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  1. A Flywheel of Innovation
  2. A Sufficiently Advanced Culture
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This chapter is from the book

A Sufficiently Advanced Culture.

The late science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke remarked that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The same could be said about designful companies. As we transition from the spreadsheet era to the creative era, design thinking will undoubtedly prove elusive to some, problematic to others, and baffling to still others. Months ago, while I explained the thesis of my book to my friend Paul, a talented accountant, he listened with furrowed brow. “It sounds logical,” he finally said, “but I’m having trouble imagining how it would FEEL to work in a company like that.” Fair enough. So before I let you go, I’ll try to summarize the emotional benefits of working in a designful company.

In a traditional company, the focus is on costs, while in the designful company it’s on customers. This puts a premium on the ability to empathize with people outside the company, which creates a feeling of connectedness.

In a traditional company, the dominant mode is command and control, while in a designful company it’s vision and creativity. The corresponding feelings are excitement and satisfaction.

In a traditional company, jobs are role oriented, while in a designful company they’re project oriented. As a result, respect comes from merit more than position, which imparts a feeling of self-esteem.

In a traditional company, risk-taking is discouraged, while in a designful company, it’s part of the innovation process. Therefore a can-do feeling replaces a can’t-do feeling.

In a traditional company, workers are siloed, while in a designful company they collaborate. This creates a feeling of shared success.

In a traditional company, beauty is tacked on, while in a designful company, it’s built in. It’s part of the way products are made, the way people are treated, and the way decisions are designed. The feeling we get from caring about beauty is hope for the future.

In an age of wicked problems, companies can no longer simply “unlock” wealth. Today they must actively “create” wealth to keep up with the speed of change. For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, successful companies will be designful companies. They’ll combine knowing, making, and doing to strive for truth, beauty, and the public good. At last, the bottom line will begin to trace the shape of who we want to be.

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