Articles · · 2 min read

Why adding quantifiable measures to design work is important

Showing the actual value of ethics, morals, or emotions is what convinces companies and business leaders to prioritize those things.

There’s an idea inside many organizations that in order to create business value and make business decisions, you have to go to business school. But the reality is not all value is created by the techniques taught in business school. 

Here’s an example you likely won’t find in MBA curriculum: Did you know that for the health of a child with a fever, parents must keep track of which medication was used last? This simple task can create undue stress for parents during a time when stress levels are already high. There would be tremendous emotional value in relieving this stress.

Businesses survive when they create value for customers. Businesses thrive when they create more value for customers than their competitors. While financial concerns often inform business decisions, subjective factors should also play an important role in decision-making.

Intangible aspects like ethics, morals, or emotions need to influence decisions on everything from project roadmaps to branding. Designers are uniquely qualified to advocate for these values.

To distinguish the effects of these different types of values, let’s define them as “actual” or “perceived.”

Combined, these two categories reflect how customers and businesses expect to receive total value from products or services. Historically, designers focused primarily on perceived value. However, our business partners also need us to focus on actual value. 

My friend Kara DeFrias shared an example of combining this focus on the Hacking the Red Circle podcast. While at Intuit, she pitched an internal TEDx event for employees. Though she was focused on providing a world-class experience, to secure the necessary funding from her leadership team, she connected the event to the core values of the company and created a worksheet to track each minute of the event to keep costs under control. This approach worked and created a one-of-a-kind event for the company called TEDxIntuit.

Including a quantifiable discipline can help us better anticipate the outcomes of our work on perceived values. This is important because every company has different maturity levels for measuring value. Poor measurement means well-intentioned people can make decisions that negatively impact the business. An important aspect of our job is to increase the maturity around us, starting with a stronger aptitude for measuring value. When we measure our work, customers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders can better understand the benefits of the design approach.

The job of a Chief Design Officer is to know how to create enough value for customers and actual value for the business to survive or thrive—and to make decisions that satisfy both. When the conversation at the executive level change to actual value, designers it’s vital we have something to say.

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