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Think + Make

How do we get to the future?

If we were wondering when the future was set to arrive, that answer would be right now.

In 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. But the mismatches in our workforce are numerous. We have millions of unfilled jobs while many talented, hardworking millennials struggle to find their footing. Some of the millennial core skills, like fresh ideas, adaptability, and tech savvy, are essential for us to stay competitive from an innovation perspective. There is talent waiting for a canvas to paint on.

But it’s not enough. The skills and experiences that are essential for creating the future have shifted. Skills used to be narrowly divided into individual departments. People used to focus on one specific skill. Now, we have what Tom Kelley of IDEO describes as modern T-shaped people.

The modern T-shaped person has deep skill in one area with a broad set of skills that help them relate and make decisions from multiple perspectives. This is essential in our fluid economy with on-demand everything.  The modern designer must possess the traditional skills from classical design disciplines like architecture, interior design, fashion, landscape architecture, communication, and industrial design, but those skills are table stakes and the differences look more significant.

"The modern T-shaped person has deep skill in one area with a broad set of skills that help them related and make decisions from multiple perspectives."

 


T-Shaped skills

THE SKILLS OF THE FUTURE ARE BEING REMIXED.

The designer of the future is comfortable with ambiguity and knows the product will always be evolving. The designer of the future has cross-functional skills in social science, visual and interaction design, and coding. Welcome to a world where designers need to be able to construct and validate a test, interpret data, write code, and use business acumen to make decisions.

We now live In a world where we’re always on with a smartphone in our pocket. We have a persistent connection to the businesses that matter in our lives meaning experience matters. How much does experience matter?

“Customers are six times more likely to buy with a positive emotional experience, 12 times more likely to recommend the company, and five times more likely to forgive a mistake,” noted Bruce Temkin, Customer Experience Transformist at Temkin Group. Our view of what is possible has shifted. So has our expectation of how each of those experiences will look.

The future of business is the future of design. Deep insight and understanding of human needs and desires will need to be matched with the assets, offerings, and possibility of a business.

With a dose of fearlessness and the ability to act quickly, we create and test new products in the real world to get to the future faster.

WHAT ROLE WILL DESIGN PLAY IN THE FUTURE?

Good design creates trust. It helps us decide whether the company on the other side of the offering cares about us as a person or views us as a commodity. The new designer is the connective tissue between business and consumer. The new designer can understand the problems facing the consumer in their everyday, conceptualize new ideas and business models, and then test and validate solutions. From there, they can continue to build on that knowledge to scale or to broaden offerings.

When you start to see and understand patterns, you can act on them to create new ideas, products, services and opportunities. This is how we get to the future. We see what was previously unseen. With a dose of fearlessness and the ability to act quickly, we create and test new products in the real world to get to the future faster.
 

CHANGING TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE FUTURE.

We intend to be relevant and continue to deliver value for our employees and the clients we serve.  So, what does that mean?  We need to build stronger skills in three areas.

1. Unearthing insights that get at the core of human experience has always been a part of our DNA. This time, we want to make it a part of every product innovator, cowboy and entrepreneur’s tool kit too. We want to pioneer an always-on view of the customer and build new ways to have lasting conversations about the things that are most meaningful in their lives. This isn’t a survey, a usability study or a one-time ask.  This is a human relationship that is built on trust and gives the consumer as much as we get from them: a stake in the outcome.

2. A context where we can learn faster about failures and successes. We want to be able to construct hypotheses (yep, hunches that are smart and designed to be testable) and we want to come up with the best way to get them into the hands of consumers. The world of product needs to land squarely in the daily life of the consumer.

3. We want every team member to be fluent in business and able to drive profitable outcomes. If constraints make us smarter and more creative, one of the constraints will be whether we can make money to continue to do work that reflects our values.
 

SO WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE?

We’re committed to building an organization that can deliver this to the world. The kinds of problems that will get designed in the future include design of systems, design of cultures, and design of possibility. We want to be a design firm that is able to think critically about the world and consider the impact of what we make—not just the bottom line, but the social impact, the cultural impact, and ecological impact.

We want to use our ability to see the unseen to bring deep empathy and understanding of human needs to solve real problems. We believe we can create opportunity spaces that create economic opportunity and fairness for more people. And do that while making money so we can play another day.

We know that it is our responsibility to create cultures where every person has the opportunity to be healthy, every person has the opportunity to learn, and every person has the opportunity to become the best version of themselves. That’s why we’re focusing all of our work on improving the daily experience of health and finding happiness.

We’re committed to being a sponsor and creator of the future. We’re convinced that the world needs us and you. Will you join us?

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Jen Alstad is on a mission.