Apart from developing standard mobile applications, LikiMS also develops much larger and more complex solutions which are used to promote local regions, cities, and many different events.
Understanding the source of success
When something goes wrong, it’s usually easy to identify what went wrong and point a finger at the guilty party. Yes, it seems that many of us are good at identifying the reasons behind the failure, but it’s not so easy to identify the factors which lead to success. We are quick to suggest that we ourselves are the main reason behind every success, but if our work does in fact suddenly become very popular, actually, it’s very difficult to answer clearly the question of why this work was a success, to know what we must do again in order to repeat such a success and to know in advance what other people are going to like.
Of course, we can always ask people what they will like. And we do ask that question. We spend a lot of time and lots of money on professional marketing research, interviews and we even have thousands of Facebook “Likes”. But none of these approaches really answer the question.
What did Ford, Edison, Jobs and Yoda have in common?
Another method is to ask people who have been very successful about how they were able to identify what people needed, given that their road to success lays in meeting people’s needs.
When Henry Ford was asked how he identified what his clients needed, he famously answered: “If I had asked people what they needed, they would have told that they needed faster horses”, as they didn’t know what a car was.
Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb. Although he knew that his invention was a useful one in an age when the light shone in the darkness only thanks to candle-lit candelabras, oil lamps, and gas lamps, he felt that his invention would serve only as a luxury gimmick for the rich until the required infrastructure was introduced. So he started with the bulb and then step by step and with great determination build around his invention a completely new industrial branch, the energy sector. For him the most important element was the lightbulb, therefore this was the piece of the jigsaw puzzle which met the needs of the user. Today this approach seems irrational, but he chose to concentrate on something which we might call a value-chain which aimed to connect elements which were considered of value by people. Once the light bulb started to become popular, Edison said that: “electric light is really going well, better than I could have imagined it ever would. Where will all this end – only God knows!” Until he was able to make the lightbulb widely available, he did a huge amount of work by building hundreds of prototypes and then correcting all the mistakes in order to create a system which could be used by millions of people. But, when he summarized his life’s work, he said that he had never worked in his entire life as everything had been a pleasure.
It’s considerably easier for us to understand Steve Jobs, who was clearly very emotionally involved in his successes. The inventor of the iPhone and a range of popular personal computers once said that:”We need to be passionate and committed in order to understand something on a deep level, in order to chew something over and not just swallow it immediately. Most people just don’t put in the time.”
Last, but not least, is the fictional character, Jedi MasterYoda, who once said to his Padawan, Luke Skywalker: “Don’t just try – do it or don’t do it – nothing comes of just trying.”
Putting together what our four prophets said into one piece of advice, we can state that, if we do have an aim in life, we must really commit to it. We must take on the role of the people for whom we want to make something and make full use of our knowledge and competencies to achieve our aim, starting by identifying what in our aim has the greatest value for us. Of course, after that, we’ll have to deal with thousands of other, less important, matters.
Design thinking and Liki MS
Design Thinking is a discipline which, by fully involving the designer and using the appropriate design methodology leads to meeting the real needs of customers, that is, meets needs which consist of measurable values for clients. Is it then possible to repeat success? Design Thinking makes it possible by identifying a problem, gaining and analyzing the relevant knowledge, collecting a large number of ideas and then putting these ideas into action one after the other. Asking people about their needs is a fundamental part of getting to know the problem, but after that we must ourselves start to feel what the customer feels, understand more and more deeply the domain space we’re working in, look out-of-the-box (above any current limitations) and, regardless of the time required or the fact that we have to give up on something else, make whatever we have thought of, but just to try it as if it was a toy, but to make the real thing. Of course, after that, we must draw various conclusions and continuously improved something, adding the next necessary element of the jigsaw puzzle so that our idea finally achieves the greatest possible success.
In the last few months, many clients have ordered from us mobile applications designed for people visiting their towns or cities. In different ways, those applications promote a given local region, town, city or attraction. In the case of every one of these apps, the design was quite different since the business and administrative requirements were always different.
In LikiMS, we decided to find out if we could use Design Thinking to define and create such an application which meets the demands of the people who are going to use it.
Initially, we concentrated on identifying the actual problem. But this was not at all easy because, from our perspective as the creators of these applications, we noticed that requirements were set by the public administrative bodies in a given location rather than by the users of the applications. We didn’t even have any market research or analysis which could help us to understand who really was our end users and what they expected of the app. We were also aware that even finding out that information would not be enough, but that we had to get to the bottom of the real problem, become deeply involved in the process and invent our own “light bulb”, before then building the system required for our invention to work.
Most of our clients for this type of app defined the end user as a tourist who travelled to a given area in the country, town, city or local region, and our app was intended to encourage such a person to spend some time in those places and to develop a positive opinion of those places in such a person. On the other hand, not every one of our clients could be said to hail from an area which was genuinely attractive to tourists, we thought about the possibility that our app might not be downloaded only by the intended target group, tourists, but also other interested groups.
Our wonderful programmers helped us to identify several groups of end users. Some users were tourists, but others were people who lived in a given region and had reason to use our app. And so we came to the conclusion that, before concentrating on gaining the good opinion of visiting tourists and building a certain brand image, we should focus on how the local people who live in a certain region regard the places they live in.
Suiting everyone’s needs
Do we really know the local places which are worth visiting? Are we proud of our little corner of the world? Do we where and how we can spend our free time locally in a way which is of interest? We asked ourselves these questions and very quickly we could all remember a time recently when friends came to visit us in our town and asked exactly the same: What can we show the children? What’s worth seeing? Where can we go for a walk? Where can we have a good meal? Where can we organize a romantic night out? And we also remembered how difficult it was for us to answer these questions. Of course, providing a list of places worth visiting took quite a while, with lots of pauses for thought, before we were able to provide a more or less complete list of places.
Yes, it took quite a while to answer the questions fully, even though we ourselves have created many multimedia guides to Lodz and other towns and cities in our local region, and despite the fact that our local region is large and offers many interesting attractions for all sorts of needs: a trip with the children, Lodz by night for single people, romantic dinner for those in love. The fact that it took so much time to come up with the list made it clear to us that we had never previously really thought about what expectations our visitor have when they want to visit our city. So that was how we decided to define the problem to be solved: “What do people need in order to spend their free time in a given local region?”
Once we finally knew the question, we could apply Design Thinking to the process of finding out the answer or answers. But we started thinking about the needs of users who were looking for an idea about how to spend their free time. And for this, we needed to come up with as many good ideas as possible, and so our internal trainer organized some creative workshops. At each workshop, each of us suggested dozens of ideas. Thanks to the Design Thinking, we identified a number of ideas which in fact met the needs of real people.
In particular, our mobile app had to:
- be useful for both those visiting a given region and those living in that region
- be a source of good ideas for ways to spend free time in a given region
- be sure to make a positive impression
- to be certain to make this positive impression for at least 2 to 4 hours
- make it possible to search for attractions according to a certain profile (trip with children, single people meeting up, a romantic evening, for senior citizens)
- offer a number of scenarios for a given region so as to encourage multiple visits
- be up-to-date (capable of being updated?)
- make it easy for users to share their opinions and experiences
- to offer a solution based on Track of Interest (TOI) rather than Point of Interest (PoI)
- suggest rest places, for example, restaurants, parks, bars, entertainment centers, spas, which matched a particular user’s profile and could be of value both before and after the main trip
A peek into our result
Now that we had our brave vision, the time had come, as Master Yoda put it so well, to do what we had planned to do. To make our vision come true, to put our plan into action step-by-step, without in any sense giving it a half-hearted “go”. Like Edison, who build a system for supplying electricity to his light bulb, to build a complete system for our application. To show that the team at Liki MS is more than capable of identifying the real, underlying needs of our clients (even our clients are unable themselves to articulate their own needs) in the same way as Henry Ford, and to fully commit and really understand on a deep level just the same as Steve Jobs.
And what was the final effect of our experience of Design Thinking? At the start of the year, we invited several departments from local government offices to take part themselves in one of our Design Thinking workshops. On the basis of those workshops, we will build the first versions of our mobile application designed to give users a positive experience of how to spend their free time in a given local region.
We will also be happy to offer you the same opportunity to solve a problem by taking part in one of Design Thinking workshops. If you’re interested, please contact us by email, ‘phone or by visiting us in our office in Lodz.