— Written by Sujatha Kumaraswamy
I have long believed that companies which emerge as leaders are the ones that can tackle uncertainty with innovation and fresh design. For innovation to take place, we need passion seekers who can think fresh, invent, innovate, and simplify the complex. For generations, companies operated well as their legacy triumphed and loyalty scored. Not anymore. Today’s customers demand more and are ready to experiment with new ideas. In this age, when lines between products, services, and customer experiences are increasingly blurring, how can organisations sustainably create game-changing differentiation to remain a category leader? Or diversify into a business model that is yet to be born? Or re-engineer an integrated process in favour of reusability against single-use units?
Now, when data-laden insights are making brand mysteries mere scrolling items on the dashboard, we seek a culture of design-centred strategic innovation to sail us through. The business seeks young guns to navigate the idea ship with their fresh and authentic approach, to discover opportunities through complexities of modern time.
In the post-Covid world, with the pandemic throwing the rule book even further, companies need stronger design capabilities than ever before to drive both disruptive and sustained success in physical, service, and digital settings, in no particular order. For that, we need champion thinkers who chart their own paths and make the complex simple with their ideas and dreams for the future.
To reimagine business, redevelop system and recreate the new normal, we need young nurtured visionaries, changemakers and pathbreakers to positively embrace disruption. We need fresh value creators who can help organisations learn, adapt, and seize new opportunities.
Superpower of design, beyond beautification
There is a popular belief that ‘design’ is just about making things pretty or beautiful. But contrary to popular belief, while keeping art at the heart, the purpose of design is predominantly connected to strategy than aesthetics. Purposefully made design patterns can be intentionally ugly or beautiful, but when done, it is done with consideration to goals, objectives, function, economics, sociocultural factors, and aesthetics, while keeping in mind the end-users’ experience and usability. Are we making a user’s life easy or difficult, can we upsell or cross-sell, trigger aided or unaided recall?
From FMCG to retail to town planning to entertainment, banking, IT, we cannot name an industry where its latent human and industrial needs are not addressed or revolutionised by the intervention of design innovation and strategy. By using iterative process operations, design thinkers blend empathy, ideation, prototyping, and testing to create products and services to deliver improved user experience.
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But not just limiting there, organisations also use design thinking for optimised customer experience, interaction and brand extension. Brands realise that by leveraging a human-centric approach for complex automated and mechanical solutions, they can create a bridge between them and customers. Champion and contemporary brands are routinely enhancing both physical and digital experiences of products and services.
Preparing professionals for the creative economy
It is no wonder that the top design-led companies by executing design strategy and innovation leadership have outperformed the S&P 500 by an extraordinary 211 per cent in the last 15 years. Great design has that “wow” factor that makes products more desirable and services more appealing to users.
Design schools in India offer some great courses undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral level courses to equip students and working professionals with design principles that can be applied to solve industry challenges. Traditional design schools have programmes that offer specialisation in design and innovation, strategy and brand leadership. Strategic design management prepares you with techniques and provides tools to make businesses and processes more efficient. Ideal for working professionals from any discipline or industry, Manipal Innovation and Design (MIND) has launched a postgraduate programme in design strategy and innovation to address real-world industry challenges.
Premier institutes like IITs also have design courses. Several IITs including IIT-Bombay and IIT-Delhi offer BDes and MDes courses through CEED and UCEED entrance exams. Design aptitude test (DAT) is also an important entrance test for admission to design courses in India. Other prominent institutes in this domain include the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and National Institute of Design. NID and NIFT are premier institutes dedicated to design and have an array of courses from textile, fashion, design things among others.
As we stand today, at this confluence of time and age, design can potentially act as an avatar of change for innovation; exactly what management did for manufacturing during the late eighties. The future will always be uncertain. We need to learn how to decode the shifts and develop design sense.
– The author is VP – Strategy & Business Excellence, Manipal Innovation & Design, a part of the Manipal group