WeChat to the Vanguard.
The kind of creative thinking that drove WeChat’s success. WeChat, the messaging app, dominates daily life in China. With over one billion daily active users, it’s the default for social media and chat. WeChat users send more than 45 billion messages a day.
It is a leader in mobile payments, with more than 800 million WeChat Pay users. And it provides integrated services for Chinese users with upstream mobility. By offering taxi, restaurant, movie booking and retail applications, all within your platform.
Many Westerners are skeptical about successful Chinese software companies like WeChat. There is a perception that they have succeeded through imitation strategies and have benefited from Facebook and Google not being able to operate in the country.
But WeChat wasn’t easy: he had to defend himself against dozens of domestic competitors when it was launched. And he had to keep innovating to stay ahead of the curve.
Many observers consider That WeChat offers a superior user experience than its Western counterparts today. And time others are copying their innovative features.
Recently, we conducted an in-depth study of WeChat. Through exclusive interviews with 15 executives, including founder Allen Zhang.
What we found out to be WeChat is not just a success story from China. But it provides valuable information to innovators around the world.
Design thinking versus great design.
Our research suggests that WeChat’s success was not achieved through technological superiority. It was built on the vision, or great design, of Allen Zhang, a senior executive of the Chinese technology company Tencent. Who saw an opportunity in 2010 to create a completely new product for the mobile era.
He personally led all of WeChat’s development effort. Taking responsibility for the overall appearance of the product and supervising coding equipment.
The logic of great design is markedly different from the approach. The innovation of now standard design thinking that was popularized by design firm IDEO in the 1990s.
Design thinking has been defined as a nonlinear iterative process that seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and create innovative solutions for prototyping and testing.
This user-centric perspective has made design thinking very popular. But some consultants and academics have argued that it is too structured. Too prescriptive and results in incremental or conservative results.
We argue that the great design approach to innovation. Where a new product or service emerges fully formed in the mind of the innovator before it develops and commercializes. It can be more effective than design thinking in certain circumstances. Most notably when a market is in its first formative stage of development.
Think, for example, of Steve Jobs’ classic inventions, such as iPod and iPhone. Masaru Ibuka’s Sony Walkman or Elon Musk Hyperloop.
Our WeChat study revealed four key components of the great approach. Design for innovation that other innovators might consider when developing ideas.
- Create a work of art, not a commercial product. Design thinking seeks to create practical, user-oriented solutions: it’s about uniting what’s humanly desirable with what’s technologically feasible and economically viable. On the contrary, the great design begins with a concept, a vision in the mind of the creator, and clings to that concept for as long as possible. Here’s how Allen Zhang described WeChat to us:
Before I perceive WeChat as a commercial product, I prefer to imagine it first as an impressive work of art. When I started designing user interactions for Foxmail, I complicated everything.
He felt bad because he didn’t look tidy anymore. For WeChat, I now see the need to subtract, simplify things and focus on the aesthetic quality of the product.
The kind of creative thinking that drove WeChat’s success.
As an example, the function bar at the bottom of the WeChat screen has four icons. Chat, Contacts, Discover, I. Over the years, many people suggested adding to this list. Like many other applications, to support user behavior.
Zhang said no: “I told the team to set a rule that WeChat would always have a four-icon bar and never add anything.”
Another example is the almost total absence of advertising. Unlike Facebook or LinkedIn. WeChat users see a maximum of two ads per day through the Moments feature.
Of course, there is a tension between artistic ideals and commercial realities. Comparing WeChat to Facebook, the New York Times says Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to emulate WeChat by reducing the number of ads, but it hasn’t, presumably for fear of reducing Facebook’s profitability.
Allen Zhang, on the other hand, faces requests to increase the amount of advertising on WeChat because its owner, Tencent, is a publicly traded company and faces pressure to increase its profitability.
Zhang has stood firm so far, arguing that continued growth is more important than current profitability. As WeChat’s HR director told us, this decision “is a testament to the