Co-Creating with your customer

As an architect, I, Paul, was trained to design houses and buildings according to the needs of the people who would live or work in these buildings. The design process always started in collaboration with the customer. If I had to design a house for a family, then I first sat down with this family to discover their needs for now and for later. I would also learn about their relationships with one another, what spaces would fit and which function(s) the house had to fulfill. After this phase of the Explorer followed the phase of the Artist, in which I made at least three different scenarios and preliminary designs. These were presented to the customer and together with them the models were discussed in detail.

From the dialogue that took place arose all kinds of new and additional ideas, which were added to the original plans. When this phase was over, the phase of the Judge followed, in which the final design took shape and was tuned to the possibilities within the law, the environmental factors and the financial condition of the customer. The design of the building may have been finalized after the Judge phase, but the full creative process was far from over. In the final phase, the phase of the Warrior, you must decide on the final design. At this moment the Warrior phase followed; a phase in which a detailed, strategic and tactical plan for the actual realisation of the design was made. In this plan we included what exactly was required for building the desired house.

Customer-oriented process:

After the planning phases, the actual construction would commence. The architect for whom I was working at the time (Diplom Zingnin Ulrich Rahn, Gevelsberg, Germany) was known to complete all architectural operations on the exact, agreed-upon date, at the exact, agreed-upon budget. He could do this because internally, there were two rules: all projects were to be finished one week before the deadline, and should cost 1-2% below budget. This performance was entirely due to the excellent customer-oriented process and to the creativity, perseverance and competence of a good team of designers and professionals. You can probably imagine that my boss never had a shortage of assignments.

Tips to co-create with your customer:

  1. Listen to what your customer is not saying.
  2. Listen to the real needs of your customer.
  3. Make notes and identify common connection points between your products/services and your customer needs.

This blog post contains an excerpt from our new book, Design Your Business, by Paul Donders and Cias Ferreira

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