It feels like not a single day has passed without the announcement of a big corporation hiring hundreds of designers or acquiring design agencies altogether.
Most recently, we have all turned our attention to the news of IDEO joining Kyu — just as have other design firms that are somehow incorporated into bigger groups. Considering the latest tendencies, this should not have come as a surprise. After all, this culture shift towards design thinking seems inevitable for bigger corporations. Times are changing, and the next step is not just to accept the fate of design agencies, but to prepare for new challenges ahead of designers and businessmen.
Here are some of the challenges that might come up for companies hiring design teams or acquiring design firms:
Accepting the design mindset
Once C-suite executives make the decision to shift towards a design thinking culture, it is clear that they are ready to embrace a significant change in the organization. But this is not always the case for all the stakeholders. For instance, some engineering or management teams might be so used to outsourcing projects that the only interaction they have with designers is writing a brief.
It’s important to prepare all departments for those changes and convince them of the value that design teams will bring in. After all, teams will only work well together once they have built trust.
Finding a common language
As with any other professional, designers have their own ways of communicating things. Be it a different perspective of a problem or a matter of jargon, there may be some misunderstanding between designers and other departments. The best way to prepare for this issue is training everyone in the organization to adjust to a new language.
For example, marketers might find that delivering a good user experience is not exactly the same as improving customer experience. And the opposite also applies for designers. Making sure everyone is on the same page right from the start will minimize confusion and improve project efficiency.
Choosing the right tools
This is not only a challenge for design thinking organizations, but also for their software and solution providers. With big changes in the way things are run inside the company, the support tools will also have to adapt to new processes. B2B providers, from CRM solutions to prototyping tools — they all need to re-think their approach and find a way to integrate users who are either designers or non-designers.
On the other hand, managers need to ensure their providers are thinking along the same lines. If supporting tools are not catching up with the cultural shift, maybe it’s time to look for new partners. Or at least, consider new tools that may be integrated into the company’s current workflow.
Revamping the work environment
A design mindset is not all about creativity. But it is definitely part of the process. To adopt a design thinking culture, it’s important to build an environment that facilitates creativity. After all, ideas can come from anywhere and anyone, so employees should be comfortable enough to develop and share their thoughts.
In terms of office space, this could mean assigning a devoted area for stress-free thinking and collaboration, where employees can contribute without any pressure. From a psychological point of a view, inducing a positive work environment will enable a more open-minded mentality — thus facilitating the change of company culture and helping employees be more creative.
Understanding the customer
All efforts would be in vain if the one common vision throughout the organization is overlooked: the customer. With the customer/user at the core, chances are it will be much easier to align all the objectives, metrics, and activities across departments. However, this doesn’t mean designers should be favored because of their more user-centered approach. The key here is in understanding. Making sure everyone knows who the customer is, and what is their key role in addressing him/her.
Support from top management
It’s important to empower design masterminds to not only carry out their work but also share their vision for the company. If there’s a whole new army of designers joining the company (or perhaps just a small team), they will need a powerful leader to guide and represent them from the top.
Perhaps appointing design top management as board members could be a good start. Car manufacturers have been empowering design leaders for years — Renault, for instance, had already appointed Patrick Le Quément as the Vice President of Design back in 1995. Most recently, companies like PepsiCo, Philips and 3M have also invested more trust in their heads of design. Some of which are now Chief Design Officers.