Design + the New Business

Our documentary screening of Design the New Business examined how designers and business professionals, together, are solving the wicked problems facing business today.
The film features interviews of international design creatives, education experts, and global businesses discussing incorporating design as part of their core approach.
The film was followed by a workshop to discuss its takeaways, produced with the Creative Instigators and facilitated by Marta Ferreira de Sá .

The film examines challenges faced by design within business. Design is no longer exclusive to designers. Innovative products, customer-centric services, and alternative business models are being created using design toolsets. Businesses of different tiers and industries can adopt design strategies. Design emphasis on human and customer centric approaches are suited to any business’s objectives.

We noticed, as we do with many good brainstorming sessions, we left with as many questions as answers. Here are multiple approaches applicable to bringing design based methods to business process.

How do we embrace design in the culture of business?
Participants identified several key values: transparency, authenticity, and flexibility which are already existing concepts within business. One suggested technique to introduce design is through these existing values, demonstrating how they extend them to include design-based thinking.

In business how do we prototype without it looking like a failure?
When addressing iterations and prototyping that may include multiple failures, designers may see the failure of iterations as part of the process and as a path to a unique and innovative product.  Whereas the business may see the loss and aim to route the process into more conventional techniques. When asking this question one needs address how to measure the impact of design.

How do we engage stakeholders or decisionmakers into incorporating design methodologies? First, one must understand the complexity of the organization. Start by mapping out the stakeholders, then identify where the conflict occurs.  By understanding the organizational features and culture that prevent innovation, we begin building an inter-disciplinary team culture.

How could organizations embrace going small?
Design thinking includes repeating small experiments before you bring any drastic change to the organization. For example, organizations tend to do multiple rounds of research; quantitative and qualitative, to determine profitable outcomes and resist failure.
Instead, we could conduct iterative, prototypical research on a smaller scale.

How is design entrepreneurship changing the landscape?  
Tools like Kickstarter and new campaign platforms make it simpler for designers to harness their own business creation skills. By interacting in this marketplace, designers are naturally adopting more business acumen to remain competitive and closing the gap between designer and entrepreneur.

How do we achieve balance between the forces of design and business?
Design and business are working together and helping one another. So how do we, carefully, ensure design does not exist solely to serve business? A well designed product,  may or may not have a business case in order to be considered  “well designed”.

How do we achieve a common language?
If a designer’s expertise is designing, a competency in business strategy through a common language and terminology could bridge their work and focus to business. This creates clarity with business strategists, instead of believing everyone should be part designer and part business strategist.

How may co-creation be implemented?
Participants offered stories about co-creation with their clients. An observation is how the public facing employees become invested in design methods first. For example, in health practices, nurses tend to be willing observers of how design thinking can change the process of a workshift change. As leadership view the shift changes increased efficiency, they take interest in participatory research or suggest approaches. So target leadership first, instead of having the results trickle up.

Our takeaways are individual and diverse. It’s important that each organization decide what feels right for them when implementing new strategies. Do you have any insights on combining design and business in your practice? Do you notice any recurring patterns or themes we haven’t touched on?