On Making a Dent in Corporate Environment

People still see design as a tool, not a way of thinking. I have to admit that, and often take the red pill.

When corporations decided they need to have a design team embedded in-house, what were they thinking, really? There can be multiple reasons. They might have a little fed up with engaging with the design vendors to execute their programs. It’s either expensive or time-consuming. It can also be energy-consuming. After spending millions of dollars they still get something that they expected. They build a design team in the hopes that they could do design in-house — as a tool — and execute business programs better. They might also need a design team to advance design thinking through the company: changing the culture of work. This is very daunting and it involves changes in all departments.

What I see is that mostly it’s the first. Companies think design just as a tool. They still do business they way the always do it. See, it’s very comfortable way (albeit not the most effective) to do things. They start with business requirements, and the business guys think they are the everything in the company. Everyone else is just executing their programs, thus, they need to listen to the “business guys”. Please, don’t ask any questions and just do whatever the things we ask you to do. “This is all business requirement.”

Because, this has been the way we did it. Business thinks they have a project and the budget has been approved by the management. They formulate things, but only from business perspective. Will it make profit? Will it be different from the past? What “business improvements” can we make? What can we do to make sure that the investments pay off?

Then they spend nights and days working to get the concept right, and put everything in into a humongous deck with diagrams, jargons and whatnots. Oh, don’t forget there’s a requirement document to be made. It has to be 100 pages long. Every scenario needs to be accounted for.

Business will present these things back to the management or to the next in the pipeline: delivery team that includes design and engineering. “Do it as we say, or you’ll die.”

“We’ve spent a lot of thoughts in these and we think it’s the best! Why can’t you do it?”

You know, because design and engineering have different perspectives and limitations, they start to counterargument. They’ve never been consulted previously. This delays the timeline. Business guys are so pissed off.

Things need to be revised! But no, please, timeline is only 6 months! There’s no way we can adapt to these changes proposed by design and engineering! We’re so screwed.

Why can’t design and engineering listen to us?

The thing is, business guys, there’s nothing crappier than assuming that every project only has one dimension to it: profit. There’s a whole lot of dimensions that should poured into one. How can you make profit if the way you present it to the customers lack good user experience? How can you make profits if engineering can’t deliver a single thing because your items live in a distant land of innovation that your company has never invested in?

Do you think design is just making your crappy idea pretty? Should we just lay that long, “corporate speak” text in an elegant typeface and be done with it? Should we follow your business-centric approach and apply blindly to interaction flows? You think designers are makeup artists? Even makeup artists had education and they help you find the best solution.

What I feel is lacking in corporate environment is the willingness to listen and be open to new frontiers, like design and engineering. Particularly design, because it takes time. They don’t want to take the time.

Take the time to listen. Engage design and engineering upfront.