Aside from “which is better for wireframing, Illustrator or Omnigraffle?” the most common perennial question on UX design forums and list serves is some variant of “how do I convince management to invest in design?”
The reason this question comes up again and again is that the answer is not what anyone wants to hear: it can’t be done.
You simply cannot convince someone with words that design (or design research) is a valuable approach to solving problems.
The only way a person comes to believe in the value of design is to feel it for themselves. He or she must personally go through the transformative emotional experience of watching the human centered design process do the magic it does. Nothing else works.
This would seem like an insurmountable problem: the only way to get a sponsor to support design is to have him go through the experience of the thing that he won’t support.
OK, it is a tough problem, but it is actually not insurmountable. Here are the three approaches that have worked for me.
A fact of human nature is that, except for psychopaths, no person can ignore someone else’s emotions when confronted with them. This means that one way to get a design skeptic to give it a try is to get someone else to share with him positive emotion about his own personal experience learning about the value of design. Of course, getting the testimonial, and getting it in front of the skeptic in a format they can consume are separate challenges you must solve.
The words “pilot project” when wrapped around risk, give all stakeholders a way out should the thing go south. You still have to find executive sponsorship for your ‘pilot project’ but this is more likely to happen when that executive can explain it upward and downward as a known and contained risk.
As An Alternative to Bupkis
In this approach, you must first identify something that is well and truly broken that design might fix. If you prove consensus that you’ve identified a real problem, and particular one costing money and time, then your new approach of design, risky as it sounds, looks like a reasonable gamble in the face of no alternative plan for an ongoing and worsening situation. Of course, this one is something of the nuclear option: you fail here (and if the problem is that hard you very likely may), you do not get a second chance.