I took a few days to hit the beach and think about innovation and design after my RCA speech. One of the best things I read was this analysis by Kevin MuCullagh on Core77’s site. It’s called Riding the Flux: Design is Changing in a Myriad of Ways. Are You? It mirrors my thinking about innovation in general.
A favorite quote: “The era of product design as practiced by a small band of gurus in Milan, London, Munich and New York is long gone. There are now thousands of competent product designers around the world able to ‘give good form.’ Design as ‘styling’ or ‘form-giving’ has become commoditized, and competing at this level is already a tough low-margin slog.”
And here’s the killer stuff: “Hidden Assets
A big mistake designers make when evaluating their career options is to focus too narrowly on their most obvious and tangible craft skills, such as sketching, software skills or styling abilities. Widening their focus to include more indefinable cognitive talents can broaden horizons.
For example, here are four intangible assets that good designers tend to share:
Many designers are multi-lingual in different fields, they are fluent in consumer trends, marketing, manufacturing, and technology—designers as corporate polyglots if you will. This familiarity with functions across the organization and the ability to translate and make connections between them is a much-underrated talent.
Many firms are plagued by articulate and persuasive ‘smart talkers’ who sound good in meetings, but get bogged down in abstract complexities. Whether it be by capturing a thought in a meeting with a sketch or quickly lashing together a physical or digital mock-up, designers are good at ‘making it real.’
Not only do designers specialize in being generalists, they tend to be good at making new connections, pulling together threads from different fields and integrating them into a new whole. These latter day renaissance men and women are in demand by strategy departments, who prize the ability to tackle complex problems through synthesis and expert assumptions.
Some of the smartest execs get bogged down in the messy process of implementation. Good designers are smart at turning knowledge into action—they solve problems, resolve tensions, draw tangible and practical conclusions, and hit deadlines. Designers live by real world limits. As Charles Eames famously stated, “Design depends largely on constraints.”
It should be noted that these assets come into sharper focus within the context of cross-functional teams.
I like to hire folks with a broad range of interests and who have switched fields at least once. Just as learning a foreign language gives you the confidence and knowledge to learn others, switching fields gives people the assurance and tools to tackle new problems.”
This is what I call Design Thinking. And that’s why I think Design, with a capital D is the core of a new managerial methodology.
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