Design Thinking is essential to creating the innovative products and services that now drive the Digital Economy. Companies without the ability to imbed Design Thinking within their culture and processes will be challenged and ultimately disrupted, while those who embrace this client-centric and empathy-driven approach will be rewarded with increased market share and brand loyalty. Knowing this, many companies have begun creating Personas as the way to stay focused on stakeholders, customers and users.
Personas were originally confined to marketing departments and mainly used to explain segmentation and brand strategy. In 2004, Personas were introduced as a way to think about software design in Alan Cooper’s 2004 book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum.
Now that many leaders are aware of the importance of Design Thinking, Power Personas have made their way into the Innovative Enterprises and now inform everything from Enterprise Strategy and Pricing Models to Call Scripts and budget prioritization. There is now a growing understanding that leveraging Power Personas can mean being first to market, attaining rapid customer adoption, capturing market share, and using valuable technology resources strategically. Instead, those ignoring this vital component will likely experience increasing customer attrition, and market erosion.
Many companies create Personas as an up-front imperative, but their power is crushed under the pressures of budgets, timelines, and resources. Typically, these Personas have not been created for Design Thinking, but were carefully crafted for an internal leadership audience –mostly by either Marketing or UX Design teams. These Personas look pretty, play well to leadership to get budget approval, but have no power to help your organization leverage Design Thinking to assure customer centricity from concept to delivery. These flat and lifeless Personas have no actual Power to guide Strategy, Product Development, or Customer Interaction.
As a leader, do you believe the answer in your organization to “Do you use Personas?” would be answered, “Sure, we created several last year and you can find them on the shared drive?” If so, your organization does not use Power Personas. More importantly, Design Thinking within your organization is likely stuck. The risk of disruption is increasing. Using Power Personas will begin to de-risk your organization.
If you aren’t sure how to get started with Power Personas, follow this simple guideline to get started understanding Power Personas and how they are created for Design Thinking:
Power Personas are:
Power Personas are created with data from the market, call center, feedback sessions, interviews, observations, click-through data and competitive research. This data is collaboratively distilled into the Power Persona. The data used reflects the importance of the Persona to the product or service, and is refreshed with the most relevant data to inform decision-making at every level from Strategy to Execution. If Personas are created by a single person at a computer with Google Images and PowerPoint, it is simply a piece of a marketing presentation that was created as a check-mark for leadership. It is NOT a Power Persona. Take the time to get real data to support a real Power Personas and communicate that Data when collaborating to flesh-out your PPs.
Power Personas feel real and evoke empathy, which is where Design Thinking starts. By having this effect on Employees, Stakeholders, Product Management, and Technologists, they ultimately win very real customer(s) and stakeholders. Power Personas always have real-sounding names, hobbies and families, hopes and dreams. If not created with rich and believable backgrounds, a Persona is flat and lifeless and loses is Power status. Any Persona that is created with a joke name (i.e. Mike Medic or Melanie Millennial), is rendered impotent when it comes to evoking Design Thinking. When developing Power Personas, employ Lean Start-up techniques such as “Getting Out of the Building” to observe potential buyers and capture these personal anecdotes, sit with people who take customer calls listen in, shadow sales on visits, walk a day in the life of a customer to test the Power Persona against reality.
Power Personas are aggregates that represent the right stakeholder or customer population, but are never represent to only one or two individuals. Particularly loud or demanding stakeholder or focus group participants are temping to use as a basis and the data for them is easily acquired and familiar. However, this inevitably leads to creating too narrow focus and stifles Design Thinking. With data, collaboratively brainstorm as many Personas as you can, then pull characteristics from each before you settle on a base to elaborate. Power Personas influence data gathering, market testing, physical design, and research you conduct and solution you ultimately provide to customers and/or employees. As a guide, you should be able to start with 50 candidate Power Personas for any effort before collaboratively narrowing and condensing.
Deep consideration and conversations about a Power Personas starts before a new Product, Service, or Enhancement idea is entertained for funding. When prioritizing the relevant Power Persona is front and center in the conversation and referred to by name (i.e. “Explain why this would be good for Jenny” Is Persona data brought into decision-making sessions? Arguments break out about whether Mike Jenkins (for example) will be happy with a given pricing model or feature. Power Personas are posted where work is taking place. Everyone from the CEO to the researcher, to the product developer talks about the Power Personas. Is this the case with the Personas your company is using? If not, check out your D, E, and A. Chances are you have not created Power Personas in the first place. If your answer is yes to these questions, then please email me your company information; I want to invest! You are ahead of the curve and will surely outpace your competition.
Power Personas are always play a significant role in enabling Design Thinking and thus move the needle in the market – but only if there is a market in the first place. The good news is that the process of creating Power Personas reduces the risk offering the wrong product, service, or enhancement. Gathering data to create Power Personas, leads to early indications of unprofitable markets, lack of desirability, and small stakeholder populations. Ultimately, this process changes or even kills risky business models and ideas before they become a budget-breaking failure or brand issue. Power Personas always represent powerful stakeholder populations - you can’t substantiate a strategy, idea, product, or enhancement with a Power Persona, it’s time to change direction.
Remember that Power Personas are D.E.A.R.S. to make it further, faster with Design Thinking. Later I will discuss using multiple Power Personas simultaneously to increase revenue and efficiency when pursuing complex markets. Stay tuned if your business is serving Silent Generation, Baby Boomer, and Millennials simultaneously or trying to retain current customers while growing a different customer base.