In the excellent book, The Strategic Designer, author David Holston makes the following astute observation about a reality of doing business in today’s world:
“Businesses, like designers, need to be in a constant state of ideation. Design gives firms a competitive advantage in overcrowded markets by identifying unique value and connecting audiences, as well as reacting quickly to social trends.”
Holston goes on to talk about process, which is essential to design and no less important to businesses. Businesses that are succeeding in standing out and attracting clients are effectively incorporating design and design thinking/process in their own business culture and customer engagement strategies.
Design cannot change an organization’s core principles or philosophy, nor does it alone constitute a business strategy. A company still must provide quality, affordable goods or products and responsive, friendly customer service. Design can, however, amplify these efforts and reinforce these and other positive aspects of an organization’s brand. Employees with a design-oriented background are increasingly in demand by businesses for strategic business-focused roles because designers are inherently question askers and problem solvers.
In admiration of some of the most successful firms and brands in the world that have used design as a key component of their business growth strategy, the business world is, in large part undergoing a shift in the way design is considered as a formal part of business strategy. An emphasis on design or design thinking is not appropriate approach for every industry, but even if your firm or organization cannot emphasize design, you should seriously consider embracing it. Based on my own research and observation, here are three ways that a shift to embracing design and design thinking can positively impact an organization:
Dialogue: A Culture of Creative Problem-Solving
Design can be leveraged to establish or reinforce a culture of creative problem solving. Using techniques central to the design process, such as agile team construction and methods, the narrow, team or individual-based system can give way to a more collaborative, open-source way of tackling issues. This can in turn, benefit communication and solidify ideas or perhaps push them even further. Ideas can be conceived and explored quickly. User-focused experience is included in development. Embracing an open-source problem-solving method can bring more quality ideas to the table and yield interesting results and opportunities. This, in turn, can improve and reshape the creative culture or an organization as waves of new thought and ideas flood the business process.
Diversion: Create Delight and Escape
Design can be used to help stimulate creativity in employees. It can shake things up within your organization in a good way by positing problems that require creative solutions. It can also actually stimulate innovation and ideation that spills over into other aspects of the operation. Lastly, design can just help to break up the monotony of office life. It can create wonder, joy, and offer a place to escape to. Sometimes we just need to take a break and enjoy beauty, man-made and natural. Design creates and facilitates these opportunities.
Distinction: Rallying Cry
Design can also provide a rallying cry, a “standard”, as in a flag used in battle. This is often in the form of a strong visual identity, underpinned by real values. Along these lines, design can be used to unify, in a modern work environment where roles, salaries, organizational structure and specialization and outsourcing may divide and marginalize. Also, in helping to create a strong, recognizable visual brand and consumer touch points, design helps to distinguish one organization from another. People respond positively to the brands they see and know. Design can aid in this effort.
Embracing design and design thinking is a good for business! In ways great and small, it lifts spirits, unites, challenges and creates opportunities for small businesses to stand out and grow.
Reggie Holmes is a child of the early 1980′s, a native of Richmond, VA who expressed an interest in design before he even knew what it was. A graduate of the University of Miami with a BFA in Graphic Design, he returned to Virginia after school and worked in several different creative (and non-creative) positions before forming Enthuse Creative in 2013. His goal is to develop a strong solo design practice that contributes locally and influences globally through branding and design while inspiring others to joy and creativity.
Source: The Strategic Designer, 2011, How Books/F+W Media
Image Source: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_thinking