In some circles it is common to think of design in terms of technology or of eye-catching and whimsical objects. But Tim Brown, author of “Change by Design,” and CEO of IDEO, a design consulting agency, begs to differ. Design is not the stuff that appears in lifestyles magazines or in museums. Judging from the tasks that have been assigned to his company, Brown has arrived at the viewpoint that their design services are also being used to tackle organizational problems. From health care, to education to manufacturing, companies are seeking to better understand their clients and arrive at more human-centered solutions.
“A competent designer can always improve on someone else’s widget,” says Brown, but we live in an age where economic activity has shifted from manufacturing objects to “knowledge creation and service delivery.” Consequently, design is not so much about funky, new products as it is about, “processes, services, interactions, entertainment forms, and ways of communicating and collaborating.” In Brown’s view, design is a way of thinking rather than a way of doing. It is not just for geniuses or creative industries, but also for solving abstract problems such as improving customer experience. And it seems anyone can do that.
Brilliant ideas don’t suddenly appear in the brains of geniuses – except for that guy in Silicon Valley known for his black mock-neck shirts. As we’ve heard before, Brown says that the best ideas appear when the entire organization is free to experiment and there is a culture of optimism. The problem is that staff members often present only the safest ideas for fear that management won’t like the more “creative” solutions and as a result promotions won’t happen. And how will you know that a culture of optimism lives in your organization? “Look for a colorful landscape of messy disorder rather than a suburban grid of tidy beige cubicles. Listen for bursts of raucous laughter rather than the constant drone of subdued conversation.” Oh well…
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