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Why Design is Big in Davos

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on January 17, 2006

The big World Economic Forum conference in Davos is just about a week away and lots of questions have flowed in to ask at the innovation and design session that I’m going to moderate—and the 21 other sessions on the topic that I’ll try and attend. Operationalizing innovation is really the big theme.

A lot of people suggest that the CEOs, politicians and NGO folks attending the Innovation, Creativity and Design sessions be asked when they will begin using design thinking to deal with universal human needs and solve social problems such as healthcare or housing.

Tim Brown, head of IDEO, who will be speaking and moderating at Davos, thinks it is precisely this power and ability of design that made the powers-that-be at Davos decide to make design central to the conference. This is what he said to me in an email when I asked why design was so big in Davos: “The WEF is at an interesting intersection between the issues facing business (growth, competitiveness) and the issues facing the world in general (health, education, hunger, political vision). I think this perspective makes WEF particularly interested in innovation and design because they offer some chance of progress in both spheres and they are a fresh way of thinking about apparently intractable problems. Design and innovation encourage us to take a human centered empathic approach to business problems as well as social problems and so we start to see more examples of congruence between otherwise distant spheres. The natural optimism of a design approach is also refreshing and relevant when tackling global social problems as well as business.”

Couldn’t say it any better.

Reader Comments

Alex Osterwalder

January 17, 2006 5:46 PM

I particularly like the last sentence with which I totally agree. Design thinking will improve the way we tackle global social problems. As a manager of a global nonprofit organization I still see too many do-gooders that are content with the fact that they are trying to help. Design thinking will bring a more holistic thinking that will help integrate "user", "functionality" and "impact" to tackle global issues rather than just to address them as is the case today....


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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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