The Overlap Between Design and Business

Unfortunately I can't make it to the Overlap Conference, which is taking place in California these days. It's a place where the *design world* and the *business world* will melt together to one. Exciting new multidisciplinary and collaborative approaches to business will be discussed in a wonderful environment.

Since I can't be there I thought I'll spend some time on discovering some new insights about the overlap between design and business on my own (new to me that is ;-) I did this by finally digging out a short paper that has long collected dust in my reading list: "Leveraging Design's Core Competencies" by Chris Conley in the Design Management Review. In addition, I "turned on" some music streamed over the Internet by Pandora (they call themselves the Music Genome Project). It's the first time I'm using this custom-designed music service and it's serving me 2Pac's "Life Goes On"...

Back to my exploration of business & design: Conley's paper is really interesting. It uncovers some of the potential that the design approach can bring to business. He identifies 7 core competencies of the designer, which make them fit for infusing new energy into the business world.

  • The ability to understand the context or circumstances of a design problem and frame them in an insightful way;
  • The ability to work at a level of abstraction appropriate to the situation at hand;
  • The ability to model and visualize solutions even with imperfect information;
  • An approach to problem solving that involves the simultaneous creation and evaluation of multiple alternatives;
  • The ability to add or maintain value as pieces are integrated into a whole;
  • The ability to establish purposeful relationships among elements of a solution and between the solution and its context;
  • The ability to use form to embody ideas and to communicate their value.

Of course many business executives also dispose of at least some of these competencies. However, they rarely see them as crucial in their daily work. For designers these ARE their core competencies. They see them as essential in their daily work. I found it interesting to read how Conley illustrates with some examples in his paper how designers have brought their competencies and tools to the business world.

I am really looking forward to the day when more designers become key partners in business executive teams. Then they will be able to infuse some of their tools & techniques in addition to the currently dominating (and limited) business analytics. So it's not about business people becoming designers and it's not about designers becoming business people... It's about exploring the overlap of the two worlds in order to tap into unexplored and powerful potential.