Design thinking unlocks potential

Special Group's managing partner Michael Redwood is one of the judges for the New Zealand International Business Awards excellence in design category.
Special Group's managing partner Michael Redwood is one of the judges for the New Zealand International Business Awards excellence in design category.

New Zealand firms need to figure out how to turn their customers' pain-points into enjoyable experiences.

That's what design thinking is all about, according to a judge for this year's excellence in design award in the New Zealand International Business Awards (NZIBA).

The managing director of the design and advertising agency Special Group, Michael Redwood, is among three judges for the design category, and he said design is not just about visual aesthetics or creativity.

"We are looking for companies that have worked hard to really understand their customers, and organised their entire business around those customer insights to improve the experience and therefore create a competitive advantage," said Mr Redwood.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the NZIBA, run by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) which celebrate the success of businesses on the world stage.

There are nine categories, and the Excellence in Design award recognises the best use of design to succeed in a global marketplace.

The judges will be looking for companies that have achieved success by integrating design into their business model, and have a high degree of design competency across their products, services, environment and culture.

The winner of last year's excellence in design award, Powershop, had transformed its customers' experience from a chore to a task that was enjoyable - and in doing so had gained the highest customer satisfaction scores in the industry.

"I think there are some great New Zealand examples of how established industries have been disrupted by businesses taking a design-led approach," Mr Redwood said.

"Focusing on the deep customer experience is the bit that gives long term competitive advantage."

He said companies can tap into tools to help them with this kind of design via NZTE's Better By Design programme, which coaches businesses in using design thinking to unlock better insights, thinking, products, services and customer experiences.

I think there are some great New Zealand examples of how established industries have been disrupted by businesses taking a design-led approach.

Recent research backs up the importance of using design thinking as a business tool to stimulate innovation and growth. The Deloitte 2016 Human Capital Trends report surveyed more than 7000 organisations globally, and found design thinking was the fifth greatest area of focus for New Zealand companies.

Deloitte defined this as a discipline focused on employee-centric strategies that change how companies manage, support and train their workforce.

And as for integrating design thinking into a business model, Mr Redwood said any business in any sector can apply the principles of design thinking to create a better experience for their customers.

"It's not something you can fully outsource because organisations really have to buy into it deeply. Excellence in design is not an aesthetic add-on, it's a fundamental business tool to discover the best way to meet a customer's needs," he said.

The excellence in design award will also be judged by NZME editorial director Fran O'Sullivan and Magic Memories director Geoff Burns. Finalists will be announced in October. Special Group is the sponsor supporting this award category.

New Zealand International Business Awards

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the NZIBA, which celebrate the success of businesses on the world stage.

Many of New Zealand's most iconic companies have been celebrated in the awards hall of fame over the past 50 years, including Tonka, Tip Top and the Apple and Pear Marketing Board (now ENZA).

To celebrate 50 years of business icons, a special exhibition has been created that will be on display at the awards ceremony in November.

ANZ has been the awards strategic partner since 2009. The awards other sponsors are KPMG, MFAT, Callaghan Innovation, Special Group, Kotahi, MBIE, Te Puni Kōkiri and Treasury.

The awards finalists will be announced on October 10. To find out more about the awards click here.

- NZ Herald

NZTE supplied content.

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