As an architect, part of what I regularly do is go around seeing what is not there.
Another way of putting that is, because we are trained to visualize, and anticipate the consequences for any course of action, we tend to “see” what others don’t see.
That’s also another way one might describe what it means to gain insights.
Garnering insights is a three-part challenge:
1. How to create an environment within which insights are most likely to occur?
2. How to recognize and then grasp them?
3. How to nourish their development and, if necessary, defend them while in that process?
These are among the questions to which research psychologist Gary Klein responds with a series of brilliant insights in his latest book, Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights.
Klein defines insights as “an unexpected shift in the way we understand things. It comes without warning. It’s not something that we think is going to happen and that’s why it’s unexpected. It feels like a gift and in fact it is.”
In his book, Klein diagrams two ways to increase individual and organizational performance:
- by gaining insight
- by reducing errors
While both are needed, reducing errors alone will only get you so far.
Much more can be gained by learning how to increase insight.
This is where Klein’s book can help. The book is organized into three sections:
- How insights are triggered
- Things that interfere with insights, and
- How we can foster insight in ourselves, others and organizations.
120 Cases of Insights
Klein’s book provides an effective look at how we go about arriving at insights.
Probably the biggest revelation for me is where Klein notes that the traditional view of how insights are gained – via preparation, incubation, illumination and verification – is inaccurate.
In other words, the familiar four steps of the creative process:
- preparation—investigating the problem
- incubation—thinking about the problem
- illumination—coming up with an insight, and
- verification—demonstrating that the insight is correct.
In lieu of the traditional approach, Klein collects 120 cases and studies how they lead to insights.
Throughout the book Klein focuses on these 120 cases that demonstrate one or more of his five strategies:
- Connections: similarities, causal relationships, and interdependence; putting together different ideas so as to form a connection
- Coincidences: clues to possible patterns of evidence and verification; random events
- Curiosities: inexplicable phenomena that require closer attention; unusual events that attract our attention
- Contradictions: absurdities that reveal insights; events that go against our previous thinking
- Creative Desperation: unexpectedly resolving a problem that seems unsolvable; doing something when we are trapped and can find no clear answer.
The remainder of the book is devoted what interferes with insights, including stupidity, design, and organizational factors.
I highly recommend Gary Klein’s book, Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights.
Fellow strategists and I were recently featured in a blog post at Peter Thomson’s blog, The Economics of Innovation.
Some great quotes here – take a look!
Over the years I’ve periodically ended up with a job title that included the word ‘Strategist’. It’s almost always applied as an adjective as in Brand Strategist, Design Strategist, Social Media Strategist or Plumbing Strategist.
Great strategic thinking is a team sport. You need a mix of disciplines and backgrounds, but eventually someone has to go away after the brainstorm and turn the ideas into something that can be communicated and executed. That person is a strategist.
Recently I’ve been thinking about what makes a Strategist different to an Account Manager, a Copywriter or a Planner. I wanted to focus in on the role of a person who is referred to as a Strategist, rather than the larger question of “What is strategy?”
What is a strategist?
My mum still occasionally asks me “So, what is it that you actually do?” In search of a better answer, I thought I’d ask a few friends what it means to be a “Strategist”, their answers included:
A strategist develops opinions on the future direction of a company and its brand, based on existing and predicted conditions, other known variables, intuition and research.
- David Lyall, Creative Strategist
A strategist uses big-picture thinking, storytelling, insights, criteria development tools and synthesis in the development of agreed-upon end-goals.
- Randy Deutsch, Design Strategist
A strategist takes a range of new media techniques and tools and combines them into an integrated approach best suited to the client’s needs.
- Wil Benton, Digital & Social Strategist
A strategist analyses complex environments or problems and designs practical pathways and business solutions to achieve organisational objectives.
- Kaye Glamuzina, Head of Strategy
A strategist is someone who has the ability to see beyond the near term.
- Richard Mander, Product Management Leader
A strategist is concerned with establishing the long-term direction of a business.
- Anas, Strategy Consultant
A strategist is responsible for conceptually and holistically thinking of a future direction based on incomplete information.
- Rui Martins, Director
A strategist looks at all inputs that will be important to a business and distills them into the right solution for future success.
- Stephen Gibbs, Director
A strategist identifies choices, evaluates them and recommends the best course of action to realise the client’s objective.
- Jake Pearce, Consultant
A strategist makes decisions based on a future goal, and connects the present to that future-state so that the path is perceived to be achievable by others.
- Greg Ellis, Coach and Mentor
A strategist is the thinker that informs the course of a project.
- Josh Levine, Culture Consultant
A strategist figures out how the various cogs and wheels fit together so that the whole machine hums.
- Meena Kadri, Communications Strategist
What makes a good strategist?
Being people who think about improving things for a living, my friends also pitched in with what they think makes a good strategist. Their comments included:
A good strategist is marked out by their ability to use two words: “No” and “Why”.
- David Lyall
A good strategist sees problems through other’s perspectives.
- Randy Deutsch
A good strategist can take control and fix something that someone else has f_cked up.
- Kaye Glamuzina
A good strategist requires a higher level view, that often comes with experience.
- Richard Mander
A good strategist can see the wood for the trees.
- Stephen Gibbs
A good strategist provides a “winning game plan which proves to be a winner”.
- Jake Pearce
A good strategist creates a path that is perceived to be achievable by others. If others can’t follow the path, then it is not a strategy, but only a dream.
- Greg Ellis
A good strategist has two core skills; critical thinking and writing; and if they are really good, pattern seeking.
- Josh Levine
Overall, the themes seem to be all about future thinking and problem solving. Something else that I’ve noticed when I work with other strategists is that they love to have the last word. So some of my friends offered a parting shot:
Strategists are prepared to defend their strategy; frequently stridently – until contradictory or better information arises; or conditions change. Similarly to the military sense, a strategist is expected to come up with a recommendation within a certain timeframe, regardless of the quality and amount of information at hand. Just like design, there is no such thing as “no strategy”, only “bad strategy”.
- David Lyall
A client may ask for strategies that will assure a more profitable or a more sustainable future. A strategist may point out that these are not mutually exclusive goals and can co-exist. Strategy provides a lens through which to see projects in a certain light, one that (because it provides a wide-angle view or rationale) engages and motivates.
- Randy Deutsch
Strategy is about a bigger view point. It’s about having a roadmap of products rather than working on a single product. I.e. where are we going over time? It’s often about making an investment in developing a technology platform rather than just cobbling a product together. - Seeing a product as part of a solution. It’s also about thinking about what order to do things in. From a business or marketing point of view, where do we focus and when.
- Richard Mander
Strategist is an overworked word like ‘nice’.
- Jake Pearce
When i first flew with Singapore Airlines in September 1998 I asked one of the flight attendants why they flew a 747 from Singapore to Johannesburg and then onto Durban to pick up about 60 passengers when that seemed to be a huge expense for little return? “Ah” he said, “Old Chinese proverb: He who does not cast his net, cannot catch fish.” Look how Singapore Airlines has gone on to grow and create hubs on an international scale. Likewise, President JFK had no clue how to get to the moon and back, and nor did anyone else, but he set in motion the brain power of thousands to achieve a milestone for mankind.
- Greg Ellis
I once heard that if a client is looking for a strategist, they really just mean someone who can think. In my experience, Planners tend to roost in the advertising world, while Strategists are generally in design businesses. Of course, that distinction doesn’t mean much anymore now that agencies are mixing and matching their capabilities. In any case, they’re essentially the same thing (with perhaps different experience sets).
- Josh Levine
There is a common complaint that if your bathtub is leaking you don’t call a Plumbing Strategist, you call a Plumber. Even so, there is a great anecdote about a Plumber who is called to fix a leaky hot water cylinder. He quickly spots the problem, tightens a small valve and hands the homeowner a bill for $100. The homeowner demands a breakdown of the invoice, protesting “But, you’ve only been here for 5 minutes.” The Plumber re-issues the invoice stating:
- Fee for tightening valve: $5
- Fee for knowing which valve to tighten: $95
So, whatever you call it, the ability to think before you act is still valuable in almost any context.
TEAGUE is currently seeking an exceptional Design Strategist to add to its team. As a member of TEAGUE, you will join some of the design industries most diverse, multifaceted and motivated creatives. As a strategic thinker with focus on the aviation industry, you will have the opportunity to work among them to create smart, focused design plans with clearly actionable goals, decision criteria and design results.
At TEAGUE, the Design Strategist leads the strategic efforts of projects for high-profile clients. You will need to quickly learn how to fully represent and advocate Teague’s culture. You will be expected to provide enlightened solutions and strategies focused on both internal and external growth of the design strategy discipline.
We are interested in passionate and self-motivated individuals. You bring drive, smarts and curiosity, we provide the environment for you to thrive and grow.
Lead the Strategic effort on projects:
- Conduct the research, design strategy, client management and communication efforts related to design strategy
- Utilize appropriate design insights, criteria development tools and synthesis processes for development of underlying design rationale and design down selection and recommendation.
- Provide a strategic lens within projects that includes consideration of the product portfolio, roadmap, business case, etc.
Contribute towards successful design strategy through:
-Communication – Excellent verbal communication skills, skillful proposal writing, mature problem framing and data evaluation through communication design
-Leadership – Inspire a holistic approach to design, facilitate complex, multi-disciplinary workshops and ideation sessions, encourage others to be empowered by strategic design thinking in their design processes
-Teamwork – continually collaborate with fellow team members, foster and inspire new ways to work more effectively and with more passion and excitement
-Business Development – ability to support current strategic opportunities and identify new ones, advocate for strategic approaches to design, share knowledge and best practices with other disciplines and management to foster further growth of design strategy
KNOWLEDGE / SKILLS / ABILITY
Research, Strategy, and Communication
- Clear ability to use research (including primary and secondary research) to provide context and background for strategic design processes
- Familiarity with both business and design planning frameworks and experience with using them in a professional setting
- Proficiency in Adobe Illustrator, In Design, Photoshop, Microsoft Office.
- Presentation development, proposal writing, presenting work to small and medium client audiences
- Workshop and work session facilitation
- Undergraduate degree in design related field such as product design, architecture, interior architecture, graphic design with additional 5+ years of experience or Graduate Design degree with focus on design strategy or planning with additional 2+ years within a design consultancy
- Clear demonstration of team and/or project management experiences
Please reference the job title ‘Design Strategist’ in the email subject line. Send cover letter, resume, and salary requirements to email@example.com
PLEASE SEND PORTFOLIO URLS, OR PDF SAMPLES IN ADDITION TO YOUR RESUME
Teague is an equal opportunity employer
DOE – Competitive salary and comprehensive benefits package offered
Note: Candidates who are not US citizens or permanent residents need to have authorization to work in the US in order to apply.
- Posted: August 11, 2011
- Mid-Senior level
- Design, Research
- Job ID:
Whether or not Business Week’s Bruce Nussbaum’s “Creative Intelligence,” or “Creativity Quotient” (CQ) catches on, before we put the concept of design thinking, once and for all, to rest,
Each of us has to ask him- or her-self: Is it time to put our Design Thinking books in storage?
In answering this question, a great deal depends on where you are coming from and what you hope to gain from the read.
Irrespective of where your allegiances align, in terms of design strategy, much can still be gained by reading any of these books.
Recognizing that some books that make the cut may be excellent sources for design thinking without mentioning the term itself, they may also serve as helpful guides for careers in design strategy.
For me, personally, I have benefitted from so many of the books listed below.
Vicariously experience client and team meetings by reading the cases, stories and anecdotes.
Books allow us to gain knowledge and, when digested and put to use, wisdom without all of the sweat.
Coupled with learning the terms and concepts, you attain higher level thinking required of all strategists.
These books are great to have in your arsenal, especially when responding to those who demand from your design interventions proof of future performance and success.
The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin
Design Thinking by Nigel Cross
The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley
The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley
Glimmer: How Design can transform your life and maybe even the world by Warren Berger
A Fine Line: How Design Strategies Are Shaping the Future of Business by Hartmut Esslinger
The Design of Business – Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger Martin
The Universal Principles of Design by Lidwell, Holder & Buttler
Change by Design by Tim Brown
The Designful Company by Marty Neumeier
The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier
ZAG by Marty Neumeier
Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience
and Brand Value by Thomas Lockwood
Thoery U by C. Otto Scharmer
Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change by Victor Papanek
Can you name a design thinking book that has earned its permanent place on your bookshelf?
What are your favorite design blogs and sites?
That’s pretty easy to answer.
Now, what are your favorite design strategy blogs and sites?
That is harder to answer.
For three reasons:
1. In part because there just aren’t that many.
2. In part because different users – branding, advertizing, graphic design, UI, web and product design – visit different sites for different reasons.
3. And lastly, because everybody has a slightly different understanding about what design strategy is.
There are those who come from the design camp.
Those who approach design strategy from business strategy standpoint.
And the standalone design strategy purists.
My question for you: What are your favorite design strategy blogs and sites?
Help me out by listing your favorite design strategy sites
And I will include them in my ever-growing list
The admittedly incomplete design blog and website link list that follows will eventually make their way to the sidebar.
Listed by design genre in no particular order or, for that matter, spacing:
Tim Brown – http://designthinking.ideo.com/
Book Cover Design
Design Portals (design currents)
Review of Books
(No longer active but archives are still available)
You’re asked to serve as a design strategist in an innovation initiative at a large corporation.
They’ve asked you to come in on Monday for a get-to-know-you session and an ideation over lunch.
Are you ready?
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you prepare for this new opportunity to let your design strategy talents shine.
Here, as well, are some suggestions to help keep your saw sharp and your thinking sharper.
Not in any order – skim the list and look for one that catches your attention.
If you don’t see one of your favorites here, or if one of these hits home for you, let us know by leaving a comment.
1. Creativity and design are tough to defend. Seek out stories of how design strategists have defended creativity in their lives as well as in corporate board rooms. Hone these stories down into a half dozen or so easy to recall arguments and techniques for easy access when you need them.
2. At the end of each day, ask yourself two questions: How can business leaders and designers join forces to build creative strategies that will ensure a more profitable future? How can business leaders and designers join forces to build creative strategies that will ensure a more sustainable future? Aim to come up with one new idea each day.
3. Design strategists strive to see problems through other’s perspectives. To stay up-to-date concerning ways strategies are being used to help shape business, consider reading about addressing business problems from the perspective of Hartmut Esslinger, founder of Frog Design, in his book A Fine Line.
4. Aim for profitability and sustainability as being co-existent, mutually beneficial and non-exclusive. For inspiration, start here.
6. Highly successful design strategists take a definition – and stance – on design thinking? What is yours?
7. Do you believe, like Bruce Nussbaum, that design thinking is dead? If yes, what – if anything – do you believe will take its place?
8. Design strategists know the outer limits of their roles. Do you have branding experts, graphic artists, presentation gurus, at your disposal? Have you kept their contact information up to date? Do you stay in touch even when you don’t have an assignment for them (in fact, it is always a good idea to keep in touch: as some serve as referrals for design strategy assignments.)
9. Come up with a metaphor for how you see design and business relating: as a marriage? as mentor and mentee? as strange bedfellows? In what ways does your experience support this view?
10. Reframe past projects – especially those that were not specifically or entirely design strategy-related assignments – in terms of design strategy. Be prepared to discuss them in these terms.
11. In The Design of Business, Roger Martin states that knowledge moves through three stages – a mystery, a heuristic and an algorithm. Mysteries are the discovery of new opportunities or research into solving intractable problems. Heuristics are rules of thumb that narrow the size and scope of mysteries and make them more manageable. Algorithms reduce the heuristics into repeatable processes. What are 10 rules of thumb that you regularly refer to or use in your practice? Keep a list for future reference.
12. Design strategists have one foot in design and the other business. Or, instead, both feet in design peering through into the inner workings of a business? Which best describes your circumstance? Do you approach business from a design perspective? Or design from a business perspective? How can you use this approach as a differentiator? How does the way you see yourself impact how you go about taking-on assignments?
13. Highly successful design strategists have a favorite design strategy book that they can recommend to others. What is yours?
15. Design strategists are right brained whereas strategic designers are left brained. Right? Even if this is not the case, design consultants and entrepreneurs require business plans like any other business. Consider The Right Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee.
16. Many companies attempt to be innovative by spending on R&D, bringing in creative designers, hiring innovation consultants. What in your experience are the results for these and other interventions? How, in comparison, will their working with a design strategist lead to more satisfying results? Be prepared to respond to this question.
17. What’s your definition of a wicked problem? What makes a problem wicked? Complexity? How about time constraints? Watch this 5 minute video on one approach to solving wicked problems.
18. What services do you offer? Here’s an example of a one page description (Roger Martin calls it an “information sheet” handout) designed in terms of the service – and not, like a resume, the
person giving it. How would you create a similar sheet to leave with those you meet with or are in contact with?
19. Look below for examples of other services offered, how they are defined, how they are distinguished and how they are offered.
20. What role does business analysis and analytics play in your work? How important is it to the success of your outcomes? How much do you rely on analytical thinking? What role does it play in incrementally improving your client’s business status quo? What role does it play in improving their results?
21. Can you come up with at least two cases – whether those you were involved in or from the industry – where, through your or other’s intervention, a company’s productivity grew and their costs decreased, creating value for the company? Are you prepared to retell these stories? Here’s a list to get you started.
22. Why retain a design strategist? Two reasons: to help produce breakthrough innovations and create a competitive advantage for a business. Can you list five others?
24. Not all design strategists realize that they are in the business of meaning-making. How would convince a company to adopt an innovation process that’s centered on meaning? How would you go about helping a company devise new meanings and create the designs to embody them? What processes would you use? For suggestions, see Nathan Shedroff’s Making Meaning.
25. What are you devoted to accomplishing? This is your devotion. Do you have one? Here’s Roger Martin’s, Dean of the Rotman School of Management.
26. What tactic do you have in place to stop researching and start synthesizing the information you have gathered? How do you keep from researching (or preparing or doing pre-design work) forever – and how do you communicate this to the client?
27. If the most important design tool is indeed asking good questions (do you agree?) what are five questions you have at hand to ask any prospective client?
28. Five questions you have at hand to ask a client you have recently completed work for?
29. Design strategy case studies on P&G, RIM and Cirque du Soleil are predictable. Can you come up with three case studies that used design strategy initiatives that few would have previously considered.
31. In recent years designers have moved from styling consumer products to more strategic roles: designing experiences, services and business models. Describe how you have made this transition – and what insights from serving as a designer carry over to your strategy work.
32. How would you go about designing for customer loyalty? In a market economy characterized by global competition and commoditized products, how would you strategize so that companies gain deep and lasting loyalty from their customers?
33. Quick: What’s your definition for Creativity? For Innovation? For Design? How do you differentiate between each?
35. Your client asks you to take them through the steps of innovation – to help them understand and demystify the process for them. Do you explain that there are many methods or that you suggest one method no matter the client or assignment? How would you describe a typical step-by-step innovation process to your client? For one suggestion, look here.
36. Does design drive innovation or does innovation drive design? Or both? Prepare a short response for yourself should the need to discuss the topic come up (and it will.)
37. Describe your design strategy in terms of being a collaborative process. How do you work with others? How are they included and when in the process?
38. Design strategy has been used in business not only to address product design and branding but also to address medical shift changes and rethink supply chain management. What are some of the more unusual ways that you have used design strategy? Keep an ongoing list of examples for how it can be applied, in what settings and to what ends.
39. How well do you know your client’s business? Are you familiar enough with it to be able to comfortably speak using their terminology – not that of the design world? What method(s) do you have in place to go about becoming familiar with their language so that you can tap it when needed?
40. IDEO’s Tim Brown views the power of design “not as a link in a chain but as the hub of a wheel”…not as a stage in a process but as a centrifugal force with involvement at all levels and in all areas of
operation. “Design is now too important to be left to designers.” Do you agree? How do you view the role of design in business? What imagery or symbol would you use to describe it?
41. What would you do differently in approaching a small business and a large corporation? What impact, if any, does the size of organization have on how you operate as a design strategist?
42. You might find that you are doing things right – but are you doing the right things? Make a list of the things – in life – that you have let slip due to workload or other commitments. Frequently these are the very things that energize, fulfill and complete us. Come up with a plan to start addressing them. To see how one man faced his “let slip” list, read Unfinished Business.
43. Business leaders see innovation as the key to a competitive edge and yet businesses report a success rate of only four percent for innovation initiatives. How would you suggest your client increas their odds of succeeding at innovation?
Bonus: What is your definition of a design strategist? Share it by leaving a comment.
Here are some of my design-related Tweets that my followers on Twitter have shared with their followers (retweeted or RT in Twitter parlance.)
Take a look. Click on the links to find articles, websites and other resources.
If you are not a Tweeter, by browsing the list of micro-posts you will get a good idea of how I use it. And if you like what you see, follow me on Twitter @randydeutsch
Ori Brafman: How to Build Instant Connections & other Stanford U Entrepreneur Thought Leader Lecture podcasts http://bit.ly/3mqFdP
Here goes the weekend: I mean hundreds & hundreds of Stanford U Entrepreneur Thought Leader Lecture podcasts http://bit.ly/3mqFdP
Designing for Failure in the Cloud http://onforb.es/ix0QKI
The most important design tool? Asking good questions (this was my most retweeted Tweet)
The New Designer Defined: excerpt from the intro to The Strategic Designer. Four Principals of the New Designer http://bit.ly/jl3YYA
“There’s nothing off-putting about sustainability. Find someone who is in favor of purposely ruining the future” http://bit.ly/lV2GcG
Someone asked me today what’s a “meme broker”? A Johnny Appleseed of ideas “but not necessarily of Honeycrisps.” http://bit.ly/iWdH12
Polymath, Renaissance person, Multidisciplinarian (!) – Why we all must become one http://zd.net/kRoKem
Rotman School of Management’s Roger Martin: The Complete Articles and Videos http://bit.ly/739J1U
Hollywood exec producer Peter Guber: telling purposeful stories an essential skill. The Art of the Business Narrative http://bit.ly/dX7hzs
To compete in a knowledge-based economy business leaders need to reinvent themselves as innovators in services http://bit.ly/ixxU24
Connections, James Burke’s iconic BBC series on the history of innovation, free to watch online http://j.mp/fcppDy