The value of design

Business Week has a special report on The Value of Design (February 1 2010). It "takes a closer look at how design can impact the bottom line of businesses in any industry

"attempting "to pick apart the issue a little further, with opinion pieces on the value of design from those within and outside the profession. IDEO partner Diego Rodriguez makes the case that good business arises from a design-centric process that incorporates marketing, research, and ideas. RKS Design's Ravi Sawhney and Deepa Prahalad outline four specific areas in which design can create value: understanding the consumer; mitigating risk; boosting marketing and branding; and driving sustainable business practices."

The section I read first was the RKS piece on the role of design in business: about which more and more is being written as the boundaries between architects, product designers, and organization designers are blurring. Which brought to mind the work of The US General Services Administration.

This Agency realizing that space design is an important factor in the effective delivery of the business strategy has a Workspace Delivery Unit working to help organizations bridge the gap between business strategy and the design of their workplaces, deploying a range of tools and techniques that "use an understanding of the organizational context and business goals as the basis for design".

Beyond this they publish case studies, and research papers. A useful one on The Changing Nature of Organizations, Work, and Workplace observes that

In today's world, the structure, content, and process of work have changed. Work is now

  • More cognitively complex
  • More team-based and collaborative
  • More dependent on social skills
  • More dependent on technological competence
  • More time pressured
  • More mobile and less dependent on geography

Each of these points is then discussed in greater depth and in the context of organization that, compared with a decade ago, organizations are

  • Leaner and more agile
  • More focused on identifying value from the customer perspective
  • More tuned to dynamic competitive requirements and strategy
  • Less hierarchical in structure and decision authority
  • Less likely to provide life long careers and job security
  • Continually reorganizing to maintain or gain competitive advantage

What's helpful about this document is a table that points to the benefits and concerns the new work patterns present for workers and managers in view of the fact that "a new pattern of work is emerging as the knowledge economy realizes the full potential of both new technologies and new organizational models. The changes fall into the following domains:

•Cognitive competence
•Social and interactive competence
•The new "psychological contract" between employees and employers
•Changes in process and place

The benefits and concerns highlights the requirement for business strategists, organization designers, change management consultants, space planners and architects to work together to achieve productivity and motivation gains through good design of work space.