8 Strategic Design Qualities


Based on research across traditional design maturity models, case studies of best-in-class organizations, and our own years of experience leading design teams at scale for Fortune 500's and startups alike, we've identified a set of core qualities that define a strategic design culture.



Purpose + Vision

  • Leaders inspire team’s passion with a clear mission that’s consistent with the organization’s values
  • Teams align around an aspirational goal aimed at creating meaningful change
  • Teams share a sense of identity, and are united by a set of core values
  • Every decision reflects the team’s core belief in their WHY
  • Teams share a mutually understood definition and measure of success
  • Teams and individuals feel that their perspective is valued


Experimentation + Reflection

  • Teams build failure immunity by exploring multiple options in parallel
  • Teams ‘make to learn’ through rapid cycles of iteration
  • Teams share insights on both process–how we did it, and progress–what we learned
  • Teams learn and refine their approach both in-action and after-action
  • Teams create loops for sharing and receiving insights inside and outside its boundaries
  • Teams have an ability to sense and respond to change


Collaboration + Intelligence

  • Teams seek input from a diverse network of contributors whose participation is not dictated by their function or hierarchy
  • Teams are able to adapt their approach and coordinate resources to bring in subject-matter experts and specialized skills as needed
  • Teams can clearly articulate who their customer is and what drives their decisions
  • Teams are attuned to the forces that create disruption or opportunity in the market
  • Teams are inquisitive and sensitive to the dynamics that shape how they’re perceived by and their influence on others
  • Teams create feedback loops to absorb and share learnings and outcomes around process and tools


Curiosity + Empowerment

  • Teams look outside of their own boundaries and domains for insight and inspiration
  • Teams are encouraged to explore hunches and follow instincts
  • Examples of desired behaviors are modeled by leadership
  • Teams feel safe to learn, take risks, and fail
  • Teams have trust and confidence in their ability to succeed
  • Teams have the autonomy to make decisions about their approach