Be Careful What You Ask For

09 Jun 2005|Darrel Rhea

As Terri Ducay’s blog notes, we just returned from the DMI Brand Design Conference more convinced than ever that business demand for design innovation is getting hotter every day and is likely to explode. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this. What is different from past predictions is who is doing the predicting and what its implications are.

The prediction of design innovation being the next wave of change to sweep through businesses large and small is being touted by none other than the “old guard” — Businessweek, P&G and GE.

Businessweek is declaring design to be the critical competency for business and the primary tool of business growth. Says Bruce Nussbaumn, “We are seeing an explosion of interest in design as a business process tool….The left brain, six sigma guys are no longer interesting or considered effective.” P&G’s Lafley was profiled on the front page of the WSJ for his innovation approach. Lafley is on the board of GE, and guess who’s CEO getting design religion?

Cheskin has long been an advocate of using design as a business process tool, so you’d think this would be making us jump for joy. There’s only one problem…there is almost no infrastructure to support a significant increase in demand for this service. For example, P&G has hired over 120 senior designers. Acquent has been contracted to hire 22 more P&G positions. They defined the universe as 700 people nationally qualified and 600 of them work for key P&G suppliers who are off limits. Talk about a tough recruit…

If Nussbaum is right, and 300 companies quickly jump on this band wagon, there’s going to be a lot of raiding going on, and we’ll see a return to the dotcom practice of dressing junior people up as experts. Since no one really wants this, the real challenge is figuring out a way to meet rapidly accelerating demand for a talent that can’t be taught overnight. And, trust me, we’re working on it.

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