As we look forward to the next 25 years, it’s clear that the business landscape is changing, and the companies that win in the future will be those that make a positive contribution to the world - those driven by an authentic, deep-rooted purpose.
We believe that this shift creates a significant opportunity for Design Leaders to step-up and help business leaders address some of the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges.
That’s why in 2019 (pre-COVID!) we invited 30 Design Leaders to gather in Hamburg to discuss the journey from Human-Centered Design towards Design for Humanity. Throughout this session there was a clear consensus that we simply cannot overlook our responsibility as Design Leaders.
It’s time for Design to evolve. Design has to scale-up its impact through collective ownership of problems, and co-creation of solutions across disciplines, organisations and industries.
Incremental, claim-driven eco-improvements of products and services are no longer enough. Design must assume its natural leadership position in developing the business models and systems that address complex political, economical, environmental and societal challenges.
This means that Design Leaders need to change their priorities. They must move their focus beyond short-term business value creation, and they must lead the embedding of a new humanity-centered mindset and approach that delivers a net- positive impact on the world in which we live.
D4H - The 4 Horizon model
To support the D4H journey, we have created a simple, impactful model that can help Design Leaders and Design Teams to assess, plan and communicate their role in driving a more humanity- centered approach to business.
Within each step, design will have specific responsibilities and tasks to fulfil and as with all models, the boundaries might not be so well defined in reality. Design might move incrementally between levels or sometimes be able to skip levels altogether, depending on the mandate given and/or business context and objectives.
Horizon 1 - Optimise
Design optimises the business offer to comply with humanity-related regulations.
At the first horizon, Design focuses on optimising the existing offer. Design is a service that seeks to reduce negative business impact by improving the eco- efficiency of products and services.
Horizon 2 - Integrate
Design integrates business silos to identify humanity-focused value-chain improvements.
At the second horizon, Design is a facilitator that fosters a collaborative approach internally and externally, driving new ways of working that help identify humanity- focused improvement opportunities along the end-to-end value-chain.
Horizon 3 - Envision
Design envisions new business strategies that positively impact humanity.
At the third horizon, motivation goes beyond improvement of the status quo. Design inspires change by collaborating with others to envision new business models and systems that deliver a step-change in sustainable growth.
Horizon 4 - Regenerate
Design champions a humanity-centered mindset and approach across the business.
At the fourth horizon, everyone is playing a role in transforming the business to positively contribute to the greater good. In a culture fueled by the desire to drive positive change, Design is the expert and advocate of a regenerative approach that focuses on co-designing in harmony with natural & living systems.
Since 2021, we’ve fully embedded the D4H Horizon model into our consulting programmes and also launched our PARK Academy Design for Humanity module, helping more than 120 Design Managers and Leaders to define their own plan of action. However, there is so much more to learn and achieve – and we won’t make progress without a collective effort, so reach out and let’s discuss how we can work together to keep the movement moving!
“The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”
- Leo Tolstoy
Books that we recommend for further reading.
- Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World by Jacqueline Novogratz
- When More is Not Better by Roger L. Martin
- Lo-TEK. Design by Radical Indigenism by Julia Watson
- The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems by Fritjof Capra
- Regenerative Leadership: The DNA of life-affirming 21st century organizations by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm
- The purpose Economy by Aaron Hurst
- Designing for the circular Economy by Martin Charter
- Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design
- Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows
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