Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Design as a competitive advantage.

Fast Company's cover story on design ("The United States of Design") is a must-read for any business leader looking to find a sustainable source of differentiation.  Its central point is that design's strategic value is not just in improving the product offering but in rethinking the entire way businesses operate.

I've written on several occasions about the value of embracing design thinking as a business discipline, not as an aesthetic process.  Design thinking forces executives to view the world from the customer's standpoint. It focuses on the overall experience and not just the tangible product. It requires reductive thinking. All of which are extremely healthy business practices, not design practices.

Design as a business strategy and source of differentiation was embraced years ago by early adopters like Hermann Miller, Apple, Kohler and Target.  Now companies as diverse as McDonalds, 3M, Black and Decker, Jawbone and Method are following suit.

As Fast Company points out, the value and power of design is misunderstood in many companies.  In fact, David Butler, coke's head of global design, jettisoned the squishy D-word and instead talked about how his team can "make stuff better."

Fahrenheit 212's Mark Payne notes that "design is differentiation made visible, visceral and experiential."  Well put.

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