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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

Why is Design, or Human-Centered approach, a CEO Matter?

There was a time when efficiency was enough. When the role of the CEO was to optimize business as if it were a machine—making sure the supply chains, manufacturing systems, and marketing channels produced maximal output at a minimal cost. Those days are over. And though I don't suffer any romantic notions about the "good old days" of quality management and core competencies, being a CEO was undoubtedly a more predictable job back in the 20th century.

Efficiency and delivering solid returns still matter, but the old methods of getting there are threatened. I'll go even further: The old methods cannot prepare you for what we see today—the most volatile and disruptive business climate the world has ever known.

To compete today, CEOs need evolutionary skills to ensure survival in a fast-changing climate. Business fitness now means learning to be agile, resilient, and creative. It means adapting to the marketplace in quick generational cycles. That requires a brave new brand of leadership, and from our vantage point, as we work alongside companies young and old from around the globe, it requires being able to think like a designer.

The old methods cannot prepare you for what we see today—the most volatile and disruptive business climate the world has ever known.

Why? Because if the core competencies of old were Gary Hamel's "maintain world manufacturing dominance in core products," the core competencies of today (customer obsession, agility, resilience) are intrinsic to the designer's craft. Think about it: As the designer of a new service, product, or experience, your purpose is to identify the needs and desires of the customer, prototype solutions, and create something flexible enough to pivot quickly as those needs change, ensuring your continued relevance.

So, it's clear that a human-centered mindset is essential, but does it lead up to the CEO level? It does. And that's because the organization itself is a design project.

As a CEO, I am charged with setting up a design-friendly culture in which the very metabolism of the organization runs faster. That means giving all levels of the company, from interns to managers to VPs, empowerment, and autonomy—the permission to shift when they can see farther than you can. It means creating a safe environment in which they can fail without fear. It means telling them a compelling story about the purpose of our company and getting them invested in that story. I am working together to create something magnificent, and we will walk into an unknown future together.

Knowing those kinds of businesses will thrive in this environment, and many organizations are building design into their core competency.

We are working together to create something magnificent and will walk into an unknown future together. Being capable of real change, of designing a future-proof, evolutionary organism, is no small feat. Better design practice does better business.

Human-centered design is more than a nod to customer service. Businesses with good design teams and practices are consistently rated more highly than those without. A solid user-centered design strategy can help a business stand apart by creating products or services that are easier to use, faster to access, or provide more features than competitors.

Common Sense Approach

Our foundation of design thinking is using empathy to put real people – customers, clients, and end-users – at the center of the problem-solving equation.

Customers like something that is human-centered.

It's not rocket science: A good experience leads to happier customers. But It's also not just about happiness or satisfaction. It's also about how a good experience can lower costs/increase productivity and increase the value companies provide. A bad experience can drive increased costs–such as mistakes in data entered in forms–which increases case processing time.

Customers are likelier to purchase from a company with well-designed products and services.

In today's world —almost every business I know faces this challenge. Shifting the purpose of an organization made for today to an organization fit for tomorrow is the job of the CEO, my job. And at its core, it's a problem that requires design thinking.

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