There’s some really great debate going on at Bruce Nussbaum’s blog. I’m a bit baffled though about the part of the debate about who is qualified to practice design and what is or isn’t a "real" designer. I know this much, we can spend our time arguing about who has earned the right to be a designer, what a card-carrying design thinker is, and where this or that type of person belongs, but the fact is, whether you come from a business background, a traditional design background, some combination, or as David Armano points out, learn through real-world practice, none of that matters ultimately. It’s the end result. No one remembers the first person who talked about sailing west to get to Asia. We only remember the one who did it.
I spent nearly seven years in the advertising world hearing some in the creative department convey a message to the rest of the agency and to clients that they were the only ones that could/should have good, creative ideas. While they were busy saying that, the media department was creating a media plan for the first one-second commercial, PR people were running a premier energy efficiency forum in D.C., brand planners were uncovering insights on joint pain and account execs were pushing interactive content ideas. It reminds me of a great cartoon showing two vultures sitting on a tree limb and one says to the other, “Patience my ass. Let’s go kill something.”
Personally, I’m interested in creating remarkable products, services, experiences – creating something of value for people at a profit for the organization. I believe design thinking is the way. I have the utmost respect for and readily acknowledge and admire those that are light-years ahead of where the rest of the world is. They got it before the rest of us, hell most of the “the rest of us” still haven’t gotten it. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of us, sketchpad designer or not, should sit back and wait for permission to act.
I believe there’s room for everyone and those that want to determine who gets to “use” design are missing the point. This should be viewed as a great opportunity to launch design into the stratosphere. A rising tide raises all ships. To not welcome those that have an interest in design is to push back a tide that can help your cause.
Mark Twain said, “Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.” I’ve found nothing but support and encouragement from colleagues, friends and even strangers sending e-mails, for wanting to learn more about design. It’s not an “us and them” but a “we.” A new product, service, experience, business model – that to me is an innovation and that’s what I chose to go back to school to improve my skills on, and specifically to go to ID, where they meld the business and design worlds and teach rigorous, repeatable innovation methods based on design thinking. Compared to say, graphic design, it’s the same mindset, some similar processes, some different tools, different outputs.
I’m not super interested in labels/categories. Call me marketer, brand manager, strategist, designer, design thinker, design strategist, business thinker or guy that tries to get remarkable things done (This last one would be the biggest compliment. If I ever start my own business that would make a nice title on a business card).
I’m here to learn more, to grow my knowledge, my skills, my ability to uncover relevancy and meaning and translate that into action and value. Richard Branson and Yvon Chouinard didn’t spend time on the semantics of the definition of businessperson and didn't ask for a Harvard MBA to tell them if they "fit." They took what they knew and created their own definition by action. Steve Jobs took a calligraphy class after dropping out of college. He might’ve been looked at as the weird dropout in the back of the class with no pedigree but he didn’t wait for someone to tell him if he could be a designer.
I don’t have the answers to who should get to participate in design thinking but I think anyone with passion, interest, a desire to learn and ultimately the ability to deliver results can. I do agree with Mark, who said in a comment to Bruce’s post, “no one owns these.”
All I know is, there’s too much opportunity and not enough time in the day as it is to spend it arguing over rights. Let’s go kill something.