Challenges in Leading and Managing Design Teams

Challenges in Leading and Managing Design Teams

Kin Wai Michael Siu (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, HKSAR, China & Wuhan University of Technology, China) and Satyakam Sharma (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, HKSAR, China)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch055
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Design has become an indispensable part of any business today. While the designers deliver creative solutions to enable the businesses to survive in the highly competitive market, their unique “designerly” style of thinking and working potentially poses several challenges to management in the corporate environment. Designers are right-brainers (creative personalities), who rely on their artistic, irrational, and amorphous creative process to devise meaningful creations. Their non-conforming, independent, playful nature and their passion towards the creative profession equip them to address complex challenges through their creative process. The creative nature of designers is oftentimes at odds with the more strictly constrained approach of the business and may lead clashes of views and to the development of a seemingly. The chapter discusses the diverse facets of these challenges and associated rationalities behind them. It elaborates and recounts these by sharing relevant experiences, particularly from the consumer durables sector, where industrial designers play a key role in the success of the organization. It is based on the learning from a decade-long experience in practicing and managing design across consultancies and corporates.
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Today, design has become an indispensable part of every business. It features in various aspects of the business, such as its image, branding, corporate identity, advertising, new product development, communication, websites, marketing and other Internet-based systems. It plays a critical role in the manufacturing businesses wherein the industrial designers develop the concepts for manufactured products such as home appliances, toys, automobiles, medical devices and more. Besides physical artifacts, they also design the experiences associated with the use of the products and systems.

Industrial designers follow a creative process to problem-solving and innovation. They combine art, science and business to devise products and systems that people use in daily life (Lawson, 2006; Oakley, 1984). They follow an artistic, haphazard, yet recognizable approach to problem solving. Designers follow a human-centred approach to explore the possibilities of technology in order to meet the needs of the people for the success of the business (Hevner & Chatterjee, 2010). Their creative approach is similar to that of music composers, creative writers and sculptors (Fletcher, 1990).

Rationality and creativity are two entirely different mental processes and they are generally in conflict (Fletcher, 1990). While designers follow a creative and free-flowing approach, the business management and other functions aim to be more structured and sequential in their process. On the one hand, designer’s creative personality and amorphous working style enables them to address complex problems; on the other hand, it may pose several challenges when it comes to managing them in the context of a business (Oakley, 1984; Yong, 1994; Henry, 2001). The chapter highlights some of the key challenges that lie in managing design teams, particularly the industrial design teams working in the consumer durables sector. It also recounts several experiences and observations based on the author’s decade-long experience in practicing and managing Industrial design across consumer durables sector.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Daydreaming: A short disengagement from the ongoing activities and one’s immediate surroundings. During this time, a person enters into a virtual world of unintentional free flow of thoughts and imaginations. It is common among creative professionals, who tend to think of fantasies, illusions, wild ideas, pleasant thoughts, hopes, and ambitions while they are awake.

Designers as Inquisitive Observers: Observation is the most important tool for designers. It helps them in understanding the user’s everyday practices, environment and behaviour. It allows designers to study new products, materials, processes, and even build analogies that help in devising solutions. This makes designers inquisitive observers, as they constantly learn by observing.

Human-Centred Design: Also referred as “user-centred design”, this is a set of creative problem-solving approaches that consider the end-user at the centre of the entire design process. The process starts with understanding the requirements of the user, and ends with the testing of a new solution, tailor-made to suit the user’s need.

Industrial Design: This refers to the process of designing of products, which are to be mass produced. The practitioners are referred as Industrial designers, who follow a creative and/or scientific decision-making process to influence the form, materials and processes while devising a solution. In their design process, industrial designers consider various aspects such as functionality, usability, ergonomics, material, process, and even the prevailing social and commercial aspects associated with the product.

Gestation Period: Literally, it is the period during which an embryo develops, but the term used in the chapter refers to the period when a designer ruminates over the ideas, and juggles with several concepts to decide the most suitable and relevant solution. It refers to the incubation period during which the designer is subconsciously thinking and searching for a solution to the problem, even while he is engaged in some other activity.

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