In past years, leaders determined where to take their businesses by reviewing best practice case studies, analyzing historical data and retrofitting old benchmarks to circumstances of the day. But businesses now operate in a different world. One where an accelerated pace of disruption and change gives customers and employees more power and more opportunities to make their demands known. Today’s businesses can’t be guided by yesterday’s strategies. Today’s challenges are different. They are human challenges. They require human-centered responses and business strategies grounded not just in past precedent and data, but also in the confidence that comes from establishing human connections.
By adopting a more human-centric approach, companies can remain agile in an unpredictable modern world.
There’s no such thing as the “new normal”
Historical trends and quantitative insights that used to guide decision-making can no longer be applied in a vacuum, especially in an environment where customer demands and market conditions are fleeting and fast changing. Where nearly 90 percent of customers only buy from companies they trust, and 80 percent say they are more likely to buy from companies that listen to—and act on—customer feedback.
The C-suite know what they’re up against. Seven in 10 CEOs say their traditional growth strategies are now obsolete. Industry disruption is on the rise, with many companies across industries showing declining financial performance. The C-suite also acknowledge that today’s customers expect more, with nearly three-quarters of leaders noting that the disruptive impact of shifting customer demands has increased. Yet for these leaders, unshackling themselves from processes that relied solely on data or historical decision-making is difficult.
The human shift
Fundamental shifts in the business landscape are driving the need for a different approach to today’s strategy. The foremost shift is the pace of disruption today. The impact of new technologies, disruptive new business models and the need to continuously innovate makes it hard for business leaders to determine how to optimize their financial, technology and talent resources and investments.
Secondly, increasingly changing customer expectations have forced businesses to up their game when it comes to how they interact with customers. Businesses are no longer being compared only to direct competitors but to all other customer-facing businesses. Finally, the impact of dwindling trust has emerged as a growing concern as more customers demand increased transparency from businesses.
These fundamental shifts in business are human-centered at the core. And human-centered disruption requires a human-centered response.
The value of a human-centered approach
So, how can business leaders plan for the future?
The answer lies in something new: combining a design-led approach, which is naturally rooted in human-centricity, with their strategy—deeply rooted in data and analytics. This blend of human and business is a powerful combination, with 89 percent of leaders acknowledging the value of this balanced approach.
To create a vision and strategy that is confident in today's rapidly changing world, leaders need to add a crucial empathetic lens to strategy to help understand the wants and needs of individuals, specifically those humans experiencing the service or product, and involved in making it happen. Leaders need to look beyond customers' and employees' actions to unearth their motivations and attitudes. Studying what people did is outdated, understanding why people do what they do is the future. And those insights can provide an organization with a compass for the future.
Chart a new course
To build the human dimension into their business and decision-making, leaders can do three things:
The starting point for an organization’s strategy development can no longer be set in the past. Its genesis must be in the present with an eye to the future, and focusing on people's wants, needs and expectations. Strategy development still means putting facts and knowledge at the center of decision-making, but understanding what people will do and, crucially, why they do it is the bedrock on which these facts and knowledge bases need to be built.