Disruption & Design Thinking: From Hierarchies to Hubs

Recently, I found myself in the audience of a keynote panel discussion at the annual ePharma event in New York City. There were very successful people in the pharmaceutical industry asking questions like ‘how do we incorporate digital into our company’s DNA?’

One panel member vented by saying that Pharma companies had to stop investing in apps that merely promoted and sold their own products. A few weeks later, I found myself presenting a business case to colleague of mine. A very busy woman, with many things on her plate, she began multitasking by intermittently texting with important contacts throughout our discussion. As I was making the point that ‘digital disrupts everything’ I couldn’t resist but to point out that it was disrupting the very conversation we were having. She was almost aghast at herself for her behavior and put her phone down immediately.

Though this may bother a lot of us I didn’t really mind it at all. It kind of validates the case I've made. And I think its fair to say that this behavior is much more acceptable today than it would have been a decade ago.

We are all beginning to understand it more and accept it more. We are all in some way beginning to adjust to living disrupted lives. This is a new reality that is not going to go away.

Digital has taken us over. We know this.

But we don’t yet know the long term implications of its pervasiveness. There are many exciting things about instantaneous global connection to one another. On Facebook I find myself frequently connecting with my cousins in Argentina or the nanny who helped my mom when I was a baby now living in Iceland.

I’ve had conversations with digital artists from almost every continent on the globe sitting in my living room. I’m reacquainting myself with friends from decades ago who I would have never suspected to see again if it wasn’t for ‘digital.’

Twenty years ago the smart phone didn’t exist. Today there are 5 billion. I saw a recent study that said there were significantly more images uploaded to the internet in 2011 than all of the photographs created by analog photography EVER.

Ben Blumenfeld who spoke at FUSE 2011 (then the creative lead at Facebook), shared a story about how Facebook wanted to create a language translation platform. Originally they projected enormous costs in creating the platform that would take up huge amounts of time and eat up resources. They then turned it over to their network and had a the first iteration created in days at very little cost.

So how do we adjust what we’re doing within this digital takeover?

What is the shift in the psychology that will best help us handle the digital invasion? I couldn’t possibly begin to answer this on a global scale but from a design perspective, as a director of the creation of websites and a communicator of business strategy, I’ll sum it up by saying we need to move from hierarchies to hubs.

If you haven’t wrapped your head around this yet the fundamental shift in mindset is from the traditional ‘hierarchy-type’ thinking to ‘network-type’ thinking.

This is such a great opportunity for design thinkers as it is conceptual and abstract. There is much work to be done in business everywhere. Ideas now need to be constantly drawn out and refined. It also presents opportunity for designers as ‘pollinators’ in business. In the past we found ourselves floating from team to team within a corporate structure getting an idea of “the big picture” so that we could communicate it visually in the branding and design.

Today we can actually map out this journey in order to help the business understand its own network-based structure. This creates a great gateway from servicing our clients to partnering with them.

Digital: Hubs not Hierarchies

Many companies today still find themselves trying to “tackle” digital.

Successful digital approaches begin more from the creations of ‘hubs’ than the creation of hierarchies. A strong team paves way for a strong hub. And today a strong hub can create a global language translation platform accessible to the entire planet within days. A little insight can now go a long, long way. Pretty awesome.

About the Author

Dan Madinabeitia is the creative director for the Institute for International Research. He has been the design lead for hundreds of design campaigns within the events industry. Coming from a fine art background, Dan evolved into a graphic designer. Eventually he took on leadership roles involving the oversight of graphic and web design disciplines as well as the creative voice behind many digital marketing strategies. His work has been published in Photoshop Creative Magazine. Follow Dan @DanMadina on Twitter or on LinkedIn.


Sheila said...

Great article Dan.

Sheila said...
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Danruns50 said...

Thanks Sheila!

Danruns50 said...
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