Design in the Boardroom

I am grateful to Michael Johnson for the ideas behind some of the thinking in this post. His piece ‘Mind the Gap‘ seeks to highlight the “gap” that exists between the two disciplines of ‘strategy’ and ‘design’.

Often, the ‘gap’ manifests itself as a gap between the client brief and the required solution. As Michael puts it, the brief will often refer to “the nuts and bolts of branding – logos, colours, typefaces, photos, etc. But before any of that can happen, decisions have to be made which are much closer to corporate strategy. Questions like ‘why are we here?’, ‘what’s our purpose?’, ‘what makes us unique?’ ”

‘Design’ risks becoming irrelevant if it is not connected to more fundamental business values and objectives. As Michael says further on in his post: “to start the design in the right place, we need an agreed strategy (otherwise, the design, however brilliant, might simply supply the right solution to the wrong problem).”

I have written elsewhere of the pitfalls of obsessive strategising, however (and Michael’s piece warns against the “jargon” of strategy). But my intention is not to warn against doing or having a ‘strategy’, but to encourage a new approach to what is too-often a laboured process which diverts attention away from real business challenges and opportunities.

In my view, businesses should learn more as they go – testing, reviewing, evaluating on an ongoing basis, and using this learning-by-doing as a way of thinking through future challenges and opportunities.

It’s no co-incidence that this is a language and methodology learned from Design. The key here is not to push design into a secondary role – to separate the ‘strategy’ from the ‘design’, the thinking from the doing. Ultimately, this is about moving Design up the ‘value-chain’: understanding that ‘design’ works best not as an afterthought, but as a core part of the decision-making process – driving strategy, not reflecting it.






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