design as organizational capabilities

Design has emerged as an important function for business. The success of Apple, Nike, P&G and Samsung all points to the preeminent importance of design. They also point to a particular type of design approach, which is often referred to as design thinking. Design consulting firms like IDEO, Frog and Design Continuum are playing increasingly important roles in the business world. Traditional management consulting firms like McKinsey and Accenture are coming out with their own version of design approaches. Many business schools including Fox Business School, Weatherhead School, and Rottman School are making concerted and deliberate efforts to bring design into MBA curriculum. AACSB is offering design thinking curriculum workshops, which I have been a part of.

What I feel missing in all of this is the discussion at the management and organizational level about design as organizational capabilities. Much of the discussions I see are taking place at the individual level – skills, methods, tools, and processes. We are not seeing much discussion around how to organize design organizations and its relationship with other functions in organizations. How can we embedded design activities together with other organizational activities? What type of design tools should we use together with other tools? What is the idea relationship between design, marketing, engineering and operation? How do we make business cases for design investments? What are the proper relationship between CEO and design group? Should we have Chief Design Officer, if so, where does he/she belong? What is the proper form of governance structure of design functions when there are multiple design capabilities throughout an organizations. Perhaps, exploring these questions will help us bring design closer to management.

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