Leading Digitalization by Design – The Model in Action

Reimagining our Cities with Digital Innovation

Over the last several years, Youngjin Yoo, along with a group of high school, undergraduate and graduate students in Philadelphia, led a design inquiry to explore use of digital technology to re-imagine American urban communities. Students surveyed the urban landscape and interviewed residents, block captains, community organizers and business owners. They noted vacant lots, abandoned buildings and “food deserts” without easy access to fresh and healthy food.

Over the course of this project, these students also met a group of passionate urban farming advocates working to transform vacant lots into vegetable gardens. They met restaurant owners interested in sourcing their vegetables from local farms. The question was: how could they bring them together in a way that would be economically sustainable, technologically feasible and humanly desirable?

How Samsung Became a Design Powerhouse

Harvard Business Review, September 2015

Until 20 years ago, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics manufactured inexpensive, imitative electronics for other companies. Its leaders valued speed, scale and reliability above all. Its marketers set prices and introduced features according to what original-equipment manufacturers wanted. Its engineers built products to meet prescribed price and performance requirements. At the end of the process, designers would “skin” the product—make it look nice. The few designers working for the company were dispersed in engineering and new-product units, and individual designers followed the methods they preferred. In a company that emphasized efficiency and engineering rigor, the designers had little status or influence.

Then, in 1996, Lee Kun-Hee, the chairman of Samsung Group, grew frustrated by the company’s lack of innovation and concluded that in order to become a top brand, Samsung needed expertise in design, which he believed would become “the ultimate battleground for global competition in the 21st century.” He set out to create a design-focused culture that would support world-class innovation.

By any measure, his goal was achieved. Samsung now has more than 1,600 designers. Its innovation process begins with research conducted by multidisciplinary teams of designers, engineers, marketers, ethnographers, musicians and writers who search for users’ unmet needs and identify cultural, technological and economic trends. The company has built an impressive record on design, garnering more awards than any other company in recent years. The bold designs of its televisions often defy conventional style. With its Galaxy Note series, Samsung introduced a new category of smartphone—the phablet—which has been widely copied by competitors. Design is now so much a part of its corporate DNA that top leaders rely on designers to help visualize the future of the entire company.

The Weatherhead Approach to Design and Innovation

Great managers are also designers—of processes, projects, strategies and systems. Today’s innovation-driven market demands dynamic business leaders ready with new alternatives, game-changing ideas and fresh perspectives on emerging problems in the world. Weatherhead School of Management’s Department of Design & Innovation was created to promote and nurture bold and innovative scholarship that anticipates and leads burgeoning business practice.

Weatherhead was the first to develop a Department of Design & Innovation. Launched in 2013, the Department of Design & Innovation merged the faculty members formerly in the Marketing and Policy Studies and Information Systems Departments. The department focuses on two core priorities:

  • Creating knowledge for generating novel and valuable products, services and systems.
  • Developing organizational leaders and entrepreneurs who are skilled in designing innovative, value-creating relationships with customers, stakeholders and society.

Learn more about the philosophy behind design management as an important aspect of management education.

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