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Design Thinking – Good for business & Detroit

October 6 2014

Tim Smith

More quantifiable proof: Good Design is Good for Business. A recent study reported in Fast Company proves that companies that embrace Design Thinking outperform those that don’t by a whopping 228 percent.1
You read that right – 228 percent.

The analysis, completed by the Design Management Institute, looked at companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 over a 10-year period. They compared the companies based on a list of six criteria that determined which were design-driven.

It isn’t much of a surprise that those on the list included Apple, Ford, Herman Miller, Target, Disney, Whirlpool, Nike and Starbucks. But it’s pretty encouraging to see that three Michigan-based companies are on the list, and I’m guessing it won’t be long until there are a few more.
So, what does the study mean?

First, to all the naysayers and critics who think that investment in design does not yield results: I say there are 228 reasons that will counter that argument. You want bottom line numbers? There ya’ go. Second, it means that Design Thinking is a viable way to get back on track.
Do you see where I’m going with this?

Michigan-based companies, and Detroit-centric organizations have a huge opportunity to embrace a concept that drives change and creates a sustainable future. If you need an example, just look at General Motors and United Way for Southeastern Michigan. One, a global company trying to deliver better transportation solutions to a worldwide car buying audience. The other, a local nonprofit working tirelessly to improve the condition of Detroit and its people.

Two seemingly different organizations that have one striking similarity: a commitment to using Design Thinking to improve the delivery of their services.

Led by CEO Michael Brennan, United Way is using collaboration and innovation to solve long-entrenched challenges in Detroit. He’s opened up his doors to Skidmore and other critical thinkers, and introduced workshops and ideation sessions to ask better questions.

Down the street, GM has created a better environment for asking those questions. In 2013, they launched the Innovation Xchange, a sanctuary where GM can build new pathways to extraordinary thinking. On a recent tour of the 10,000 square foot space in GM World Headquarters, we experienced first-hand how ideas can be nurtured and protected to find the light of day.

Both GM and United Way’s efforts are critical in affecting change in their own organizations and beyond. Hopefully companies like these can lead the charge and even more Detroit businesses will see the value and benefit of adopting a design-driven approach.

Ten years from now, I want to see an updated study about design-driven regions and I want to see Detroit at the top of that list. Who’s with me?