Benefit N° eight: strategic design, design as a competitive advantage

When people talked about innovation in the '90s, they really meant technology. When people talk about innovation in this decade, they really mean design.

source: Bruce Nussbaum, BusinessWeek

Innovation mainly occurs on the levels of processes, products and services, brands and business models. The goal of innovation is to achieve a competitive advantage. The problem of our times is that those advantages won't last long and innovative processes, products and business models can easily be copied or slightly changed as IT tools, tools and services are available to everybody, especially to the emerging markets. Speed has dramatically increased, innovation cycles have become shorter and shorter.

In our fast changing world, with its increasing hunger for innovation, an organization using only analytical management practices to enhance efficiency like ERP, CRM and six sigma won't succeed in the market in the long run. Leaders are aware of that missing out on innovation bears a high risk to success. The success of brands and businesses is highly dependent on customer satisfaction, on how their products, services and brands are experienced by the customer. Design is the way to build this bridge to the customer, to discover his needs and wants. Strategic design is a competitive advantage.

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the skill set of a strategic designer

strategic designers:

  • always put the user first - are empathic, but also have the business goals in mind
  • build a bridge to the users by design, discover their unarticulated needs and wants
  • start with the brand, with analysis, differentiation and positioning, not with symbols and color
  • conduct research, make sense of things, be aware of trends, 'connect the dots' and understand complexity
  • bridge research, insights, business strategy and design
  • are great communicators, prepare concise presentations and milestones for stakeholders
  • understand and speak the language of business and are able to communicate upwards, downwards and sideways
  • need endurance; change does not happen overnight
  • recognize that strategic design always has an impact on existing systems: the designer needs to be able to understand and manage the change that he sets in motion
  • build consensus in teams using visualization skills
  • generate, illustrate and share strategies using design methods
  • need to be 'T-shaped' team players
  • translate insights into tangible design attributes
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