Challenging assumptions: What is design leadership?

Challenging assumptions: What is design leadership?

September 1, 2017 by Tony Nguyen

Design leadership might not be common business terminology yet, but it likely will be soon – what is it, and how can it help your organisation excel?

Design and business might not seem like they go hand-in-hand, but the two have more in common than you might initially think. Leaders across the globe have been recognising the importance of design thinking, defined by the Harvard Business Review as ‘a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technically feasible and what business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunities’.


“Design thinking uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technically feasible.”

That can┬áseem like a lot to unpack, but in reality it’s quite simple – in many cases, taking a design-based approach to a business problem can yield more creative solutions than just looking from a business perspective. What does this look like in action, and how can leaders across Australia begin to implement design thinking in their businesses?

Design leadership in reality

Taking an unconventional approach to a business problem will likely result in a bit of pushback, but design-based strategies have proven time and time again to be effective ways to solve problems. The idea of customer-based market insights is one of the primary forces driving the concept.

Sam Bucolo, Cara Wrigley and Judy Matthews of Queensland University of Technology describe in their 2012 paper how important it is for businesses to begin by looking at customer data. Though this might be different from other marketing reports and thereby require more work, it will provide much-needed insight into the problem.

From this data, employees can identify potential solutions that are customer and product-focused rather than pull obvious solutions from the existing business model. Why? Because design leadership is about finding alternative solutions in unexpected places, regardless of what the precedent at the business is.


How to implement design thinking in your business

Bringing a design-based approach to your business strategy is fairly straightforward – all it takes is a creative employee, an open-minded management team and a flexible strategy. The concept of design thinking is multi-faceted, though, so it makes sense to seek the help of an experienced business advisory service if you’re thinking about making a big change.

At Reo, we are dedicated to helping elevate human potential by providing leaders and employees alike with the tools they need to excel. For more information about how we can help you cultivate design leaders at your organisation, please reach out to a representative today.



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