Why Design is Big in Davos

Bruce Nussbaum

The big World Economic Forum conference in Davos is just about a week away and lots of questions have flowed in to ask at the innovation and design session that I'm going to moderate--and the 21 other sessions on the topic that I'll try and attend. Operationalizing innovation is really the big theme.

A lot of people suggest that the CEOs, politicians and NGO folks attending the Innovation, Creativity and Design sessions be asked when they will begin using design thinking to deal with universal human needs and solve social problems such as healthcare or housing.

Tim Brown, head of IDEO, who will be speaking and moderating at Davos, thinks it is precisely this power and ability of design that made the powers-that-be at Davos decide to make design central to the conference. This is what he said to me in an email when I asked why design was so big in Davos: "The WEF is at an interesting intersection between the issues facing business (growth, competitiveness) and the issues facing the world in general (health, education, hunger, political vision). I think this perspective makes WEF particularly interested in innovation and design because they offer some chance of progress in both spheres and they are a fresh way of thinking about apparently intractable problems. Design and innovation encourage us to take a human centered empathic approach to business problems as well as social problems and so we start to see more examples of congruence between otherwise distant spheres. The natural optimism of a design approach is also refreshing and relevant when tackling global social problems as well as business."

Couldn't say it any better.

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