Follow Netflix’s Lead and ‘Redesign’ Your Business Thinking in Three Easy Steps

We’ve all been at fault at one time or another, failing to appreciate design’s role in making our lives better. A car is green because the color exists, a stop sign is in the shape of a pentagon since the triangle was in use, and your phone is flat because how else would you fit it in your pocket? You could assume that it’s all just a beautiful, if slightly haphazard, blend of creativity and common sense, but the reality is, even the most minute details of our world are designed with intent – and businesses are starting to take stock.

Using empathy to put customers, clients, and end users at the center of the equation form the foundation of design thinking. Combine that with research and clues from data, and the method to the madness has not only become sharper over time, but celebrated as a business advantage too. According to the annual Design Management Institute Index, design-driven companies have maintained a significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P 500 by more than 200% over 10 years.

With numbers like that, there’s no doubt that design-led thinking has turned into a tool for change, capable of transforming the way companies do business, hire talent, compete, and even build their brand. To produce new and innovative outcomes means pushing aside a problem’s restrictions and zeroing in on the possibility of what could be.

Take streaming and content powerhouse, Netflix, for example. We all know its revolutionary story, but what hasn’t garnered as much attention, is its reinvention using a design-led approach. Netflix started as a popular DVD mail service, only to later ax its successful business model and rebuild it as a streaming hub and new-age production house for original content. Netflix, at every stage of its existence, created an offering ahead of its time and was fearless in rewriting its future by tearing down its past. The secret to the impressive evolution? A customer-centric viewpoint.

According to Forbes, even as far back as 2001, Netflix was spending $10 mn a year on research into streaming, building a management philosophy that anyone in the company can have good ideas and should be part of the process. By combining that focus with researched facts and data, Netflix was able to create personalized content recommendations and original shows geared towards viewer interests, resulting in better outcomes for both the user and the company.

It’s not just in product innovation where design-led companies are thriving, it goes as deep as identifying systems-level challenges, too. The healthcare industry, historically known as evidence-based, reliant on scientific and quantitative data, have also begun to take a design-led approach in recent years. New hospitals and clinics are shifting their focus from just quality care, to ensuring a first-class customer experience akin to that of a five-star hotel. And who could have guessed that financial institutions would begin humanizing their approach in an industry so rooted in facts and figures? Capital One certainly did, after acquiring consulting design firm Adaptive Path to help fuel initiatives based on design thinking.

You don’t have to be a designer to think creatively, you only have to believe in the power of what you do and what could be possible. Perhaps it’s time to take a new approach to business, with customers at the heart of everything.

For those who want to lead by design to drive innovation and improve business outcomes, here are three essential things to bear in mind: 

  1. Immerse designers across the business – Don’t wait until the very last minute to involve your ‘knight in shining designer’ in the process. Align with them from the very beginning, ensuring your consumer-centric messaging is factored in at every stage of their design planning process.
  2. Embrace the process – Encourage a culture of trial and error. Nothing good has ever come from the first round of anything. Test, learn, adjust, and repeat until the final result proves its purpose.
  3. Apply Data – Designers are great at translating data into something visual that’s also informative and useful. The more your team knows, the more they are empowered to make decisions. creates data visual materials with the end user in mind.