[Campus Commentary] An era of designJust as the Internet had stimulated virtually every aspect of society by the late 1990s, design has become the tool that now animates every corner of the business world, particularly since the global success of the iPod.
All product makers now want to create “the next iPod.” Some already have. The wildly popular Bordeaux TV from Samsung and the Chocolate phone from LG are exemplary cases. The essence of the times, which may well be called the era of design, lies in innovation. To constantly sustain innovation, it is crucial to grasp the current trend, which is design management.
Although the concept is familiar to corporate chief executives, not every organization truly believes in its power. Many still consider design an accessory to function or belittle it as mere facade. Even those who believe in the potential of design are hesitant to explore its possibilities because no theories or business cases have yet emerged to focus on the concept.
Ten years ago, a similar situation occurred with the Internet. Everyone saw the Internet as a key to the future, but few knew how to take advantage of its capabilities. This led to the bust of the dot-com bubble ― a period that ended when Google, eBay and Amazon finally figured it out. Just as the Internet has led to myriad opportunities, design has to be seen as the next stream of innovation.
The chief motive of design management is to pursue sustainable innovation, which is vital for today’s competitive market. But quite the opposite is happening in Korea, especially among our bright young minds. Rather than innovating and making competition irrelevant, too many graduates just leave the competitive arena. Instead, they choose to go after seemingly safer jobs. The surging number of young people applying for public service exams is a sign of the current preference for stable, less competitive and often non-innovative lives.
In certain respects, the best way to compete is to avoid competition. But that does not mean living non-competitive lives. With rapid globalization, every sector of the economy, workplace and culture is a battleground for infinite competition. There are neither safe zones nor immune jobs.
Companies or individuals who fail to innovate or adapt to the changing market environment will find themselves defunct. As Charles Darwin put it, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Radical collaboration, rapid prototyping and creative problem-solving are key ramifications of design management. With the ultimate goal of providing unique value and experiences to customers, design management differentiates firms by producing products and services unique to each one. With design and innovation, a company is able to build an enduring brand ― but only after embracing the risks of design management. To today’s innovative thinkers, that is the blue ocean.
Thanks to successful investment in Internet infrastructure, Korea is now the most wired nation on the planet and a pacesetter in information technology. A decade from now, Korea could become the trendsetter for innovation and the era of design.
*The writer is the former editor-in-chief of The Yonsei Annals newspaper and currently the president of the Design Management Club at Yonsei University.
By Yoo Sung-jee
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