Design as a signature skill for knowledge workers – ESJ Column

(cross-posted at Future Tense)

Over the summer I wrote a column for the Enterprise Systems Journal that I neglected to point to at the time. The broad point I was trying to work out was that for all the recent attention to issues of innovation and design, the focus has been on addressing the needs of the organization.

Design thinking and design skill are equally, if not more, pertinent to individual knowledge workers. My wrap up there was:

Design is a talent, but it is also a skill, and whatever talent we were graced with, the skill can be developed. Few of us will rival MacGyver (few of us have a scriptwriter and props department handy either), but we can learn to start looking at the world around us as potential resources with more possible uses than intended. We can start to see opportunities to make small changes that will lead to a better fit between our resources and our problems. [ESJ: Design as a Signature Skill]

This is part of a more general trend of organizations needing to deal with how to strike a new balance between execution and design. In the last century, that balance was one person thinking design for every hundred to thousand doing execution. Today, that ratio needs to be much closer to one to one. Moreover, that balance will often have to be managed within each of us as knowledge workers. Perhaps that is one factor that accounts for the relative strength of small organizations versus large ones.