“That will never work”: What to do to win people over


“That will never work”: What to do to win people over

August 16, 2021

When you are designing a service that seamlessly weaves together multiple channels and touchpoints – what we call an omni-channel experience – it’s neither realistic nor advisable to launch all at once. It’s simply too big, too demanding, and too risky.  Behnam Tabrizi and colleagues write in Harvard Business Review, “Companies are pouring millions into ‘digital transformation’ initiatives — but a high percentage of those fail to pay off.”

Service Design starts with the customer, but it quickly leads to questions of technical feasibility – when the forces of “here’s why it won’t work” accrue. Implementation teams see the prototypes, and they’re terrified. The go-to-market journey seems colossal, unwieldy, and impossible. 

In most large organizations, there’s a natural tendency at this point to step back, regroup, and figure out requirements for a comprehensive, 360-degree solution. Slowly but surely, a strong idea is diluted by countless, completely valid operational concerns; invariably, the end result bears little connection to the customer insights you set out to address. Meanwhile, the timing for implementation is extended and additional costs are incurred due to longer implementation and increased communication touchpoints. As far as the rest of the organization is concerned, the initiative fell back to earth. The momentum is gone. 

In order to avoid this, it is better to build a Minimum Valuable Service (MVS) that can be scaled over time.  An MVS focuses on the handoffs and interchanges between channels needed to create a better experience from start to finish. 

In order to create an MVS, pick a small number of users and deliver the new experience with employees that are on the front line, interacting with your customers.  Concentrate on solving people and content issues and less on processes and systems.  The small target audience forces everyone to focus on “how to”, rather than “why not.”  The small scale allows the organization to cobble together a solution using “hacks”.  

These hacks provide a deeper understanding of the solution needs.  The user numbers won’t be statistically significant but putting the new experience into the real world will surface two important things very clearly.  First, it will validate which points in the experience are more or less valuable in the eyes of customers, and more or less likely to change their behaviour. Second, it forces your organization to solve for and practice the strong hand-offs between silos and channels required to deliver on the improved experience. 

Sometimes a small group will be enough to drive momentum.  Other times be prepared to do it again a second or third time with bigger groups.  This process will help the teams to learn and solve for many of the obstacles.  

When you have to change a big omnichannel experience,  don’t get discouraged if you hear the words “that will never work”.  Demonstrate the value for a small group and then a slightly bigger group.  In this way, you can change the conversation to “how to” and move away from “why not” to keep organizational momentum and build the evidence you need.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash


  • Everton Lewis approaches business problems using a perspective that combines design, analytics, and technology. He has guided clients during several large-scale business and technology transformations establishing himself as a trusted advisor. He has an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business and has lead project teams that have won global awards from the Service Design Network and Fast Company for innovative design.


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