In previous blogs and many interactions articles and columns over the years I have articulated my concerns over the UX profession’s general inability to penetrate to the core of business leadership. Richard Anderson added his own theory to this legacy in his blog “What Holds UX Back?”
I had a profound experience last week, which unfortunately pushed me over to the dark side regarding my perpetually optimistic perspective on how UX design professionals will eventually take a place of equal rank in the boardroom.
Let me frame the situation…
I was on an east coast business trip last week working with one of my clients, a startup named WellDoc that has created an FDA class-4-certified mobile app for managing type 2 diabetes. Look it up. Doctors prescribe it and your insurance company reimburses the monthly subscription cost! It will save billions. Following the advice this app’s expert system provides as it tracks your lifestyle data has been proven to lower blood glucose levels more than some of the most popular diabetes medications. This is an amazing, cutting-edge business model. It to took a bunch of brilliant physicians, clinicians, and business people a decade to make this fly. The actual software engineering and UX designs were among the least complicated part of bringing this product to market. (Full disclosure: My wife and I, and some other family members, are investors in this company.)
Now to event that triggered the title of this blog…
During the course of the day a 30-something product manager that I have been working with on a different medical app for about three months casually mentioned that he is starting an MBA program in “human-centered design” at the Johns Hopkins University’s Carey School of Business. Formally this program was known as the MBA in design leadership. It is run in collaboration with the Maryland Institute College of Art. However, Johns Hopkins is the degree-granting institution.
Nathan Shedroff at the California College of the Arts (CCA) established a similar program several years ago called the MBA in design strategy. When I first heard about this idea I did not panic because Nathan (as most readers will know) is a world-class designer and design thought leader and CCA is not a business school.
Unfortunately, from my perspective, as big name business schools jump on board the “design leadership MBA” trend the future ownership of the UX agenda will become the provenance of people not trained as designers or HCI specialists but of people who have never actually practiced design. At least they will employ designers,
In the end you might say that this trend simply reflects the maturation of design as a core competitive business value proposition from which we will all as consumers benefit in the end. But is this the path to ubiquitously great product design?
Who do you think the typical CEO is going to listen to, the guy from Harvard with the MBA in design leadership already seated at the table or the creative genius in the hallway with purple hair and body piercings sporting an MFA from the Royal College?
Game, set, and match over!
Daniel Rosenberg is Chief Design Officer at rCDOUX LLC
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