Thursday, 22 April 2010

Why art should be compulsory for CEOs

In Tim Brown's book, Change by Design, the author calls for design thinking to "move upstream", closer to the boardroom, where strategic decisions are made. But there are a couple of good reasons why this is harder to execute than it sounds. Roger Martin, who with the help of Brown first coined the phrase "design thinking", says that most CEOs are completely devoid of artistic capability while many designers seem overly keen to keep it that way. "CEOs aren't nurturing their artistic sensibilities," says Martin. "Art is a little foreign to them."

"In Canada, virtually everyone who can drop art drops it. Maths and English are required subjects to the bitter end at high school. Hardly anyone takes anything that would cause any development of their artistic sensibilities at university. Some take history of art, but the numbers are minuscule in total."

If you combine that with the fact that many designers want to keep design "pure" and away from the grasp of CEOs, says Martin, you have a recipe for disintegrated organisations, in which design is wholly detached from the process of innovation. Leaders should "care about lines and form", adds Martin. It's the only way to ensure design thinking pervades the entire organisation.

"Why are iPhones so pretty? It's because when the guy who green lights them is shown an iPhone that looks pretty good and one that looks awesome, he says I'll take the awesome one".

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