3 Ways to Make Responsible Product Policy for a Diverse World
6 min read
If you’ve been on product teams, you likely can define user experience (UX) design. But it may be trickier when it comes to strategy design. And I say this as someone who has practiced it for over a decade. Many of us have been quietly working on the thinking behind interfaces and experiences, creating tools to solve specific challenges. We’ve been honing our practices as a “side job.”
So when the team asked me to formalize the role at Salesforce and in our ecosystem, I did what I always do when something feels ambiguous: I started a conversation about it with some of my colleagues.
Fellow strategy designers Micah Eberman from IBM and Steph Shapiro from Salesforce joined me to discuss how we define what we do and why it matters.
We agreed that strategy design is the practice of helping organizations identify opportunities for human-centered innovation and align behind a vision of what to build. A corporate strategist starts from the company’s point of view and may not understand the value of design. A UX designer may excel in creative problem solving but not have expertise in business concepts. Strategy design combines a depth in UX and business thinking – it’s the special sauce.
Expert design strategists can bridge an organization’s disparate capabilities across innovation, design, and build processes. This helps align the efforts and outcomes even across silos. Strategy design also considers:
I love how Angela Conway, a design strategist at PwC UK, summarizes her work as “solving the right problem and solving the problem right.”
When strategy design is done well, the entire team and all stakeholders are aligned on goals, needs, key insights driving the work, and a unified vision and roadmap. Then, throughout the design and build process, the handoffs between teams are smoother and the build process is more efficient.
The benefits of strategy design include:
Shapiro credits her ability to do this to having time and permission to step back and see things from a broader perspective. “It takes being in an organization that understands the value of making the space for strategic design,” she said.
Trying to get teams that want to work fast to want to make room for deep thinking can feel like swimming upstream. But solving big problems or make leaps in innovation means being able to see beyond the next sprint. You have to be able to look at the system as a whole. It helps to involve more people in the problem solving process and work differently.
6 min read
6 min read
Strategy designers are super curious and we don’t mind ambiguity. We know how to gather meaningful insights and distinguish signal from noise. We keep asking “why” until we solve the problem. If you’re stuck, strategy designers are the people who can lead the way out.
Core to what makes strategy designers successful is our ability to connect and willingness to include others in our work. Also, we know when to diverge and converge within a project, when to stay firm, and how to amplify other voices. Connecting dots in new ways or borrowing ideas from one context and changing them to suit another is a strength.
“We value interdisciplinary thinking and often have weird backgrounds because of it,” Shapiro said. “And carry it all with us and apply it in a new way.”
I often get the question: “Do strategy designers ship anything?” While we’re not the ones creating assets for production, we don’t just sit around and think. We deliver value by directing the design of systems-level solutions that drive specific outcomes for businesses and users. This is why we often focus on the earlier phases where organizations are deciding what to build.
Among other things, our contributions include:
Frameworks are among the most valuable artifacts that strategy designers deliver, making abstract concepts more tangible. They help people—creative teams, developers, and business stakeholders alike—understand how we want them to think about a challenge. Here are some examples:
Relationship Design is a creative practice that centers the people behind your business. This toolkit will help you map, workshop, and design your way to a human-centered future.
Even the best product idea won’t get to market without buy-in from the team and key stakeholders. That’s where strategy designers come in. “When people are part of a solution, they are more willing to fight for it,” Eberman said. “The more advocates you have, the more likely it is to actually get done.”
Alignment starts with the question: Who are the people who need to be in the room for this work to be successful? You may be surprised to learn that it’s a common mistake to neglect this question.
Shapiro said she frequently talks to project stakeholders who admit they hadn’t stopped to think about what partners or collaborators should be involved. If you have the right team together, you can more easily tease out any differences and build understanding.
A lack of alignment ultimately affects how your customers experience your product or service. If a company isn’t aligned, it will show and customers will know.
Strategy designers recognize that alignment is a design craft — we’re designing the collaboration experience as a means to achieve our business and customer goals. Strategy designers also know it’s a powerful way to make experience design work successful.
Not every strategy designer has a formal title. Shapiro’s title focuses on innovation. Eberman has had titles including production director, creative director and growth director. Whether the role is formal or not, somebody needs to play it if a team wants to experience its tremendous benefits.
After all, the most important part of design is the thinking behind the experience. Strategy designers know this best.
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