13 November 2006
Jan Stavik, Director, Norwegian Design Council
Jan Stavik, Director, Norwegian Design Council

In order to address this topic we need to assume that most companies are concerned about at least three major issues:

1. fulfilling present future customer needs
2. beating the competition
3. creating profits and shareholder value

In other words, it s all about creating business and thus, focusing on business development.

Any corporate executive would agree with this. Most executive agendas are concerned about not only finding the right mixture of crucial business processes to achieve their goals, but also securing the best quality in the performance of corporate business processes. The problem, however, is that when everyone has read from the same book, everyone will act according to the same mantras and agendas and achieve average results, if any.

Searching for excellence
Companies searching for more than this are companies that are searching for excellence. There are quite a few of these companies in Europe, but most of them are still searching. Some companies, however, have succeeded and have achieved a position as market-leaders within their field of business. In a country
like Italy one will find quite a few small and medium sized companies, which have achieved such a position within areas like ski boots, spectacles, furniture.

These companies have created the three values mentioned above by implementing design as a competitive tool and have, thus, achieved a distinct identity and an international brand.

The challenge
The challenge is to identify and implement a business development tool that makes a difference and creates unique and profitable values, when integrated with establishes business processes. Design is such a tool. The problem is that a majority of European companies are not aware of this. Those companies that acknowledge the value of design as part of corporate business development are the companies that are profitable category leaders within their business field today. They have identified design thinking and design procedures as the missing link in order to create the extra value in the interface between the market and the corporation. That is what makes a difference.

Corporate consequence
In order to utilise design as a catalytic value in corporate business development, the company has to:
- acknowledge design thinking and procedures as a business tool in itself
- adapt the organisational know-how and operational procedures to the business tool
- integrate this into established business processes such as: Product Development, Marketing, Production & Logistics, Corporate material, PR and information, Sales and information, Organisational behaviour/Corporate Culture.

Who owns the challenge?
In most companies the board of directors, the CEO, and his or her management team will open any business development issue. With a commitment at company top-level, design will be put on the company agenda. This will have a strong influence on company behaviour and create the necessary culture for design-focus and design-performance in order to achieve a profitable competitive edge. Studios of successful companies that have been performed in different countries, strongly supports this viewpoint. Thus, it is imperative that the commitment to integrate design into corporations starts within the boardroom, and as a consequence, is executed by the CEO and his team. This is not the case in most European corporations. They simply
do not know why they should implement design as part of their business processes, and certainly not how to do it.

Summary - the bottom line
Any initiative towards introducing design as a business tool for creating a corporate competitive edge should start with initiatives aimed at the board of directors and the top management level. Without such initiatives a lot of companies will neither be exposed to why design is important nor how to implement design in company business processes.

About this article
This article is re-published with permission from Design Issues in Europe Today, a whitebook published by The Bureau of European Design Associations (BEDA), ISBN: 1-905061-04-08. Please visit the BEDA website for more information.

About BEDA
Communicating the value of design and innovation for Europe: BEDA exists to ensure permanent liaison betseen the professional socities of designers, the promotional, educational, research, social and design management organisations and networks within the countries of Europe, and to act as a liaison between them and the authorities of the European Union.

BEDA is an affiliate Member of Icograda

About the Norwegian Design Council (NDC)
NDC was established in 1963 by the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry and the Norwegian Trade Council to promote design as a competitive tool in market-oriented product development and market communication. The council is mainly funded by the Norwegian Department of Trade and Industry. Additional sources of income are consultancy services and design related projects.

The Norwegian Design Council is an associate Member of Icograda.

About Icograda
The International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda) is the world body for professional communication design. Founded in 1963, it is a voluntary assembly of associations concerned with graphic design, visual communication, design management, design promotion and design education. Icograda promotes communication designers' vital role in society and commerce and unifies the voices of graphic designers and visual communicators worldwide. The vision, mission and core values of Icograda are collectively embodied in the statement 'leading creatively', which is manifested through our members' diverse activities to use design as a medium for progressive change.