Michael Novak

Michael Novak

CEO

@michaelgarcianovak

4 hands-on definitions of Business Design

This emerging area uses the tools (and mindsets) of people-centric design to develop financial, operational and organizational models.

October 13, 2019 3 min read

New technologies require many new types of designers, and many kinds of design are turning into buzzwords. But one with huge potential we can’t afford to ignore is Business Design.

A few enlightened counter examples non-withstanding, most companies and organizations still do not understand the potential of a design-based approach. We think of design as an aesthetic profession, or even a part of advertising, and not as a problem-solving mentality well adapted to help companies face a lot of real world issues.

The point is to go beyond Design Thinking.

Recent years have seen the practice of Design Thinking and similar processes, which help leaders create more user-centric products and services, grow far and wide. They’re ideal to make products and services desirable to customers, but they often fail to create a sustainable business model.

Business Design is the solution.

A business model has always been an important part of starting and operating a company, but recently the concept of designing companies has acquired a new urgency. The rise of startups, the accelerated pace of change in markets and constantly evolving technology make it crucial to develop innovative business models and reconsider traditional ones.

Business Design provides tools and methods to develop and test a business model. At the same time, it makes the difference between a providing a service that is just a marketing gimmick and one that makes for a sustainable business.

Defining Business Design

Definitions for business design are still blurry. There’s more than one reason for that. The first is that this practice is still emerging. The second is a bit more fundamental: Business Design is about creativity and problem solving put in practice, and so its definitions are meant to clarify concepts, not to limit them.

For example, David Schmidt of Service Innovation Labs does not have one, but four practical definitions of what Business Design is:

  1. It is the application of design methods and processes to the development of and innovation in business models.
  2. It is about creating and capturing value.
  3. It transforms a value proposition into real value for the business
  4. It finds meaning in creating new value by thinking in terms of relationships.

These definitions see Business Design from the lens of its methods, its goals, or what sets it apart from other strategic innovation practices.

For Peter J. Thompson, digital strategist at the start-up Snowball Effect, Business Design is like a virus. It ‘catches’, spreading a particular mindset from the areas of design and technology into management.

It seeks to change the view that the creation and production of products and services, and the new tech they can offer, are the real creators of value in a business, and sees management as mere infrastructure.

Instead, it turns the organization of a company, its strategic planning, and its approach to business models and value propositions into an area worthy of innovation and creativity in its own right.

Business Design can be used to set up a company from scratch, or for an established company to make decisions about managing products, services and new business units. A good business designer works with both design tools and spreadsheets. And in a rapidly changing world, having someone to turn to in order to rethink part, or all, of your business to be more successful, these skills are invaluable.

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Michael Novak

Michael Novak

CEO

@michaelgarcianovak

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Michael is an expert in innovation, education and entrepreneurship. As a consultant, your expertise is strategic innovation. He is CEO of Novak Innovation.