Big Picture Thinking
Big Picture Thinking by Ben Strutt
Published in European Supply Chain Management -
Issue: 2 2012
Ben Strutt, Head of Industrial & Product Design, Cambridge Design Partnership, points towards a pressing need for more inclusive design in the supply chain
As Western markets struggle to recover from stagnant levels of growth, companies are forced to be ever more resourceful in how they drive efficiencies. This perhaps explains why businesses are increasingly turning to the design process to get deeper into the value chain.
Terms like ‘user centred design’ and ‘innovation’ are well-established in mainstream business vocabulary. However a term which is less well celebrated, though no less of a route to realising commercial return, is ‘inclusive design’.
The term ‘inclusive design’ can refer to any design practice that aims to encompass as wide a user base as possible in an ‘inclusive’ way: An example might be designing products to be user-friendly for older people as well as younger. However, the sense in which we use the term here is that of designing to ‘include’ consideration of the needs of a number of stakeholders right the way through every valuable stage from designer to user/consumer.
In a recessive economy really successful design is increasingly measured by creative and holistic analysis of, and input to, the full value chain: From savings in material weight with no loss in for example, strength, to enhanced production-line efficiencies, to the development of new commercial models which bring businesses closer to the end user, opportunities are out there to be uncovered and seized.
An inclusive design process begins with identifying the stakeholders. This can often be more difficult than it sounds, particularly where third party dependencies are beyond your immediate visibility and control.
A research phase then focuses on total immersion in the workday, function or process of each stakeholder. It records every task at every stage, meticulously looking for illusive insights that may provide the foundation of an inclusive innovation opportunity. This systematic mapping process can even uncover previously ‘invisible’ stakeholders and functions.
Then it’s time to begin prioritising the needs of each level of the chain and building a graphical map encompassing the diversity of needs to help understand where the value may lie. This is classic gap analysis territory.
Naturally real breakthroughs tend to germinate from areas where there is significant need, but few satisfactory solutions available: This is where working with a creatively experienced and technically diverse team really pays dividends in seeding a variety of onward concept directions.
So what does a successful solution look like?