Design is growing up fast – so we need to too

Fjord Family

As I’m sure many of you have read, the past 12 months has seen the topic of ‘designers in the boardroom’ gaining momentum. Simultaneously, the consultancy bit of my service design consultancy has never been in higher demand.

In the increasingly disrupted era of digital, businesses across sectors are waking up to the fact that lowered barriers to entry, enable start ups to nibble away at their birthright. As a result they’ve started to look for more fit for purpose partners for help rather than the traditional management consultancy approach. This is where the design bit of design consultancy comes into its own.

So what is it about being a designer that means we’re the ideal candidates to help these businesses navigate this landscape? Here are some of the skills we can bring to a newly welcoming boardroom table:

  1. Being nimble – we have the ability to quickly give shape to something in a tangible form in order to galvanise the organisation we’re trying to help.
  2. Bringing meaning to information – we make sense of all the data that bombards people in all aspects of their lives.
  3. Putting the user at the heart of our decision-making –  involving our clients’ customers in the design process, whilst at the same time being able to provide new and valuable experiences that help them in their lives.
  4. Taking a lateral view – finding solutions that wouldn’t have been uncovered by more conventional approaches.

This is all great, but what does it mean for the role of the designer?

My belief is that in order for us to be credible and to therefore really be able to help companies going through this transition, it requires designers to do a certain amount of growing up.

It’s no longer enough to hide behind the plea, ‘I’m the designer’….and leave it to someone else to navigate the more complex client requirements.

The truth is, the divide between designers and clients is ever diminishing. If we want to be able to help transform businesses and get meaningful services out to market, being able to guide our clients and take a design to delivery is something more and more of us will need to do.

This means that we will need to learn some new skills; negotiating, storytelling, organising, inspiring, influencing and most importantly listening, will become essential strings to our bows.

The rate of change is happening more quickly than we can pick up these skills through the usual route of education plus hard won experience. This means there is a dearth of really great, deep and rounded designers out there who can also hold their own running very difficult and often job-critical projects.

So, this blog post is an appeal really, if you’re out there, have great design capabilities and are keen to grow some management chops, do it now and do it fast. We’re going to need you!

Fjord Family

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