Strategic Design Thinking – Day 1

Photo: Saskia Coulson

Professor Tom Inns managed to drive all design masters students (from product, services and ethnography courses) together in the world of business strategy. And did it pretty well.

In the morning we did a very interesting exercise: a tree of knowledge.

Basically, you use a tree template to draw your own knowledge.

  1. Firstly you make the roots – the basis of your knowledge such as degrees, courses, professional and other experiences
  2. Then you build the body of the three with branches of expertise and areas of interest – what you are good at or like to do and talk about.
  3. In the end you put fruits and leaves – the outputs of your applied knowledge or the results of your work.

You can have a look at some of the results at Joyce’s and Sarah’s Intagrams or all of them on this PDF.

The whole talking reminds me of another tree with an well-known fruit…

It is quite interesting technique to break the ice and get people from different backgrounds knowing and working together really quickly. I am totally using it someday.

This module reminds of how most of the time the design community seems to be blind to what the business world needs. Which is very interesting since design, by most definitions, is intrinsically connected to business in many ways.

Very often I hear colleagues complaining that managers “don’t get it”, but the truth is that designers (and I include myself in here) does not understand the business environment they are in, or the minds that drive the company they (we) work for. And this is very dangerous.

Since 2007 I have done a little bit of homework trying to get what happens on “business people” minds. Guys like Peter Drucker, Jack Welch and Ricardo Semler has so many things to teach and many of their books / articles are very reader-friendly, written in a very accessible language, I think.

Drucker talks a lot about innovation and if you know what design does it is actually about design, one of his most famous quotes is:

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

If you are a little bit open to what design is you can see how it relates and even increase the power of these two things.

Here is an idea to my designer friends:

Take a time of e design thinking world, try to understand the basis of business world, it will help a LOT next time you need to present a result / concept / idea to the top management at your client / employer.

My initial tips would be:

Peter Drucker – Post-Capitalist Society – Almost 20 years and still very good. It is nice to how he much he forecasted now that we know how things ended – like about China and Brazil been such big players nowadays.

Jack Welch – Winning – He kind of analyse his work at General Electric and have many interesting insights for anyone who wants to step into the corporate world. Really useful stuff! (Thanks to my uncle Hilgo who gave me as a gift in 2010).

Ricardo Semler – Maverick! : The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace – This Brazilian young and rebellious son of a business man he managed to reinvent his company in so many different levels that he became a worldwide figure. With lessons on inclusion, democracy and empowerment Semler shows how is possible to “manage without managers”. On top of that, it is a very fun reading.

Semler teaching at MIT like a boss.

(If you like it, check 7 days weekend as well).


Now back to Tom’s class.

In the afternoon we analysed four cases from Harvard Business Review:

  • Alessy – Talking about how Italian designers and manufacturers join forces to produce innovative products with high profit margins – such as the famous squeezer.
 Always him…
  • General Electric – About how they shifted: from a company that exported and poorly adapted products from US to many other countries to a more inclusive model capable of develop more local and efficient solutions.
  • P&G – On how Procter & Gamble engaged suppliers, Universities, Laboratories and many other players though networks being able to search for ready-made solutions – instead of building them from scratch at their labs –  and also using these networks to monitor opportunities worldwide.
  • Nintendo – A classic: how Nintendo moved from the high competitive same old gaming war  (faster processors / better graphics) to focus on non-gamers with the Nintendo Wii.

Way more innovative than Kinect…

Personally, I like the Nintendo way of think in the sense of the blue ocean.

Bla bla bla… (I think I need a haircut…) Photo: Saskia Coulson

Your market is too competitive? Why not invent a brand new one?

Looking forward to the rest of the week.


One thought on “Strategic Design Thinking – Day 1

  1. Though let’s remind ourselves that business is often blind to what business needs to 😉 EG lots of lovely anthropology of organisations by people like Marietta Baba reveals exactly that.

Leave a Reply to Cat Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *