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The Future of Design – Eric Quint

This is the first episode of our chat on the #Future of #Design and #DesignThinking. Hosts Marco Bevolo and Filiberto Amati chat with Eric Quint, Former chief brand and design officer 3M Company, and co-author of the book “Design Leadership Ignited”

 

Transcript

Filiberto Amati
Hi, this is Filiberto amati. And we have here today for a new session on the future of design, this time, our new reasearch with Marco Bevolo who is co author, welcome Marco and Marco, please introduce our esteemed guest of today.



Marco Bevolo
Thank you very much. We are indeed starting a new series of interviews toa number of thought leaders and senior industry experts worldwide. This time, we are focusing on design thinking. And indeed We start from design because if there is design thinking there must be design somewhere. Our guest today is Eric winter, Eric is a design leader who operated since the 1990s in various positions of divisions and with growing task,portfolio with responsibilities that he expressed all over the world, he has been one of the leaders of Philips designer from the point of view of both domestic appliances and personal care down to establishing the consulting capability and capacity team at Felix design in the 2000s. He has been Chief Design Officer of 3am. And he is the author of a book with girl the game sir. And Julia, co writer of the Technical University dev to design leadership ignited, elevating designers scale aware he captured in the summarize the all his wisdom and his knowledge. I would like to ask Eric, to introduce himself with the first question that is actually based on your experience, how would you define design in first place and design and thinking? And how do you see yourself in the context of design?

Eric Quint
Now, thanks for the question. And thanks for having me in the interview. It’s always interesting to talk about the future of design and design thinking

Well, if you would ask me what design is about I would define design, as creativity applied with a purpose and with empathy. And that’s, for me the shortest definition of design. And I think it’s very nice to see that design thinking as a kind of a mindset and a creative problem solving approach is used across many different organizations and many different functions. But there is a risk to that as well is that the terms design, thinking and design are really mixed up. You know, I very often say that everybody should be able and prefer to participate in a Design Thinking Thinking exercise, but that does not make everybody a designer. Yeah. And I think we need to distinguish the art craftsmanship of design, versus the methods and tools and approaches that designers are using to mainly, I would say, identify problems and solve problems, because design thinking for me is in the in the area of problem definition, as well as problem solving. There’s a nice summary that I gave on design thinking where there’s a few key word words that are very important, but it is a creative problem solving approach. Where you work in multidisciplinary teams use creativity to to help you to set the problem definition as well as the problem solving. But you do it based on insights and you use it for complex products. And there’s a few words in there that are very important, multidisciplinary, you’re not doing it from within one discipline. It is complex, high complex problems, because that’s where the multidisciplinary and the design thinking and creativity is needed. To come up with solid solutions. So, yes and of course they we all know the walls full of post it notes that are used to capture the ideas that you haven’t in creative sessions and design thinking exercises that that are used to, to say, organize your thoughts and prioritize the scenarios that could lead to good solutions.

Marco Bevolo
Well, thank you very much. I will come back to the evolution of design thinking and design itself from a point of view of strategic impact, but I would like to give the ball to Filiberto and ask Filiberto to to shape one or two questions about a very hot topic that is the impact of digitalization on design. And especially the impact of digitalization on design thinking. So, we have seen examples of artificial intelligence, doing poetry already a few years ago, Google is experimenting with in artificial intelligence doing sort of visual arts. Filiberto, would you like to, to share with Eric, your view on digitalization and bringing one or two questions about digitalization in design?

Filiberto Amati
Thank you very much. Yes, indeed, that, that, you know, it’s interesting how we can use now algorithm and expose them to various disciplines, in heights, from poetry to variety into drawing to design into composing music, and, you know, perfect, actually, the automatisation of composing music and art and design, and so on, and so forth. So the, it is clearly that, that doesn’t make it art, per se, it makes it as an artistic effort. And probably, it’s creative, in a very broad sense of the topic, by the end the definition, but it’s not really a creative input or a creative solution. But it opens the door to how these out minimization is impacting, in particularly one of the central dimension that you pointed out in your definition, which is empathy. You know, how does that promotes or dilutes the notion of empathy within the process, and where there are designers to be afraid of the work that, you know, machines can do visa V, the work that basically, humans can do in the future, I think that’s one step. And let’s say as a context for that, as consultants, we have seen how the digitalization beyond before via intelligence and even further now, it’s completely changed the landscape of our industry, because consultants were very good at to begin with, finding out information which wasn’t readily available forever, but we now leave it actually in a landscape of abundance of data and information. And so that has completely changed. And by the way, algorithms are better than humans. I find the how pattern it’s in understanding and you know, cert into this data. So, this requires a shift for consultants in the way they work. By the way, a lot of consultants brain in you know, in Intel intelligence, can be now sold more easily to reports which are available to everybody and this is probably the blue ocean for consultants in the future or in the present towards the future. So how’s that? Does that change the role of designer, the work of designer and design thinkers? In that sense?

Eric Quint
Well, there’s a lot of questions in your statement here. But let’s start at the center of digitalization and the access of designers towards, say new tools. I remember a couple of desenio ago, when computer aided design was offered to designers. One of the challenges that was there is that you need to understand the tools, and you need to apply the tools in the right way. And so you have seen and I have seen designers that were using computer aided design for everything throughout the whole design process, and it was not very effective and not very helpful. Whilst other designers were very precise, in utilizing the tool in the in the most effective way. And using it particularly in those parts of the of the process where it added a lot of value. And so having new tools, means also understanding the tools and knowing when and where and how to apply these tools. So if you look to digitalization, for instance, you have exactly the same challenges and opportunities there. One of the things that happened with design thinking, I would say is it heavily democratized through across, say, different disciplines, as well as different organizations, and across industry as well to society and political and say, nonprofit organizations as well. And so, that is good, because I think there’s a lot of added value and advantages that that design thinking approach can have. If you think about digital and the impact of digital, I see a few stages there. If you look now, the most say simple way of digitization is a tools that are now available for, say platforms more or less for collaboration. If you think about the slack and neural and Miro, these are great tools that we never had before. And we’re really, really helpful in the time of the economy, to to connect people in order to to keep working and do their design acts the best way they could do. So the word collaboration, empathy is an important one. But collaboration is another very important one if you think about the impact and value of design. So there’s also tools in terms of research that are digital that give far much more flexibility and access to say audiences to check scenarios and certain offices in a far more versatile way. And very much more cost effective across all regions to be honest. So very, very interesting. But as mica knows, I was leader of strategic design team that I have built in Philips. And we had a heavy research based team with anthropologist such so geologist, strategist. And what I have learned there is that it is amazing to see what kind of information and knowledge we can generate. But the added value is in the in the application and the understanding of the of the of the knowledge. So the knowledge in itself has no value. Because if you’re not able to interpret it, and to to apply it in a meaningful way, it doesn’t make any sounds. So so if you then look to say, the metaverse and how that is impacting, design and creativity, you can say one of the most simple ways of describing what a company is about is, is about identifying value, developing value and delivering value. And design is going across all of this. The identification of the value is the innovation part where you come up with hopefully the best ideas and the and the best scenarios that makes sense to impact society in a positive way going further. But that’s in itself already a challenge to find out what are those best ideas, but then if you have your best ideas, you need to develop those ideas to value propositions. And then you need to communicate about us to to bring those ideas to your audiences, whoever they are. And what I see is that complexity is increasing tremendously. You see that in company setting, before there was a focus very much well totally not in the beginning because it was all about technology conversion. And the customer was not always you know, in the center and the heart of that of that value act. But for sure, lately, the last two Sunya you see that design and design approaches helps to put the customer at the heart of all of this, but now, what is talking about much more is stakeholders, it is not about customer only anymore. So, we talk about investors, that shareholders, customers, employees, communities, society, and you see there is a move from more say performance driven

say an act of performance to an act of that is driven by purpose. So, now, come back to your digital the digital opportunities that we have, if you think about artificial intelligence, AV whatever we all have, the interesting part of it is is that there can be a predictive element into all of this. And so, if you think about a predictive element, that is particularly interesting, if you talk about long cycle industries and decisions that are on a long cycle, think for instance about you know, actually all mobility industry is is in the long cycle. So, what does it mean as creators, innovators, designers, you need to take decisions now on technology platforms, and how you build your value proposition that is probably ending up in the marketplace five to 10 years from now. And so, that that predictive part is in there, and you see it particularly in those industries, a heavy research based aspect, which in fashion is totally not there, because in fashion, every quarter you got a new shocks. And so, that is I think, very important. Well, if you now think about society, and the challenges, we have a society and you think for instance, about urban planning, then you know, the the scope of urban planning is even more on 20 years, 2530 years. So how, as developers, are we able to design aspects into the value proposition now, that we, that we know or suspect that are interesting for our audiences in 20 to 25 years from now. And so, artificial intelligence and big data can be very interesting to have that predictive element into there where you, you can easily do scenario building, where you can come up with scenarios that the say the accuracy of those scenarios will will go up, still, the interpret interpretation, and the application of all of that data needs to happen by say, multidisciplinary teams, taking the right decisions and translating these into the right creations. Whatever they are.

Filiberto Amati
Thank you very much follow up on on the notionally introduce of the democratization of design thinking, isn’t there a risk because now by the way, I did business school, I’m not a designer, but you actually get to design thinking in business school, some of the methodology some of the aspects foresights insides problem solving cameras, whatever methodologies brainstorming and how to you know, choose the colors of the posts, of course, and so on and so forth. But is there a risk that these democratization becomes a massification? Then dilutes also

Eric Quint
sure, it is a risk. So there’s, there’s two sides of the coin here. And one side it is great that in the approaches and the mindset of creatives and designers thought to other disciplines as well, I would refer to this okay the language of the designers is thought so, other disciplines understand and can can interpret the language of designers and much better so that they can work better together. But as soon as it starts to become a kind of a substitute, like okay, now Let me give me all the tools related to design thinking. And now I am a designer, that things go completely wrong. And so I mentioned already, knowing about design thinking, say two steps and tools and mindset doesn’t mean that you become a designer. And I had that challenge many, many times in my practice, where when I was growing design and preamp for instance, I got all of these requests of people, engineers and scientists that approached me by saying, oh, I want to come work for your team, can you? I have done a Design Thinking course at IDEO D school. And so I’m very ready to join the team. And I always said, wow, that’s very interesting. Yes, we need, of course, scientists and engineers and marketeers and whatever collaborators that understand what we do, because then we can better collaborate. You know, the fact that I might know about engineering processes doesn’t make me an engineer, or financial processes doesn’t make me a financial expert. And I think one of the tasks that designers have is to be first of all, very proud about what design is, and but also be very clear about, you know, explaining that the added value is not in knowing about design thinking, it is about collaborating with design thinkers in a more effective way. And I think that is one of the risks, that when I saw in Trium, that design thinking became very popular, and you have companies like IBM that, you know, deployed Design Thinking courses for all their employees almost all around the world. That that’s, that’s great to do. But it’s also good to know that I think the ownership of design thinking should with should be with design. These design is responsible as a function, to develop the tools that’s to make sure that the communication is done right to innovate, design, if needed, and design thinking, to communicate about it, and to collaborate through design thinking with all of these different functions. And so, yes, what I did is working together with HR, and with r&d, marketing, to make sure that those tools were accessible to everybody. But if we would do a design thinking workshop or an exercise, these I would be the, the the owner of managing and coordinating and mentoring all of this.

Filiberto Amati
Thank you. Thank you very much.

Marco Bevolo
Thank you, I think the your your elaborate answer, gave some insight also about our share the story in the 2000s at Philips design. Wang, indeed, the anthropologist, the psychologist, the sociologists that were part of the design team, which I always have to explain that in spite, I am an Italian, I’m not a designer, but I miss a geologist. And I don’t study the society of today, but the society five or 10 years, which makes my life very complicated, but you understood immediately the first time we met in 1998, what was the scope of my specialization and how the specialization could fit in a design team like the one we we belong to those days in those years. Looking at your book, you structure the book. And this is the table of contents today, bringing to light into three steps, establishing the Design Foundation, empowering the design team, elevating to design excellence, so Foundation, empowerment, excellence, I think these will be probably interpreted by most people who read a use the book to, to lecture and to teach is a roadmap. I also see a potential future progression for the design function within a company from foundation to empowerment to excellence. Do you think that the design function should indeed follow these kind of roadmaps whereby a when when you install it, maybe it’s not clear yet What is the challenge is can do. And then when you are at the level of excellence, you have a multidisciplinary team of time and hour, do you see? With this kind of roadmap thinking, if it’s correct, how would you see, the design is a practice and design thinking evolve in the future in general. So starting from the organizational reality in companies, and then going into the dimension, you mentioned those society and the culture.

Eric Quint
However, first thing is, if you are approached by CEO to have a role as a Chief Design Officer, you the task is pretty simple. You can summarize that in one sentence, it’s something like, can you help us to build a creative and design platform global platform that and build the, the capabilities around this to advance? So innovation and house brand for company? So that’s one sentence, and then you start to think, Okay, what does it mean? And, you know, everything has a timing, we know any innovation, timing is very important. Because you can have the most marvelous ideas, and you can have a view of the most advanced design function. But if the enabling conditions and the capabilities are out there in the company, you go nowhere. So first thing you need to do as a leader is understand what is the zero measurement, so to say, what is the actual, say, state of the art of the design, function and creativity and collaborate creative collaboration in the company, before you can make a plan, how to go forward, making a roadmap is extremely important. One of the things we learned from the research, so we put a book, we researched 59, design leaders all around the world. And what I have seen is that there was a lot of passion and energy of those leaders to, to elevate design and to grow design in those organizations in their organizations. But I saw also, at the other hand, a lot of disappointment and challenge and even frustration in many cases of people not, you know, achieving what they had in mind that there was a mismatch between their ambition, or their and the realities and how to get there. And so, one great way is to, to satisfy strategic vision, but also be very openly about it. And I make a roadmap of how you come from the SS to be. Why is that important? Because it helps you to manage expectations, it’s a very good way of avoiding that the organization is pulling you in on all kinds of ventures that maybe are not yet the appropriate ones, because you’re not there yet. And if you’re very clear about what your roadmap is, you, you you set expectations, and you say, oh, you know what, on my roadmap, what you expect me to do, doesn’t make a lot of sense, you’re not ready for it, but maybe in two years or a year, we’re ready for it. So that’s one of the things and the thing that was missing most in those interviews that we found out was what I call a design governance. And so, the design governance is a kind of an alliance document, where you agree and endorse documents and communicated documents, where you have put down say the starting points for the engagement of design with all the organization. So that means that in the end the documents, you you have defined and agreed about how was designed sponsored in terms of budgeting, who is managing the designers? What is the location of the designers, if you if you talk about you know, in one design studio or scattered around the businesses, it’s about the rules of engagement of awareness, whereas ours the design team enables and of course, the scope of design, you know, are you only tactical, are you also in strategic? Are you mainly focusing on the innovation part or also in brand? You know, what is the scope? And what I have seen is that I refer very often to this is that, if you don’t have that groundwork, and the framework defined of what that function is going to be, you run the risk that if you start to ask Have a design and draw design, that you, you ask for trouble, you’re going to scale trouble. And that happens a lot. And so, it is very nice to have all of these visionary ideas of what the function could be

very often related to design excellence, but you can be very sophisticated, but if the foundation is not there, then you are not probably very successful in scaling at all. So, the methodology that we say talk about in the book is indeed setting that foundation. And then you have to, of course, empower the team later on in growing so, by setting the foundation, you’d have of course, the the elements of you know, what is design leadership depart, what is designed about what is your vision and mission, and then you go into the next steps of the model, where you talk about elements that there are components to go from the foundational elements to the the empowerment of the team and the growing of the team to in the end driving the Design Excellence, well, you should realize that that is not an overnight X that can easily take 10 years, I have given myself five years at IBM to do this. And you know, just because of the complexity, because you talk about organizations that are in you know, 80 countries, they have you talk about many different divisions and businesses 50 or 30, you talk about 100,000 people, and so, that means that that is usually complex, and therefore, it is a transformation process. So, it is not adding design to an organization is not about adding the capability somewhere, it is actually how the company works, because you have to integrate it into processes. And so, therefore, in the steps we talked about, in order to establish that foundation very well, you need to make sure that you have a clear design direction. So, that’s the design roadmap and strategy indivision going forward, then you need to build a kind of a design organization where that governance comes in as well, because you need to have an alignment with all of the stakeholders in the company to do so. And then if you got to empowering the team, you need to have a design taxonomy available to make sure that you you have described the scope of design, but also you have described the career path of the people in design so that they know what their future is and how they can grow and learn as well as how you build these on resources and you need to innovate, what new resources do I need for instance, in the digitalization to make sure that we are we are ready to go for elevating design to the excellence level is there a start to scale and where you, you, you hope to bring that vision of life where you you build that design excellence and what is now the the, the yet the learning of the book is that that design excellence is never reached, because you’re always on a journey that it has a moving target, where the dynamics in society and in companies is changing, that means that designing to be very versatile and say adaptive to to new situations and that means that you you excellence is an act of continuous reinvention that keeps you you know, and in the Premier League of acting design.

Filiberto Amati
Now, this is very insightful, to follow ups intertwined. So, in terms of design leadership, in the post COVID-19 era, wherever remote work is a reality. How do you or not, how do you but what is your recommendation in terms of do’s and don’ts to keep building a culture within the design organization, even though you have remote workers and people don’t necessarily meet this often. And related to that, based on what you just commented is the role because I see the role of creativity to you know, reshape the boundaries. So is the role of the designer organization to make transform the companies to become more inclusive, more sustainable in a household?

Eric Quint
Yeah, so if you think about that, that future rollout design then I think laxity is getting more of Hoover’s it’s not good enough anymore to put the customer in the center of all of this, I think we need to put society in the center on this. And so if that is the case, then the complexity is getting up. And so the need for design, across all of the main processes of a company, and the need for creativity and collaboration is extremely important. And so if you think about the Sustainable Development Goals, you know, they are all of systematic, systemic complexity. And so that means you, you need to go already into a strategic approach, not the tactical approach to go and work on these. But even more important, you cannot solve these kinds of challenges anymore from within one organization. So, if you think about water, or air, or education, or health, or mobility, these are all these big themes. And you need to work together across the boundaries of organizations, industries, policymakers, governments, educational institutions, Institute’s and academic Institute’s, to make sure that you come up with with scenarios and Snorks solutions, that that go beyond, you know, maximizing the shareholder value within one organization. So there is a role for design to play. Why? Because I think, besides the empathy that designers can bring in, what kind of other people can do that as well, is the creativity and particularly the imagination, I think that is extremely, extremely important. So what I have seen in many, with many business leaders, they know exactly how to run a business, they know how to define the KPIs, they know how to fire up an organization in the good way of putting, say, the people behind the strategy and division. But in the end, you need to lead organizations to what that preferable future is. And so imagination is important to have, but also how to make that the magic nary, strategies tangible, is something where designers come in very often. So, in the book, we describe about the future role of designers. And what we see is a kind of an equilibrium, and where the designer or design leaders are in the center one way or the other. And we have to deal at one side about the emerging technologies and how to incorporate those into our act of design and design thinking going forward. But we need to also inspire a culture where you are in a cultural leader, to create a creative culture within an organization and even beyond your own design team. You are leading and engaging in advancing collaborations, like I mentioned already far beyond the collaborations within your own team, within your own organization, it is, you know, across organizations and across different types of organizations.

And then, of course, there is a design for equity, that you want to make sure that whatever solutions you you come up with and engage into, is accessible to anybody, hopefully, in the world. And so how are you going to deal with that, because we know the disparity between, you know, accessibility of health and access to how that energy and clean water and all of that is becoming better that bigger and is not going to help us to solve the issues that we have, and that are mentioned in the and the goals in the United development goals. And that of course, this is all about sustainable innovation, which is impacting the planet where you know, designers play a role. Now Philippi to go back to your question of, you know, the post COVID And how is that going to happen? In my previous role, I was Chief Brand and Design Officer of the company. Why? Because my act was not only focusing on the technology, conversion, see the innovation process, but also very much on and that was the identification of value but also on the development and the delivery of the value. So the delivery of the value is very much a marketing and the branding act. And I always say you know the most exciting brands they don’t happen and they’re not they don’t exist by coincidence. They are carefully curated and designed So if you think about a world where we live in now, where everybody is working from home, there is a kind of a dualism that we describe many more in the book dualisms that design leaders have to navigate is the dualism of, you know, having a fully remote team at one side, and having a few a full on site team that you can work with and have dialogue with and start to shape, you know, ideas for the future. I think both are probably not yet. But you will for sure, get a hybrid, where I think you will utilize the things that we have learned through the COVID, that we probably are much more flexible in allowing people to work from home, and also seeing people adding value in that way. But at the other hand, you need to also be together, and particularly when it comes down to different disciplines and across the people across different organizations to to build relationships that are going to help to to create those, you know, answers on the bigger complex questions and challenges that we have in the world. So So yeah, that’s probably my answer.

Filiberto Amati
Thank you. Thank you,

Marco Bevolo
uncle. Well, as a last question, I would like to go at the very first page of the book. And it’s a bit of an intellectual question, maybe. But I’m curious. The answer is printed, but I’m curious to hear it from you. The in Italian design, especially the role of the book by the designer, is really crucial. And rare, Brian says, published a lot of a lot of books. You have books by by rota on, on his creative process, important books by sorts us and so on. You chose to publish the book with two co authors who are academics. And actually, the preface of the book is why this book with these authors, that is quite for me insightful. Why did you you could have you know, you could have done the book with with a journalist you could have done the book with with different co authors along with a ghostwriter. Why did you choose? Gave the end? Julia calibrate from university

Eric Quint
context? Well, you know, the need for the book was actually instigated to me several times when doing, say, lectures and keynote speeches where people asked me after the speech, bar, have you written a book, I would love to read more about your experiences and your insights. And I never had the time to do that, and, and learning about shadows work, and Julius work, who wrote a book about strategic design before. So in the research, we have learned through the eyes of 59, other design leaders, all kinds of different approaches and challenges and dualisms that they need to navigate and how successful they are and not. And so the experiences that I bring to the book is a bit of a description of what I have learned over the last 35 years, in many cases in the hard way. But I also wanted to make sure that the substance and the the foundation of the book is much more or wider going wider than my personal opinion and experiences on. And so that is the value of the book. And it is interesting that you asked this, but if you would ask me what what is the the essence of how you approached your role at 3am? I would say, Well, I have applied design thinking to my own challenge that I had to bring design to the next level in Korea. If you would ask me, How have you written the book? I would say to you, I have applied design thinking and collaborative approaches to writing a book that goes far more beyond what I think is an individual, but is a mix of insights and the experiences of two academics and other design leaders that makes it a more comprehensive and hopefully more valuable book With 170 quarters of those people that we have interviewed to give it more substance and, and a better, you know, maybe inspiration for for those future generations.

Marco Bevolo
Thank you so much. I think our This dialogue is coming to exclosure. Our dialogue is going to continue for another. We know each other for 23 years or so, I would suggest that 23 years ahead, we will have another interview with Filiberto and we will discuss your next your next chapter in your book. Filiberto, would you like to close?

Filiberto Amati
No, I just wanted to thank you, Eric, for taking the time and talking to us. It was been really a great and inspiring conversation. So, I look forward to speaking to you in the future, we’ll be doing a second take on the future of design.

Eric Quint
That’s how the book started off her first interview with Hannah and Julia, they decided to have a few interviews, decided to write a book. So my pleasure and yeah, I think what we have discussed, and much more detail and flavor you can find back in the book. So feel free to read the book and enjoy and thank you for having.

Marco Bevolo
Well, thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you

 


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