Research is often a fundamental activity in tackling design challenges. Research is often a fundamental activity in tackling business challenges. Two statements that sound like you might be talking about the same thing, but depending on whom you are talking to, you are likely to find yourself on the frontlines not of a battle, but rather two separate battles! The combatants are what these days are being called the “design thinkers” and the “business thinkers”. However they are not battling each other. They are instead battling the traditional demons that keep them isolated from each other’s approaches to solving the challenges of designing innovative business today. To demonstrate the reality of this difference I present you this dazzling panoply of opposites in the visual above! 

But the story doesn’t end there!

Being an empathic designer with great feeling for both sides of the equation I naturally want to bring these worlds together…for the greater good. Does everything have to be so black and white, so ones and zeros? Can these opposites attract? I believe it is the responsibility of every true modern strategic designer to find ways to bring the two together. I believe that by better blending business and design approaches to problem-solving, we will discover new research methods for better understanding the context of our design challenges, and also, reveal opportunities for design innovation. Unfamiliarity with these tools and poor communication between the two camps in demonstrating their values, are current barriers to progress.

Let’s look at one instance of how the two can play a fabulous role in producing a central design deliverable in the (strategic, service, and experience) design process: the creation of personas.  When it comes to developing deep, informative, reliable personas, a blend of qualitative and quantitative research can produce a very robust set of customer archetypes. When the intelligence that supports a typical qualitative research-driven persona is paired with data-driven market segmentation the results can be quite compelling. The great advantage is that they become believable to those sitting on both sides of the business design table. Believability is very important. It is the foundation for mutual trust in the shared endeavor of imagining innovative solutions to contemporary business and design challenges with intentional insight and foresight!

(This blog first appeared on


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