8/14/2019 Design From the Inside Out
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
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
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
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
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
8/14/2019 Design From the Inside Out
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 Projection has been replaced by reaction as companies uncertainly explore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
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
8/14/2019 Design From the Inside Out
and more via the venue of choice of the customer: their mobile phone, television
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
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
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.