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Design Thinking - Interview with Ajit Chandran, Sr. VP Technology Industry

Studio Nafisa interviewed Mr. Ajit Chandran, a senior technology leader in banking and technology industry. He was Sr. VP. of technology architecture with Bank of America and now he is senior advisor with IBM for technology transformation for banking industry.

Apart from his accomplishments in technology industry, Ajit is a very accomplished musician, composer and painter. He has released multiple music CDs, performed with many famous artists.

Given the unique blend of art and technology background and his successes in each of these areas, we were interested in getting his perspectives on Art, impact of Art on careers and his advice for young artists and designers.

You can watch summary of his interview:

Here are some of his interesting and enlightening comments:

In his profession as an advisor for enterprise architecture, he sees Architecture as Art since creating and governing IT architecture is partly science and partly Art.

If you like and get involved in ARTs you will see new things and observe things that you would not see otherwise.

Artists don’t ask “Why” or how things are happening. Artists would do without asking “Why” and hence unique, new solutions and products come into existence.

He gave an example of a Mural from Kerala, India. These murals are made to strict and mathematical proportions. One of the largest mural is not made to the standard proportions. His friend was investigating the scientific reasons behind it – even though the mural to an observer looks beautiful and rightly proportioned. He believes that the artist took an engineering approach and created it with perspective of the observer (drawing with perspective is a key concept in advanced drawing and engineering) and hence the mural is more elegant than if it were drawn just to the mathematical proportions.

If you don’t break the rules (norms, common thinking, paradigm), you are not an artist. Since creativity is creating something that did not exist before, artists and designers need to break the rules.

He talked about innovation in financial industry – “Blockchain”. He believes that such a concept can be created only by an artist as it breaks the current norms and rules.

When we were talking about distinctive art, Ajit referred to very well-known India musician – Shreya Ghoshal. He mentioned that it’s hard to quantify her uniqueness but everyone can feel her distinctive music.

Creating something out of nothing is an Art. Engineering design is close to Art.

He talked about how Design can be applied to abstract concepts such as Organizational design. Product design is easily defined as an Art informed engineering but even abstract concepts also need and have design thinking and implementation.

Only a creative mind can create these and new models and structures. Google designing a new organizational model is an example of Art – these new models can only be conceived by an Artist or by someone who has had experience with Arts.

Earlier kids start in Art, let inhibitions go away better it is for kids. They should not be driven by the end results as the process of learning is important. The learning process will help them try and experiment, think differently, expose to different ideas while not being worried about making mistakes.

He believes that kids should be involved in Art not for demonstration or for competition but for the primary purpose of learning and absorbing the process of creation.

He also had advice for parents. Parents should not force kids to compete in Arts or ask kids to make something for showcasing. He believes that short term metrics around Art education are difficult to establish but it has long term career, professional and life enrichment benefits.

He discussed how leadership in large and small organizations needs blend of competencies. Senior leaders including CEOs need business knowledge, operations knowledge. But more importantly, they need to be able to drive their organizations in new and creative directions. And for them to be able to create / develop something new, their experiences and education in Art prepare them for the complex business challenges.

People are great mimics – kids picking up accents based on their environment is a great example. There is no possible explanation for common accents for people from the same location - they are simply imitating each other. People imitate based on what is available in their environments. Hence, providing the right environment and experiences is very important. Any professional – even doctors and engineers will benefit greatly by having right early education in Art.


  • Get involved in ARTs - you will see new things and observe things that you would not see otherwise

  • Creativity is creating something that did not exist before - artists and designers need to break the rules & think differently

  • Be involved in Arts for the primary purpose of learning and absorbing the process of creation

  • Let go of inhibitions, experiment and not be worried about making mistakes

  • For Parents: Provide the right environment and experiences for kids. Even doctors and engineers will benefit greatly by having right early education in Art.

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