Design and destruction: why your business (and your designers) need to pay attention to everything. Yes, everything.

In the 1940s, Joe Schumpeter, an Austrian economist and Harvard professor theorized that one day we will live in a society so intertwined with its economic system, it will be almost impossible for businesses to create new value without disrupting or destroying some part of the system, often impacting the lives of people on both sides of products and services. In this so-called “advanced” capitalism businesses will struggle to achieve sizable, predictable growth and may no longer be able to create new value with modest innovations and incremental improvements. Schumpeter thought this “need to disrupt” would drive further creative destruction, putting tremendous pressure on the businesses and society at large, challenging existing stable models and social structures.

Illustration by Mindy Park

I believe we have entered this era and are now living in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, where technology is evolving at an exponential rate while our frail social, mental and physical frames are struggling to keep up. After all, we are still working with a neolithic operating system — the human brain — and a prehistoric form of a social structure — the tribe.

As designers and business leaders, we have a responsibility to examine the new technologies we choose to employ with a moral and ethical lens. We must apply deeply human-centered principles to our process and must always think of the total social experience, not just a customer-focused one.

To help our clients navigate this new reality, every year Fjord examines key trends facing industries, businesses, governments and societies at large. Here are the three trends I believe will be the top of mind for businesses looking to examine their impact holistically.

Disruption in the workplace — Me, Myself and AI
In a future where up to 30–40% of jobs are augmented, performed by a machine, or even fully displaced by AI, businesses will need to evolve their workforces: grow or hire new talent and move to a purpose-driven culture. Rethinking the mission and vision of an organization to focus it on the total societal impact, while retooling around new technologies and retraining workforces to re-ignite the internal drive to innovate, will be critical for survival. Let’s take Artificial Intelligence as an example: in the world where most business today still struggle to deliver even the most basic IVR system, teaching chatbots how to be more human seems like an impossible task. Brands have to learn how to develop a multi-dimensional personality both in the media and in the service space to stay relevant and be truly helpful. More on personalizing technology and rethinking how to use EQ at trends.fjordnet.com.

Brand disruption — Ephemeral Storytelling
We live in a world where everyone is a storyteller and brands have already lost total control of the message they’ve held tightly for so long. Today’s brands must be more like people: multi-dimensional, empathetic and comfortable reacting in real-time. Ultimately brands need to develop fluency in orchestration of experiences and brand gestures — a skill infinitely more complex than pushing out branded messaging or buying media. As we’ve seen in recent news, even the best communicators may lose in this asymmetric battle with customers armed with their phones and twitter accounts. Learn more about shaping brand voices and orchestration of great experiences at trends.fjordnet.com.

Societal disruption — Unintended Consequences
Finally, businesses have to be comfortable not only caring for the customer, but also their internal culture and the society at large. And that means anticipating and tracking business impact at a much wider scale. In practical terms, this means having to work closely and collaboratively with a diverse group of customers, establishing enterprise-wide service principles, and looking deeply into data to track and predict the intended, as well as the unintended consequences of business actions. By getting back to core brand values, defining solid ethic principles (e.g., Google’s do no harm) and always designing human-first, businesses can refocus on a total social experience and avoid the pitfalls of creative destruction.

As designers, we wield a powerful tool of disruption and persuasion. It is our responsibility to always be curious of the human condition and to be aware of the total sum of our actions as we invent the future with and for our business partners. In the words of poet Jane Hirschfeld:

“…everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention”

Dre Szymczak is a Design Director at Fjord Chicago.