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Jeremy Till Talks Scarcity, Design Thinking and the Future of Business

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Published date
06 August 2014

King's Cross Central - Eastern Transit Shed

Scarcity, as reality and concept, is an ideal context for testing the new ways of thinking that we anticipate the new MBA program at Central Saint Martins will engender.

Given the received definition of scarcity – as lack – the standard response is to use less of what we already have. As designers we can only pare back and use a canny creativity to make more out of less. For politicians, the spectre of scarcity in the form of stultified growth becomes the premise for spending less. Hence the current austerity regimes, a crude and essentially ideological programme of cuts that increase inequality while holding out the promise of growth. 

But what if scarcity is not defined as pure and inevitable lack, as it is under the tenets of neo-classical economics (and, dare I say it in the standard business school model)? What if it is understood as always constructed, always emerging in the wake of socio-economic forces, always operating across scales? Thinking through responses to scarcity against such questions becomes much more than addressing limits. It demands unpicking those constructions and understanding how they are formed, intervening in them, and using ones imagination to find opportunities within the constraints. It requires one to always situating responses in a societal context rather than as abstractions. It suggests understanding any solution relationally, testing it against other objects and forces. All of these are traits and skills developed in art and design education.

Scarcity is thus one example of an issue for which art and design can provide models for new ways of thinking and acting in a creative and sometimes disruptive manner, seeing the world as a horizon redolent with opportunities rather than a enclosure full of problems. These are some of the tenets on which the proposed MBA is founded.

Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins and Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of the Arts

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