Posts Tagged design strategy

Designing a Healthcare Unconference

As social media approaches adolescence its hallmark of “spontaneous user generated content” has also spread into all kinds of seemingly unconventional places like the world of conferences…that have been morphed into UNconferences. I’m always a bit surprised at how few people have actually heard of an unconference since the concept has been around for a few years now, I’m guessing it will become more mainstream in years to come.

Our friends at Wikipedia describe it as a “facilitated, participant-driven conference” which basically means and bunch of people show up at a designated place for a specific topic and spontaneously decide what the presentation topics are going to be. And yes, most of the time this results in pandemonium as participants jockey to get their talks in the larger, better-equipped rooms. But the net of an unconference can be far more productive as almost all participants are actively engaged in the content and structure of the event.

So, I’m working on one of these things. For those familiar with the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences with their highly polished presentations, invitation-only guest list and $5,000+ participant fees; the free unconference analog is called BIL (as in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure notoriety). And for the medical fanatics out there, a special TED was formed called TEDMED with pretty much all the same parameters as TED. It only makes sense to provide an all access and free BIL:PIL unconference as a community-driven forum for current and aspiring healthcare thinkers to share and collaborate. This October (30 and 31st) will be the first BILPIL to be held right after TEDMED in San Diego.

BIL:PIL logoThe BIL:PILLers are a bunch of scrappy healthcare renegades with a surprising amount of clout. We secured the San Diego State University BioScience Center and already have an impressive list of speakers willing to come and talk about whatever healthcare related topic they feel is relevant at that moment. This healthcare innovation unconference will bring together over 200 entrepreneurs, health professionals, technologists, and laypeople to describe the future of healthcare.

I’ve been working on the cat-herding part of the project but also managed to design the identity for the conference (within the brand parameters established by the original BIL franchise). I also created a visualization of the key content areas we hope to attract people to speak about :BIL:PIL Topics

Check out the site at, register and help “set healthcare free” with us this October!

, , ,

No Comments

Design is the Strategy

DMILast week I assisted the Design Management Institute (DMI) with their “Re-Thinking…Design” conference here in San Francisco. During this dynamic meeting, several talks focused on validating and communicating design value in the business environment. Perhaps this focus had something to do with the fact that Roger Martin (dean of the Rotman School of Management) was one of the MCs. For someone so steeped in classical business education, his adamant support of design thinking was a remarkably refreshing thing. What struck me the most was the dialog he set in motion about how design IS the strategy.

Roger opened the conference with a compelling discussion about the process of migrating design into business thinking. Acknowledging the demand for ever-increasing innovation, he conceded that design thinking was one of the more successful ways to achieve the volume and diversity of ideas needed to help an organization successfully compete. However, the ongoing challenge is how to convey and garner support for this very non-linear and non-structured creative process within a left-brain-dominated and risk-adverse business environment.

Claudia KotchkaUniting two seemingly disparate disciplines is obviously a challenge, and so leveraging a pull vs push strategy for design integration was advised. Claudia Kotchka explained how she brought design light to Proctor & Gamble (P&G) by first keeping a cache of design success stories on hand and then actually making management participate in design problem solving exercises with the IDEO team. Only after personally engaging in the design process did the management team truly understand the value of design thinking and the need to integrate it into the overall business strategy. In fact, design is now so highly valued at P&G that there are several senior design leaders who sit at the strategic decision-making table.

Another approach is to attack design integration as an actual design problem itself. Jesse James Garrett, president of Adaptive Path, suggested that the organizational structure/decision-making process should be viewed just like any other design constraint within the project scope and thus navigated accordingly. IDEO’s CEO, Tim Brown, recommended to experiment and prototype in volume early in the process while savoring the surprises such as finding out that the accounting team is shockingly creative.

However, it doesn’t make things easier that designers are notorious for not accepting the value of business thinking. In fact, many downright oppose the constraints and rigid process of business operations. One of the funnier quotes of the conference came from Bill Buxton, principal Researcher at Microsoft, who simply observed that “designer rhymes with whiner.” But opportunity lies in these differences and finding a common language is well worth investing in.

What it comes down to is that strategy is about inventing a new tomorrow. After decades of profit-maximizing objectives driving strategic decision-making, the economy has finally run out of steam and gumption. The time is ripe for the human-centered values of design thinking to be recognized as a valuable way to archive a more sustainable future. DMI’s agenda is exactly on this page and the conference, supported by all the dynamic speakers, called on us to learn the language of business, become part of the strategy and help facilitate change.

, ,

No Comments