Design Thinking: A Customer-Centric Approach to Credentialing

Share This Post:


Written by Susan Farago, MuleSoft at Salesforce

Did you know Samsung Corporation originally started out selling dried fish? Or that American Express’ initial competitor was the American Postal Service? Companies like Samsung, Amazon, and American Express started out as something very different from what they are today. They all pivoted in order to meet their customers’ needs.

Design Thinking

Susan Farago from MuleSoft and Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate from Lineup co-facilitated a 75 minute workshop on design thinking at the 2022 Innovations in Testing conference. The workshop started off by asking participants, “Do you actually know what your customers want?”

Attendees were introduced to what it means to have a Lean-Agile mindset and how to leverage design thinking to get at the heart of solving actual problems for customers. Discussion centered around key questions:

  • Are our assumptions getting in the way of what our customers want or need?
  • Are we working on the right thing?
  • How can we validate assumptions before spending too many resources on an idea?
  • What if we are wrong?
  • Is what we are building actually what the customer wants to buy?
  • How can we build a minimum viable product to test our hypotheses on what the customer wants?

Susan illustrated the differences between organization and customer wants versus needs by sharing the results of a 2021 “Voice of the Customer” survey around the motivation and value of certification renewal (see table below). In several instances what the certification organization thought the candidates wanted was very different from the actual feedback candidates provided. The message here? Organizations should not assume what their customers want.

Leverage the Lean Business Canvas

60 workshop participants were introduced to the Lean Business Canvas – a tool to help organizations identify key areas of an idea (e.g. problem to solve, metrics, unique value proposition, etc.) with the goal of identifying what customers actually value and avoiding costly failures.

Small teams were formed at each table during the workshop and participants were given the task of building out a lean business canvas to deliver a viable recertification offering. After a 10 minute working session, teams volunteered to read-out their lean business canvas outcomes.

Measure What Matters

Metrics were part of the presentation and participants had the opportunity to discuss effective ways to measure customer behavior change using “Pirate metrics” (AARRR: acquisition, activation, revenue, retention, referral). Ideas included interviews, user experience reviews, watch and learn, and transaction measurement such as candidate renewals, membership activation, etc. Vanity metrics were discussed as something to avoid (# of page views, # of visitors) because they do not measure actual customer behavior or intent.


The workshop concluded with a discussion around ways to use the lean canvas to manage risk, measure the right things, iterate and refine hypotheses, and to be prepared to pivot or abandon products or services that may not serve customers. The key takeaway? Don’t make assumptions on what your customers want because if you build it, they may not come.

This is the second consecutive year Susan and Guillermo have presented on the topic of Lean-Agile at Innovations in Testing. Feel free to reach out to them at: and

Additional Resources



  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • Drive by Dan Pink
  • Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore
  • Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz

Related Posts

Download Our Free Resource

There’s something about the word “certified” when it precedes a professional title that conveys the consumers and employers a sense of trust, credibility, knowledge and an official “stamp” of approval. This is not a coincidence. IT certification has long been a proven means of differentiation and qualification among professionals in the industry. Employers often include certification as a prerequisite when seeking qualified candidates to fill positions; consumers often trust only those IT professionals who boast credentials proving they have attained a certain level of knowledge.