Where does it exist? D-Schools Or B-Schools?
by Idris Mootee
Someone asked me who the design head is in our company. I am not sure. My answer would be everyone. Everyone is a strategist and everyone is a designer (or design thinker) in our company. We understood long ago that strategy doesn’t necessarily come from a strategist, and that a design idea doesn’t necessarily come from a designer. Design wants to change the world and often ends up over-thinking and under-doing. Strategy wants to change the world but often is stuck in an old paradigm of management. Strategy, management and design are not what they used to be.
Strategy is distancing itself from competition and innovation is distancing itself from invention. Strategy now needs design and design needs strategy in order to have impact. I met John Maeda today and his idea of the difference between art and design is that design should be ‘relevant’ and art should be ‘free’, and design is ‘producable’ where art is ‘imaginable’. Those are good observations.
Let’s come back to business strategy for a moment, if strategy is predictable then innovation is unknown. Business schools are not very good at teaching people to see, imagine, conceptualize, and visualize the future. Design schools are very good at training people to imagine and ask questions, but terrible at understanding from a system view how the world works.
Strategys ultimate goal is to create power and exercise it to your benefit. Design’s ultimate goal is to come up with solutions to a predefined problem. Art’s goal is to ask questions and reflect on some of our paradoxes and express deeper concepts that sometimes words fail to do. If strategy is ultimately about effectively exercising power, the answers to these questions may convey a good deal about how we think strategically. There is ample ground to conclude that our ability simply to cope with, much less shape, a future of pronounced complexity, uncertainty, and turbulence will depend in large measure on the prevalence of strategic thinkers in our midst. Ideas and the ability to generate them seems increasingly likely, in fact, to be more important than capital and weapons.
We need thinkers that have the intellect to dissect the status quo, grasp the big picture, discern important relationships among events, understand causation and events, generate imaginative possibilities to inspire, and operate easily in the conceptual realm as well as understand execution and change. However, this kind of integrated creativity simply does not exist today.
As Maeda puts it, “Right now, our nation sees left-brain thinking, focused on logic and reasoning, as critical to future economic development. You can see this in the emphasis on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects. What’s missing from STEM is right brain thinking — embodied by what I call the key “IDEA” (Intuition, Design, Emotion, Art) subjects. We need both both halves of the brain to work together and channel brilliance through our hands, and to propagate ideas throughout our world.” That’s what we meant by the power of D-schools + B-schools.
Idris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.