Ryan Chen
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The Seven-Star Design Principle

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Recently I've been listening to a great podcast called Masters of Scale. Each episode highlights one CEO and their journey in scaling their company. My favorite episode is an interview with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.

Listen to it here.

The story of Airbnb is evidence that you can build a company around design thinking. In the episode, Brian Chesky discussed how his company continues to innovate. Their team coined the term "seven-star design principle."

This is how he defined it:

"The paradigm with customers today is five stars. The problem with five stars is you have to be really bad to get four stars. Reaching five stars is just being nice enough — we wanted to build a product that you loved so much you would tell everyone. At Airbnb, we strive to have our customers contact the company and demand a sixth star be added to our 5-star review because the experience was so good."

In this exercise, Brian and the Airbnb team would imagine how every level of service would look like starting with the first star. Each level of experience becomes more and more intricate and far-fetched as you progress up the ladder. The purpose of these exercises was to push you out of your comfort zone.

You see, a five-star experience is already what your customers expect. What every company should be aiming for is how to go beyond your customers' expectations. That's why Airbnb reaches for the seventh star because they know this is what will differentiate them from the rest of the industry.

I believe the "seven-star design principle" is extremely valuable for every business.

First, it would help your team see through the eyes of your customers. It’s always challenging to keep the customer perspective central, and anything that makes that easier is likely to be helpful.

Second, it will push your team to envision new possibilities for your business to grow. Rather than mimicking your competition, you can set the bar and make them play catch-up.

At the end of the day, our focus should always be providing more value to our customers, and this exercise will help you do exactly that.