What is strategic design

Written by Linus Öhman. July 28, 2020

Strategic Design

Is the practice of using design to invent, innovate and form future value creation before we create practical design. When we do this we can spot blue oceans and opportunities that would otherwise be hidden from plain sight. To maximise the value of strategic design we leverage many things that the new world (the internet) has to offer. Some key components are:

Co-creation – work in digital workshops for as long as it takes, it’s miles from the traditional meeting and kilometers from the digitized zoom/skype equivalent. It’s more like an immersive creative exploration that last much longer than traditional workshops.
Data driven – data is feed in to the work to help us form better understanding of the world around us. Strategic means a good mix between imagination and insight blended.
Digital first – A good strategic design is a clearly defined digital process that invites more and more people over time to help create the expected outcome of a strategic design.

In strategic design we can experiment freely with anything from internal structures to whole new business models. Everything is safe and no question is dumb. The most important part is to narrow down and expand up in iterations until we have a clear understanding of what we (as a corporation) want to become in the future.

The process of strategic design

The goal of the process is to go from unclear, scattered opinions and views to a common shared vision of the future version of the organisation. One of the most natural ways to start is to have basic stakeholder sessions where digital postits are used to write and draw ideas and start getting a clear sense of the different world views that are held internally. Once identified, it will become obvious that it’s quite the spagetti of terminology and buzz words spattered over the infinite canvas. This invites the next step which is the conceptual model – aka when we say word X we all mean X. Not the most creative work but the money (and time) saved on having the same vocabulary is incredible. Now that everyone know each other and can communicate clearly, we can start building up a future version of us that we all get excited about. A pro tip is to use empowering Principles that the top fortune 100 organisations use guide their corporations. There is no clear cut formula of how to get from a to z for the rest of the work, but working with guiding principles and exploring everything from competitors products to designing concepts is almost always involved. After a while it will become clear what stakeholders we should showcase, what technology should be involved and explained. And what value we create ,and how, to which future customer.

Expected output of strategic design

The output is the tangible artefacts that we can see and experience. The output starts with digital postits and gradually goes from sketches into “real” visual stories of how the future version of our corporation is experienced by key stakeholders when doing their daily work and interaction with and within or corporation and our products and services.

Expected outcome of strategic design

In the end we will have a coherent and actionable vision that we can universally understand internally and also use externally to explain where we are heading. Meaning – we all see where we are supposed to go and how we might get there. With strategic design we want to show the big picture of the future of our corporation (or organization/community/country/club/ etc). This will then guide us in our product roadmap and practical design.

Practical design is the design of the product and services that our users use on a daily basis. Aligning the practical design with our strategic design is one of the most important steps after we have a vision in place. But that is a whole article in itself.

Linus Öhman

Linus Öhman

Founder, CXO and Strategic designer

Linus is humble as pie but his work stings like a bee. A frequent contributor to strategic discussions for smart organizations. A strong believer in the motto “If you could only know one thing for sure, it should be that you can always learn more.” Digital is organizable magic with clear rules for those who have the ambition to become greater, better and scalable beyond common sense.

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