Start with ‘why’ in every product design process

The Golden Circle can help organisations clarify, understand, and communicate their purpose. Furthermore, they can use the framework to focus on building the right solutions in the appropriate order.

Previously, we observed how an organisation like Apple might define their purpose through a single narrative. However, due to the nature of working with multiple outcomes within a product design process, it would be more practical to create a set of statements according to the following steps:

  • Why: The purpose.
  • How: The process.
  • What: The tangible outcome.

To put it all together, we will write three separate statements in the context of the online bookstore example.

Step 1: Why — the purpose

Why do you do what you do? What’s the purpose?

The first statement lays the foundations for the organisation’s strategy. It should be clear, simple, aspirational, and focused on the purpose of what they do.

So, if we were to write a why statement for our online bookstore, then we would need to structure it with the organisation’s contribution and impact on society:

We want to inspire everyone with learning and creativity to enrich, improve, and change their lives.

As we can see, the statement expresses purpose rather than what the organisation does. It sees the forest for the trees and addresses the bigger picture. Now moving on to the second statement: how we do it.

Step 2: How — the process

How do you do what you do?

The second statement should provide direction on achieving the organisation’s purpose, like a guiding light. It describes the organisation’s strengths and values to realise the why.

So, the how statement could be written something like this:

We foster a creative culture of user-centred and value-driven approaches, unparalleled storytelling, and innovative technologies.

The statements are now taking shape, with the third remaining: what solution is needed as tangible proof of the purpose.

Step 3: What — the result

What do you do?

Once we have clarity on the organisation’s purpose and how to achieve it, we can focus on the statement that describes the tangible outcome or solution.

So, the what statement could sound something like this:

We provide anyone with access to our full range of books via digital channels that meet their needs.

The final statement describes a generalised outcome that serves as tangible proof of the organisation’s purpose. Of course, we might write multiple what-statements to express specific solutions that resonate with the organisation’s purpose and values.

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