Lab Notes

4 Strategy and Invention Trends to Watch in 2016

Disruption is putting pressure on legacy organizations resistant to change.

Enterprises are responding to the challenge, taking radical steps to change themselves and their industries.

Companies are beginning to rethink their structure, employees, and value proposition to the world.

Strategists must help their organizations establish vision and adapt to changes. It’s time to take a holistic view of the landscape and uncover new ways to iterate and improve.

1. Design Thinking Becomes Design Doing:

In 2014 we wrote on the growth of design thinking across business, culture, and beyond.

In the past year, we’ve seen more companies take this philosophy and reconfigure themselves, by starting with the user’s needs. Enterprises are building multi-disciplinary teams to create new solutions. Co-creation is leading to improved experiences, products, and services.

As design thinking matures, we have seen an increased focus on OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results). Now design thinking must expand into more areas of business, creating clarity through tests and learning plans.

For organizations leveraging a design thinking philosophy, the focus must evolve into ‘design doing.’ The high of dreaming — “what if” and “how might we” — can distract an organization from a laser focus on what truly matters.

Did we solve the problem or not? How do we make it better? How do we learn faster and iterate more often?

The opportunity for 2016 is to dream and solve real problems for real people. Obsess about the user and what they need.

Build solutions with diverse teams. Spend as much time proving/disproving your ideas as you do envisioning potential solutions.

Key Theme: Design Thinking is eating the world

2. Profit for Purpose Sake

Let’s face it, millennials now drive a significant amount of our economy. They’re active, informed, and they have discretionary income.

As buying power increases, a new generation’s values are beginning to more clearly emerge. In 2015 consumers demanded more authenticity and transparency from the brands they use.

It was a year we saw more companies work seriously to establish their purpose. More organizations will join this movement.

Without a clear purpose and high ethical standards, companies will find themselves floundering. Action, not ad copy, now defines a brand. In 2015 Chipotle, VW,  and other consumer-focused brands suffered massive crises.

In 2016, we foresee more consumers evaluating brands for what they believe rather than simply what they sell.

This year REI set an example by living their mission through the #optoutside campaign. We are also keeping an eye on the rise of the Certified B Corp, a public commitment to profit with a purpose.

Key Theme: companies without a clear purpose will be abandoned by consumers

3. What is a Digital Company?

The lines between the digital/physical world have completely eroded.

Technology has increased both the fluidity and fracturing of life states. We don’t shop online and offline anymore, we do both at the same time. We workout with our wearables. Our houses are full of smart objects feeding us a constant stream of information.

For companies, there’s little difference between digital strategy and business strategy. They’re interconnected and wholly dependent.

Business is now won and lost on the ability for brands to build seamless, connected, and relevant experiences — in our daily lives.

The rise of “micro moments” has exemplified a need for brands to think holistically about their experience. Digital presence and products have become the anchor of every modern brand’s vision.

The pace/speed/change of digital startups are forcing all of us to think/act/operate differently.

Key Theme: we are all digital startups now

4. Organization Structure is Changing

Many rapidly growing startups are using alternative models for their organization. In 2015, many enterprises made radical moves to redefine and rethink organizational structure.

The work we do and how we organize ourselves to do it are radically transforming before our eyes.

It is pushing more organizations to be honest about the talent, methods, and infrastructure they need to succeed. We see an emerging focus to keep up with the rate of change by examining how work is organized.

Startups are building publicly, introducing radical transparency about every aspect of their business.

Buffer’s core value of Default to Transparency, drove them to create Open.Buffer — a real-time dashboard of the companies key metrics. Mattermark turned its critical eye on itself, showcasing its own burn-rate as a startup.

The focus on transparency and organizational structure is beginning to show outside the startup space.

Massive companies are not only changing who does what, but inventing completely new ways to organize.

Zappos chose to restructure under the Holacracy model. Target is investing over a billion dollars in their key systems, people, and infrastructure to better serve its core customers.

We are excited by these initiatives to better serve their stakeholders, employees, and customers.

Key theme: radical transparency and a relentless focus on the speed of innovation

Interested in other trends on the horizon in 2016? Check out our breakdown of the Digital Marketing and Design & UX trends for 2016.

Matthew is a walking dichotomy: a strategic designer, a metric-driven UA guy, a believer in traditional AND emerging media. He’s an economist and a songwriter, a creative soul who loves numbers, a lover of dogs, a fighter for the arts, and a darn fine cook to boot.