A new approach to innovation: the worst-case scenario

Kim Y. Mühl
3 min readJun 27, 2022
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

The worst-case approach encourages a new perspective

“How can we make the customer experience as bad as possible?”
What a supposedly simple question. And yet, it can lead to amazing insights!

Working towards a best case scenario or solution requires that a clear goal is known and defined. In digital transformation, however, it is not always clear what the best possible digital service, the best possible digital advice, or the best possible digital offer looks like. In many respects, we are in uncharted territory!

For this reason, a change of perspective can be surprisingly revealing. Instead of asking “what can be improved?“ (or over-engineered), the worst-case approach embraces critical but also creative questioning. Best of all, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to do so.

Below I present you with a worst-case framework, which is done in ten simple steps and can be adapted or extended as desired:

  1. Vision, purpose, claim: First of all, it is important to consider the overarching vision, the (corporate) purpose and the brand core or brand promise. What does your company stand for and where do you want to go? What problem (of the customers/the world) do you solve?
  2. Target group: Which target group do you want to address in the future? What are the requirements of your target group, and what are their expectations of the products and services?
  3. Available resources: What resources are available for the digitization and future operation of (digital) customer advice / customer service?
  4. SWOT: What are your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
  5. Survey/feedback: Ask your customers and employees what makes them unhappy about your current offering and what you could improve (e.g. in terms of processes).
  6. Worst-case scenarios: What would a really(!) bad customer experience look like? What makes it miserable? On which channels does it take place? How is your target group involved in the process? What information is shared in the process and what is retained? And most importantly, whose interests are represented in worst imaginable service, and what does it cost you and your customers? (Perhaps you also have a specific case where something went really wrong?)
  7. Specification: How would the individual touchpoints with the customers be handled, and how are they connected? Which channels are integrated and which are not? How will the target group be addressed and won over? What is the customer onboarding process? How do customer surveys take place and how is feedback obtained and evaluated?
  8. Relation to the target group: What feelings and reactions would the individual worst-case characteristics trigger in your target group? How do you meet their expectations and/or what (false) expectations are raised? If possible, you should directly involve existing customers and representatives of new target groups at this point.
  9. Comparison with your own company: Which of the identified worst case characteristics does your company (partially) currently practice? Where are there disruptions or flaws in the process? Where are false expectations created or promises made that cannot be kept?
  10. Implementation and improvement: What insights can be gained for your company? How could improvements be implemented, or new approaches be introduced? And which sub-steps are necessary for this? Are your internal resources sufficient for implementation, or do you need additional/external support?

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Kim Y. Mühl
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Autor, Berater und Deutschlands erster Botschafter für sinnstiftende Arbeit und sinnvolle Digitalisierung /// https://www.kim-muehl.com/impressum/