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Design Management in a “People-driven” Economy

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Designers and managers are acting in our society in order to meet the needs of people. Design management is where the skills of designers and managers meet to design a better world.

Organisations are facing many difficulties in order to find new ways to grow when markets do not grow. They have to understand risk as an opportunity. Only a fraction of companies are able to survive when industries experience technological and strategic transitions. If stuck in a business box, organisations have to find a bigger box. When growth stagnates, organisations will need to capture more of their customers’ income through demand innovation and big box thinking. Let us take the example of Human Centred Design (HCD). How does it relate to “big box thinking”?

HCD is based on research on the needs of people and these needs are embedded in innovative artefacts. If you are able to integrate these innovative artefacts into an organisation, it means that the organisation has the same vision of the environment or of the needs to be satisfied. It also means that the organisation views design as a competency that helps the organisation defines its frontier with the environment.

Designers should then understand that the change towards these inclusive artefacts is both about innovative products for the portfolio but also about a new way to define the frontier, “a bigger box”. It is knowledge, a better understanding of customers’ demand and therefore a tool for strategy definition and competitive advantage. Designers are again change actors in a knowledge shift at the macro economical level.

Because our world has to turn the pyramid upside down, because we have to understand the value of the bottom of the pyramid, to empower those that are in contact with clients and those experts in empathy and human needs research, whether these are your sales staff or designers running user oriented creative workshops.

The value of design is the value of integrating this new mental image of our contemporary world. In short, design value is the value of design as research on people, holistic thinking, and prototyping and visualisation skills.

Integrating human centred attitude in organisations is not about integrating a new way to design products; it is about integrating a new way to design the organisation frontier and its ability to survive contemporary challenges.

Because our economy is now not any more industry driven but people driven. It is therefore the ability of empathy, observation and better understanding human needs that is strategic. Designers are researchers and they participate in the organisation “Think Tank” and vision of its frontier, its knowledge of where the world is going. When the organization has agreed that there should be a new vision, this new vision has to be shared by all functions in the organisation so “inclusive products” or imagining new services in the customer experience, all become prototypes or tangible experimentations of the future.

Our vision of design management is based on designers being researchers so our presentation will first focus on organisation theory, on how organisations research and use different metaphors to define themselves and finally on how these definitions limit or foster the potential of design in organisations.

Having positioned design at the frontier of the organisations, we understand Design Management not as managing a design project but as managing knowledge. Design Management scope is therefore the scientific domain shared by both design science and management science.

To define this common domain, we propose an interactive exercise for the second part of the presentation. We shall share with our peers, researchers in design, twelve models that from our view point are common to both communities. Discussions on the pertinence of these twelve models will give a hierarchy of importance and a vision of Design Management.

In conclusion, we shall come back to “Inclusive design” and “design for all” and see if these models can help in a better understanding of the value of design as change actor in organisations towards this “people driven” society.

Speaker: Senior Lecturer in Design Management at Brunel university, School of engineering and design since 2006. She starts in October 2008 as Director of research at Parsons Paris Design School.

She received her phd from Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne in 1985 in Business and her habilitation qualification to supervise phd students in 2000 . Her phd was the first phd on design in management science. From 1993 to 2006, she was assistant professor and taught strategy and marketing first at Université Paris V, then at Université Paris X. She was also a member of the research laboratory CEROS .

As a researcher she specializes in Design Management and was in charge of research for the Design Management Institute (Boston) between 1994 and 2004. She chaired and organized their international research conference in various universities and was nominated DMI Life Fellow in 2004.

She teaches Design Management at ESSEC Business school and in numerous master programs in France. She created professional seminars in Design Management with the Centre Design Rhône Alpes in Lyon. And she regularly writes in their publications.

She is a founding member of the European Academy of Design and on editorial boards of research journals, Design expert for OAMI (European office for trademarks and designs). She has written the reference book “Design Management“, regularly updated since 1990 and now translated into ten languages. She is a consultant for corporations on their Design Management strategy and Balanced Scorecard.

She started her career as a manager (buyer) in Au Printemps department store and as CEO of an import and marketing company distributing Designers’ products.

This talk is part of the Engineering Design Centre series.

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