Erik_Van_Crimmin wrote:My entrepreneurial friend told me that normal jobs are easy because you only have to make your boss happy.
Those normal jobs you mention are being replaced by automation and robots, in many cases by designers who refuse to set the bar at making the boss happy. I've lead and managed such initiatives through no direction from my boss whatsoever, though they were happy with the results of my efforts.
I do agree that this is not necessarily something that is taught in school, but I agree with Yo, the buzz term is intra-preneur. As a designer I tend to have some business savvy, I attribute that to getting my degree from a University where business courses were part of the curriculum, but more importantly I had some good mentors with a deeper business understanding. We didn't have any specific courses such as a "Design & Business" course, but one of my mentors/professors put it very simply one day hanging out with us in the studio; Consider every aspect of what you're designing as it regards to the user experience. Expanding on this, what he meant was to invest in understanding and influencing not just the "thing", but the whole ecosystem of "the thing", think holistically.
In my experience, if you approach design projects in this way you eventually expand your knowledge and experience, and build better relationships with other stakeholders, which tends to elevate a designer's standing within a process or organization. This is tough to replicate in a scholastic setting. Also in my experience, taking this approach oftentimes creates conflict between you and your boss, other employees, the leadership, etc. To that point, the enemy of a holistic design perspective is typically siloed departments focused on making their bosses happy, but you do suggest to find key players in other departments and ally with them. I assess cross-functional employees by one of two terms, "They get it.", "They don't get it.", rather than who should I be making happy. The reason being is that while I might be doing something to make another stakeholder happy, it might result in a sub-optimal solution, and so this introduces the challenge of influencing stakeholders to buy in to your (or your team's) solutions and methods. As the saying goes, if your ideas are any good, you'll have to fight for them. If you encounter roadblocks, negotiate or take time to understand them in case you need to change course, but if that fails go around them. Identifying the right resources and people up front helps to streamline a project.
These methods can get you labeled as a trouble maker because you don't stop at being a yes-person to appease your boss, but at the end of the day if they are successful then it's hard to argue with. Unfortunately for me, I've taken this approach at one employer where the leadership was disinterested with details or taking the time to understand how I was able to consistently produce successful solutions and process, they wanted yes-people and not passionate employees who deployed critical thinking in order to solve cross-function problems in new and profitable ways, and if that is what they wanted then they obviously wanted to be taking all of the credit. So that said, I recommend you make sure the right people are paying attention to your efforts and that you do some self-promotion to gain higher level visibility, especially in a corporate setting.
I would think most of the professionals on here would read this and say, "duh?", but in many conversations that I've had with younger designers these were things that they felt did not get enough air time in school. They may have learned to think and design holistically, but it's the navigation of the people, politics, and processes required to realize the broader vision that they were not necessarily prepared for.