August 28, 2017

Winning the battle for attention

We cannot possibly deny that world we’re living and doing businesses in is a massively complex, intricately interconnected global system.

Moreover, this is now a world of infinite content, in which companies that want to remain relevant and competitive must fight for attention on an unprecedented level.

People are increasingly voicing their opinions out loud and seeking out products, services or even organisations and companies that they personally connect with on a meaningful level. In other words, they are selecting or shortlisting the few options that speak directly to their human needs and experiences, rather than choosing just another product or service that has no real meaning or value for them as people.

What is more, if you look close enough, people now have very high expectations of every company and every product or service that they use — and zero tolerance for anything that is hard to use or deal with. Everything must be simple, easy-to-use, and right-the-first-time. Ideally, experiences should be personalised and deeply authentic. Consumers will no longer put up with companies that are awful to deal with or products that are hard to use. No longer will they simply shrug and say that things are probably as good as they could be, and no better.

The good news is that there are many fantastic companies that do offer incredible service with personalised experiences and solutions, intuitive interfaces, and who just make everything so easy that it’s a pleasure to deal with them. Companies across all industries, from Amazon to Marriott and from Lyft to Zara, have to transformed the customer experience and raised everyone’s expectations.

Simply put, this battle for attention has resulted in human-centred design, as part of a design thinking approach, proliferating in just the past few years. As a result, businesses are increasingly looking for alternatives by focusing on human needs and experiences as primary motivating factors.

Be they large corporations or fast-growing startups, they are changing their approach and putting design at the centre of attention in order to win this battle.

However, these changes aren’t linked to mere visuals or aesthetics, but rather to the application of business design principles and the way employees operate.

Design thinking is both a process and a human-centred mindset that places your customer at the heart of what you do through deep and genuine empathy.

The heart of the process is in understanding the problem by empathising with customers. This means going out and watching people using the products or services or tackling the issues that you’re interested in fixing — living in their shoes, and seeing through their eyes. This process is so powerful because people aren’t very good at telling you what they need but they’re really good at showing you if you know how to look. Through this process, we begin to surface the unmet needs that have true value to people.

Then, we can define this understanding and the problem as a clear statement that needs solutions before moving on to an ideation session. Art this point, you should have some ideas to start prototyping, which should involve something that can be put in front of potential users to obtain rapid feedback in order to come up with solutions that you can later test more thoroughly.

Let’s take a look at Apple for example. Apple itself tells us that “Apple designs”, which essentially means that it does not deliver or offer technology; instead, it designs experiences and then finds the right technologies to deliver those experiences.

What I’m trying to say is that design thinking is not focused on making things look attractive but on understanding the human needs and experiences before developing a product or service that answers those unmet needs.

In the battle for attention, in which new consumer behaviour, infinite information and higher expectations are forcing companies to rethink their every move, design thinking is needed to keep up with massive disruptions, as it comes with the ability to understand and act on change rapidly.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s leading executive, leadership and innovation capability development centre. She can be reached by email at or

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First Published at BangkokPost