This insight generally describes a corporate context where there aren’t enough design savvy CEO’s/ executives that understand the value of design. This came up very early in the conversations, and none of the interviewees denied it though not everyone considered it the most important insight. Some scholars have speculated that strong top management support is required to elevate a function’s status, but is such support inevitably conducive to design acquiring higher status?
Many are familiar with the Steve Jobs + Jonathan Ive powerhouse at Apple, but when you think of other large corporations that embrace design and have opted for not having a Chief Design Officer, you wonder if that would make a difference. There was something repeated time after time by many of the interviewees, “it all comes down to the CEO, but these folks never learned anything about design at school”. And apparently it is not only about having a good CEO, but also issues with timing and strategy around CEO personal goals. There are good examples of design savvy CEO’s, and the way they talk about design, the actions they embrace say a lot about their commitment. We focused not only on the design savvy CEO, but also on other executives being design savvy, especially if they are able to work closely with design delivering impactful results to the bottom line.
After going through the research, we believe that, though a smart and supporting CEO is important for many other areas represented in the C-suite, with design, lack of understanding of the inner workings and impact, and lack of recognition of why designers might do a better job at representing design than any other professions, leads to considering design non- essential at that level, and there aren’t enough examples, cases, data to prove him/her wrong. So, it is our belief that this hypothesis is indeed an important one that needs addressing, and because data shows the CEO is indeed more impactful in choosing the TMT that other executives and/or BoD, this is directly impacting the fact that there aren’t more designers in the C-Suite of large corporations.