Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A renewed focus on "design thinking" as central to Business Leadership

During the last three decades I have made my career as an owner operator of an organization that provides strategic design centric services in the marketing and communications field. My passion for design was crystallized during college years in the early 1980’s; at that time I entered a diploma level college design program in Kingston Ontario Canada. Validating the role of the designer has been a critical aspect of my thinking throughout my career.

The ideas that design contributes to understanding and making information meaningful or accessible has been central to me and in turn my organization’s approach. We have integrated this philosophy into the solutions we develop in support of our client’s aspirations, goals and objectives. The central function design plays has also been a core focus relating to competitive advantage and how investment in design can differentiate the organization’s offering and drive new opportunities and awareness.

During the early eighties I was employed as an intern at small boutique studios and consultancies.

As an advocate of design I was naturally led into the marketing and sales activities in the interest of the organizations where I was employed. This experience provided me a grasp of all functions of the design studio from frontline sales cycles activities across the value chain to creation of product and delivery of innovative solutions to clients. The experience garnered from the internship during the first years within the workforce combined with the three-year college diploma provided the foundation for me to found my organization.

I have managed that for twenty-three years starting from a two-person organization and growing the business into a fifty-person leading multi disciplinary enterprise. During the course of operating my organization I have been brought under engagement with Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. We have developed designed products for public and private sector accounts. Our clients the James Bay Northern Quebec Crees have turned to my organization for over two decades in support of the development of their communications and outreach programs.

Design has been an integral activity in support of their communications and now representative of their unique brand. The Aboriginal clients where we‘ve had the benefit of partnering have mandated my organization for communications and outreach activities. They have granted my team access to a rich and vibrant culture in Canada’s north. By extension I have been immersed in unique circumstances including educational programs, public relations, documenting history, referendum fulfillment, storytelling of legends, Sweat Lodge rituals, festivals among multi generational family members and many other experiences.

These relationships afforded me tremendous privilege and perspective on ancient civilization that has emerged in Canada and how that civilization has transformed as a modern society. 

Current trends in design an innovation have led to a renewed focus on design thinking as central to business leadership and global competitiveness. Leadership in growth companies recognize that design is central to organizational dynamic and a core factor contributing to areas such as sustainable development programs, corporate responsibility, planning and prototyping, organizational structure and other  functions of business.

Design thinking is used to determine new and innovative systems that drive opportunities and contribute to differentiating organizations. An argument exists that organizations today are forced to move away from reliability factors such as scientific analysis and traditional business systems to more intuitive factors. Right brain analysis and creativity need be embraced to address the challenges organizations face and to the extent leadership is tasked with overcoming these challenges they need to embrace design thinking as a central approach to achieving their goal.

Aboriginal Culture in many parts of the world remain under threat of extinction this is validated by encroachment on their territories, aging populations with elders passing on along with their languages, knowledge and legends, impacts from modern society engulfing and extinguishing traditions and values. These societies have been marginalized by their nation states and for centuries oppressed or overrun, their lands have had natural resources extracted, clear cut or harvested beyond recovery.

My motivation for study is to embrace design thinking in support of the preservation of indigenous culture. I hope to contribute to asserting change in support of preservation of Canadian Aboriginal Culture or other cultures in different parts of the globe. This will require an understanding of the complexity of the problem in a more holistic framework. Understanding will contribute to inventive designed solutions that will perhaps support capturing elements of cultures that otherwise will be lost..

From my practical experience in business management and organizational dynamic I believe I can enrich my experience and deliver solutions more broadly. I will achieve this either in advocacy or practicing in the field. I believe a commitment to research and investment in understanding and knowledge on this subject is priority. At this stage in my career and life this is my desire for learning.

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