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Live from the summit

Day one of the Better by Design CEO Summit has covered a raft of topics. It’s proof, if it were still needed, that design is taken seriously at every level of innovative companies of every size.

Here at the SkyCity Convention centre, the overriding theme of the summit seems to be how to connect the right ideas with the right people. Companies are realising how close design and marketing are. For instance, Sam Morgan delivered a 40-minute session on "how a community creates profit", essentially a description of 21st-century marketing.

IDEO’s chief creative officer, Jane Suri, told how IDEO gets among its audience to learn what matters to them. A conversation with a blind person leads to insights—and products—not only for disabled people, but for everybody. By going to the extreme examples, designers can gain new ways of looking at things—or smelling, or hearing, or feeling!

But it’s not just product design under the microscope. Today’s attendees are hungry to know how best to design organisations, particularly in a global marketplace.

Frank Nuovo, former chief of design at Nokia, told how Nokia’s entrepreneurial culture enabled him to start up Nokia design in his west LA living room. Having the feel of being a startup meant Frank felt he owned the company (or at least his part of it).

He then told how Nokia kept that entrepreneurial spirit going, even as the brand leapt forward to become the world’s #1 cellphone maker. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of communication for a firm to avoid becoming the kind of bureaucratic, slow and comfortable organisation that “we don't want to be,” says Nuovo.

John Heng, CEO of New Zealand’s own Click Clack, discussed how his brand survives in a globalised world. His controversial suggestion is that design should be as close to the market as possible. Does this mean the end for New Zealand design jobs? Not at all. But we need to make it compulsory for NZ design training institutions to swap students and establish overseas internships.

Interesting stuff. More tomorrow, when everyone will be wearing personalised BBD t-shirts. Can’t wait.