Business Strategy Needs Design Thinking


On Tuesday, October 20, Darden School of Business Professor Jeanne Liedtka will participate in a Business of Design breakfast panel, as part of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s celebration of the 10th annual National Design Awards program in New York City. The panel is free and open to the public but registration is required.

Liedtka’s panel, moderated by Daniel Pink, renowned author of A Whole New Mind, also will include Bill Moggridge, co-founder of IDEO and Sam Lucente, Hewlett-Packard Vice President of Design. Liedtka’s talk will focus on the distinction between ‘business thinking’ and ‘design thinking’ and argue that business needs both.

She recently wrote a paper entitled, “Why business strategy needs design thinking”, in which she contrasts the differing approaches. Business thinking, she asserts, is predicated on assumptions of rationality and objectivity. Its decision driver is cold, clean, economic logic. Design thinking assumes instead human experience, forever messy, as its decision driver and sees true objectivity as an illusion. Decisions in this world are seen as driven by emotion more than logic; desire as a more powerful motivator than reason.”

Liedtka goes on to say that the asymmetry goes even deeper. “Even the very values on which each thinking system rests diverge dramatically. Business executives, more often than not, value stability and control above all else – and design their organizations to produce it. Ambiguity and uncertainty makes them uncomfortable; but it’s the status quo that makes designers uncomfortable. Her presentation will make the case for combining both perspectives in order to have a successful business outcome.

First launched in 2000 as a project of the White House Millennium Council, the National Design Awards were established to promote excellence and innovation in design. National Design Week (October 18-24, 2009) aims to promote a better understanding of the role that design plays in all aspects of daily life.

The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1967 and is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design.

Founded in 1955, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business improves society by developing principled leaders in the world of practical affairs.

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