The tangible success of design has propelled business schools around the world to innovate their MBA programs by introducing courses on design thinking as a valuable complement to traditional analytical business thinking. This has the potential to create friction between strategic designers and business strategists and begs the question: Will designers lose design strategy to business strategists learning design thinking?
In discussing this issue with colleagues, I’ve found that many of us in the design community have become somewhat defensive and protective about the unique qualifications we possess and quick to point out the essential differences between the two practices. It’s too simple to just call it a right-brain, left-brain divide, but the fact is designers do tend to think very differently than business people. No matter how many design classes business students take, they are still business students receiving a business education–they can’t learn design in a semester any more than a designer can learn to be a businessperson by taking a few MBA electives. These courses do not enable them to develop unique capabilities that can generate business transformation by design, such as the ability to reflect the customer voice through design research and analysis, to visualize and communicate complex information, or to create, test, and evaluate advanced prototypes. This takes a design education, followed by experience, focus, and maturity.