The Core of … the Design Discipline

I’ve been pondering quite a few times recently about the key messages for the design discipline based on GK vanPatter’s lecture.

In this context I have to admit that even though my position is that Designers (or Design Managers) need to learn the language of Business and cross the watersides towards management I’ve found his perspective very powerful as well. I find his statements about Design 3.0 and the claim to re-think the impact of designers’ contributions to problem solving from a designer’s perspective very powerful.

Interestingly I’ve stumbled across a Harvard Business School Newsletter article today titled: “The Core of Strategy”. In the course of the article the authors Chris Zook and James Allen assemble a list of “Ten key questions for Management” in order to:

“… see the emerging new landscape and possibilities. Often the historic management team has done a superb job of building and tending the core but along the way has acquired biases and habits that make it difficult to see the need for and commit serious resources to a strategic shift.”

In line with the notion of GK’s perspective described in my earlier posting I’ve found it somehow tempting to apply Zook & Allen’s question to the design context. Just try to correspondingly replace the word “Business” with “Design Business”, “Industry” with “Creative industries” or “Team” with “Professional Community” etc. and you’ll get a quite challenging agenda. What do you think?

Finally here’s the list:

1. What is the most tightly defined profitable core of our business, and is it gaining or losing strength?

2. What defines the boundaries of the business that we are competing for, and where are those boundaries going to shift in the future?

3. Are there new competitors currently at the fringe of our business that pose potential longer-term threats to the core?

4. Are we certain that we are achieving the full strategic and operating potential of our core business, the “hidden value” of the core?

5. What is the full set of potential adjacencies to our core business and possible adjacency moves (single or multiple moves)? Are we looking at these in a planned, logical sequence or piecemeal?

6. What is our point of view on the future of the industry? As a team, do we have consensus? How is this point of view shaping our adjacency strategy and point of arrival?

7. Should major new growth initiatives be pursued inside, next to, or outside the core? How should we decide?

8. Is industry turbulence changing the fundamental source of future competitive advantage? How? Through new models? New segments? New competitors? And what are we monitoring on a regular basis?

9. Are organizational enablers and inhibitors to growth in the right balance for the needed change?

10. What are the guiding strategic principles that should apply consistently to all of our major strategic and operating decisions?

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