Burkhard Müller
Head of Digital bei MUTABOR

We humans gravitate towards comfort. And services that make everyday life easier are of immense value to us. The triumph of digitalization is because it reduces work and makes us more efficient. However, developing a helpful, life-saving service is exceptionally demanding work, and most projects fail because of the mindset of the people involved. Digital projects require open results and must be developed in close cooperation with the users. Digital projects require open results and must be developed in close cooperation with the users. I warn against planning digital products in the same way as material ones.

Many companies are handling digital projects like projects from the material world. Let’s take a car as an example. To start with, we define precisely what the car should look like at the end, what functions it will have and the optional features. Then we work on it until it is finished. It would be great to be able to bring a 10% finished car onto the market to see if the users like it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in the material world – but it does in the digital world.
It’s a pity that very few people take advantage of this. Instead, software is often programmed for years without knowing whether users understand it or need it at all. In the worst case, an expensive advertising campaign is quickly planned. But that’s useless if the users don’t want the application.

It’s not about developing something that people want, but something that people need

The most obvious thing, of course, would be to do a survey. The result of such a democratic survey, however, leads at best to the “average,” but never to an innovation. If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, he would have bred faster horses instead of inventing the car. It’s essential to involve people, but it’s not enough to just do what they want. The key lies in empathy coupled with inventiveness: Gifted minds who deal with people, understand their needs and develop solutions for them.

Think and act like a designer

Design is more than just visual. The task of a designer is to turn something complex into something simple, whether it’s a poster or a software application. The most important thing in the design process is to put yourself in the position of the people you want to reach. Designers find solutions by looking at desires and problems from as many perspectives as possible. Ideally, solutions are first implemented as prototypes to test them with a small group of real users. This is repeated several times until you have a clear picture of what the users need to make the product work. In software development, this is called an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or better yet MLP (Minimum Lovable Product). This product should be released as early as possible. Once published, further findings are collected that can be used to improve the product further. This creates a cycle of continuous improvement that benefits users.

Innovation doesn’t like being planned, and hates being forced – it can only be discovered

Everyone can think like a designer. Unfortunately, this is rarely used in the still mostly hierarchical working world. Design methodologies such as Design Thinking help to make this way of thinking viable for entire companies. We have known for a long time that the best results are achieved when a team of clients and service providers is formed that works shoulder-to-shoulder with real users.