Design's value to business has been over-hyped as of late. But there are some practical reasons why business is paying attention to design. One reason is evident when you look at the history of business management.
Evolution of business management  1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 Taylorism Organization Management Quality Management (Japan) Organizational Psychology Economic Theory
Evolution of business management  1980 1990 2000 1970 Business Process Reengineering Total Quality Management (U.S.) Change Management Activity-Based Costing Supply Chain Management
Evolution of business management  1980 1990 2000 1970 Business Process Reengineering Total Quality Management (U.S.) Change Management Activity-Based Costing Supply Chain Management Decades of intense improvements in efficiency and productivity
Or as Michael Porter put it… The quest for productivity, quality, and speed has spawned a remarkable number of management tools and techniques: total quality management, benchmarking, time-based competition, outsourcing, partnering, reengineering, change management. Although the resulting operational improvements have often been dramatic, many companies have been frustrated by their inability to translate those gains into sustainable profitability. And bit by bit, almost imperceptibly, management tools have taken the place of strategy. As managers push to improve on all fronts, they move farther away from viable competitive positions... ¶ Operational effectiveness and strategy are both essential to superior performance, which, after all, is the primary goal of any enterprise. But they work in very different ways. ¶ A company can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve. It must deliver greater value to customers or create comparable value at a lower cost, or do both. Or as Michael Porter put it… Porter, Michael E.. "What is Strategy?." Harvard Business Review, November-December 79.
Or as Larry Keeley put it… A growing number of business leaders and a growing number of government leaders have come off of two decades of trying to find greater efficiencies in new forms of business process reengineering to do the old things we used to do much more effectively, much more efficiently, and to get massive improvements in productivity. And the evidence is overwhelming that that has worked. But I think it's equally clear to good leaders that they can't continue to expect in the next period massive improvements in efficiency each and every year. We've gone through a couple of recessions and a couple of wars, and during all of that period well-run businesses were trying to do more with less . Now most good leaders are saying, "I've got to figure out a way to get to organic growth; I've got to figure out a way to do something powerful and new – because the world is impatient, because the world engages in very careful scrutiny – unless the new things I do are successful, and unless they're newsworthy, and unless they're startling, and unless they really compel customers, they tend to fail." Or as Larry Keeley put it… Larry, Kelley. "Interview: The Emergence of New Innovation Disciplines." 2005.http://www.id.iit.edu/events/strategyconference/2005/perspectives_keeley.html (accessed April 7, 2007).