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Whether you’re designing a change for your company or a new product for someone else, the things you develop are for people, inside or outside your organization. Beyond these people exists a broader context as well as your business model. Understand these, and design for success.


As a designer, you must have a complete understanding of the world in which you do business. This is true whether you’re in a startup, a for-profit, or a non-profit. You must know your customer, your overarching economic context (trends, regulations, competition, etc.), and the internal mechanics of your own business. All these comprise your company’s DNA.

Why is this important? The biggest and most effective business changes, strategies, and innovations come from finding the answers hidden in the noise. These may exist outside of your comfort zone. In some cases, it is for good reason. But how will you know what’s out there unless you take the road less traveled and have a look for yourself?

Mastering understanding is the secret sauce of great design. Designers actively leave their comfort zones, exploring and experimenting with things that others may judge as “ineffective” or “useless.” And when they spend time outside of their comfort zones, designers actually create larger and more diverse comfort zones for themselves. Their picture of the world grows richer, and they are more likely to find new and exciting perspectives which inform their points of view. ...

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