"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough!" Italian-American driver, Mario Andretti, may have been referring to the race track, but the ability to acknowledge that there's something wrong and then instigate change is the hallmark of many a successful entrepreneur.
This is why corporations and brands all over the world have had to re-think their business idea along the way - or face going out of business.
The hard-to-use check-in wannabe?
As of September 2017, Instagram has more than 800 million users. But Instagram wasn't always Instagram. It started out as Burbn. Yes, Burbn - inspired by the drink. In its first phase, Burbn was an overly complex, location check-in software highly inspired by Foursquare. Burbn users could check in at locations, plan for future check-ins and earn points for hanging out with friends and posting pictures of the meetings.
Kevin Systrom, the creator of Burbn, kept on making changes and brought in another programmer to further develop the app. But before continuing development, they decided to dig into the analytics to see how users were actually using Burbn.
They made a game-changing discovery: people didn't care about the check-in features, but they loved using the app to share pictures. The rest is history - and about one year after they changed the focus from being a painful check-in copycat to a photo sharing app, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion.
The online video date service?
YouTube is the world's largest video sharing network, owned by Google. YouTube was not originally designed for video sharing as we know it today, but was a dating site. The idea was that users would see random videos of other hopefuls looking for dates.
The main problem was that people did not use YouTube for dating. They uploaded fun film clips about just about everything else instead: cute cats, dogs, more cute cats, vacations, you get the picture.
After this false start, YouTube realized that they needed to refocus. The service was redesigned and the new focus was on sharing videos. In 2006 Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion and is their most successful acquisition - of the many hundred they have done.
Using failure as a starting point
Both these success stories experienced an initial failure. But Instagram and YouTube evolved and grew stronger because of them. They learned from their users. They noticed what was good and what was bad - and refocused their efforts.
The same ability to learn is the core of good design thinking, too. Design thinking is a method that safeguards the user's needs, based on rapid prototyping, testing and evaluation (and change). Speed is key. Make a new feature. Test it. Evaluate. Learn. Fast iterations and end-user engagement are all-important.
Design is something most of us would connect with the shape of a product, a logo, a printed brochure, a cinema poster or similar. Today, you find that designers have worked their way into more strategic roles in corporations, as well as the public sector. Their competence and approach allow them to understand the user's needs and wishes. In an age of frequent changes and fast-paced innovation, design competence is more relevant than ever before.
User engagement - and fail fast!
Design thinking and service design are also interlinked: it's not only the design of products and applications that are based on user's requirements. Services delivered to us by hospitals and municipality services strive to provide better and more efficient help. By engaging the end users early in projects the developers will be able to learn faster. And if what they have envisioned is all wrong, it's better to fail fast - and get ahead with the appropriate changes.
The result of engaging the users early on? Better products and services, developed faster and cheaper.