I just watched a recent TED Talk featuring the founder of AirBNB. The talk was inspirational, as always, but focused upon the importance of using design to solve a problem. Normally, when we hear or read the word "design", many of us think of creative communication or architectural elements. In this context, however, was the notion of using intelligent product design to overcome a problem.
It turns out that AirBNB had to overcome an enormous obstacle: trust. We have been taught not to let strangers into our homes since childhood. Many of us have used the words "stranger danger" in our own parenting. How could it be that we could see a thriving industry based upon complete strangers sharing their personal homes?
Intelligent design - using the right amount of information, personal reciprocity of data, and open exchange of information - overcame this obstacle. A thoughtfully designed and well engineered system of information flow and coordinated communication between parties allowed trust to be built and credibility to be gained. AirBNB quickly learned that credibility was the quickest solution to overcoming trust issues.
We all need to use intelligent design in our work. But, the question to ponder is "what problem are you trying to solve?" Great design only begins with understanding what we are seeking to solve.