Festival Blog

05 Oct 2018

Foolproof: Agility and Big Business

Katherine Fiona Jones, Marketing Executive

Big ships take a long time to turn, whereas smaller ones can shift quickly in any direction. Agility is both quintessential and absolute for navigating shifting trends that come and go as often as the tide laps the shore. No stranger to quick and effective thinking, Tim of FoolProof joins us for a quick chat pre-Festival of Marketing 2018. 


"I see strategy, be it integrated, unified or stand alone as a process by which we answer as simple question “why should we do this now and not something else?”


How would you define design that works for users? What are the key components that we as marketers should consider?

The design of great products and services that work for users goes beyond “does this work?” and “can I use this?” – it’s about “how I feel now and what I would like to do in the future?”. Experiences shape expectations and in turn future behaviours. The question is can we design product and service environments for experiences which change how customers think about an organisation in an intentioned way? My answer: yes!

Marketers can benefit from design thinking if it helps them build empathy and understanding for their customer outside in, end-to-end. It’s also valuable as it helps them to question their own biases which opens up new thinking and opportunities and critically, allows them to break down siloes which serve as barriers to value creation. Design can help marketers answer key questions, this helps teams build belief in what we’re doing – such as:

  • Who is this for and what is their life like today? – design research which is ethnographic and immersive in nature.
  • What could we do? – ideation, concepting and prototyping.
  • Would a customer really do this with us? – testing life-like, experiential concepts over abstract ideas.
  • Why are we specifically doing this and what comes next? – make, test, learn, repeat to inform our vision and strategic roadmap.

What would you say to big businesses wishing to be more agile?

For global businesses the digital revolution has exposed a huge gap in their thinking, management, capabilities and culture thus impacting their ability to deliver coherently whilst improving the experience for the customer.

This resulted in a loss of faith in traditional technology delivery teams and process. The rise of lean start-up thinking, product management and agile delivery has been a positive response. In my view, it has shifted the power to product and delivery teams to get stuff done and into the hands of consumers with greater speed and efficiency. Shipping products more quickly more often than not is in principle a good thing.

But there are some trade-offs in how businesses have adopted product management and agile delivery which only now are becoming a problem. Firstly, product management and agile delivery hasn’t necessarily made organisations more customer focussed. Another growing problem is product proliferation in companies with multiple products and product managers. Often, this creates a fragmented experience for the customer. We work with many companies where product management has created better products for the business but worse experiences overall for the end user. Question is, who is the product manager of your product managers?

Strategic agility requires a clear vision and direction which is constantly calibrated with the benefit of real world data and learning. This is where experience strategy comes in to align the business around the customer and their experience.

How does strategy play a part when designing for the user?

Experience strategy is a new approach to planning where design is used to close the circle between business strategy, brand intent and the real-life experience of customers to calibrate, adjust and pivot based on data and insight. Experience strategy helps businesses to align around an inspiring vision of what the customer’s experience will be in the future. It allows stakeholders to imagine what is possible before homing in on core customer issues and pain points that qualitative research combined with a clear experience strategy help to uncover.

Underpinning ongoing product design and delivery with a unified experience strategy creates better customer and business outcomes by moving beyond products and touch-points towards creating a shared vision, metrics, governance and service architecture which makes it about the customer and their experience – not the product.

You’ve been at the forefront of experience strategy in Europe for a while – and have recently turned this approach towards the emergence of ‘autonomous vehicles’. Would you be able to explain why this way of working is essential to developing integrated strategies, standalone strategies and effective outcomes?

When it comes to creating new services with emerging but potentially world disrupting technologies, the challenge is often more cultural than technical. Existing business and operational models are threatened and this in turn creates an incredible tension within businesses. In reality, the best thing might be to wait and see rather than be the first.

I see strategy, be it integrated, unified or stand alone as a process by which we answer as simple question “why should we do this now and not something else?”. This thinking was especially relevant for the team at AXA XL - we were not only doing something that had never been established within the business, but in the world.

With our work on AXA XL’s Autonomous Vehicles insurance product we are able to answer ‘why we should do this’: it’s because we want to be the world leader in autonomous insurance because the commercial enablement of autonomy will accelerate its adoption. Ultimately, this will save lives and improve the well-being of millions through better access to mobility. That in itself is highly motivating.

This, and more, will be covered during my talk with Adrian Copland on October 11th.

What can big businesses learn from start-ups and vice-versa?

I think learn is the important word here. Copying the ideas, behaviours and processes of different organisations is all well and good but often the real reason for their success is more complicated and intangible.

Something I hear often in big business is, “We need to be more like a start-up and learn how to ‘fail fast’”. Equally, “Move fast, break things” is a fun catch phrase to help people overcome their fears which lead to inertia, it encourages people to think we need to deliver quicker. In reality, it simply doesn’t work in a lot of traditional business cultures. This leads to cynicism and more inertia.

I like the idea of being wrong more than failing. Having a hypothesis and a plan and being wrong and quickly adjusting course sounds like semantics but it’s more realistic in bigger companies.

The thing I’ve observed about great organisations is that they have an incredible sense of purpose. They see the world as broken or not working in the right way for people and they believe that only they can fix it for them.

It’s this sense of belief and purpose when the founder of a start-up personally sacrifices security, reputation and time on a business and surrounds themselves with like-minded people. It’s their collective and individual belief which makes the difference – not that they have daily stand ups and a backlog to work through. This can be more obvious in start-ups, but this isn’t the sole preserve of start-ups. I’ve seen this in big business too. Conversely, toxic cultures don’t just exist in big companies.

It might be better to think about how low performing, inflexible organisations learn from nimble, purpose driven companies.

What are you most excited to see and do at Festival of Marketing this year?

I’m looking forward to taking a look in on some of the other talks exploring customer experience (it’s great to see a whole track packed full) and emerging technologies. Honda’s talk, “Celebrating 70 years of tech innovation: Honda’s past, present and future” looks like the place to go – especially considering we excel at designing within that space and it’s always interesting to see what’s on the horizon.  



Festival of Marketing

10 - 11 October 2019 


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