A leader is a designer: why design thinking is no longer enough

Publié dans HQ Asia le 04/05/2016

Imagine AXA, HSBC or AIR FRANCE led by Steve JOBS! Imagine MACY’S, PARIS BAGUETTE or RENAULT animated by teams totally obsessed with the experience of their end user! Imagine running Public Services, SMRT or TOTAL thinking, at any time, at any point, to satisfy any and all actors in the value production chain.
Imagine human organizations run by leaders inspired by design.

Design is now the new strategic force used by leading companies to reinvent themselves, innovate, and build a relationship with their customers.

What should the qualities of these attentive and charismatic leaders be?

They are multidisciplinary because they know how to articulate harmoniously different knowledge and points of view.

They are creative, because being a leader requires to be creative.`

They develop critical thinking, because leading is not believing but considering all possibilities, even odd ones.

They are innovators because 21st century management is reinventing itself all the time.

They have an extensive culture in Human and Social sciences because this is the only way to read and understand human life situations.

They are bold and generous because they know how to reconcile individuals’ aspirations and creation of value.

They are pedagogues, because a vision must be explained to be shared and developed.

They are story tellers, because leading is acting.

The central question is: how do we train those leaders and where?

There is not a single business or engineering school in the world where you learn to think, behave, act, as a designer. Because all those schools are built on a dying paradigm of power, an aging relationship with profit, a hypnotic one with technology, an obsolete representation of society where the elite is trained by peers certain to understand every issues of the world by themselves, and where verticality is the rule.

Let me be clear: it is not about teaching Design Thinking! This methodology may have proved efficient 10 or 20 years ago, when design was not a generalized strategic issue, and when companies and their leaders thought that they had, almost, all the steering tools in hand. They believed that applying the methodology as a simple add-on, a layer, would make them successful.

It is about everything short design! Thinking AND Doing!

You don’t think in the same way, at every step, when you are using your right brain, i.e. representations techniques, rather than words (PostIts!). You don’t produce in the same way, when you are representing your thoughts, ideas, creations, products, and stories. You don’t succed in the same way when you think about the experience and benefits of all the stakeholdersof you organisation.

The business school of the 21st century will be completely different, and will look and work like a design school: it will be multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary because the world is complex and multidimensional; reconciliating left and right brain, reason and creation, rationality and sensitivity, equation and representation; nurtured with humanities to be able to read human life situations; human centred rather than customer or user centred, because we are more than utilitarians and wallets; project driven because doing is learning; collaborative rather than authoritarian.

Actually, Design schools will take the place of Business and Engineering schools, as the question “Why” will take the place of the questions “How Much” and “How to”. If the 19th century put  the engineer in the forefront of a newly industrialized society (How to), the Marketer ruled the 20th century’s affluent society (How Much). It is now time to care for people, who happen also to be clients or employees. A beautiful life for all of them is the goal, and design is the only path to address their dreams, desires and projects, the only way to answer the question “Why”.

The only question a leader should have in mind.