Are the inmates still running the asylum?


The future belongs to those who can build desirable products and services. Consumers vote with their feet. If it is not working for them, they will go somewhere else. If you are not building something that works for them, someone else will. Relying alone on being big and having a long history is the same as surrendering.

I recently came across two examples full of good intensions; but falling miserable short. Both in the banking industry.

Business as usual

By now all banks have realized that mobile access to your personal bank account information is expected. One of the largest banks in Denmark is providing a phone app (1) enabling their customers to do basic banking services, like checking their balances directly on the phone. Great intentions! YouTube has an app – it is called “YouTube”. Facebook has an app – it is called “Facebook”. Linked-In has an app – it is called “Linked-In”. These are great names, you don’t really care about the platform; but about what you want to do. The bank in question decided to call their app: “Mobile Bank”. For the development team inside the bank building this app it is a great name. Their mission is different from everyone else’s in the bank – they deliver a mobile banking experience. For the users, it makes absolutely no sense. When using a phone, they are already mobile – why should the app’s name include “mobile”? The app is just another way of interacting with the bank – and it should carry the bank’s name. The bank failed to look at their offering from the user’s perspective. It is the digital equivalent of:

Another big bank in Denmark trying to attract millennials to the bank’s investment platform (2). The millennials are a minority that 20 years from now is no longer a minority. Demanding digital experiences of high quality that is tailored to them – being intelligent about the opportunities and accepting no-nonsense. This bank’s value proposition is that they have 100+ years of experience in investments – in making people richer. That is a phenomenal skill – it shouldn’t be hard to sell. The offering to the millennials is that for 1% of their investment capital these experts can manage their investment – in a modern style with very few clicks and options. Old-style banking in a new wrapping. What is the product the millennials actual want? A return on their investment. What is the product the bank is offering? A simplified platform for investing. If the bank truly believed their experts could make people richer, then sell that. Suppose the bank’s offering had been: “Let us manage your investments. We share your goal: Make your money grow. Our experts will make the optimal investments on your behalf – when we succeed we split the profit: 90% to you; 10% to us. No charge, if we fail to make your money grow.” This would align the bank’s behavior with what the customer expectations.

Are you the user’s advocate?

The two examples are quite similar in nature. No one was the user’s advocate. Who in your company speaks the voice of the user? Are your solutions designed for the user? Or perhaps even better with the user?

In Alan Cooper’s epic book “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum” he shares the insight, that you win users over one-by-one. This insight implies that collaborating closely with a small number of potential users to define and refine the solution is a great approach. Once the initial users are not just satisfied but cannot wait for the product and service to be available – then (and only then) are you on the right track.

Peak Design is a company that has internalized what it takes to win users over. Their dedication to their consumers is an inspiration to me and a yard-stick of what it takes to succeed on purpose. Here is a short video telling the story of one of their products.

1: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/mobile-bank/9wzdncrcwp6n
2: http://june.dk

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