We develop products, services, and experiences that genuinely benefit our customers
We develop products, services, and experiences that genuinely benefit our customers, their communities, and the world; and we thoughtfully minimize downside consequences. We avoid manipulative design or sales practices that profit the company but erode broader societal trust.
Our society’s appetite for innovation and optimization in technology and product development means that we expect every cycle to deliver us better, faster, and cheaper—in every category. Disciplines as diverse as psychology, machine learning, behavioral economics, and biomechanics have been incorporated into product design. The result has been a generation of products, services, and experiences that are more sophisticated—and more influential on our daily routines, perspectives, expectations, and social norms—than any before imaginable.
Indeed, almost nothing in our interactions with products and services is left to chance. We have learned to productize everything, from consumer devices to business services to smartphone apps to financial instruments to physical experiences. Everything is carefully designed and bundled; the question is, to what end?
The answer is increasingly disquieting. We live in the shadow of the subprime mortgages of the 2008 financial crisis, and of the arresting technologies deployed by social media giants and their descendants in the years since. These and other examples are opening our eyes to the realization that the evolving disciplines of design, technology, and financial engineering are being used to ensnare us as much as to liberate us. For example, our personal data is regularly used against us to weaken our defenses of self-control and discernment.
How did we get here? Unfortunately, more often than not, entrepreneurs and their investors have chosen user and revenue growth at nearly all costs—pursuing shorter-term profits over what is healthiest for our customers, employees, and communities. In part this is because our contemporary economy has been engineered around the dangerous idea that we and our neighbors are defined by our consumption. The default ethos of the startup world is to “make something people want,” which suggests that human desire is nearly always worth satisfying, even maximizing. In this economy, some of the “best” products are those that marshal design, brand, and business model innovation to appeal to our most self-centered, lonely, addictive tendencies.
Instead, we long to make what people want to want—products and services that help us see ourselves and relate to our neighbors as whole persons, rather than merely as monetizable units of desire, consumption, and metadata production.
1. We pursue impact/market fit, not merely product/market fit, in each category we serve. Seeking to embody our mission through our offerings, we focus on the intended impact on the individual, community, and society as our explicit design objective. We then develop products, services, experiences, and business models that can reliably and profitably deliver that impact.
2. We design our products, services, and even physical spaces with our customers as partners and co-designers of our work, not only as its subjects or buyers. We regularly invite diverse perspectives from beyond our most profitable customer segments to shape our imagination for design and impact.
3. We bring products, services, and experiences to market with the intention and commitment that they will routinely deliver customer value that exceeds the promise. We design and build physical and digital products for segment-leading quality and durability.
4. We surround our products with sales, marketing, and delivery processes that explicitly build trust as a key value proposition to customers. When we break trust, we work sacrificially to restore it. This commitment not only benefits us; it also helps to replenish the depleted reservoirs of trust necessary for our markets and societies to thrive.
5. We bring products to market only after a thorough, prayerful, and imaginative contemplation of their potential negative impacts on customers, communities, and the environment. We actively refine offerings to minimize their downsides, and generously serve those most likely to experience them.
6. We develop a thesis statement addressing our mission, desired impact, and theory of change. This establishes alignment and accountability to our purpose and impact, and provides opportunity to bear witness to our underlying redemptive commitments.
THE GOOD NEWS
As a people committed to a countercultural account of what it is to be human—of our origin, identity, purpose, and destiny as eternal persons—we have the opportunity to deliver more fully and truly on the promise of the innovation process often known as human-centered design. We can develop products and services based on careful attention to the needs and capabilities of persons made in God’s image, with profitability a test of value and viability rather than the end that justifies the means.
Our design faculties can be re-animated through the challenges of discovering new ways to delight, to ennoble, to connect, to empower. As our teams grow in this mindset and approach, we will be able to see the flourishing of our customers as fundamental to our mission, not just as a means to profitability or survival.
We can enjoy a healthy relationship with our products and services, holding them with the proper weight and importance. On one hand, we won’t treat our offerings with the messianic obsession of some celebrated entrepreneurs who, even in pursuit of a compelling mission, elevate the product or service to an idolatrous level of meaning-making. On the other hand, we will be less prone to lapse into treating our products merely as pragmatic means to the ends of perpetuating our organization and its economic engine. Instead, we can create and cultivate our company’s offerings as artifacts and expressions that are worth our care, excellence, and endeavor.