Svyatoslav Biryulin
Design thinking and strategy
Why do designers often work on a C-Suite level?
Have you ever managed to insert a flash drive to a USB port on your computer on the first try? I haven't. Even though USB is an industry standard, and millions of people still use it daily, it is an example of poor product design. People would have opted for another solution if it were not the standard. USB type C, which will become the common charging port for all mobile phones, tablets, and cameras in Europe from 2024, works much better.

I am often criticized for my consumer-centric approach to business strategy. My opponents affirm that it works only for "small businesses." I wouldn't call Apple a small company, but it, like many others, works in the consumer goods market. Does a CEO of a steel manufacturer, a shipping line, a construction company, or a chipmaker need to study design thinking?

In October 2018, McKinsey published a report, "The business value of design", the result of five-year research in which the company tried to discover whether there is a connection between design thinking on a senior level and performance. McKinsey tracked 300 public (which means not too small) companies in different industries and countries. The team "collected more than two million pieces of financial data and recorded more than 100,000 design actions". By "design actions," McKinsey researchers mean, for instance, putting somebody who is responsible for design on the executive board. The conclusions made by McKinsey were crisp and clear – companies giving great attention to design thinking outperformed industry-benchmark growth.

Some executives believe that strategy is about merges and acquisitions, cost leadership, price skimming, diversification, blue ocean search, and so forth. It is partially true, but we don't have to forget that every company, regardless of size, domain, or country, has customers, and they are the only source of revenue. It's true for both a local food market and General Electric, for Morgan Stanley and a tattoo salon. And if customers feel the same feeling that I do trying to connect my USB drive to a computer, sooner or later, they will find another solution.

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Svyatoslav Biryulin

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