I came across this somewhat incendiary question today: “Will designers lose design strategy to business strategists learning design thinking?” Posed by a fellow LinkedIn group member, the question has rooted itself into my consciousness, and I’ve been relentlessly considering my perspective.
My initial, gut-level response centered on what I perceive to be the questioner’s assumption that a designer by his or very nature must also be a design strategist. They must posses a talent for strategy in order to be subjected to the potential loss of that engagement.
I have worked with many designers over the duration of my career. Many of them are close friends, and many of them are highly strategic in their approach to design and design’s role in business. Some of them, however, are not. The same holds for many of the business professionals I’ve worked with: many are highly strategic, and some are not.
Historically, the line of demarcation between design and business is bold, thick and impenetrable. It’s been an US vs. THEM dynamic for decades. After sitting with my initial response for a little while and considering the changing marketplace, I can understand the concern about and argument for a business strategist with design thinking in his arsenal of knowledge and skills posing a potential threat to a designer with a strategically inclined mindset. But not for the reasons one might guess.
I understand the concern because intuitively we know that at their very core, business strategists and design strategists share common strengths: curiosity, tenacity, insight, intuition and ingenuity. On the surface, one could assume that they would be interchangeable or, in some cases, one preferable to the other.
On the contrary, what the revolution and evolution of design thinking has created is a new middle ground on which a Hybrid Strategist can stand. The Hybrid Strategist isn’t anything new; it’s simply that rare breed of professional that possesses two sets of equally weighted strengths, one in design and one in business. Whereas a Hybrid Strategist once had to choose a career – design or business – that offered opportunities that played to only one set of strengths, design thinking has created an environment in which a Hybrid Strategist can find more holistic professional fulfillment by enjoying the best of both worlds.
My prognostication is this: A designer will not lose design strategy to a business strategist learning design thinking, because she will be one in the same, contributing highly valued perspective and insight to the team. Her title? Strategist. Plain and simple.