Embracing Change by Design: The Service Design Days Leadership Summit with Mariana Amatullo

With the goal of creating value for the long run, the Service Design Days Leadership Summit, which begins on September 15 in Barcelona, is a hands-on event bringing together 50 international design leaders from a wide range of creative industries to “connect, learn, build, discuss, share learnings, and challenge the status quo.” 

The ideology behind the summit is that designers and creatives possess the unique mindset and toolkit for driving organizational change and creating positive transformations for people and the planet. 

We caught up with Mariana Amatullo, Vice Provost and Academic Dean for Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) at The New School, who is co-chairing “Organizing Change,” the first track of the summit, which will touch upon several key pillars that effectively drive change in organizational life.  

Design Attitude

Managers who approach problems the way designers do create lasting value for society. 

Amatullo’s research and practice in design for social innovation builds on the design attitude concept first coined by management scholars Richard Boland and Fred Collopy from the Weatherhead School of Management. Amatullo’s work extends design attitude as a powerful framework to shed light on the cognitive capacity of designers to navigate complexity and advance organizational learning.

Barriers to change

Change is hard, whether it concerns us personally or touches us as a collective in an organization. Findings about the success rate of organizational change initiatives are pretty dire: an average of 70% percent of change initiatives fail, according to a recent McKinsey report.

Amatullo’s track at the Service Design Days Leadership Summit will elaborate on strategies for design leaders to overcome some of the top barriers to change: 1) change is inherently risky; thus, it requires leaders who are bold, accountable, and caring to move us into action; 2) it is imperative to set a clear vision with a sense of hope and compassion for the disruptions that the changes offered may stir up; 3) change needs to be anchored within the cultural context of an organization in order to be sustained over time.

Leadership is a resonant relationship 

Lastly, in her remarks, Amatullo plans to address the concept of resonant leadership, an approach to leading that emphasizes the role of emotional intelligence to connect with team members and inspire them to work towards a shared vision. Originally coined by Daniel Goleman, Annie McKee, and Richard Boyatzis in their book Primal Leadership, the authors assert that resonant leaders manage their own and others’ emotions in a way that leads to success. 

Resonant leadership is characterized by a culture of trust and mutual respect, driving the relationships between leaders and organizational stakeholders. 

Learn more about the Service Design Days Leadership Summit and our programs at Parsons Executive Education. For Amatullo’s latest writing on Design Attitude, check her chapter “Why a Design Attitude Matters in a World in Flux,” in Flourish by Design (2023) edited by Nick Dunn, Leon Cruickshank, and Gemma Coupe.