Approach Business Like a Design Problem – It Pays Off

The frequent question asked by companies today is the value of design to business.  The role of design has traditionally been to translate and communicate the value of a business idea to consumers, but embracing design can do far more.  It can help companies connect and better understand consumers, enabling them to establish a competitive advantage for growth.

A recent study by the Design Management Institute, a Boston-based nonprofit has actually quantified the results posted by of design-driven organizations and the numbers are stunning.  In the past 10 years, design-driven companies outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 by a whopping 228%.   These companies included Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford, Herman Miller, IBM, Intuit, Newell Rubbermaid, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Starwood, Steelcase, Target, Walt Disney, and Whirlpool.

What does it mean to be a design driven company?  Every company has someone doing design, so why aren’t they ‘design-driven’?

The simplest definition is a company that leads with industry-defining products, experiences and ideas.   With companies becoming increasingly dependent on creative thinking and problem solving to outrun their competitors, design-driven companies create cultures that teach and encourage employees to create those products and experiences.

The challenge with traditional business structures is they do not foster the type of creative environment needed to grow and execute on new ideas. Most organizational designs still live in functional silos, which take tremendous cross-functional efforts or even entirely new roles in order to effectively solve problems.   Today’s complex business environment is becoming more and more a design problem, where it is up to leaders to start with the desired outcome and design the business around that vision.

This is a major transformation, and it won’t happen overnight.  But leaders must be challenged to rethink the way they approach day-to-day work at their companies if they are to expect a different result.   By taking a designer’s perspective, there is always room for finding a different, potentially better solutions.


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