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I gave speech at the most amazing design conference I’ve ever attended last week in San Francisco, the Connecting ‘07 World Design Congress. Some of the top designers in the world were there. Many of the top innovation thinkers were there. Maybe a thousand of top students in design and design thinking were there.
Organized by the brilliant Bill Moggridge, IDEO co-founder and pioneer in interaction design, it had nearly 2000 people attending (15 from P&G alone), 144 presentations and workshops and well-spring of optimism. The Industrial Society of America put it all together and it did a brilliant job.
It’s not every day that you have Dieter Ram, the great designer of Braun products, Yves Behar, Roger Martin, Hans Rosling, Tim Brown, Patrick Whitney and Cat Chow in one conference.
I’ll be blogging over the next couple of days on the major themes and trends that I saw there. For the day-to-day, check out the Core77 site.
The IDSA gave out its annual Industrial Design Excellence Awards on Saturday night. I gave an opening talk, which draws on the excellent work being done on design thinking by Chris Conley at Gravity Tank, Diego Rodriguez at IDEO, Dick Bolland and Fred Collopy at Case Western and others.
Here is the speech. You can substitute the word “innovate” for “design” or “design thinking.” Or call it a banana, I don’t care what the methodology and philosophy is called. Let me know your thoughts please.
The Crisis of Success
10/20/07 IDSA Speech
I’d like to speak tonight about a crisis—a crisis in design. Of course, design has had many crises. There was the crisis of acceptance. Business just wouldn’t give respect to design. There was the crisis of money. Designers were paid miserably for their work. Then there was the bubble crisis. Tech collapsed and work disappeared.
Today, we have a another crisis—the Crisis of Success. Everywhere in every sphere, people are asking the question, Can Design Help? Why is the answer to so many problems today design?
It’s simple really In a society of little change, the answer to most problems is efficiency. Doing the same things, only better, makes them better. Maximizing efficiency creates values.
But in a society undergoing huge change—like ours now—the answer to most problems is possibility, not efficiency. New solutions makes things better. Maximizing possibilities of what could be creates value. This is what design can do. Design sees around corners. And that is why this is design’s moment.
Just look around. What do you see? Our business models are melting. Our healthcare models are collapsing. Our education models are failing. And efficiency, such as testing kids again and again, is not the answer.
So what is the power of design to provide answers? Why are people embracing it?
1- Design is the curator of conversations. To solve problems, design begins with people and cultures in communities, from rural villages at the bottom of the pyramid to social networks at the top of the pyramid. It observes, integrates, imagines and proposes.
2- Because of this approach, design is authentic and real in business and civic societies awash in fake and hype.
3- Design can abstract, deconstruct and recombine. It can reposition small, narrow problems in new broader contexts.
4- Design can visualize many possible outcomes and solutions using limited knowledge and speed decision-making.
5- Design can both reduce risk and manage higher risk in the process of developing new products, services and experiences. And it can do this within many spheres: business, health, education, transportation and others.
Wow. So powerful is this methodology that society is reaching out to embrace it. We are seeing the field of design go from simple design to design thinking to just thinking as it is embraced and embedded in corporate and civic cultures.
And this is setting off a crisis of success. Plug into my blog, NussbaumOnDesign, or the blogs of Core77, BplusD, Design Observer, Design Thinking and others and you see a huge conversation—or battle—underway.
Should designers become managers? Is design innovation? Will managers take over design? Does beauty trump strategy? Are blondes better than smarty-pants design thinkers? Should industrial design become international design? Is design education failing? Are B-Schools taking over the field of design? What the heck is design thinking anyway? Is the media hyping design or reflecting its growing influence in business and society? Is design and innovation just a fad? Is a backlash underway?
Oh, the passion, the name-calling, the worry, the fights. And oh, the incredible vibrancy of this conversation. Design is alive with debate because it has grown so very much. The swirling intellectual eddies reflect its growing depth and sophistication as a method for maximizing options and promoting change.
Most important, the debate highlights the choice now facing design. Will the success of design generate a backlash and cause it to retreat or can it continue to move forward? Will society’s embrace of the field of design force a return to the insular, the familiar and the narrow or will design move to embrace society? Will design choose to be on the periphery or the center of the big challenges of our day?
If you are a young designer today, you are blessed by success. And you are truly challenged by it. You have the tools to make cool, hip objects that also pollute the planet. Or you can design cradle-to-cradle things that save the planet. You can design for your friends or you can journey to the communities of the aging, the sick and the poor. You can stay in San Francisco, Palo Alto, the Lower East Side or Brooklyn or you can go to Century Village in Florida or the HIV-ridden villages of Swaziland.
These are your choices in this moment of success for design. I implore you, I beg you to make a difference. Design has always been a calling. Now it has a chance of becoming a mission.
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.