Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A case for design in Business - Part 1

I've decided to start using this blog to document my research process.

I'm currently in the process of writing an essay on how design and business can benefit from each other, and the overlaps that already exist. I believe business needs design to be successful in the current economy and society; not design limited to products or graphics or even adds, but systems design, experience design, service design and organizational design. Likewise, design cannot accomplish it's goals without the tools of business; it a capitalist climate, businesses have power and design must harness those tools.

The first source I've begun to look at is an essay by Bryan smith in "The Fifth Discipline Field Book." The essay focuses on the importance of creating a vision within a company, and describes a strategy companies can use to create a shared vision. The developmental strategies allow the leaders to listen and the rest to lead, allowing a cohesive flow of information and movement in the organization (313-314).

There are five stages to a shared vision.

  1. Telling: In this case the boss has the power and knows the vision, and instructs the organization as they fit (314). This leads to an authoritarian boss and passive members; this is a path of least resistance and tend to work well in a crisis (315). In order for telling to work, the boss must be clear and concise, truthful, realistic, and consistent. It's also important that what is and isn't negotiable is clear. The downsides are that people don't always hear the whole message, and while they may comply they often don't commit (316-317)
  2. Selling: While the  boss knows the vision, they must attain the approval by showing the benefits("buy-in") of the rest of the organization (314). Selling only works if people truly buy in and are not manipulated into buying in. Furthermore, there must be channels for feedback, positive relationships with employees and a sense of unity (we the company, not I the boss). the downside is that sometimes people go with the flow because it's easiest, rather than honestly buying in (317-318).
  3. Testing: The boss has ideas about the vision, but gathers feedback from the organization before proceeding(314). Tests must be informative to gather accurate information, they must be clear and bias-free, and protect people's privacy. Tests should combine questionnaires with in-person interviews to gather a variety of feedback, and measure the function, motives and utility, Note that the test can only convey a limited amount of information, not the full range of ideas/concerns an employee may have (319-320).
  4. Consulting: The boss creates the vision with creative input from the rest of the organization(314). The organization has moved into this phase after they start to integrate tools such as focus groups. The process of consulting can be difficult, and must be protected against distortions, The cascade process may be useful; begin at the top and have teams of a bos and their subordinates discuss the vision/change. Then have those members go to their subordinates to discuss and so forth. It is important to avoid "telling" while consulting, and to gather feedback about the process itself from members (321-322). This method is still liited as it seeks vision from the top rather than the whole (322).
  5. Co-Creation: The visions is built collaboratively by all members of the organization(314) A creative environment fosters active participation from all members and leads to a healthier organization (315). This is the ultimate goal for creating a holistic vision that builds from the foundation of the company (the workers) and connects all visions throughout the company (322).

It is interesting to note that the ultimate goal is a dispersion of power and a creative climate, rather than a hierarchy with the boss at the top,  which is actually seen as the lowest stage of the development. For creation to work there are many steps that must take place including:

  • Personal visions must be recognized and understood: people have unique visions / concerns for the organization and ideas - recognizing them will give members a sense of ownership (323-324)
  • All members must be treated as equals: often the bosses' ideas travel down throughout the company quickly and easily. this speed and ease must be given to the ideas of subordinates so they travel up and are known by the bosses (324)
  • Alignment is desired over agreement: Rather than focus on reaching a "resolution" teams should seek to identify the causes of disagreements; skillful discussion & dialogue can help this process (324)
  • Interdependence and diversity should be encouraged: Teams may find it beneficial to align themselves with other teams, leading to powerful interconnections in the organization (324-325)
  • Let people speak for themselves: do not allow people to make assumptions in how others in the team or organization think, act or react - On a related note, nurture reverence for each other and expect nothing but respect for other peoples opinions. Avoid sampling- let all members speak, not just a select few (325)
  • Use a guided point of reference - an interim vision: this can be used to ensure that the visions from different levels are aligning and it is important to recognize how the do and don't (326)
  • Focus on dialogue, not just the outcomes: The dialogue is where the most valuable information lies (326)

Co-creation is a tool used more and more commonly. This essay recognizes the power of such as tool, and notes that the traditional power structure will not be successful in the future. By focusing only of the goals of shareholders, or the quantitative outcomes, the needs of the members are ignored. In order to succeed, organizations must "meet people's deep need to feel their aspiration fit with larger purpose" (327-328).

Smith, B. (1994). Building shared vision: How to begin. The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, 312-328.

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