The Power of Design for Business

Most of my career has been focused on the methods, skills, tools, and overall approach to design as well as on optimizing design outcomes. I've written a book and numerous articles and blog posts on those topics. I've spent time over the past few years on the business of design and on the design of business. And for both, the words of IBM's second CEO Thomas Watson Jr. are as relevant today as they were in 1971 when he spoke them, "Good design is good business".

We spend about 11 percent of our time on entertainment but more than three times that on work. Much of the investment in design over the past few decades though has been spent on the design related to that portion of our time we spend on entertainment. Comparatively little has been spent on the design of things we use at work and the ways we connect with companies digitally. Just take a look at the screens that can be viewed in public like those used by airline agents, store clerks, doctor's office staff, restaurant servers, and most office workers. Many of those screens look like they should be in a technology museum. Small wonder that 80-90 percent of workers feel stressed. No doubt this isn't entirely due to their experiences in using technology on the job but it likely represents a significant portion of it. Included in this world of work are the clients of companies who often have to struggle through badly designed websites and apps. And, increasingly, it is the digital experience with a company that is the primary and most important experience clients have with a company. 

The company I work for, IBM, was the first to introduce a corporate wide design program in 1956 and we are again focused maniacally on design, in fact, directly addressing the design of work and design for the enterprise. Transforming the company to work in this way is described well in a recent New York Times article and in a Forrester Report.  

Most companies realize now that they need to focus on design as they move rapidly into a digital, cloud-based, big-data, social, and mobile enabled world. They often appropriately look for professional help in creating their new digital properties. Given IBM's experience in driving a major design transformation, I'm often asked to meet with clients to outline the key ingredients of a successful design transformation. In addition to sharing our lessons learned, I also like to talk less and do more by actually involving the senior executives of companies in a workshop that provides them with an experiential, hands-on feel for the power of some of the approaches. They glean insights, gain new perspectives, and learn how our design framework and transformational practices can help them not only drive the design of an awesome client experience with their digital properties but also in transforming their entire companies. 

While the craft of design guided by a framework can be used to create products, apps, and systems, the general approach of the framework can be used by all employees of a company to ensure a maniacal focus on the client experience at all levels. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me personally to help companies learn how they can use the power of design for their businesses and how our services organizations can then help them realize that power for their business outcomes.