Recently I had a chance to share with our corporate partners my thoughts on design and how we approach it at the Weatherhead School.
Design is often mistaken as a superficial gimmick: how to make our products look good, how to make our service more delightful, and how to change our packaging. All of these are correct. However, design is much more fundamental. What Steve Jobs did at Apple, for example, was not just a superficial gimmick. He built an organization that operates with a fundamentally different DNA, centered around design. Although Apple has a relatively small professional design team, everyone in the company feels he or she is a designer, whether in engineering or marketing. It is no accident that every product has an engraving of “Designed by Apple.” Apple sees itself as a design company.
As design thinking becomes popular, the biggest risk I see is companies embracing design thinking as a shallow, gimmicky, short-term solution. With design as a short-term goal, these companies may see gains, but they will not experience the type of growth and success Apple and Samsung have enjoyed. In order to generate substantial and sustained gains via design thinking, companies must see design as one of their core capabilities, integrating it into all aspects of their business operation and treating it as an essential element of leadership. I believe what we offer at Weatherhead provides these fundamental insights and tools to our partners.