Design as mediator between science and business

Last week I talked to one of my favorite people. I brought up the notion of a designtist and she, true to form, has already:

  1. thought deeply about it
  2. had devised a diagram that explained her thinking and
  3. had already socialized it to the design department at Ohio State.

Her big idea is that design is uniquely suited to bridge the gap between the commercial product development process and the various silos of scientific knowledge.  My interpretation of the diagram is that the fuzzy front end of the product development process really is the same as, or maybe a logical extension to, translational research.  In these cases, the fuzzy front end may benefit from incorporating findings from one or more different scientific disciplines (i.e., silos).

This model of mediation is different than the current way that academic institutions attempt to leverage their different disciplines.  The two most common ways that interdisciplinary work is done at these institutions is through individual collaborations and formalized Centers.  The indivdual collaborations are the result of chance encounters of opportunistic faculty that sense that see the benefit of collaborating, usually to further the research interests of one or both parties.  Formalized interdisciplinary Centers have various purposes within a given institution.  Whereas more and more of them are dedicated towards interdisciplnary work to promote the commercialization of combined resources, they are fairly rigid organizations and have heavy organizational overhead and slower decision-making.  Using a design research or design exploration process, however, should facilitate more nimble ability to pluck either ideas or participants from the different discliplines and coordinate them with either a multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary (preferred) approach to make their way through the fuzzy, or dare I say focused, front end.

Maybe it's the designtists that will lead the way in adeptly plucking these scientific findings or curating a fertile crop of participants to help solve the problem at hand.  The necessary skill for either of these activities is to know how to maneuver through the literature of the scientific disciplines, and be able to pinpoint the influential authors that are leading the field.  No small feat for someone not already steeped in those particular discipline's literatures! And oh by the way, which literatures should be consulted?  Whose experts should be invited?