Design on the strategic agenda

Concepts like design thinking, service design, and customer experience design have increasingly become part of the business and management vocabulary over the last few years. 

And while there’s definitely plenty of buzz, there’s a lot more to it than that. Design is becoming an important strategic tool for private as well as public organizations that increasingly need to innovate and solve new problems to succeed.

A source of innovation and growth

Of course, we’re not just talking about design in terms of aesthetics – as important as that is. Rather, it’s about adapting design-tools across organizational functions to create innovative solutions and new value, whether that’s in products, services or organizational development.

That’s why we’re seeing large companies increasingly internalize and integrate design capabilities and perspectives; not just in product development or marketing, but also at management level and in strategic functions. It’s also the reason that major management consultancies like for example Accenture are expanding their portfolios by building or acquiring dedicated design divisions.


Maybe even more convincing, it’s not just a few first movers that are setting the agenda. At the public and institutional levels, governments and business organizations are investing heavily in building strategic design capabilities. One example is the Danish PLUS-program, which aims to advance strategic design capabilities in SME’s. Another, the Design for Europe-initiative, explicitly aims to promote and support design as a driver for growth and innovation across the EU, in commercial companies as well as in the public sector.

From strategic thinking to design practice

Of course, acknowledging the potential – and importance – of design in strategic thinking is only part of the equation. At the core, design is about creating viable solutions that work, and achieving that also requires the ability to execute. Building the right organizational capabilities and processes to do that takes time as well as dedication.

That involves bringing the right mix of people together at different stages of the project, internally as well as on the client side. Fundamental for that to succeed is a solid understanding of the design process and an experienced project management team that is able to drive that process in the right tempo.

At the end of the day, design – like any other strategic tool – only offers that return on investment if you manage to follow through.


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