Reframing Value to Inspire Change
As business designers, we are often asked to articulate the potential value of a new product or service because clients often want to know whether “the juice is worth the squeeze” as one of my colleagues like to say. Understandably, many clients face enormous pressure to justify their annual budgets and experimentation is not something they are typically incentivized by. Determining the level of effort and potential reward behind a new product or service is a certainly worthwhile exercise.
However, the idea of value articulation typically conjures images of robust financial models or Monte Carlo simulations to determine what the future might look like. But is there more to value articulation than projected return on investment?
Granted, quantitative data is how we evaluate much of the world around us — test scores, oil prices, inflation rates. It is the love language of the modern business world, and therefore perceived as an accurate predictor of the future. However, anticipating the future is inherently elusive.
The ability to effectively articulate the value of a new product or service typically requires more than a thoughtful business case. Instead, it demands the ability to address uncertainty, build trust and demonstrate the promise of change. It requires a combination of vision, business acumen and interpersonal skills.
Thus a business case is simply a means to the ends. Value articulation, though, is largely dependent on one’s ability to address a client’s concerns about risk and reimagining our expectations of the future. Therefore, business designers must be as adept as galvanizing change in spite of multiple objections to convince other people that the pursuit of the unknown is a worthwhile endeavor.
Here are some recommendations for how one can reframe how value is perceived, understood and articulated.
- Understand how decisions are made within a client’s organization. What is the culture of decision making? Is it an organization that makes decisions through quantitative data, spreadsheets and reason? Or are decisions made through informal conversations, stories and emotion? How decisions are made within an organization will provide insight on what assets are needed to advance the conversation regarding launching new products/services.
- Identify the recurring themes. Is it operational efficiency? A better customer experience? New product development? Most often, the themes that arise in conversation signal to how an organization perceives its competitive advantage. Using those organizational themes to inform a value narrative not only conveys an understanding the company’s business, but creates familiarity regarding a new initiative.
- Determine what’s missing and identify ways to elevate. Successfully articulating the value of the unknown requires a narrative that balances a more promising future while staying grounded in current realities that reinforce rust. Therefore, how can you elevate the narrative behind the value of a new product or service? Is it missing financial data? Alignment with strategic priorities? Illustration on how it improves customers’ lives?
As an objective partner, we have an opportunity to elevate how value is communicated, perceived and evaluated. Developing a compelling value narrative helps set the stage for how an organization may evolve and gain greater confidence with launching new products, services or experiences. Thus, value articulation goes beyond a business case but intimately understanding how decisions are made by the people within organizations, and providing them with the tools, language and influence needed to create change.