Business design is a practice that is only finding its place among its more established peers. Traditional business consultancies that rely on the shoulders of scientific management and hypothesis-based thinking have been around since the 1920s. Similarly the traces of design thinking can be followed to as early as 1960s and cooperative design in Scandinavia.
What then, is business design? We follow David Schmidt’s thoughts and see that business design at its core is the science and art of creating and validating business models. However, we’re not content with that. This definition works in design context when a business designer is complemented with other designers and experts, but we look at business design work within a broader scope.
For us, business design is a hybrid approach from the aforementioned two disciplines: top-level management consulting blended together with design tools and thinking. We work on similar issues as any business developer or strategy consultant and do not limit ourselves to strict project types.
To make this more concrete, we have put together building blocks for successful business design. These are theses that we as business designers believe in and stand for:
Ways of thinking
1. Strategy as actions
First and foremost, to have a major impact business designers need to live and breathe strategy. Simultaneously – as designers – we are doers and see that any strategy has to be realised through concrete actions. Design tradition arms us with tools such as co-creation and experiments to complement conceptual thinking.
2. Understanding change, focus on defense or offense
We look to understand what is changing, and only then decide whether it is time to strengthen the core business or to frantically build new. The increasing speed of change is just another buzzword, if we don’t seek to understand how it really impacts business.
3. Sustainability as core business
We strive to have a real impact in all we do, and marketing stunts – especially when it comes to being sustainable – are not our kind of business. We believe time is ripe for business models that have a positive net impact
4. Holistic, systemic approach
In line with great traditions of design thinking, we scratch deep below the surface; we want to understand the underlying implications and connections. Modern business problems are too large and complex for a single organisation to tackle. Ecosystem views and network models are our day-to-day methods of analysis.
Ways of working
5. Not solution-driven, but problem-driven
We don’t believe in best practices or ready-made solutions, but aim to uncover and understand the problem or issue at hand and only then we take a look outwards: can we get inspiration from some other case or business? We explore what’s possible together with our colleagues from a wide range of disciplines
6. Scalability of everything
There is a growing fear that transformational endeavours don’t scale, create new business or even business value. As business designers we need not only to strive to build scalable services and business models, but also to make business development and implementation scalable.
7. Sustainable business models instead of one-off wins
Buzzwords are not good business. We desire to build business models and services that are lasting and large enough to matter. We investigate and prioritise actions by evaluating business impact in order to make value tangible and support decision making.
8. Fighting biases and intuitions through being truly customer and data-driven
Leadership and their organisations – even us designers – typically have ‘proven’ truths or conventions that guide their thinking and actions. We want to challenge this with data-driven insights and decision making, using experimentation and analytics to feed and validate.
Sometimes we win the lottery. Profitable businesses don’t emerge by accident. Designing them increases the odds significantly.
Our mission is to help you make things happen.
During the coming months we’ll continue sharing our thoughts through a mini blog-series. Feel free to comment, challenge our thinking and have an open discussion with us.