Tim Brown, CEO of global design firm IDEO, spoke at the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF) about the changing economy and how people, businesses and societies as a whole need to think more like designers to keep ahead of the curve.

Ask a room of people what the word design means to them, and you will likely hear a lot about how things look, what they are made of and what colours you can buy it in.  In reality, design encompasses so much more than aesthetics; it is the creative mindset needed to innovate.  Too much effort, recently, has been spent designing things to be as beautiful as possible.  Apple are partly to blame for this, continually releasing new products with hardware thinner and software simpler, at the cost of a huge sacrifice to usability.  Aesthetics are an important part of our interaction with a product, but they should not conflict with the basic Interaction Design principles of discoverability, recovery, consistency and feedback.  Worst of all, these products will simply stop functioning after a few years.

Tim wants the value of the designer to be recognised for what it is.  Design philosophies and techniques are valuable tools at every level of business, and are in fact essentials in order to not stagnate. This idea is not new to Tim; his book Change by Design, published in 2009, outlines how design thinking can allow companies to problem solve from a human-centred approach.  This innovation is vital to ensure businesses don’t fall into the dangerous trap of continually ‘giving customers what they want’.  Products and services that don’t evolve will quickly become mediocre, mundane and undesirable.

This movement is not just coming from the bottom, however, there are big companies pushing for design to give them a competitive advantage.  Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, said in a 2004 interview that “The fracturing of trust is based on the fact that the consumer has been let down”.  Our current economic model is approaching the point of failure.  For widespread change to take place, this action can’t just be sole businesses adopting change.  A total transformation of culture is required.