Far too many companies have a management approach that is too traditional to secure their long-term market value. Studies and think tanks from several countries point to strategic design as part of the answer, but many business leaders think that design is only about form and appearances.
Companies that use design as a central and integrated part of their innovation and business processes generate more value than companies that only use design to add the finishing touches or styling to their products – the more traditional perception of the potential of design. This has been documented in British, American, Swedish and even Danish studies.
Today, it is mostly big companies and companies in the fields of finance or business services or industry that use design as an integrated part of their innovation processes and business development. Smaller companies stand to gain from design too, however. The Kolding-based company NORD Gourmet is a good example. The company produces gourmet fast food, which is sold at festivals and other public events. Before the founder, Annette Møller Therkelsen, set up the company, she studied the use of strategic design carefully, and that helped her get the company off to a good start. NORD Gourmet recently received an award for its use of design in product development, and the results of the work are evident on the bottom line:
– Our turnover has passed the million-kroner mark, and I now have two full-time employees and many more casual workers who help out when our food trucks go on the road. At present, we have sold more than 25,000 rye bread tapas, which is our signature product, says owner Annette Møller Therkelsen, who also has international plans for her company. She attended a series of courses at D2i – Design to innovate to learn about strategic design use.
Strategic design in the board room
Already in a 2007 survey, most Danish companies said that they use design in some capacity. Only 7 per cent replied that they do not use design in their work at all. The big difference, however, lies in the way the companies use design. One in three Danish companies only uses design as a means of styling or giving their products and services the finishing touches.
At the same time, the executive committees in Danish companies take a fairly passive role. The average age is close to sixty, and far too often, the board consists of family members and close relations. They see the board mostly as a control entity, but some companies are embracing the new opportunities.
– We’re seeing a clear trend where many companies are replacing the old family boards with a board made up of outsiders. That brings new dynamics to the companies and also boosts their growth, says Leif Boa, a partner at Board Innovators.