Justin Lokitz, a DMBA (MBA in Design Strategy) class of 2014 alumni and co-author of Design A Better Business, talks about how the DMBA program influenced him, what you can expect from his new book, and why design needs your point of view.
What is Design a Better Business about?
Design A Better Business is about bringing together a variety of tools and using them in a design process to create something new. It is to create innovative ideas that turn into real businesses and take those real business options and concepts and turn them into strategies.
Why now, why this?
We’re big fans of the books that exist. This team, specifically Patrik (Van der Pijl), was a part of creating the book Business Model Generation. Many of our businesses are built on top of the platform that book set up; a couple of us were also contributors to Value Proposition Design, so we’ve seen the tools and mindsets behind some of these other really popular and groundbreaking books work – Lean Startup would be another one. There’s kind of two ways to do business: the right way, which is using these tools, and the not so right way – the old way – which is not using tools. So we thought, there’s a lot of knowledge about the tools in these books but there’s not a lot about how people actually use the tool. What’s happened since Business Model Generation came out, or Value Proposition Design, or Lean Startup, has allowed us to better understand what happens in application…so that’s why we decided to write this book.
*Illustration: Design A Better Business
Who is this book for?
This book is for a lot of different customers. We wrote it and designed it to meet many, many different needs. In fact, we tested it and incorporated feedback to shape the value proposition to meet a few different needs. My favorite audience for this is anyone who’s an influencer, an up and comer, someone who wants to be an influencer, and wants to change how things are done – and that can be just about anyone.
How was the design process for the book approached?
We not only write about these design tools, we use them in our own practices, and to create this book. From start to finish, it was 100 days. What’s also interesting is, very much like any design process, there was a hockey stick shaped curve, which means, the first week I went to Amsterdam we spent an entire week trying to finish one chapter. And writing and deleting and writing and deleting, and designing and writing and so forth – and not just a whole week 9-5, but literally 7am to midnight every single day. It took a whole week to write just one chapter. By the end of the process, during the last week I was there, we did 7 chapters in one week. And the last day I was in Amsterdam, on the final day of the first draft, we did 3 chapters in 1 single day, and that’s writing and designing all at once.
Did you encounter any major lightbulb moments throughout this journey?
I think all of us came to an interesting ‘wow’ moment (all at the same time, which was cool and creepy), which is now a big feature in the book and also designing what we call the ‘Double Loop’, which is our design process. The ‘wow’ moment was: in your typical design process, whether you get it from IDEO or Business Models, Inc., Google Venture’s SPRINT, or you get it from anyone out there, it says, basically, you need to get out there and understand your customers. You need to get out there and understand your customers and then ideate and prototype and validate, all in that cycle, and I 100% agree. But, what we found was that you never go at anything with a blank sheet of paper; you always come at every opportunity with a singular point of view, usually your own, so when you’re in a design process, it isn’t about necessarily just finding new opportunities or ways to solve problems. It’s actually about informing your point of view so that, as a person or team, you can come up with new ways to solve problems, or you can come up with a new story to help pitch how you might solve a problem.
So we had an epiphany in writing this book and also designing what we call the ‘Double Loop’, which is our design process. We discovered that every single problem you go at, every time you want to design something to meet an opportunity or solve a problem, in fact it always starts with a point of view, and your point of view is informed through the design process. Then it’s your point of view that has been informed which enables you to move forward and do something as a person or team. And that’s really powerful because designers are humans too, so how do humans grow and build on their own hunches? That’s what it’s all about – treating designers as people too, and not just mirrors reflecting their subjects.
“When you take a step back and realize there’s nothing else out there that’s really like the DMBA program, it’s powerful.”
As a current DMBA student, why should I pick up this book?
In many ways, this is the DMBA in a book. As a DMBAer you are an influencer or future influencer, and this book legitimizes everything we did in the DMBA and what it’s all about. If you want to understand why you’re coming to the DMBA and where parts of the DMBA experience are actually playing out in the real world, that’s another great place for this. When I first came to the DMBA, I wondered, ‘Hey, what do I really do with this, how is this going to change me, are people really using the things that come from the DMBA?’ It was a little nebulous. I think if I had something like this, I could pick it up and go, ‘Oh I get it, okay. So that’s the DMBA, that’s how these tools and processes are used to build a startup or a company.‘ It’s more the, ‘Oh I get it – so Toyota went about a problem in their company by doing this, and this is what they’re saying we’re going to learn at the DMBA,’ or, ‘ING looked at this problem this way, or here’s a startup that’s pivoting – okay I get it, I understand what a pivot really is, and ok I’m really excited to learn about startups and pivots,’ and so on.
I read Business Model Generation before I got into the DMBA, and it’s still one of the most valuable references I have. In many ways this would have been the perfect companion to that, because it would’ve told me how the tools are actually being used and not just how might I use them.
How can past, present, and future DMBA students use Design A Better Business?
What I think was really cool was, when Lisa (Kay Solomon, co-author and DMBA professor) and I started crafting this book, we would find spaces throughout the book for the DMBA to live, and because we both believe in what the DMBA stands for, we put it in the book. We also felt very strongly that if this book is for influencers and decision makers in companies, they have to know that real design is not just about making things pretty, or making pretty things, but also about making viable businesses, and making something different and new in the world, which includes business and strategy.
We wholeheartedly believe in the vision and mission of the DMBA and put it in as many places we could in the book with examples and photos and pictures, and at the very end we included what the DMBA is all about, and we are very proud of that. Of course, there are differing experiences in the DMBA, but when you take a step back and realize there’s nothing else out there that’s really like the DMBA program, it’s powerful.
Justin Lokitz co-created Design A Better Business with Patrick van der Pijl, Lisa Kay Solomon, Maarten Van Lieshout, and Erik Van Der Pluijm. You can find more information on the team, the book, and their latest webinars and events at http://designabetterbusiness.com.