Why is Design-Aware Executive extremely important for any Organization?

From the data available in 2008 it was obvious that—with one exception only—no major company in Slovenia has design placed at the strategic level. Research, published as long back as in 1989 has shown that to infuse an organisation with design, a design champion is needed. This is the main reason why design-aware executive is so important.

Because this is the easiest way to infuse an organization with design.

In Slovenia there are 14 corporations among top 500 in Central Europe, according to consulting house Deloitte, data from 2008. These corporations are:

There is no serious research needed to know that in these corporations there is no design or design management profile close to boards or CEO-s. In we take for granted the statement from professor Robert Hayes, Harvard Business School, who few years ago said: “Fifteen years ago, companies competed on price. Today is quality. Tomorrow it’s design.” then we know that tomorrow is today. Design needs to be a continuous process and as such part of any corporate strategy.

How to infuse corporation with design was in a stylized figure below presented already in 1989 by renown authors Dumas and Minztberg. These authors claim that it is much more likely to infuse an organization with design via a design champion than via a function per se, because of its informal nature. And although the reality is much more complex, this is the main reason why design-aware executive is so important. Design-aware executive is the best design champion who “leaves behind enough feeling for the process, exemplified in the designs that have been executed, so that others take up the torch and allow it to permeate all the organization’s activities.” (Dumas&Mintzberg, 1989).

Figure: Ways to Manage Design
Why is Design-Aware Executive extremely important for any Organization
Source of the figure: Dumas, Mintzberg, 1989, p. 43

In Slovenia we had such a case already in 1960’s when Davorin Savnik was not only the art director but also an influential consultant of general manager of Iskra corporation. And Iskra had 35.000 employees in 1970’s. My guess is that it was much bigger than all the above mentioned corporations. Maybe this is the route to be followed?

Angela Dumas and Henry Mintzberg. 1989. Managing Design Designing Management. Design Management Journal: 1/1.
Saša Bojc. 2009. Neuvrščeno oblikovanje. Delo: 13.11.2009.
more authors in T. Lockwood&T. Walton (ed). 2008. Buiding Design Strategy: Using Design to Achieve key Business Objectives.

Marko Savić
I’m exploring & researching the inter-dependence of the business model innovation with design thinking. You may wish to hire me as a Business Design Coach or Senior Lecturer in Design Management or as a Key-Note Speaker at your next event.