PCA Design Management Faculty Member Milan Guenther on Enterprise Design and "Intersection"

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Milan Guenther, PCA faculty member, managing partner of strategic design consultancy eda.c and author of Intersection: How Enterprise Design Bridges the Gap Between Business, People and Technologytalks about enterprise design, why design management matters, and how companies need to be better:

What inspired you to write Intersection?

After I graduated from secondary school, a friend and I started what we would today call a social software startup. I gradually became interested not only in software development and information but in graphic design and in business and management, because I needed all three for my company. I realized there was a need to bridge and connect these different concerns and to think about them holistically.

While studying abroad in Nancy, France, I attended a presentation about a new campus that would bring together an art and design school, a business school and a technology institute. The presentation began with a thinking model, a system of interconnected concerns that drove their decisions — light, space, materials, social life, ecology, way-finding — all aspects that had to be brought together into a coherent vision.

I immediately began working on a model inspired by this idea-how all the different elements of an enterprise interact, how they can be aligned and brought together. This model became the basis for the Enterprise Design Framework at the center of Intersection.

Why do we need enterprise design?

Because so many enterprises suck and need to get better…We all have our own favorite examples of bad companies. But in any enterprise the problem might be anywhere and the solution may be anywhere, and it’s not the same place. Enterprise design posits that the key challenges companies and other organizations face are best tackled by addressing them in a holistic, coherent way. The Enterprise Design Framework allows you to respond to every aspect and interaction of an enterprise in an integrated and inclusive way.

It doesn’t make sense to talk about “something and the business,” such as design and the business, because the business is defined as everything else. Why would you do that?

It was clear from day zero that all of these perspectives and concerns—from IT people, strategy consultants service designers, user experience designers—would converge, but for some reason, nobody made the link, and the link is still not there, although people are starting to make it now…

Who is this book for?

I think it’s for anyone challenged by enterprise complexity—that might include a start-up founder, for example. Right now the design community resorts to “talk to the users“ or “what is your business model?“. Both of these questions are valid, but they don’t always apply to every enterprise. For Instagram, the business model was not important. Basecamp was designed without ever talking to a single user. But they did something right-maybe they focused on another aspect of the enterprise.

How do you define design management?

I think that the simple idea of managing design is at the heart of it…I think it’s so crucial that, instead of having a process model that stifles people, you have engagement and empowerment and the idea that together we will create the next really awesome thing… I think there is an overlap with enterprise design, which is also about that: taking on daring and risky projects, showing initiative, and being courageous and invested.