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Wednesday Wisdom: Design Thinking Trends for 2019

Consumers want simplicity, transparency and control. Serving those needs can make you a winner.

For the third in our series of Wednesday Wisdom posts on the hot topics in business and technology for 2019, we asked Consultants Collective member consultant Shira Kates what she’s hearing from her clients. “The ink is still drying on our 2019 calendar and already there are lots of fascinating opportunities,” she says. “Design strategy and lean user research are spinning up the most demand.”  

Shira sees five themes for businesses in 2019:

1.Consumer-facing DIY professional services apps
There’s a trend to demystify and simplify complex, specialized, and/or emotion-laden processes previously handled by highly-paid professionals, from DIY divorce to Living Trusts, real estate, and more. We’ll see more of this as lawyers, realtors, and other professionals realize they need to be riding the next wave of disruption, rather than be underneath it when it crashes to shore.

Prediction: New innovative business models will emerge and more professional services providers will emerge as successful tech company founders.

2. Rejection of centralized and top-down systems
As your average consumer becomes more wary of widespread hacking, cyberattacks and identity theft, I’m seeing exciting (not to mention lofty) ideas to bring blockchain concepts and capabilities into the real-world. Startups that promise to empower Internet privacy, person-to-person networking, and create new passive income streams are an emerging trend in the blockchain space. We’ll see more of this in 2019, although it’s not clear that blockchain’s time is here quite yet.

Prediction: Lots of lip service will be paid to this trend while new systems may take years to build and launch.

3.Passwords are going away
New trends in identity management are seen as vastly important in the quest for online privacy and asset protection. This will be especially important for financial institutions, governments and healthcare, which hold the most sensitive and critical information. Emerging technology will empower individuals and stop hacking before it starts. This is a fascinating and complex space to watch in 2019.

Prediction: Decentralized and biometric identity validation is on the rise.

4. Brand and design-led companies
Companies that take time to define their unique brand proposition and protect it will be the winners this year. From huge corporations to tiny startups, those who embrace excellence in design and branding will be positioned for greatness in 2019 and beyond. Companies with the best advantage will understand the customers’ well-researched needs and habits, and revere them above all else. The tech landscape is increasingly difficult to navigate as a blue ocean strategist. The reality is there’s competition nearly everywhere you look. To win, it’s get there first, do something uniquely hard to copy, and get your brand and design done right.

Prediction: The rise of the Chief Design Officer is not just a fad.

5. Remote work is on the rise
Urban commutes are increasingly unmanageable and the majority of U.S. families require two incomes. Even among knowledge workers with high salaries, material success may come with a high price. For working parents to spend time with their children, something’s got to give. School schedules are woefully out-of-tune with the workday and vice-versa.  If workers are in demand, they will have leverage to request schedule flexibility. In an employers’ market, we will see a lot of strain on the family unit. This will be a signal to the next generation to seek jobs that value them and their time.

Prediction: The rise of co-working and distributed teams continues unabated. Home office products and productivity tools to empower distributed teams are on the rise.

Shira Kates,  is a member consultant of Consultants Collective, and founder of Snapdragon Strategy, which advises global brands, small agencies and startups on design leadership as a fractional or interim design and product leader. Shira has two decades of experience in the Bay Area tech world in various roles from coder to product manager to content strategist, Techwomen Mentor (U.S State Department) and design leader for ubiquitous global brands.  

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