Research Insights: McKinsey on Design-Led Thinking in Business

You walk into Starbucks, and the aroma of coffee beans fills your nostrils. The hustle and bustle of all the professionals making their way from their morning coffee stop to their offices awakens the energy within you. The friendly barista takes your order with ease, and a few minutes later, your name is called. In your hand is a cup, perhaps filled with an indulgent beverage—or maybe the fuel you need to jump-start your morning. Either way, you build the extra 10 minutes into your commute each day to park the car, go inside, and order your coffee.

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It would be easy to say that Starbucks simply sells coffee, but if that were the case, we’d all be in the McDonald’s drive-through buying our caramel macchiatos for half the price. You’re headed to Starbucks not just for the coffee but for the customer experience. In fact, you give up 10 minutes of your precious time for that experience. Starbucks has known it for a long time, and now, McKinsey is confirming it: Design-led thinking is the future of business. Anyone can nail the product; design takes much more into account. Design can refer to a number of things: product design, experience design, etc. We’ve collected some of the most important insights regarding design-led thinking.

Experience Design Should be Included in Strategy

Just like choosing the right messages, medium, and channels can provide a company with a competitive edge, defining and constantly optimizing experience design can be a great advantage. It’s important to include the discussion on how the customer experience should be designed along with other strategic conversations about where to advertise, what geographies to focus on, and more.

Design Has the Power to Delight and Disappoint

This is exactly why design is so important. It can make or break an experience. If a brand can define moments of delight and ensure those moments are designed to occur in an experience, it again gives it a competitive edge. McKinley highlights how great of an age we are in where we can test design elements, whether it’s the design of a product or an experience, before we actually launch.

Empathy Translates to Good Design

One of the key insights is that having empathy within design is what creates those moments of delight. If the people shaping design can understand the pain points or reasoning behind why a product is used in a specific way, the design can be improved. We have to stop looking at experiences and products in a way that is cold and calculated and look first with empathy. Understanding the customer is key to any design-driven company or business.

Overall, design as a concept is a top buzzword, but the challenge really lies in how to implement design-led thinking in a business or company. Hugo Sarrazin at McKinley says, “It’s a big opportunity, and somebody should rewrite all the business-school books. Traditional views of strategy, of where and how to compete, need to be updated to include that there’s a new dimension.” And that dimension is customer experience.