Design management: using design to add value
The first week of the elective looked in detail at the design process, design methods, the ways we think about 'good' and 'bad' design and introduced some of the newer design disciplines. This session looked at the way that design can be managed to add value within organizations. The field of design management has articulated some of the different ways real organizations do this: differentiating organizations through a powerful and consistent brand and through the styling of products; coordinating the development of products and services in multidisciplinary teams; or possibly playing a more transformational role, helping ask questions about the future and having a key role in innovation (Borja de Mozta). We considered the question of how to organize to make best use of design: as an internal function, or using external consultants? Hargadon's research into IDEO's role as technology brokers provided an important argument about the benefits of the cross-pollination of ideas from industry to industry.
For managers, a key question is how to assess the effectiveness of design, broadly conceived, or a design department. There's no standard framework for this. We looked at research by the Design Council that found a positive correlation between companies that were recognised as achieving good design, and stock market performance. We also discussed how awards can sometimes mark out organizations for whom the role of design is key.
During this class students had an opportunity to reflect on the role of design in their own organizations. Did they find evidence of silent design, or design management in which design helps differentiated products through styling or having a key role in new product development; or did they think that design played a role in asking strategic questions for the organization? Not surprisingly, few of the MBAs knew of an organization that had a 'Chief Design Officer' at board level. But several wanted to find ways to think about how they might implement some of the elective's ideas in their own firm - potentially becoming design leaders themselves.