Emerging courses: a career in design strategy and innovation leadership is a good idea

Design leadership courses go beyond aesthetics (Image: Pixabay / Representational)

– Written by Sujatha Kumaraswamy

I have long believed that the companies that emerge as leaders are the ones that can face uncertainty with innovation and fresh design. For innovation to take place, we need enthusiasts who can think differently, invent, innovate and simplify the complex. For generations, companies have functioned well, their legacy has triumphed and loyalty has marked. Not anymore. Today’s customers demand more and are ready to experiment with new ideas. At this time, as the boundaries between products, services and customer experiences increasingly blur, how can organizations sustainably create revolutionary differentiation to remain a category leader? Or diversify into a business model that has yet to be born? Or redesign an integrated process in favor of reuse over single-use units?

Now, when data-laden insights make brand mysteries mere scrolling elements on the dashboard, we’re looking for a culture of strategic innovation-centric design to guide us. The company is looking for young guns to navigate the ideas vessel with their fresh and authentic approach, to uncover opportunity through the complexities of modern times.

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In the post-Covid world, with the pandemic pushing the rulebook even further, businesses need stronger design capabilities than ever before to generate disruptive and enduring success in physical, service and numeric, in no particular order. For this we need champion thinkers who chart their own path and simplify the complex with their ideas and dreams for the future.

To reinvent the business, redevelop the system, and recreate the new normal, we need young visionaries, change makers and nurtured pioneers to positively embrace disruption. We need new value creators who can help organizations learn, adapt and seize new opportunities.

Design superpower, beyond beautification

There is a popular belief that “design” is simply about making things look pretty or beautiful. But contrary to popular belief, while keeping art at the heart, the purpose of design is more linked to strategy than to aesthetics. Purpose-designed design patterns can be intentionally ugly or beautiful, but when completed they are done taking into account goals, objectives, function, economy, socio-cultural factors and aesthetics, all with the experience and usability of end users in mind. Are we making a user’s life easy or difficult, can we up-sell or cross-sell, trigger an assisted recall or not?

From FMCG to retail via town planning via entertainment, banking, IT, we cannot name an industry where its latent human and industrial needs are not addressed or revolutionized by the intervention of the innovation and design strategy. Using iterative process operations, designers combine empathy, ideation, prototyping, and testing to create products and services to deliver an enhanced user experience.

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But not only that, organizations are also using design thinking to optimize customer experience, interaction and brand extension. Brands are realizing that by leveraging a human-centric approach to complex automated and mechanical solutions, they can build a bridge between themselves and customers. Champion and contemporary brands regularly improve the physical and digital experiences of products and services.

Prepare professionals for the creative economy

It’s no wonder that the best design-driven companies, by executing design strategy and innovation leadership, have outperformed the S&P 500 by 211% in the past 15 years. Good design has that “wow” factor that makes products more desirable and services more appealing to users.

Design schools in India offer excellent undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral courses to equip students and working professionals with design principles that can be applied to solve industry challenges. Traditional design schools offer specialization programs in design and innovation, brand strategy and leadership. Strategic Design Management prepares you for techniques and provides tools to make businesses and processes more efficient. Ideal for professionals in any discipline or industry, Manipal Innovation and Design (MIND) has launched a postgraduate program in Design Strategy and Innovation to address the challenges of real-world industry.

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Leading institutes like IITs also offer design courses. Several IITs, including IIT-Bombay and IIT-Delhi, offer BDes and MDes courses through the CEED and UCEED entrance exams. The Design Aptitude Test (DAT) is also an important entrance test for admission to design courses in India. Other leading institutes in this field include the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and the National Institute of Design. NID and NIFT are leading design institutes and offer a range of courses on textiles, fashion, design, among others.

Today, at this confluence of time and age, design has the potential to act as an avatar of change for innovation; exactly what management did for manufacturing in the late eighties. The future will always be uncertain. We must learn to decode the changes and develop a sense of design.

– The author is VP – Strategy & Business Excellence, Manipal Innovation & Design, part of the Manipal group

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