Bruce Nussbaum, the person that I see playing an important role in bridging the gap between design/innovation and business, offers up his “Top Ten Innovation Mistakes”. While a good read in general, I find his first point is by far the most important and salient.
1) CEO sloth. There’s no pretty word for failure to focus on innovation by top management. Every major innovation index, including the new one coming out by Business Week in 08, shows significantly higher rates of return for companies that innovate. Yet CEO’s consistently mouth the word without providing the leadership and resources to make it happen. CEOs need to make the time to lead the innovation movement in their companies.
I find it is often on the desk of the CEO, or main decision maker, where a great innovative idea will either live or die. Often leaders of companies know what they need to do, but often fail in the follow through with a lack of support and in particular when allocating budgets.
Thus it is of vital importance that the designer/creative/agent of change works directly or very closely with this CEO or decision maker. In this case the designer needs to understand his/her role, and have the right skills to be an influencer in strategic Design decisions that need to be made by senior management.
CEOs need to realize this, and take steps to have such senior designers to be part of their senior management. They have to realize that, just like Accounting, Human Resource and Logistics, etc., Design (with a capital D) needs to be a function within an organization. More importantly, CEOs need to know that managing Design requires specific skills that should be hired should the organization not possess them.
At the end of the day making a decision is still the CEO’s responsibility, and deciding to go with a more conservative, proven, or me-too product instead of something a forward looking Designer recommends is not anyone’s fault but the CEO’s.