The Redesigning Business Summit


Key influencers, movers and shakers from across the business community from the CBI to  Microsoft, Tom Tom to Penguin, listened, interacted and learnt from an array of inspirational speakers who embraced contradictions but shared one theme in common – the redesigning and defining of new thinking through design, whilst complimenting traditional business methods. The glue that bound them together was a thought provoking event co-organised by the Design Council and the Economist, skilfully steering participants through the complexities of a diverse sea of opinion by Economist correspondent Vijay Vaitheeswaran.

77% of the 200 or so companies present thought their companies would be in better shape after the recession, reinforcing the belief that crisis can bring opportunity i.e. “the eye of the storm is the time to fish”. There are now new value drivers through a surge in declared corporate responsibility via ethical issues. This must make the real heroes – the pioneers and champions for change and reform – sleep better at night. Taking climate change, Steve Evans of Cranfield University said, “Before, labour was scarce and nature abundant, now there is an abundance in labour and a scarcity of nature, literally forcing us into finding new ways to find solutions.”

Those that invested in “intangibles” from 1970-2004 saw an increase from 6 – 14% in turnover, so investment in intangibles is holding up. Executive Vice Chair of the Work Foundation, Will Hutton, sees design as the bridge between technological advances and the consumer, ensuring they get a better deal. If only parliamentarians and policy makers could get it too! Intellectual property was an important theme running through the event and Virgin’s Design Director Joe Ferry confirmed that their IP policy was robust, to protect and commercialise what they created because of the immense cost in R & D to make changes through design.

A different approach to IP was through the open innovation policy using a licence model of River Simple’s revolutionary new way of thinking about transport – not a car but a mobility service. “We can’t afford to sue if someone rips off our ideas so let others take the responsibility.” said River Simple’s Hugo Spowers.  Given the recent seismic changes affecting business as we have known it, The Big Rethink was a timely moment to reflect on a company’s ability to reinvent and find different solutions to respond to challenging market forces. Jonathon Ives of iPod fame, for example, is not a computer geek but a designer. Radical and visionary thinking allowed Apple, through Ives, to challenge the rules of competition by innovating what things mean. Thus the sleek, incredibly sexy and simple “must have” ipod was born.

Designing a way out of problems was PACT’s simple approach, through social and environmental criteria, creating packaging which becomes a usable fabric bag thereby designing a way out of waste.  Everyone wants part of the party because its basically good and we feel better! Being part of an ethical story such as with Innocent’s Smoothies makes us feel good about our purchasing decisions, knowing that 10% of profit goes to a good cause. IDEO CEO Paul Bennett espoused the moral crisis – ‘walk the talk’ design products and services which have meaning, transparency through corporate responsibility and trust, through passion and obsession. 

Innovation is the process of turning new ideas into money to benefit society. Take a recent project championed by the Design Council, looking at the world’s largest employer, the UK National Health Service. The problems were complex and they were up against conflict, risk averseness and a lack of willingness to change. Through simplicity, engagement, momentum, experiment and collaboration they facilitated some positive solutions which were visual, user-led and optimistic, such as Pearson Lloyds Reclining Day Chair,  Bay Screen & Poncho and the Inclusive gown and ICU cover designed by the Royal College of Art’s Helen Hamlyn Centre Design Team.

Why – to use design to change or meet the challenge of C Deificle. Underpinning the whole redesigning process was Discovering Defining what was needed, Developing a product which would meet those need and delivering a solution. Design for Patient Dignity is a classic example of how redesign can shape future policies and is a lesson which should be learnt and picked up on through the whole procurement process. Using various themes, such as creating a different bank or transport system, provided a melting pot of ideas. 

Using cognitive media, the event used “Scribing” a real-time capture “artist”, processing and reiterating information in a visual form. This is represented in words, cartoons, pictures, diagrams, flows and hierarchies. A fascinating visual snapshot of some critical thinking, encouraging everyone to observe patterns and absorb information differently. The aim is to enhance understanding looking from a different angle.

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