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A Business Designer’s View

Part V: Role of Ideas, Logic in Designing the Future of Business

Dentsu Business Design Square was set up as a specialist unit at Dentsu’s head office in Japan. Its task is to help client companies develop a strategy that will allow them to attain a desired outcome through innovation.

In this series of articles, members of the specialist unit explain what the term business design means at Dentsu. In the fifth installment of the series, team member and business designer Atsuo Habe discusses the role of ideas and logic.

Ideas generate value

In this article, I explain the logic behind our work approach.

Both ideas and logic are particularly important concepts for business design at Dentsu. This becomes apparent when we compare business design with Dentsu’s core business of communication design.

Ideas are at the heart of both communication design and business design, and serve to drive value in the latter. Our new and original ideas serve as a platform on which we shape the value that we provide our clients.

But how, you may be wondering, do the two areas of design differ? Put simply, when it comes to communication design, Dentsu produces the final output. But when it comes to business design, the client is the professional and turns our ideas into reality.

Logic: the reasons for doing something

When making a pitch to a prospective client, the team is invariably asked three questions.

  • Why should we adopt the idea?
  • Do you have any better ideas?
  • How would your idea change our company?

From my own experience, I believe it is extremely difficult to answer these questions based only on the idea being proposed. In particular, the more novel and innovative an idea is, the more likely it is that widely diverging opinions for and against it will emerge from all corners of the client organization. I have seen countless ideas not be given a chance of implementation but, instead, be buried under an unrelenting avalanche of reasons not to put them into practice.

While I believe that we never propose ideas irresponsibly, from the perspective of those receiving a proposal it may appear that we are just talk. This may lead to an unhappy situation for both parties.

It is in this context that logic plays a vital role. Clients initiate dialogue with Dentsu Business Design Square in the hope that some new perspective will emerge—some new angle that has not been considered by their own organization.

To respond to such client expectations, rather than being limited to a unidirectional process whereby an idea is proposed and approved, we need to engage in a two-way process, whereby both parties share their thoughts in a way that leads to meaningful discussion, while using logic to generate and refine ideas.

In other words, if “giving shape to something we should do” is the expression of an idea, then it logically follows that one would “create the reasons for doing so.” Our aim, at Dentsu Business Design Square, is to provide proposals that we can not just present to, but also discuss with, clients. And this, we believe, is possible if the proposal comprises a fusion of ideas and logical next steps.

The following criteria are important aspects of business design.

1. Simplicity of expression

In business design, explanations of new and original ideas, no matter how detailed, should be simply and elegantly put, for immediate comprehension.

2. Use of diagrams

I work with a variety of clients with diverse expertise in the area of business design. They work in management planning, research and development, and operational divisions and, since they are nationals of Japan and of other countries, they represent a variety of cultural backgrounds and have different values. If misunderstanding is to be avoided, communication cannot depend on language alone, but must include diagrams—such as charts and numerical data.

3. Comprehensive documentation

Since it is not possible to repeatedly explain all aspects of a proposal by ourselves, it is important that we prepare and ensure that the comprehensive documentation is ready to be at hand so that everyone can understand the essence and make a presentation. It supports a client’s ability to obtain internal approval for a project.

Business opportunities

As was mentioned in part I of this series of articles—“Creating a Future That Serves Us Well” by Akihito Kunimi—Business Design Square provides a number of services, including future analysis. This is based on the concept of decision management, which was first proposed at Stanford University in the 1960s.

By visualizing business opportunities in an uncertain future through quantitative data (such as NPV), the objective is to support the realization of high-quality decision-making. Since future outcomes are forecast by means of quantitative data, this method integrates a variety of concepts. For example, it includes not only concepts drawn from conventional finance, but also from such fields as probability and other statistical methods, as well as psychology in facilitation.

Our visualization is premised on the fact that all input is information received from the client, because the client knows the business better than anyone else. For this reason, at the beginning of a project we spend a lot of time thoroughly interviewing those managers and staff in the client organization who are responsible for the project.

This allows us to deepen our own understanding of the client’s business, and gives the client an opportunity to re-examine their business. This often leads to a deeper common understanding among the people involved on the client side.

The ideal we should be aiming for and the project’s feasibility as a business are now logically connected. This allows us to begin to see the answer to the question, “What decisions need to be made?”

Although our final conclusion is straightforward and easy to understand, reaching it requires a broad array of specialist expertise.

Ideas and logic interlinked

In closing, I would like to emphasize that ideas and logic should not be thought of separately; indeed they are always connected.

Precisely because ideas are novel and innovative, the logic should be very simple and elegant. By leveraging the power of logic, ideas become sharper and more sophisticated. In Part III of this series of articles, we explained how at Dentsu Business Design Square members with differing expertise and values work as a unified team.

The output generated becomes the impetus driving further progress and growth at client businesses. As a result, we are glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the generation of new value in society through a large number of projects. I too wish to take on successive challenges as part of those efforts.

Atsuo Habe

Atsuo Habe

Dentsu Business Design Square

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