Wednesday, April 20, 2011
What most designers fail at is at deciding which ones to keep, which ones to merge, and most importantly, which ones to throw away. And not that we are bad at actually doing in some way or another. We are often bad at doing it in a strategic way. And by strategic way, I am not talking about creating power point slides to pitch it while using business jargon and choreographing other stereotypical mannerisms of strategy. What I am talking about is 'strategic' in an economics sense, and with an intention of managing scarcity. Strategy is absolutely necessary when deciding what to do and what not to do because as they say: "you can do anything, but you can't do everything". Given a limited amount of resources to launch a product or a service, what design strategists should aim for is at maximizing the value of a product for every feature added to the the of service. If we had to reduce this mindset to a mathematical formula, it would look like this:
Product value/ Product features = Design Strategy Efficiency QuotientThat is the way we can measure the value of design strategy, which by the way is the same way economics works when studying how people attempt to make rational decisions: given a certain amount of options available to me,which one would give me more utility (i.e. Benefit)? Needless to say, the higher the quotient, the better.
So yes, all in all, design strategy properly practiced in a business setting is inevitably ruled by the laws of economics. And that is why is so important for every design strategist, product manager, entrepreneur, or anyone involved in defining a product, to have a good understanding of decision-making, tradeoffs, and scarcity management. The ultimate goal of design strategy is to be as efficient as possible to create maximum value given a limited amount of resources.Buckminster Fuller, very much inspired by the highly resource efficiency of nature, talked about this as a design science revolution:
"Amongst other grand strategies for making the world work and taking care of everybody is the design science revolution of providing ever more effective tools and services with ever less, real resource investment per each unit of end performance. For instance, a communications satellite, weighing only one-quarter of a ton is now out-performing the transoceanic communication capabilities of 175 thousand tons of copper cable"
It is also worth reading the description of Design Science's approach to solutions' performance:
"[...] Fuller became convinced that all of humanity could be “successful” if we apply our knowledge to finding ways of gaining the greatest possible advantage from the least possible investment of available resources. Each technological process can be measured by its performance. Because know-how can increase when humans experiment with new technologies, performance can be continuously improved. Though there is some material and energy loss with all technological processes, the percentage of waste can be progressively reduced. Design science is concerned with improving the performance of both the components and processes of specific technologies, and the larger systems of which they are a part. It is concerned with applying our evolving know-how to reducing waste and better allowing more people to support themselves."