Three weeks ago I was running a course on innovation at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. While planning my lecture on ‘designing from the outside in,’ I received a message from LinkedIn. The timing could not have been better for my subject matter. The message was so far away from being authentic – a perfect example of designing from the inside out and one I went on to use that day in my lecture. Designing from the inside out is where an organization creates or changes a product or service to reduce costs or increase revenue, but tries to persuade customers they did it for their benefit.

I am a professional subscriber to LinkedIn, and only because I get much value from the advanced search function. Having LinkedIn tell me they are about to take this feature away because it is not heavily used, is not authentic. LinkedIn still provides this functionality, but only if you move to a more expensive product. LinkedIn has designed this service from the inside out; their focus is on increasing revenue and not increasing customer satisfaction.

I see this approach a lot with Utilities. For example, Utilities will often try to sell the value of autopay to their customers. Saying it makes customers lives easier. While autopay may deliver this benefit, the reality is Utilities are doing this to reduce costs of chasing late payers. Customers would have far greater respect for the Utility if the message were authentic. Just say: “If you move to autopay you help us reduce our costs, so you will enjoy a discount.”

When designing products and services, design from the outside in and focus on what the customer wants, and not on what you want from them. Be authentic with your customers, it is the best way to attract and retain them.

Are you being authentic and designing from the outside in?

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