April’s So You Wanna be a Design Strategist event sparked a number of interesting discussions around how to grow designers into a design strategist role. Here are a few of the salient points that were shared with me about this issue:
“It's not that I believe you can totally avoid politics or that you should never have to sell, etc. It's only that these things are techniques and what is missing is fire. All great musicians have both technique and fire, but the important thing is that their fire is usually what kept them on the path long enough to develop their technique fully.
In the same way I’m concerned that telling designers that it's all about the techniques (metrics, politics, prototyping, selling, etc.) would make them feel overwhelmed and uninspired to take action. Often too much talk of technique can put out the fire.”
“We need to be very honest with ourselves about talents/natural strengths vs. skills. You are not going to get the same level of natural "fire" in all people. But, people who don't have as much fire can augment themselves through techniques and partnerships. I actually think some people will find that inspiring.”
“There really isn’t an “us” and “them” distinction between regular Joe designers and the lofty strategists. Sure there will always be different skill sets and levels of ability, but I think it’s very important (philosophically and culturally) to view this as a continuum. Every designer can develop skills they already have to be better/more effective than they are now. I’d argue that even the notion of “strategy” can be seen on a continuum. Only a certain number of folks have the potential to drive design strategies that are of corporate-level significance. But I think every designer has the potential to influence the strategy of their product, or sub-set of product.”
“Rather than overwhelm people with the amount of stuff they need to learn/know, we can illustrate how their already existing design skills can be used as strategy skills.”