Design Thinking at the Weatherhead School

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 Thinking Q+A with Youngjin Yoo, PhD//

축적의 시간

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지난번 서울에 가서 최근 관심을 받고 있는 “축적의 시간”을 읽었다. 서울대 공대 교수님들이 최근 한국 경제의 상황을 보고 앞으로 나가야 할 방향을 제시한 책이라고 해서 관심을 가지고 읽었다. 주요 내용은 다음과 같다. 한국 경제는 지난 50년 엄청난 발전을 했다. 그 발전의 핵심은 집중과 선택을 통한 압축 성장이다. 그것을 위해서 선진국이 개발한 모델을 빨리 상업화 하는 성공을 했고, 그것이 한국기업들이 세계적인 기업으로 성장을 하는데에 밑바탕이 되었다. 그러나, 이제 그런 모델은 한계점에 도달했다. 이와 같은 한계점의 핵심에는 한국기업와 한국인들에게 부족한 개념디자인의 능력이며, 그와 같은 개념 디자인의 능력은 축적의 시간을 통해서만 이루어질 수 있다. 이것이 대충 전체적인 내용이다. 이와 같은 내용이 각 세부분야별로 나누어져서 구체적이고 반복적으로 다루어져 있다. 이 책을 읽고 다음과 같은 생각이 든다. 

1. 축적의 시간 – 이것은 과거에 윤석철 교수님께서 “우회축적”이라는 개념으로 설명을 했었던 내용이다. 왜 이 내용이 새삼스러운 내용이 되는지 잘 모르겠다. 한국의 근대 개발사의 측면에서 보면 참으로 안타까운 일이라고 생각이 된다.

2. 개념디자인 능력의 부재 – 개념디자인 능력의 부재는 근대에 들어와서 생긴 문제라고 생각이 된다. 역사적으로 보면 한국 민족은 많은 새로운 개념을 만들어 낸 경험을 가지고 있다. 빨리 정답부터 찾아야만 하는 생존의 조급함에서 나온 행태가 개념을 깊이 생각지 않는 그런 상황으로 가지고 같다고 볼 수 있다. 또 다른 하나는, 개념디자인을 우리가 다 못하는 것은 아니다. 개념디자인을 해도 그런 개념디자인이 먹혀 들어가지 않는 조직 문화적, 구조적, 정치적 문제를 함께 생각할 필요가 있다. 

3. 정답이 없다 – 가장 답답했던 부분은 이 책을 읽어도 뾰족한 답이 없다. 책의 대부분이 문제제기이다. 그리고 그 문제도 한국 경제와 조직 시스템에 관심을 가지고 있는 사람이면 한두번쯤은 고민을 했을 부분이다. 그런 부분을 자신의 개인적인 경험과 주관적인 생각을 중심으로 다루고 있다. 그래서 어떤 학문적인, 체계적인, 검증이 된 답이 보이질 않는다. 어떤 의미에서 개념디자인이 없는 정담이라고 할까? 

4. 경영대교수님들은 뭘 하고 있나? – 그래도 공과대학교수님들은 자신들의 돈으로 자신들의 시간으로 이런 책이라도 내는데, 기업 경영과 가장 가까운 거리에 서있는 서울대경영학과 교수님들은 지금 뭘하고 있을까? 

T-mobile’s Deceptive Business Practice

My family switched to T-mobile in June 2015. We switched to it because they offer free international data roaming. We were happy. Then in October, new iPhone 6s came out. Ever since then, it was nothing but a disaster and it all had to do with T-mobile’s deceptive business practices. I have had three separate instances. They all have the same kernel of the story.

1. Did I send my iPhone 6 for only $7 per month?

My younger son wanted to upgrade his iPhone 6 to iPhone 6S when it came out. So I called t-mobile. The person told me that t-mobile has a new program called, Jump! On Demand, under which they will send me a new phone and remove the balance of our old phone (his phone was financed through t-mobile) once I send our old phone to them. They told me that I will not be making any more payment for the old phone once they receive his old iPhone 6. So I agreed to upgrade. They told me that the new phone will come with a return label. But the label was never sent to me. So, I had to call t-mobile to get an RMA code to retrieve a return label. To my surprise, the return label did not include any tracking information as it was a plain USPS parcel service. That was mid-October. Since I had no tracking number, I had no way of checking if they indeed receive the phone. I spoke to T-mobile representatives several times since then. All of them told me not to worry and they would eventually find the phone. They assured me that once the phone is recovered, they would remove all the monthly charges for the old phone and the balance of the phone. That has not happened yet. Instead, t-mobile just sent me an email that they cannot the locate the phone. Furthermore, they are now saying that they never promised that they would remove the balance of the old phone. Instead, they were going to give me $7 promotional discount on the new phone. Essentially, they switched their program after luring me into giving up my old phone which I could have sold through eBay. I would have never agreed to upgrade the phone if that was the deal. So, essentially, they made me to get a new phone and I am paying for two phones at the moment. And, they took my old phone and giving me essentially about $156 ($7 discount for a year). I feel this is totally deceptive, bate and switch!

2. We cannot locate your iPhone again

Shortly after my son got his new iPhone, my wife wanted to get rid of her Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. We went to the t-mobile store. The guy there told us that we could upgrade to Jump! On Demand. The only problem was that her Galaxy had a hairline crack on the screen. So, they could not swap her old phone with a new one (which would have not worked out anyway, given what I know now), he told me that I should trade in “any working phone” to get trade-in credit which can be applied toward the balance of her Galaxy phone. Since I had an iPhone 6 that I was not using any more, I showed them the phone. They told me that they would give us $317 for it. So, we did upgrade. Again, the return label did not come. So, I called t-mobile to RMA code and retrieve the return label. Using the same USPS non-traceable parcel service, I sent my old iPhone 6. Once again, I never received any acknowledgement of the receipt of the phone. I started calling t-mobile for this phone as well. They could not again locate the phone. But their web site clearly says that they received the phone and changed the quote to $309 (citing that it was a different model), which suggests that the phone was actually received. Yet, no credit was given as of today. Furthermore, they say that they would never give us the full credit anyway. By giving up my old iPhone, i would be receiving $7 monthly discount (which I do not think I ever received for my wife’s phone). 

3. We thought you are trading in two phones

Few weeks ago, my older son called me to complain about the call quality. He said he wanted to call t-mobile to see if they would do anything. I told him that they would not do anything. He called anyway, and I was wrong. They suggested that he should upgrade his phone (iPhone 6+) to iPhone 6S. Again, they promised him that there will be no out of pocket cost since if he sends his old phone, that will cover the downpayment and they would remove the balance of the equipment charge that we still owe. My son told me that no purchase was made and he only inquired about the deal and asked me to call them. To my surprise, when I called them two hours later, the person told me that the purchase was done and all the money was charged to my account. And, she repeated the same deal – no extra charge and old phone charge will be removed. So, he received the new phone. Again, no return label was provided (at least they are very consistently poor in terms of providing the return label. I would fire the guy who is in charge of the return label operation!). So, I called t-mobile to get the RMA number. However, the t-mobile person said that there is no RMA number because no trade-in can be made and we still owe $560 on the old phone and another $900 on the new phone. What?!!! They told me return his new iPhone if we do not want to make two payments. So, this time I insisted that we were given UPS label for return which they did. We rerun the phone. UPS said the phone was received. It was last Wednesday. As of today, they have not given any refund. Instead, they charged the full price to my account and took money from my credit card. 

So, I can only conclude that T-Mobile has a great business model. They tell people to upgrade their current phone with a promise that they will remove the balance of the old phone and start a new payment program. In reality, what they do is that they never remove the old payment. They make you pay for two phones. And, even worse, they take away your old phone which they never give credit for. And, I am pretty sure that they are profiting from the sales of the refurbished old phone that they collected from their customers. Also, they took all the information about my old iPhones serial numbers and IMEI numbers. Why can’t they locate the phone – if it is in their warehouse or if they have already sold? What a business model that they have! I will follow through this problem and will report how it ends. In the meantime, I strongly suggest that no one should upgrade their current phones through T-Mobile. 


Once I posted my story here, I was contacted by a member of T-Force. I guess they are some type of specialized group of people who can resolve problems. In about two hours, they resolved all the issues. So, thank you, T-mobile and those members of T-Force. I am still not sure why I had to go through this hassle. Given upgrade to a new iPhone model is one of the most critical business operations at T-Mobile, I am wondering how they can screw up the process this badly and this consistently. This will make me think twice when I want to upgrade my iPhone. This was a really bad customer experience. 

디자인경영의 시작과 끝은 사람입니다

얼마전 땅콩회항 사건으로 문제가 된 어느 재벌 집안의 자녀가 전문경영인으로 구색을 갖추기 위해서 내세운 것이 “디자인경영”이라고 한다. 디자인경영 전문가를 모셔다가 강의도 듣고, 디자인경영을 통해서 새로운 아이디어도 얻고 그런다는 내용의 기사이다. 그 기사를 읽다가 화가 났다. “디자인경영”이라는 내용을 연구하고 가르치는 사람으로 분노가 생긴다. 왜냐하면 디자인경영은 그냥 그렇게 폼 잡으라고 하는 게 아니기 때문이다. 디자인경영의 처음은 사람이다. 그리고 그 끝도 사람이다. 그런데, 매뉴얼을 사람보다 중요시하고, 자기 기분을 사람보다 중요시하는 그런 회사가 디자인경영을 한다고 하니까 좀 기가 막힌다. 요즘 디자인경영으로 유명한 한 대기업의 비상식적인 경영을 또한 직접 경험했다. 디자인경영보다 상식경영이 더 필요한 때이다. 디자인경영은 단지 경영의 본질로 돌아가자는 운동이다. 그리고 그 경영은 사람이다. 예전에 은사이신 윤석철교수님께서 경영의 핵심은 톨스토이의 “사람은 무엇으로 사는가?”에 있다고 말씀하신 생각이 난다. 그리고 경영학은 조직을 다루기 때문에 본인의 저서의 제목을 “우리는 무엇으로 사는가?”라고 해 볼까 고민하시던 생각이 난다. 그리고 최근에 뵌 선생님께서 “세상에는 디자인경영도, 생산관리도, MIS도 없어요. 오직 경영만 있을 뿐입니다”라는 말씀이 생각이 났다. 그리고 그 경영은 사람이다. 이제 “디자인경영”이라는 말을 그만 사용해 볼까 하는 생각을 해 본다. 경영을 그저 돈 버는 수단으로만보는 그런 사람들의 냄새가 싫다.

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(a picture of the Urban Apps & Maps team worked on Gotcha project)

a response to the critics of my recent HBR piece

An HRB article I wrote with Kyungmook Kim, entitled “How Samsung Became A Design Powerhouse”, stirred up rather strong reactions from some of the readers. I feel that it is important respond to those criticism. Below is the reply that I posted on the HBR site. 

The purpose of the article we wrote for HBR was to show how — and why — Samsung Electronics made a difficult and remarkably successful transition, in a short span of time, from a low-cost OEM maker to a consumer-focused company with design-centered thinking at its core. The details of this transition, including how Samsung built design expertise in-house and how designers overcame resistance from engineers, are relevant for any emerging-market company or engineering-centric company seeking to find its way out of the low-margin world of the commodities supplier.

True, both my coauthor, Kyungmook Kim, and I have connections with Samsung, but it was our connections that gave us an inside view of the transition. Over the past three years, we talked to former and current designers, managers, and executives at Samsung, as well as some of its suppliers, and heard about Samsung’s struggles to make design the driving force of innovation. Design in this context is far more than just a product’s look and feel; it is a human-centered mind-set. Far from being a puff piece, the article chronicles those struggles and shows that as software comes to dominate consumer products, further serious challenges lie ahead for Samsung.

Our HBR article isn’t intended to compare Apple and Samsung. Instead it’s aimed at showing how an emerging-market company with little initial design knowledge can become truly design-centric and thereby compete with developed-market design powerhouses like Apple.

한 친구가 있다

나에게는 오래된 친구들이 몇 있다. 지금 생각해 보면, 국민학교 친구, 중학교 친구, 고등학교 친구, 그리고 대학교와 대학원 친구. 성격이 까칠해서 많은 친구를 사기지 못했지만, 그때 그때 마다 오랫동안 남아서 여운을 남기는 그런 친구들이 있다. 그런 친구들 중의 한명을 몇 년전에 어렵게 해서 다시 만난 적이 있다. 일본에서 근무를 마치고 마침 뉴욕에 있는 UN 본부로 근무지를 옮기는 차였다. 중학교를 졸업한 후에도 고등학교 대학교 시절 계속 함께 음악을 연주하면서 우정을 나누던 친구였는데, 대학을 졸업하고 나선 거의 20년을 만난 적이 없었던 친구였다. 뉴욕에 살면서도 바뻐서 겨우 3번 밖에 본 적이 없었다. 그러다가 이번에 아프리카로 대사로 임명을 받고 부임지에 떠났다. 오늘 그 친구의 개인 홈페이지를 통해서 그곳의 삶의 모습을 조금이나마 볼 수 있었다. 전화가 바뀌여서 카톡이 되질 않아서 오랫만에 이메일로 긴 안부편지를 썼다. 외교관의 바쁜 삶 속에서도 꾸준히 그림을 그리고, 음악을 하고, 책을 쓰고, 번역서를 내는 그 친구의 모습이 담겨있는 친구의 홈페이지를 보면서 언제나 처럼 삶의 모든 것을 누려보려고 하는 그의 모습을 볼 수 있었다. 살아잇는 삶은 참 아름답다. 그런 친구를 둔 것을 감사한다. 

new business model of scholarly journals and buying off citations?

I have noticed that scholarly journals are increasingly making their articles available for free if the authors pay certain fees. The fees can be quite expensive (several thousand dollars). I was told that making the article available online for free certainly increases its exposure and thus potentially increase its citation number. As an author, I want my work to be read widely. But this practice of paying for open access does raise a question. Can it create a situation where the work by the authors who cannot afford these fees will not be read and cited as much as those who can afford? What will be the long-term consequence of the nature of scientific inquiries, if we primarily read the work that are convent to find and download, because the authors could afford the price of making them “open”?  

introducing Jumpbutton Studio

One of the goals of Apps & Maps Studios is to teach urban youth design and technology so that they can become entrepreneurs (see another story on this here.) It is being to bear fruits. One of our students, Nick Nicodemus, has started a start-up building mobile games, called Jumpbutton Studio. He started the company together with other young developers around the country. I am excited to form a partnership with them to further develop some of the Apps & Maps projects into commercially available products.