What is the state of design leadership in large corporations?

Research on the state of leadership found that effective leadership development programs are a major force driving organizations’ ability to successfully transform, but when comparing findings from previous year, studies found that while many organizations intended to give Leadership and Development a more strategic role, the objective hasn’t necessarily been achieved. When asked why they mention Insufficient Innovation, not enough support from the top, and questionable program effectiveness.

For those that have researched this topic, ‘design leadership’ and ‘leadership by design’ might be at odds with each other, depending on how they use or abuse empathy, differentiating between giving people what they want, giving them what they need, giving society and mankind what they should get. Recent research on the business value of design found that while in the past five years companies doubled senior design roles, 90% of these companies were not reaching the full potential of design and that there is a general lack of clarity about where and how senior design leaders can contribute and how there is a miss alignment on expectations.

Design leadership is not just about the existence of a CDO, presumes designers at the highest level of corporate management without impacting the need for design and designers at every level in the company, these are not mutually exclusive. There isn’t also a single way to represent design in large corporations, but as long as there is a Top Management Team, the argument is that 1) design should be represented at this level, 2) in specific cases represented as design (even if combined with other areas, but design as the head), 3) that designers should also be counted as potential holders of that seat/ position (though not necessarily only designers).

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