Design Education and Entrepreneurs

A IxDA Linkedin forum recently asked:

Is a Design Education good training for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Here’s my response:

I would say “yes and no”

YES: A design education provides a terrific basis in how to define and solve problems, how to communicate (visually, verbally, physically), how to think and work in iterative and non-linear ways, and how to imagine and test what could be – and a good one also builds empathy as well. So, these skills are a good fit for entrepreneurial pursuits – the iterative work / testing (“fail faster”) part, in particular.

NO: Few design programs include any sort of business training (which is astonishing because many designers aspire to have their own firms – read “businesses” – and also need to be able to understand business so that design can influence strategy, rather than be relegated to styling a product/service that has already been decided). However, this is changing and there are several design programs that are beginning to integrate the two – though it’s now more common to hear business schools extolling the virtues of design than the other way around.

Currently the discussion around “design thinking” is acting as a bridge between these two worlds. I am all for positioning design as a way of thinking rather than an instrument of styling information, objects, environments etc but the term is being applied so liberally and stretched so much that it’s beginning to become too much of a catch-all or panacea. The way to avoid this, I think, is continuously demonstrate how design is a means, not an end, and shift the conversation from the value of design to the value design creates. Once you are talking about value, you can influence strategy.