Design Thinking + Sustainability = Enduring Success

Is this the new winning formula for business?

A recent post by Kevin Keohane led me to revisit Bruce Nussbaum’s fantastic piece on design thinking in Business Week from a couple of years ago.

In it, he made a powerful argument for design thinking as the new management methodology, taking design out of the narrow realm of aesthetics and into the realm of business process. As he rightly says…

“Innovation is no longer just about new technology per se. It is about new models of organization. Design is no longer just about form anymore but is a method of thinking that can let you to see around corners.”

Surprisingly, what I hadn’t latched on to before was the critical importance he attached to designing for sustainability…

“What are the biggest social trends that will have an impact on design in the future? I’ll give you the obvious first—sustainability. Sustainability will be a prime driver of economic growth in the years ahead. Green will move from the realm of corporate responsibility to the space of revenue expansion and profit generation.”

Amen to that!

What’s really interesting is how this convergence of ideas – the emergence of sustainability as a (the?) critical dimension of business value and design thinking as the methodology to achieve it – is rapidly gathering momentum.

Just this morning, I was directed to an interesting post by Mark Dziersk on the Fast Company blog, which likewise asserts that the combination of design thinking and sustainability will be the key to creating enduring business success.

And it’s the word “enduring” that’s critical to that sentence and the title of this post, because it points to a different way of looking at sustainability, beyond simply “green” and the peripheral philanthropy of CSR.

Rather conveniently, that just happens to be the core thought behind my new book, Live Long and Prosper (to be published shortly). What makes the equation work is a much broader definition of sustainability as longevity – the capacity to survive and prosper over generations.


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