Bruce Nussbaum, the Associate Editor of Business Week, is a polarizing figure. Some scoff at his attempt to establish himself as some sort of deity in design and innovation journalism, others appreciate his stubborn commitment to serving as the provocative mouthpiece of "design thinking." Whether you like his often sharp blog posts or flinch at the occasionally pompous and self-righteous tone in which they are written, Nussbaum is influential – and has thus more friends than enemies.
The New York Times is not among them. An article about process innovation in today's issue triggered Nussbaum's anger: "There is a sad, apologetic story about process innovation in The New York Times today that makes me want to cry about how one of the great Mainstream Media companies just cannot cover design and innovation. It's not that the article is bad--it's a nice discussion about how back-end process innovation is often key to the success of products. The problem is the rarity of this kind of piece in the NYT. Design in the Times is still mostly about style, aesthetics and fashion. Glitzy, cool stuff with skinny models and empty, but beautiful homes. Coverage of design in the Times is a throwback to, what, the 50's? The entire evolution of design out of simple form to process, methods, strategy and more just isn't in the newspaper." Nussbaum asserts that "Part of the problem is that the business section of the Times doesn't get innovation. Doesn't understand the true and changing nature of innovation (beyond the speed and performance of technology)."
This is not a new theme. Nussbaum raged against the Times in May. It would be easy to draw a connection between this latest outburst and the recent NY Times article that pleasurably depicted Nussbaum's hapless behavior as a juror in an assault trial. Too easy. I think Nussbaum is courageous when he takes on the Times, knowing that his critics may interpret this as a trivial revenge game. And even if personal resentments may play a role, I think he's essentially right. The Times' coverage of design and innovation is slim and unsophisticated, widely ignoring the current state of affairs that publications such as Fast Company, Business 2.0 (RIP), and – yes – BusinessWeek have long made an integral part of their issues. Even the more traditional Harvard Business Review has recently printed articles by design thinkers like Roger Martin (Rotman) – about "integrative thinking" in leadership positions - or Ravi Chhatpar (frog design) – about the melding of design and strategy. With a few notable exceptions (i.e. the Ecotecture issue of the New York Times Magazine), the Times still writes about design from an advertiser's point of view: as if it was something most people can't afford (and thus desire in their living rooms). The design of systems, organizations, and business models goes largely unnoticed. And many, many stories that the Times could tell about the (design) thinking behind product innovations remain untold.