Christian Bason on Designing for Systemic Change

Christian Bason from the Danish Design Centre spoke about the evolution of design in a sprawling presentation to wrap up the morning sessions.

Design impacts the world through diffusion. Ezio Manzini wrote about the difference between Expert design vs Diffuse design. This is similar to Herbert Simon’s observation that everyone designs who invents ways to change existing situations into preferable situations.

Like the previous presentation, Christian observed that Lunar, Adaptive Path, Designit were recently acquired by McKinsey and Co, Capital One and Wipro. He’s curious about how the culture of these organizations change. Either for the design firm or for the parent organization.

Design is splintering:

  • Craft vs Mass Production
  • Heroic designer vs Co-designer
  • Product vs Service
  • Growth vs Social Change

As design is rapidly transforming, what are the ways in which design can create value for society? He sees potential in changing design policy and design leadership.

DDC wants to make design a top competitive factor in Danish businesses. Today only 15% use design strategically. Can we catalyze design, by design?

  1. Experiment. Ask good questions. What don’t we know about design? Engage business and designers to find out.
  2. Learn: How does design create value, now? Observe design practice in action. Open source. Observe both failures and success.
  3. Share. Give everyone access to new insights. Platforms for catalyzing learning for change.

Micro Design: Shaping the Future: Design leadership as an innovation tool.
Buckminster Fuller: Design as future-making
Herbert Simon: Design as decision-making.

Boland and Collopy 2004: A design attitude views each project as an opportunity for invention and that includes a questioning of basic assumptions and a resolve to leave the world a better place than it’s found

What happens between designers and managers?

There’s a change from: Which decision should I make to what should I make a decision about? DDC documented 14 sample engagements across the US, Europe and Australia.

  1. Exploring the problem space. Challenging assumptions. It was an eye-opener. Leveraging empathy. Sometimes you have to make a choice. Users first, or employees first?
  2. Generating alternative scenarios
    Stewarding divergence, The art of aligning decisions with impacting when many minds are involved in making a plan and many hands in enacting it. Navigating the unknown. It’s a loss of control, but it is a positive loss of control.
  3. Enacting new practices. Making the future concrete. Could we get to a working prototype in 25 days? Insisting on value: I want everybody to win.

Finally, a few potential books for the service design library: Christian is the author of Leading Public Sector Innovation: Co-creating for a Better Society and Design for Policy: An approach to user-centered creation of public outcomes.




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