“You people have no process”

The other night at the Collective Impact talk I stood up and asked this question:

“How do you, as a business leader, sell design to your organisation? For example, if I go in and don’t have the answers and propose ideas that will fail, how do you, as a leader, convince others of my (design’s) value?” 

There was general agreement that a design approach was good, but that wasn’t really my question.

So I rephrased the question. I’m pretty sure I heard someone behind me sigh.

Anyways, I think this is what I was trying to articulate (badly).

How do organisations deal with a bunch of designers coming in and working on big, hairy social problems? Don’t other project members say “Hang on, design = pretty things. Why exactly are the designers here, again? Must we humour them?”? 

I didn’t really get an answer that I understood. I take responsibility that this is probably a deficit in my own thinking.

But I also wonder if perhaps what a design-lead approach may offer may not actually be well understood by business leaders. And I understand, that perhaps to academics and others in the audience, this doesn’t matter. But as a practitioner you need support from senior management to be effective in your role. Because, if you think about introducing a design process into a project or organisation where there has never been one before, there’s going to be inevitable toe-stepping, disbelief about methods and confusion about what the actual point is.

And more than that, to be honest, I’m still not really clear on what we, as designers, are proposing we actually bring to the table, either. Beyond a few design methods that may be useful, and frankly, anyone could buy a book about design methods and figure that bit out for themselves.

Here’s a possibly relevant article by Bruce Nussbaum – Design Thinking is a Failed Experiment

I think I’ve been trying to shoehorn design into something more than it is, and perhaps it is only ever useful when it’s tied back to artefacts of some kind.