There’s so much to that word that it comes with an infinite number of prefixes we now associate with it to give it context; product design, services design, business design, and sustainable and circular design. Or even suffixes, like design thinking - how we design the process of good design. Now we've got another one for you: venture design, our favourite design.
A “venture” is daring to build something, a project or business, that’s risky but has the potential for significant reward. Now throw “design” in there, and you’ve got something like the repeatable process of solving problems that create substantial rewards. But after more than a decade of creating ventures, we've come to understand there’s quite a lot more the word design brings. Design relies on three core capabilities to solve problems: empathy, imagination and creativity. It’s these aspects that give a bit more context to what venture design is.
When you assume you have a product or service, you’re assuming you understand the problem it intends to solve and the stakeholders that interact with it. But with those assumptions come a lot of risks. This is why many founders get started by solving their own problems. But if it’s not your problem, what better way of building a deep understanding of it than genuinely caring about the individuals affected by it. In other words, building and exercising your empathy. Empathy is at the core of any design. Empathy is also a strong and often overlooked driver for creating desirable and influential businesses. The beauty of venture design is complementing a strong empathy with a humble curiosity for understanding what truths can be made in the context of the problem.
But we all have empathy, right? Well, then there’s creativity, creativity for solutions and experimentation. Luckily, with a clearly framed problem and some empathy, it’s impossible not to think of solutions. And with a room full of diverse thoughts ideas combine and inspire others until a solution forms collectively. The amorphous idea turned solution can become granular, have patterns and models recognised, and create a vision to tell its story. All of these skills are important to design. However, with venture design comes an added focus on the quality of communication of the idea and the creation of a vision that can inspire others to work towards and pursue a better future thanks to the ambition of the venture.
However, the solution is still an idea; it’s just words. The last aspect of understanding venture design is the simplest yet often most challenging one, one that sometimes splits the design community in two. Acta non verba, as the Romans would say. Action. Execution. Do. From design thinking to design doing. A venture is only possible if realised, and as such, creativity continues in communicating the idea. The challenge is to find ways to craft the idea, find data to support your assumptions, and provide validation.
Designing ventures means gathering both qualitative and quantitative data to build conviction on your path forward. Every idea is built upon assumptions;
Even if you have an incredibly complex solution, legal issues or intellectual property rights to protect, you can still know your customer.
Keep questioning, executing and repeating because each step builds momentum, and momentum is everything to a venture.
So what’s venture design? It’s a holistic process of identifying problems and opportunities, developing solutions and testing and iterating a solution in the market to create or scale a new business. The businesses that result from venture design generate more impact, and the better they are at ruthlessly testing, the better they are at absorbing inherent risks while reaping higher rewards.