Reflections on the role of design in business.
There's been a lot of talk lately about helping designers and design leaders understand the business impact of their work, to become better designers and communicate better with "business stakeholders"... However, this idea positions the designer as the "Hero" and key ingredient to drive businesses forward and I feel this belief is incomplete...
As my friends in Argentina would say, "it takes two to Tango" - I believe that for businesses to thrive, we also need design and business to Tango together.
Embracing design as a competitive advantage
Of course, it's beneficial for more designers to understand how their work fits into the bigger picture of business...
But, shouldn't we also be talking about helping businesses and their leaders understand how (and why) to integrate design strategically as a competitive advantage?
I feel the key here for businesses to embrace design is "confidence". Leaders need to be confident that making space for design and design leadership in their organization will drive growth, innovation, and better customer experiences...
The challenges of "designification"
As a founder in the design and innovation industry with over a decade working with startups and global enterprises, I have helped all types of organizations go through their process of designification (yes, I just made that word up)... and I have found that the biggest pushbacks usually come from the business side, from the managers that don't quite understand why they need to invest in UX or design strategy when they already have a "solid" business strategy in place... and this pushback exists EVEN when designers are more focused on business impact.
Here are 5 of the biggest challenges businesses face for designification:
- Resistance from traditional business mindsets
Overcoming resistance from managers and leaders who may not fully understand the value and impact of design. They might be skeptical about investing in UX or design strategy, especially if they perceive their current business strategy as effective.
- Lack of design literacyand understanding
Many businesses lack an understanding of what design can truly contribute beyond aesthetics. They may not fully comprehend how design strategy and design methodologies can positively impact their bottom line and overall success of the business.
- Organizational culture and structure
Companies with rigid hierarchies and siloed departments often struggle to integrate design effectively. Design requires cross-functional collaboration, open communication, and a culture that fosters creativity and innovative solutions. Breaking down these silos and building a collaborative environment could be a significant challenge.
- Measuring the business impact of design
Quantifying the business impact of design can be challenging. It can be difficult to establish clear metrics and KPIs to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of design initiatives. Aligning design outcomes with business goals and effectively measuring their impact is crucial but can pose challenges. Even more so when the impact is holistic and will be appreciated over time, not instantly.
- Resourcing and talent acquisition
Building a strong design team and attracting talented designers can be a big challenge for businesses. It's not just about hiring designers that focus on impact, but also ensuring that they are integrated into the organization, supported by leadership and given the authority to influence strategic decisions. Finding the right talent in today's evolving industry can be a challenge in itself.
Building bridges between design and business
To sum it up, I believe we need internal business sponsors that believe in the value of design as well as designers that can speak business.
This doesn't mean the entire team, but just enough ambassadors to build bridges between both sides. By fostering collaboration and mutual understanding between design and business, we can create a harmonious environment where the unique contributions of each discipline are fully appreciated. Designers can grasp the strategic objectives and challenges of the business, while business leaders can recognize the transformative power of design in driving success.
Let's go beyond simply enhancing "design literacy" among designers and design leaders. Let's also strive to cultivate "business designification," where organizations understand the significance of design as a vital ingredient for success and can leverage it to be more competitive. By nurturing this relationship, we can unlock new possibilities, empower innovation, and create exceptional experiences that propel businesses to new heights.
Thank you for reading!
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