Design From the Inside Out

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    May 18 2000

    Design from the

    inside outKieran OHea argues that design in business must evolve into a strategic creative

    process, for a successful digital economy

    Design is tangible - most people are comfortable with the term. Design yields

    deliverables, it is business friendly. Design is something that happens from theoutside in. To many, it is a form of window dressing, an aesthetic process that

    makes a product, service and even a human being look good. It can be applied like a

    coat of paint.

    Creativity on the other hand is intangible and difficult to manage. It happens from

    the inside out, but has it any value? What many fail to see is that design is a

    commercial application of creativity, a form of Applied Creativity.

    The truth is, business badly needs design, but it needs it from the inside out. The

    role of design in business must evolve into a deeply embedded strategic creative

    process.

    Applying creativity to the business means a ground-up commitment that few

    businesses have deemed necessary up to now. But times are changing and business

    also needs to change.

    Design may well be about putting aesthetics, form and function around a given

    framework but the Internet is the new business framework and the future of

    business is design design of strategy, design of business models, design of

    markets.

    In this new environment, the role of creativity and design will move rapidly from the

    cosmetic to the strategic. Bringing the creative and business communities together

    in productive ways that are beneficial to both parties has historically exposed

    cultural barriers.

    But now more than ever these communities have a mutual need for each other. The

    creative energy and digital knowledge of the new media industry needs access to

    the business acumen and deep resources of the established business community

    and vice versa. Together they present the best scenario for a successful digital

    economy.

    The nature of business in the e-age is dynamic, unstable and consumer driven.

    Business used to solidity and predictability have too much inertia to manage

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    change. Projection has been replaced by reaction as companies uncertainly explore

    the new territory.

    There is not a piece of design in existence that is not intended to provoke a reaction.

    Design connects. The Internet connects. The Internet connects people to businesses

    and to each other in a way that no one has experienced before.

    People are in the drivers seat, empowered by the Information Society in which we

    live. This does not only apply to consumers but to employees to. The seat of power

    has shifted to give employees the confidence to look for a better deal and to run

    with their own ideas.

    Skills demand, market opportunity and global awareness means the employee has

    virtually unlimited opportunities to progress. The resulting impact on the

    organisation is pressure in both directions pressure from the workforce,

    demanding fulfilment and pressure from the customer, demanding choice.

    Businesses need help to relieve this pressure and this is where a good dose of

    Applied Creativity is essential. People use the term lets go back to the drawing

    board but most businesses dont know how to do this. The creative community

    does. Many businesses dont know how to manage creativity. The creative

    community does. And what business really understands the customer interface?

    The creative community does.

    So if we assume the organisation is stuck in the middle between under-fulfilled

    employees on the one hand and over-expectant customers on the other, what steps

    can be taken to address the problem? Firstly, the organisation needs to look inside

    itself to identify employees whose ideas are not being listened to. Employees in this

    situation find other outlets for their creativity, often becoming negative workers or

    end up leaving.

    Organisations should carry out creativity audits to identify their intrepreneurs.

    They should set up spin-in programmes for these employees. A spin-in

    programme enables employees to set up new ventures within the corporate

    structure, by providing them with the necessary infrastructure and intellectual

    support to bring an idea to market. A spin-in programme may well increase

    company loyalty and productivity and prevent departure and the establishment of a

    competitive spin-off.

    Another way to boost creativity in the workforce is to identify those employees

    whose skills are being under-utilised. Particularly in the IT area, where skills are in

    short supply, staff may be working on mundane tasks which could be delegated to

    other employees or out-sourced. This will free up staff to work on more creative,

    fulfilling tasks or simply to spend some time developing blue-sky concepts that so

    often get suppressed by commercial work pressures.

    On the customer side, creativity plays a key role at the interface level. Particularly in

    the e-business area, grabbing audience share and more importantly, keeping it is

    the prime objective. The buyers congregate in places they trust and developing

    brand trust on the Internet is not a task to be taken lightly. The interaction betweenthe buyer and the seller takes place at the interface, often the website, but more

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    and more via the venue of choice of the customer: their mobile phone, television

    etc.

    We live in a multi-channel world. Businesses must tailor their interface to deliver

    product when and how the customer wants it. They must also keep the interface up

    to date, informative and receptive. The design of the interface is not just a matter oftechnical functionality, it must reflect the organisations philosophy and its

    commitment to quality.

    Most important of all it must connect. The success of the interface shows how well

    the organisation knows its customer and it will be a major factor in commercial

    success.

    The creative community has years of experience of evaluating new technology,

    interfacing with the public and managing creative talent. It has the flair,

    professionalism and maturity to bring a new edge to your business from the inside

    out, allowing you to fully exploit your Intellectual Infrastructure.

    The intellectual infrastructure is the tangible embodiment of the networked

    Information Society. It encompasses the creativity of the workforce, the products

    that are designed, the knowledge and content that is developed and the feedback

    from the customer.

    As we look for the driver of continuing competitiveness in the Information Society,

    Ireland has a serious opportunity to take the lead in exploiting its intellectual

    infrastructure.

    From Kells to Joyce, Ireland is expected to provide intellectual inspiration to the

    world. With the talent and technology now at our disposal, Ireland should and must

    become a global knowledge centre, developing and applying exciting new business

    models, for our own benefit and selling them on to the international market place.

    Content may be king but knowledge is the kingdom.

    This has been a brief look at the impact of Applied Creativity on the production and

    consumption sides of business. It is clear that every business has its creative

    hotspots and that these occur at many stages of the value chain. It is just a matter

    of identifying them.

    And remember, creativity doesnt stop outside the boardroom door, if anything it is

    even more critical there.

    By adopting a design philosophy in your business and applying a creative strategy

    across the enterprise, embedding it in the business mix, you will be in a much better

    position to map your business successfully onto the turbulent but wonderfully

    challenging environment in which we find ourselves.

    Kieran OHea