Evolving corporate Mammoths the Upstart way

A lot of the value that UX and UI design can add to a product is through optimisation rather than “blue sky” or “green fields” projects. This isn’t to say UX doesn’t have a valuable role in innovating and expanding the realms of possibility, but the insights that a UX design process can leverage in the digital transformation process are game-changing even when they seem small.

Taking it back in time 20 or so years, “experts” had little idea how radically new technologies, especially the World Wide Web would impact how every aspect of our lives and societies function (as this article amusingly demonstrates)

If experts couldn’t predict it, the average person had no chance. And the average organisation had operated in the same way, following inherited protocols and processes for decades if not centuries. In less than two decades all of that has changed, and in true Darwinian fashion only the strong and adaptable survive.

Neanderthals face down a woolly mammoth

So how does a mammoth (like a 100 year old bank, or a highstreet giant) big, old and on the edge of extinction, adapt and evolve into a more sprightly Elephantidae form? Ten years ago, the answer was slowly, inefficiently and at great expense. Now the outlook is a little more optimistic, and it largely involves mimesis – the attempts to mimic and emulate successful practices that came out of the disruptive upstarts who made the mammoth aware of its shortened life-expectancy in the first place: namely agile, scrum, lean, start-up… any other watch-word that sounds millennial-friendly and is synonymous with skinny, fast-moving, athlete upstarts. 

These terms are thrown around a lot. In UX that’s not such a bad thing though. At the centre of UX research and design is the User, and Users change as fast (or probably much faster) than the technology they use. The worst thing for a product design, is for it to be held back from the market, and miss the Zeitgeist – the specific and timely needs of the users it was specifically designed for. So if a design and development team can increasingly make valuable improvements in real time, they might persuade their users that maybe this mammoth is a young upstart at heart.

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