Set aside whatever you previously learned about business development or any traditional thoughts you had towards building and growing a business. A strategic design approach requires a unique mindset that is radically different from what you thought you knew. Once you have the ability to challenge the norm, think outside the box and have a deep desire to see beyond the current challenge, then you can overcome any situation. We laugh at the idea, but we say the definition of madness is doing the same thing time and again, yet expecting a different result. However, in business we see and do this every day.
Strategic design, design thinking or an agile approach are not new concepts, they have been around for years, yet individuals that have the ability to think laterally or ask ‘why’ are only now being recognised as an alternative to providing innovative solutions. The days where someone with these abilities are not at the boardroom table are few and far between. Take Apple for example and its founder Steve Jobs, he was the godfather of wanting to build an innovative company where he applied a strategic design approach. He revolutionised the technology industry and the lives of millions of customers who use Apple products daily. Nothing embodies his commitment to Strategic Design more than his famous quote, where he says that “Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.”
He established a design culture where the company was a catalyst for ideation, innovation, and the development of Apple’s iconic products. Yes, there are those that will say he was difficult, an eccentric, an over achiever to the point of madness, but in my opinion, you have to break eggs to make omelette’s. I do believe that in the long term, an inquisitive and curious mind that is open, unites a diverse group of people and any ideas they formulate, can enable effective collaboration and change. When we genuinely look at a problem, we need to see it as a challenge or opportunity to learn. This in turn allows us to discover the solutions together. Too often we approach a challenge with a glass half empty attitude, when in fact any problem should be a catalyst to change for the better.
Again if we look at Apple, they revolutionised the use of iterative design and development to design and build their products using highly diverse teams with design skills across various departments. However, even after their products were manufactured, tested and reviewed, the design team continued to make improvements to their products. Embracing failure, is at the core of why they exist. With a purpose of ‘Think Different’ they completely embody this mindset.
As a design and brand strategy company, we understand that at its most simplistic form, people buy from people. Therefore, we can see the value in having the core elements of a vision, mission and purpose in place and the values that underpin these. Again, in its most simplistic format, we see four core elements as a necessity in every business; Operations (processes and methodologies to achieve this), Sales & Marketing, People and Financial. Regardless of the size of the business, knowledge in these areas is the cornerstone to success. As a company grows, these four areas merely become departments. A design strategist is a master at jigsaws and when presented with any challenge, this base knowledge enables them to see the problem from every angle and suggest meaningful solutions.
In summary, Strategic Design is the future of business because it puts design first in everything you do as opposed to being an afterthought for most companies. It also goes way beyond design methodologies or as some see it, the creation of assets; websites, brochures and other visual material, and into the very foundations of an organisation. Whilst a lot of design and marketing methodologies are typically a bottom up approach that focus on customers and end users, Strategic Design is a top down approach that requires the business owner to completely embrace the idea that designing solutions is the only way forward.