The big consultancy McKinsey has purchased Lunar, a respected design firm. Design has become a necessary skill inside organizations and McKinsey’s move emphasizes the value and importance of integrating design into products and services. You can’t get by on good ideas that are presented to the customer in a clunky fashion. You need elegance, simplicity, and empathy.
How do you really get employees to engage with design in a way that has meaningful outcomes? You can teach them the process. I’m sure McKinsey has taught countless consultants the virtues of design thinking. As consumers, we engage with design every day. We use beautifully designed phones. We go to Target, where we learned high design doesn’t necessarily equal high dollar. We’ve come to expect it. To really embed design into the way we work, it helps to experience it in the context of your own work. This idea of applied design has been propelling forward-thinking organizations for years – I work for one of them.
I have seen the most extraordinary things happen when you integrate design into the experience of working. People show up in the morning for a two-day offsite meeting. They are greeted by a piece of artwork that reflects the theme and goals of the meeting. Someone takes their coat and bag and points them to healthy food and beverages. The room is filled with natural light, the seats are comfortable. We take care of people’s basic physical and emotional needs. They are seated with a mix of familiar and new colleagues. They spend time learning about each other’s perspectives as well as inspiring stories from outside their organization. A graphic illustrator has been visually capturing the discussion and a colorful, engaging canvas has emerged in front of the room. People are inspired. Scenarios and questions have been thoughtfully constructed using knowledge of their business situation, challenges, and aspirations. People are engaged. They grab markers and start drawing ideas on the wall. This sparks a lively conversation, and the ideas are further developed, shared, challenged, iterated and simplified until a clear and compelling solution emerges. Suddenly they have created their own work of art. They aren’t just thinking about design anymore. They are designers.