The manager of the future? They’re a designer

Designers who become managers, managers who learn the tools of design. The “contamination” between these professionals is one of the answers to growing complexity. And it is at the centre of the Master in Strategic Design for Innovation and Transformation, as Claudio Dell’Era and Cabirio Cautela explain

Until a few years ago we were (or we thought we were) able to understand the world by relying on an analytical approach, that is based on well-defined methodologies, logic and categories. Today this is no longer the case. Growing complexity requires a change of pace, with the involvement of new abilities like intuitiveness and creativity. «It is the reason today’s managers can benefit from the adoption of skills offered by design», explains Professor Claudio Dell’Era, who together with Professor Cabirio Cautela is co-director of the Master in Strategic design for Innovation and Transformation at MIP Politecnico di Milano. «Indeed, the challenges of the world of work require a strengthened managerial figure, more contemporary and increasingly in demand».

The evolution of designers

At the same time, during the last twenty years designers themselves have seen their role gradually evolve. «On one hand they have gone from being technical figures to increasingly become managers. Just think of automotive, for example, with Chris Bangle in BMW and Walter De Silva in Audi, and then in all those sectors in which the language of the product, its structure, its meaning have an important impact on positioning» explains Cautela. «On the other hand, designers have started to become increasingly present in the marketing departments of companies, becoming fundamental not so much in product design, as in new offer solutions, that is the integrated process between product, service, communication and distribution».

Humans at the centre

The reason a company regulated on the principles of design ends up having a competitive advantage is the centrality of the human element. «Design presupposes a bottom-up involvement of employees. Only in this way is it possible to give meaning to one’s work, putting human values  before more functional and technical ones», explains Dell’Era. «This is an increasingly indispensable dynamic, a necessity more than a choice». The repercussions are also positive for users: «The new recipe for innovation must push us to create products, services and solutions that make peoples’ life experiences more pleasing. They are the people that we must put at the centre of our reflections».

Good design sells better

A point of view that is also echoed in the considerations of Cautela: «Good design makes you sell more, but above all it makes you sell better.   Because it starts from a vision of people, and not a corporate one, because it puts at the centre change, emerging cultural models, relations. Business is a consequence, not the end». And the workers involved also benefit from this: «Employee engagement is greater if it is tied to a deep motivation, to a purpose. That is not the profit, or a higher salary. The design leader must convey precisely this concept: the aim is to change peoples’ lives in a certain way. An approach that allows to retain human resources who truly believe in the corporate purpose, giving them an opportunity to enhance their creativity». 

The master’s degree  

These are the issues and the challenges which the Master in Strategic Design for Innovation and Transformation tries to address, offering training to managers who want to acquire design tools and to designers that instead feel a need for stronger managerial training. «The question we started from is:  who is the design leader?», explains Cautela. «The answer is that it is not someone who only has an ability to proactively offer solutions, but who also instils new values in the organization. To define this role, we used four thematic blocks: the first involves design as a lens with which to approach innovation, to give value to the products also for the meaning they embody. The second theme is that of leadership and engagement, as we have said. The third is that of data supporting creativity: not big data, but “thick” data, qualitative (feelings, reactions) data that provides information on individuals dealings with objects. Lastly, the fourth block involves the issue of the integration of creativity in organizations. How can it be done? It is a question that is often faced in big corporations, because the integration of new creative processes is always complex. But, if done well, it can lead to big benefits».


Innovative design and technology for an inclusive society: new Joint Research Center

Creating a more ‘smart’ and inclusive world: this is the scope of the new Joint Research Center ‘Innovative design and technology for an inclusive society’ created through a five-year agreement between the Politecnico di Milano, NTT DATA, and POLI.Design, with the participation of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering of the School of Management.

The new Research Center will see the work of NTT DATA — a leading Japanese multinational company in consultation and the IT sector — POLI.Design — a company of reference for post-graduate education that acts as a hinge between the university, institutions, companies and work — and, for the Politecnico, the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, the Department of Design, and the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering.

The idea of working together grew out of not only a desire to make joint studies on innovative technological issues, but also sharing important values for promotion together, such as equality, diversity, and inclusion.

One of the collaboration’s primary goals is to use the most advanced technological and design tools synergistically to initiate a cultural transformation, to ‘focus on people’, supporting the inclusive development of society and placing technology at the service of individuals.

The collaboration establishes financing for activities and research projects related to different areas and topics of primary importance to create and realize ‘transparent’ technological solutions with impacts on our daily lives: Smart Mobility, Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Internet of Humans, Diversity Management, Universal Design, Design for Social Benefit, Product and Service Design

In particular, the contribution of the Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering will focus on the issues of Data Analytics and Technology Tools for Diversity and Inclusion in close collaboration with the Department of Electronics, Electronics, Information and Bioengineering at the Politecnico di Milano.

For more information, read the press release.

2020 Full Time MBA: the specialization in Luxury and Design Management

This MBA concentration at MIP aims to give students first-hand exposure to Italy’s luxury sector, with a study tour organized in important productive districts. The goal is to train professionals who are at ease working with the main trends underway.

Understanding the unique characteristics of the Made-in-Italy luxury sector, in order to be able to work in it by both innovating and preserving the tradition of historic brands: it’s the objective of the specialization in Luxury and Design Management, one of the four concentrations that since 2020 allow students in the Full Time MBA programme at MIP Politecnico di Milano to select an area of their choice to study in-depth. «Those who choose the luxury path will be able to discover the secrets of Italian companies, maybe still owned by the founding family, which however have been capable of becoming global leaders in the sector», explains Politecnico di Milano professor Alessandro Brun, Director of the Master in Global Luxury Management (MGLuxM) programme.

Luxury between strategy and operations

Specializations are paths that respond to specific needs of companies, which look for professionals trained in management, but also require more specific expertise. Luxury is one of these areas. «But luxury doesn’t only mean fashion», stresses Brun. «Instead, we mean everything that can be defined as high-end, in any sector. Sports cars, boating, jewellery, design, and furniture. And often foreign students are particularly interested in understanding the profound reasons for the global success of Made in Italy». The teaching methods of the Luxury and Design Management specialization have the same key characteristic of other concentrations: an eminently practical approach. «The first two weeks will have a more traditional start, even if bootcamp mode will already begin in this period, with projects assigned to students to carry out in close contact with company managers. In the first week, we’ll touch on strategic elements: what is luxury, who are the main players and how you compete in this sector, how you carry out a market analysis, how you establish positioning, up to the go-to-market strategy. In the second week, more operational issues are addressed: the sustainability of the supply chain, the different retail models, inventory management, the optimization of supply chain flows».

On the road to discover Made-in-Italy excellence

But it’s especially in the third week that all these elements are truly seen in action. «We have prepared what is a real study tour», says Brun, «a last week of bootcamp conceived and organized as a trip through the Italian productive landscape. We’ll set out from Milan by bus. The first stop will be in the Modena area, a territory with a great production of luxury autos; but there will also be an opportunity to visit a vinegar factory, since balsamic vinegar is also a product with luxury characteristics in the world of food. We’ll then move on to Tuscany, where there are equally interesting districts: leather goods and shoes come to mind. In these years, by the way, we have been working closely with Prada, Gucci, Ferragamo. We also couldn’t skip a few exclusive experiences tied to wine, all accompanied by managers who will talk to us about innovative ideas and business models».

The trends in luxury professions

The objective of this specialization is to contribute to moulding professionals that can take on not only the most traditional roles in the sector, but also those tied to rapidly developing trends. «Let’s think about the centrality of online sales channel in China. By now the use of the web to purchase luxury products is an accepted practice, but you need to be able to manage technological and customer journey elements to guarantee the customer the experience they are looking for», explains Brun. «Not less important is the issue of visibility and traceability: this includes communication, security, the fight against counterfeiting, and sustainability. Luxury companies must design global distribution chains that are a guarantee for purchases. A third issue then involves the challenge of innovation, to implement while maintaining ties to tradition: a luxury good must at the same time be perfectly modern and rich in history. Here you see the ability of those of who know how to manage innovation and design. And a single skill isn’t enough. Several ones are necessary, and you need to know how to integrate them», concludes Brun.