How ZIZO design framework can help you become more strategic

with Zoom-In Zoom Out Design and Ideation Framework.

Working with founders, startup teams and investors there is a big discussion around strategic thinking. Often as a founder you will get an investor to say you need to build a strategy, or you need to prepare a strategy document which is followed by a series of ‘strategic discussions’. 2–3 hours of meetings that usually end up with no clear action plan. The big issue with jumping to write strategy document and these discussions is the lack of clarity around what strategy means? and why do we need that strategy in the speficic stage of the company? and why now?

This creates a massive volume of work that makes everyone soooo busy but in effect, becuase everyone is misaligned on what is that strategy it’s a waste of time and only confuses the founders, investors and the teams. Many executives and CEOs have a very specific view on what strategy is but they do not bother to clarify their view with their teams first.

Julie Zhou is the former VP of Product Design at Facebook and the Co-Founder of Inspirit. She writes an eye opening blog called ‘The Year of the Looking Glass’ on Medium where she gives advice and shares experience about team management, product design and more. Recently she published a book ‘The Making of a Manager’ that is highly recommended. One of my favourite articles there is ‘How to be Strategic’ where she defines strategy — “Basically, a strategy is a set of actions designed to achieve a particular objective. It’s like a route designed to get you from Point A to Point B.” Julie says.

Spending time as an officer in the Israeli Special Forces, we spent hours of building strategies and mostly, it was about defining a target and then after you define clearly your resources, location etc. you can execute a plan to get your target. You can think of it as a series of steps in which you can get to that target effectively and quickly with the least risk involved to your team and environment. Building a startup and your product, you can think of strategy in the same way, like special operation.

The ZIZO (Zoom-In Zoom-Out) design method is a methodology I developed working with startups in industries from climate tech to consumer software helping entrepreneurs and leaders to build products from scratch and to keep the team aligned by designing in 3 layers: Flow, Interface and Action. The idea is that great leaders are able to shift between those layers and by doing so they identify friction in the process and user problems they should address but also to find the best solution that could be tested in any layer.

In other words the ZIZO method helps you build your product strategy. It allows you to build and iterate your product or services from different perspective, from a high level bird view to a very detailed perspective on what exactly the user is doing in each step. It gives you clear direction of where your user is and what is the experience you want to build for him/her in order to get to your objective.

How ZIZO can help you build your strategy?

ZIZO has three different design layers. The most high level layer is the Flow layer. The Flow layer defines the different steps in the user journey that you design carefully.

To think of your product and user experience strategically, there are 4 key elements you need to define clearly:

  1. Where your user is (Point A) — This is the first step in the user journey and defines the current state of your customer. For example it could be ‘user logs in’ or ‘user press the Ok button’.
  2. Where you want your user to be (Point B) — This is your final objective. You design this experience for the user to change a habit, to prompt an action. An example would be ‘user Like a post’ or ‘user subscribe to the service’.
  3. The problem you are solving — If you haven’t defined clearly you problem statement, it would be extremely hard to build a strategy and your flow layer. Getting a user from point A to point B ususally means that you solved a user problem. If this is unclear, defining the start, the end and the middle of the journey would be skewed and unfocused.
  4. What does success look like — In the end if you don’t know to say what will happen when you succeed it means that you cannot clearly envision how your strategy will help you.

Once you define these four clearly, it would be much easier to align the team on what they need to build. Iteration and experimentation would be more focused and speed of innovation will increas.

What ZIZO is not?

ZIZO is NOT your strategy. It is a framework or a tool to help you think clearly about your objectives, your current state and how to get there in different perspective. It helps you diversify your thoughts and not get stuck only on your interface design or your user flow but travel between them to iterate and find the best strategy to get your customer journey right and by doing that finding a product-market-fit.

Prioritization and using the ZIZO design method

The Zoom-In Zoom-Out method is built to allow product leaders and entrepreneurs to prioritize better, to remove friction and to get clarity as much as you can. When I work with teams to build their three design layers, what we see is that the flow layer become bigger and more complex, the interfaces become more cluttered and busy, and the action layer is full of unecessary user actions that makes it harder for us and the user to get to that final objective we want him to get to. We have a tendency to add features, actions, steps but often and especially in the early days — less is more.

ZIZO allows us to remove friction from the different layer. We can see the user flow and see which steps in the user journey we can collapse or remove, and which elements in the wireframe design is making things complex by giving it to users and see if that design helped them get to the next step in the flow we designed. We can also see clearly the number of actions a user has to take to convert to the next step in the flow and optimize that number.

It gives us different perspectives in which we can idetify the quicket and most effective way we can build our strategy.

How to use ZIZO to create alignement

Another thing which Julie also mention and in my view is the most important mechanism for leaders to motivate and move things forward is to create alignement. Using the ZIZO framework allows the founder or the product leader to align the team. The discussions should always have the user flow design in front of the team, and the wireframes that each step represents. The team should be aligned in any given moment on the updated design of each layer but most importantly about where the product is today, and what is the objective the team wants to get to eventually.

The two other things are the problem statement that should be clear to the entire team and what success looks like which we already discussed. However, what we didn’t discussed is how success would look like when we make it big time. I will discuss this further in my next article Zoom-In Zoom-Out at scale.

What are your thoughts about the ZIZO Method? Could it help you become a product strategist? Leave your comments below.

You can learn more and practice by taking this online course about the ZIZO product ideation method.

Join the ZIZO Design Linkedin group to meet more ZIZO designers:

About the Author:

llai Gescheit is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, speaker and investor. Illai comes from a diverse background of building businesses that solve the world’s most challenging problems from medical devices to climate tech. Illai recent job is building the future impact and sustainability ventures for BP where he works as an Entrepreneur in Residence. Illai is an inventor in more than 20 patents and created the Zoom-In-Zoom-Out (ZIZO) product ideation method. He was featured in the Harvard-MIT book publication Entrepreneurial Negotiation.

Illai focuses on team building, leadership coaching, product management and design, design thinking, business development, innovation, venture capital, and growth. Illai has background in both building startups from scratch and scaling them and in corporate innovation.

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