National Design Week: The Business of Design

National Design Week is in full swing here in New York, culminating in a swanky gala dinner on Thursday night to celebrate this year’s National Design Award winners. One of them, IDEO co-founder Bill Moggridge (second left), was at the TimesCenter this morning, taking part in a panel discussion on “The Business of Design” moderated by author, Daniel Pink (far right).

As you might expect, the conversation focused on how to bring together the disciplines of design and business. Moggridge added a third: technology. In his nuanced take, innovation is the result of the overlap between all three disciplines. So while engineers might initially focus on technology, designers on people and executives on money, all three groups need to look up from their area of expertise to move toward each other in order to innovate successfully.

Sam Lucente, VP of Design at HP (second right), was also on the panel, and he outlined how he specifically looks for interdisciplinary thinkers who can bridge these kinds of divide. “I look for a willingness to collaborate — and passion,” he said, adding that the purpose of building an interdisciplinary team is to tap into that group’s collective IQ.

The third speaker was Jeanne Liedtka, from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia (far left). Supremely articulate, she outlined a three year study assessing managers who had been able to grow revenue in a slow market. She described these managers as “smiling subversives” who were able to quietly work around an organizational system in order to get stuff done. And she criticized corporate cultures that have made systems out of bad habits. Too often executives only want to hear about “big ideas”, she explained, which instantly commits an organization to making reckless bets that are unlikely to pay off. Instead, she said, executives “need to unlearn. The first thing a manager should do is leave the building and talk to a customer.”

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