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Business Design, Design Trends

Should Designers Fear Design-Thinking MBAs?

Boston 03.01.13, 03:05PM by Brian Gillespie

biz

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.

Image from Flickr.

3 Comments

  1. Ben Spear says:

    Great article, GREAT topic. One sentence in particular caught my eye:

    “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.”

    Could we be doing ourselves a disservice to think of design and business as separate silos? Could we obviate the friction described int his article by considering design and business (and many if not all other disciplines) as a single endeavor, namely problem solving.

    Thinking of our world in terms of separate disciplines is a holdover from the industrial revolution that doesn’t apply to the world we live in, much less the one we’re building for the future.

    Regarding the sentence:

    “To balance the initiative of our progressive business colleagues, designers must educate themselves on the pertinent aspects of business strategy in order to meet halfway and collaborate on the outcome.”

    YES! Designers and design educators have got to step up NOW. Again, cheers to Continuum for this piece. These are the key issues of our time! Thanks.

  2. Business people are most often gatekeepers to customers, teaching design thinking to business students can only help designers to bring their messages across. Designers are not there to reflect the customer voice through design research and analysis, but to enroll mankind in a vision of new possibilities and experiences. Designers give customers a voice.

  3. bop da says:

    hello ! Designers are not there to reflect the customer voice through design research and analysis, but to enroll mankind in a vision of new possibilities and experiences. Designers give customers a voice

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