alexandra bagao


The Project | full info


Well, as you might know already I am a Design Management Master, and  this started by being my master’s thesis research. However, I got so involved in the subject I ended up wanting to keep interviewing people and gathering their insights in order to cement my own conclusions.

I really believe there are a lot of interesting insights out there worth bringing to light, and I think that a place where all of them can be amalgamated and available to the public is valuable to both business and design lovers.

So in this chapter I will introduce my project to you.



The world is changing, largely due to human activity. Rapid population growth and consumption of resources, advances in technology, increasing climate instability, and social changing relationships between the individual and the society are already impacting billions of lives, and are poised to impact more in the future. These trends call for an increasing need for skills in creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation to deal with a highly integrated and competitive world market; and the need for people to embrace more responsible ways of acting in all quadrants of their lives (Dykes et al, 2010, p. 9).

To face this change, businesses and their leaders must think beyond short-term financial results, to understand the impact of globalisation and the accelerated pace of change towards the future economy (Estrin, 2009, p. 2). There is a need to think broadly and boldly and to take responsibility for the problems mankind and their organisations have been creating (Estrin, 2009, p. xii). Organisations have to become more responsive and flexible enough to react quickly to changes in the surrounding environment, and creative enough to add value through continual innovation (Henry, 2001, p.8). Hence, they must adopt 21st century methods and tools to develop an organisational environment suitable for encouraging creativity, innovation and the ability to apply new ways of thinking to solve problems.

Businesses are increasingly looking to define their purpose beyond financial profit and leaders recognise the need to build authentic brand platforms and conscious cultures on which to create competitive advantage. Furthermore, inclusive and sustainable approaches to solving problems and management issues are already in place in some visionary companies, like Morning Star, BSO/Origin and Patagonia, and the evidence so far shows that it is possible to run even profitable organisations in different management paradigms than the ones used in the past. These organisations focus on culture and empowerment to achieve extraordinary employee motivation (Laloux, 2014, p. 36).

Nancy Kline argues that people should relate to one another with an assumption of positive intent (Kline, 2009, p. 101). Hence, there is equal worth to everyone’s thinking abilities and to each individual’s contribution.



I propose that design can act as a connecting agent between some of the characteristics seen in previous organisational models and the new trends arising, with the intention of minimizing the faults in the existing structures and helping soothe the edges of conflicts. I also suggest that there is a real space for a design thinking-type of interventions in organisations of all sectors and that now is the right time to implement these.

The main objective of the study was to understand how organisations are currently dealing with change and adapting to it, and where does design fit in that process. Finding out where the space of opportunity for design to be embedded in strategy/culture change and policy shifts exists in organisations.

Beginning with the principle that businesses are failing to address the problems we face today, design can have a positive role in building a bridge to newer approaches, or a common language that can help envision future possibilities and actions. Marty Neumeier said “it's not that the spreadsheet thinking is wrong, it's just that it is inadequate” (Neumeier, 2009, p. 22), and my study aimed to scope what is indeed more adequate, hypothesising that design is the beginning to more effective problem solving solutions.

The research also looked at the role of people in organisations and what motivates the 21st century workforce, to evaluate how that impacts the values and the purpose of the organisation.


Research questions (breaking down the main theme)

// Where, in organisations, could there be space for design to contribute to culture and purpose alignment?

// Do organisations (businesses) acknowledge the power of design to help driving their course to the future?

// What language and tools are needed to broaden the scope of design awareness or usage?

// How can design help fuel employee engagement and motivation?

// Do organisations driven by values and a bigger purpose achieve competitive results?



My methodology aimed to the better understanding of the current organisational landscape and the hypothetical new spaces design could occupy. The interviews (and the survey) were conducted in order to verify the two hypothesis: 1. design as a methodology to problem solving is being used in cross sector organisations, although in some cases it is not acknowledged as design; 2. despite the first being proven true there is still a vast space for enhancement by design in organisations, being these already using design in a sense or not.

The individuals interviewed come from diverse fields, from accountancy, to finance, from creative fields to education. However, the initial purpose of these interviews was to narrow the scope of the survey and focus on three types of people: 1. People who work and acknowledge design as a way of thinking and run teams and research on the subject; 2. People who are not necessarily aware of the impact and use of design and who work in fields that might not be directly related to design, but who run successful companies or teams with their own human centred methodology; 3. People who are aware of the power of design but work in organisations that do not permit or comprehend its usage, therefore feel unaccomplished or frustrated when it comes to collaboration and new approaches to problem solving.



Hope the project is now better explained, and that you feel curious enough to keep reading my interviews. If you ever wish to be a part of the project, know someone who would or would like to know more, feel always free to email me and I would be thrilled to get to know you.

Thank you,



I’ve read a lot of interesting books and articles on the subject, these are only the ones that I used for this chapter. If you’d like to have my full bibliography list just ask, I’d be more than happy to share.

Dykes, Gavin, Groff, Jen, Renfrew-Knight, Helena and Sutch, Dan (2010) Social Innovation in Education, Driving Social Innovation in Education  [Online] Issue 1.0. Available: (Accessed 16/03/16)

Estrin, Judy (2009) Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy, USA: McGraw-Hill

Henry, Jane (2001) Creativity and Perception in Management, London: Sage Publications

Kline, Nancy (2009) More Time to Think, England: Fisher King Publishing

Laloux, Frederic (2014) Reiventing Organisations: A Guide to Creating Organisations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, Belgium: Nelson Parker

Neumeier, Marty (2009) ‘The Designful Company’, In T. Lockwood [ed] Design Thinking, Chapter 2, New York: Allworth Press. Pp. 15-22