Picture 50Two summers ago I attended the AIGA/Harvard Business School program, Business Perspectives for Design Leaders (which has since relocated to Yale and, sadly, was canceled this year; all indications are that it will return in 2010). One of the great takeaways from this wildly enriching experience was the insight we were given into those “other” aspects of running a business. Beyond branding, marketing, and possibly product development, most of us in attendance had only the vaguest idea what it took to run a large business. We designers tend to have an inflated view of how important our contribution is to the overall success of a business, but at HBS we were exposed to areas like operations (ie: the efficiency of a factory), finances, and even corporate ethics in an illuminating—and sometimes humbling—way.

So I was pleased to read Enric Gili Fort’s blog post on the Context Response blog entitled, And the award goes to… the supply chain guy. Enric, a design strategist based in Silicon Valley, uses Apple, one of our favorite case studies for the value of design, as Exhibit A for a strong supply chain. He makes the case that Apple’s COO Tim Cook has been as instrumental to their recent success as the much-heralded design team.

For me, this post connects to the primary question I am asking on Merge, “Why are there so few examples of successful ventures launched by designers and creative professionals?” There are many answers to this complex query, but one of them is certainly our ignorance about these “other” critical aspects of running a business. Through Enric’s post we see how important it can be for designers to collaborate with smart people in other areas of business in building complex businesses.