What To Teach People Designing Businesses?

Business Week’s NussbaumOnDesign recently posted an interesting article on “How Should We Educate Designers? And For What?”

Nussbaum noted that:

The business model is shifting away from mere efficiency to innovation and that requires a different culture and people able to operate in that culture.

Consequently,

. . . corporations should be looking to design schools for talent. B-Schools teach people how to take an existing problem and break it down into its parts to solve it. D-Schools teach people how to define a problem, search for possible solutions by integrating information and iterating options. If you’re looking to build an innovation culture, that’s what you want.

Hence, a “fascinating discussion is [now] under way in the D-School space over just what to teach designers.”

For Nussbaum (in his last few posts on the matter), the key issue has been what he characterises as “form” vs. “design thinking”:

The debate over design education revolves around what you need to teach to develop a “design personality.” Many argue that you need to teach form-making as a key basis for design. Others say that you should focus on design thinking, the conceptual methodology of design that allows designers to deal with strategy and business process.

Nussbaum claims that producing good form can become essentially a commodity process:

Since putting ideas into form–prototypes, videos–provides so much information and allows people to make choices fast, it would be great for all design education to include it. At the same time, there are lots of folks around the world these days, especially in China, who can design great form. What is most in demand in the US and Europe are people who can think in design way. .

I don’t see design thinking and design form as a conflicting pair of opposites. You need design thinking to produce good form. And part of that design thinking is an iterative, customer-centered approach that puts the idea into form (prototypes etc) for concept testing and feedback early in the process.

Whether you produce a designed item in China or the USA or Sweden or Australia, if it is not well designed before it is well produced then you don’t end up with the same excellent product, well suited to its market. And if you are applying design principles to design a business, then the issues of Chinese manufacturing capabilities are even less relevant

As Nussbaum reports, “today, design thinking is hot.” But in teaching design and applying it to business problems, I don’t see any reason to artificially separate “form” from “design thinking.” They are inter-related.

But maybe I misunderstand Nussbaum. Feel free to leave a comment and set me straight!

3 Responses to What To Teach People Designing Businesses?
  1. d.sless@communication.org.au
    March 27, 2007 | 12:13 PM

    Nussbaum is a journalist. He makes an interesting point, but not a new one. business is interested in many things, including being fashionable.

    I see this type of 'debate' as another manifestation of the fashion industry. There are fashions in ideas as well as clothing, furniture, info tech, and almost any other aspect of contemporary life. That is a fact of contemporary life. If you want to be fashionable, go with the flow. Otherwise, there is serious work to do.

  2. Joyce
    March 27, 2007 | 8:59 PM

    It's a shame that NussBaum probably hasn't read or heard of Schön's reflexion in action. Wouldn't that end this debate. You're right that form requires thinking, and thinking is influenced by interacting with form.

    Your point of view seems to be quite interesting. I've syndicated your blog. You're welcome to take a look at my work on design research at http://www.consciencedesign.ca/blog/

    Ciao.

  3. Anonymous
    April 9, 2007 | 10:27 AM

    Love Donald Schön. For anyone who hasn't checked him out

    http://educ.queensu.ca/~ar/schon87.htm

    And here's a piece that appears, at first glance, to be against design-thinking but is really advocating both thinking and doing

    Design Schools: Please Start Teaching Design Again

    http://www.adaptivepath.com/blog/2007/03/06/design-schools-please-start-teaching-design-again/

What To Teach People Designing Businesses?

Business Week’s NussbaumOnDesign recently posted an interesting article on “How Should We Educate Designers? And For What?”

Nussbaum noted that:

The business model is shifting away from mere efficiency to innovation and that requires a different culture and people able to operate in that culture.

Consequently,

. . . corporations should be looking to design schools for talent. B-Schools teach people how to take an existing problem and break it down into its parts to solve it. D-Schools teach people how to define a problem, search for possible solutions by integrating information and iterating options. If you’re looking to build an innovation culture, that’s what you want.

Hence, a “fascinating discussion is [now] under way in the D-School space over just what to teach designers.”

For Nussbaum (in his last few posts on the matter), the key issue has been what he characterises as “form” vs. “design thinking”:

The debate over design education revolves around what you need to teach to develop a “design personality.” Many argue that you need to teach form-making as a key basis for design. Others say that you should focus on design thinking, the conceptual methodology of design that allows designers to deal with strategy and business process.

Nussbaum claims that producing good form can become essentially a commodity process:

Since putting ideas into form–prototypes, videos–provides so much information and allows people to make choices fast, it would be great for all design education to include it. At the same time, there are lots of folks around the world these days, especially in China, who can design great form. What is most in demand in the US and Europe are people who can think in design way. .

I don’t see design thinking and design form as a conflicting pair of opposites. You need design thinking to produce good form. And part of that design thinking is an iterative, customer-centered approach that puts the idea into form (prototypes etc) for concept testing and feedback early in the process.

Whether you produce a designed item in China or the USA or Sweden or Australia, if it is not well designed before it is well produced then you don’t end up with the same excellent product, well suited to its market. And if you are applying design principles to design a business, then the issues of Chinese manufacturing capabilities are even less relevant

As Nussbaum reports, “today, design thinking is hot.” But in teaching design and applying it to business problems, I don’t see any reason to artificially separate “form” from “design thinking.” They are inter-related.

But maybe I misunderstand Nussbaum. Feel free to leave a comment and set me straight!

3 Responses to What To Teach People Designing Businesses?
  1. d.sless@communication.org.au
    March 27, 2007 | 12:13 PM

    Nussbaum is a journalist. He makes an interesting point, but not a new one. business is interested in many things, including being fashionable.

    I see this type of 'debate' as another manifestation of the fashion industry. There are fashions in ideas as well as clothing, furniture, info tech, and almost any other aspect of contemporary life. That is a fact of contemporary life. If you want to be fashionable, go with the flow. Otherwise, there is serious work to do.

  2. Joyce
    March 27, 2007 | 8:59 PM

    It's a shame that NussBaum probably hasn't read or heard of Schön's reflexion in action. Wouldn't that end this debate. You're right that form requires thinking, and thinking is influenced by interacting with form.

    Your point of view seems to be quite interesting. I've syndicated your blog. You're welcome to take a look at my work on design research at http://www.consciencedesign.ca/blog/

    Ciao.

  3. Anonymous
    April 9, 2007 | 10:27 AM

    Love Donald Schön. For anyone who hasn't checked him out

    http://educ.queensu.ca/~ar/schon87.htm

    And here's a piece that appears, at first glance, to be against design-thinking but is really advocating both thinking and doing

    Design Schools: Please Start Teaching Design Again

    http://www.adaptivepath.com/blog/2007/03/06/design-schools-please-start-teaching-design-again/