The Secret Ingredient to Our Success
This week, Waggl announced that it has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the Best Workplaces of 2018. This news comes on the heels of Waggl’s #15 ranking on the San Francisco Business Times/ Silicon Valley Business Journal’s list of Best Places to Work in the Bay Area.
Aside from these external validations, Waggl has achieved a number of notable milestones in the past year. In 2017, Waggl was used by more than 300 thousand employees at over 100 enterprise-class organizations, including UCHealth, City Electric Supply, Paychex, Ellie Mae, University of Utah, Apollo Education Group, BD, Juniper Networks, McGraw Hill Education and Heineken, among others. Our company grew its revenue by 87% last year, fueled by demand for our platform.
This seems like a great moment to reflect on what we are doing right, allowing us to attain initial success.
Design Thinking DNA
“Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.”
Robert L. Peters, Graphic Designer and Educator
From the start, one of Waggl’s primary differentiators has been its strong roots in design thinking. As we founded Waggl, we continually asked ourselves, “What would it look like to build a company from the ground up with design thinking as a part of the DNA? What kind of impact could design thinking have on the strategic growth of a startup?” We’ve learned a few things along the way, and would love to share some of our perspectives.
4 key principles of design strategy, as applied to a growing startup
Waggl was born from the realization that employees deserve a vastly better user experience than they are typically getting in most organizations, and that leaders need a better way to surface insights from the people who work on the front lines. As we enter the fifth year of Waggl’s existence, we still keep employee experience at the forefront of our thinking at all times. And we’ve found that the principles of design thinking always apply, regardless of which industry we are operating in.
There’s quite a bit of literature out there on design thinking, but here are just a few of Waggl’s favorites:
- Deep empathy for the end user. Design thinking begins with developing a deep understanding of the needs of the end user — or in Waggl’s case, the employee. Once we defined our challenge, we set about trying to understand it better, diverging to pull in knowledge and experience from the disciplines of human resources, software development, and leadership coaching.
After completing a phase of initial research, we converged as a team to reframe the problem around Waggl’s stated mission: To elevate employee voice and enable everyone’s ideas to be heard. Today, we continue to collect deep field intelligence from our customers across a range of industries, from healthcare to manufacturing, financial services, education, government, consumer packaged goods, nonprofits, and more. This research and feedback loop helps us to continually refine and evolve our platform in order to make sure that we are serving our mission in the best possible way at organizations of all sizes.
- Willingness to experiment. In lieu of linear, top-down thinking, Waggl’s platform allows great ideas to come from anywhere in the organization. We practice what we preach by utilizing this same approach in the management and growth of our own company. Waggl uses its own platform to identify the “problem worth solving” and to come up with unique solutions to that problem. Applying divergent/convergent principles of design thinking, we continually explore, align, experiment, assess, iterate, and explore again. Our ability to communicate and align quickly on decision-making is what propels us forward, and what provides value to our customers, as well as our own employees.
- Continual iteration. We are always open to trying new things. Sometimes we fail fast, other times, we succeed beyond our wildest dreams. Waggl enables and compels action through the insights the platform surfaces. More voices lead to diverse and impactful ideas. We continually test those ideas, evaluate the results, and refine as we go to improve our product, our processes, and our culture.
- Taking a holistic approach to problem-solving. Of all the core design thinking principles, this one resonates most deeply with me as a practitioner and senior leader. In the theory behind Systems Thinking, everything is connected. I can’t think of an instance where this is more evident than in defining the internal processes to grow and scale a company. Determining how to effectively communicate, collaborate and execute is a constant challenge. Rather than solve for this within a single function, we take the approach that our functions are inherently connected and therefore must operate because of — not in spite of — each other. We have developed routine and organic touchpoints that assess how effectively we are implementing against collective or specific objectives. We design processes to bolster connectivity — or deconstruct these processes when the structure is no longer useful. In the spirit of cross-discipline, we also strive to incorporate as many voices as possible in everyday work. It’s not always easy to work this way, but maintaining a healthy, connected tension between functions and projects means we spot issues, and frame opportunities as a holistic organization.
Do you want to learn how to apply design thinking to cultivate new solutions at your organization? Waggl can help by providing an easy and efficient way to surface actionable insights, drive informed decisions, and create alignment around common goals. If you are interested in learning more, please sign up for a demo today.
Alex Kinnebrew is Waggl’s Head of Strategy and Design.