Benjamin KirkDesign Strategy & Innovation MA
Guidelines for Educating Non-Designers in Organisations
How can organisations be given a better understanding of design?
A compelling argument already exists for why effective use of design can bring enormous value to organisations. Research from UK's Design council confirms that companies who are 'design led' are out-performing those which do not use design effectively. However, there are profound differences between the working methods and processes of designers and conventional business managers. For example, as Liedtka says, 'Business demands prove we've arrived at the correct answer' while in contrast, design has 'a penchant for doing rather than carrying out extensive prior planning' and has a very experimental approach. Furthermore, design is fundamentally very difficult to quantify. This goes against the control and measurability valued by most business executives. There is also evidence that design is largely misunderstood by non-designers to mean styling, rather than 'strategic problem solving' as the design industry would prefer it to be known. The consequences are poor multidisciplinary communication, which is a barrier to creativity and innovation.While the design profession is making in-roads to solving these problems by improving the business skills of designers, this is not enough to bridge the gap between designers and non-designers. The initial findings of the research reveal that design is almost completely absent from business education, and features as a small and often optional part of MBAs. Moreover, according to Hollins, 'when it is offered as an optional module, the take-up tends to be low... students are not convinced of the usefulness of the topic'. This leads to the key question of the research project: 'How can non-designers in organisations be given a good understanding of design?' The outcome of this research will be to create guidelines for effectively educating non- designers the methods and benefits of design. This research will first define what it means to have a 'good understanding' of design. This will be achieved through a series of expert interviews with design and business managers. The Design Management Institute's 'Value of Design' EU conference will provide valuable insights from both inside and outside the design industry, including discussions on 'Business Manager's Perceptions of Design Value'. This will help give a clear understanding of how design is currently perceived outside of the design profession, and identify benefits that could be gained by improving understanding. Some companies have schemes in place to educate their non-designers about design. It's expected that the final guidelines resulting from this research will recommend sustained training for non-designers in organisations, rather than a 'crash course' approach. It may also require a hands-on approach, where employees learn by 'becoming designers.'