping is simple, quick and inexpensive, which is why you can easily share the potential results with your future clients to get their response to your idea. This kind of testing is important before product designing can be initiated in order to minimize risk of failure.

When it comes to financial products, there is no definite key to design a guaranteed perfect product. Your clients and their valuable insight is the only path to understand what kind of products are needed in the market the most.

Sad Razor Innovation

Gillette’s new razor, the ProGlide FlexBall. It’s a men’s razor that does what every other men’s razor since time immemorial has done – removes hair from your face – but with “a swiveling ball-hinge” that the company says will make it easier to get a clean shave. It will retail for $11.49 and $12.59, depending on whether you want the battery-powered version or not, and Gillette is planning to sell $188 million worth of the things in the next year alone.

I won’t mince words: ProGlide FlexBall is a bad idea. A really bad idea. In fact, the razor represents everything terrible about America’s innovation economy.

Read the full blog post here.

Sad_Razor