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Designers Vs. Business People: Who Takes On More Risk?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on May 17, 2007

Comments are flowing in on the risk post. Here is a thoughtful one by Chris Conley of Gravity Tank:

“Well, the semester is out and I just finished the Gravity Free conference in Chicago so I’m getting back into the blog-o-sphere before ID’s Strategy Conference. Loving your posts, Bruce! At Gravity Free, a number of the presenters talked about designers being bigger risk takers than business people as well. I agree that designers better understand learning from failure and that a good innovation process reduces risk. However, I don’t buy the notion that designers are bigger risk takers. Actually one could argue that designers simply ask their clients to take risks on them and their work. Few designers put their own capital at risk. I would also argue few understand the notion of investment and return which is how risk is manifest and monetized in business. Designers mostly have a cost mindset just like most business managers. An investment mindset is something that needs to be taught and is part of a innovation toolkit. Until designers put up their own capital (and not just the proverbial sweat equity) and take real equity positions in ventures, the risk is truly being born by someone else.”

Reader Comments

Gong Szeto

May 17, 2007 6:30 PM

could not have said it better myself. designers (typically) have the luxury of operating with OPM. (Other People's Money).

Putting your own capital at risk or even stewarding business decisions financed by other people's capital is a gut-wrenching, white-knuckle, ulcer-inducing endeavor.

Innovation rhetoric is fine and mostly right in terms of the benefits of taking design risks, but design culture needs to take pause for a moment before they criticize conservative stances on innovating new products and services. Being responsible and accountable for the deployment of capital is non-trivial, and sometimes incrementalism is the best that can be manifested at a given point in time. but i say incremental progress is better than no progress at all.

It is shocking how one's psychology shifts if it's your own money on the table.


September 1, 2010 7:22 PM

Some time ago, I did need to buy a building for my business but I didn't have enough money and could not order something. Thank God my colleague proposed to try to get the personal loans from reliable bank. Therefore, I acted that and was satisfied with my short term loan.

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February 7, 2011 3:02 PM

Wow, that was a very interesting read Hope to see lots of new posts! Continue to update your blog! :)

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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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