Sean Carney at Phillips: Design Saves Lives

We co-create things together. There is no such thing as a free standing design team anymore. Device engineers, software designers and user interaction designers sit together as part of an agile team,” says Carney.

Design was too far removed from the heat of the battle.’

His diagnosis of the situation at Philips was that design could improve the company’s standing if it were better integrated with the business. In his words, design was too far removed from the heat of the battle.” So he gave his design teams the objective of moving the needle” to help Philips win more business and improve its Net Promoter Score. He set about changing the CEOs mind by connecting design to different parts of the business.

Carney, who leads 400-plus creatives within Philips, has encouraged his teams to forge new links with departments such as corporate strategy, technology research, new business development, and country sales organizations. As well as breaking out of the bureaucratic structures around design, which were, in his view, the root of the problem, he emphasizes the need for a more networked and expansive view of how design functions. We’re moving from designing individual product experiences to designing wider ecosystems,’ he says. Under his leadership, Philips has gone from designing health-care devices to working alongside its business development teams to devise elements that span a hospital patient’s entire care cycle. His work with corporate strategy often revolves around thinking more widely about new revenue streams.

Design thinking will only live if you’re doing—rapidly prototyping, sketching, enabling people to cocreate together—that’s where the real power of design thinking is unlocked. But it is still important to respect the craft of design: if it isn’t beautiful or has a usable interface that creates stickiness, then design thinking amounts to very little.”

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