Rise of the DEO (Part II)

Summary Written by Bryann Alexandros
"For years, business acumen and creative ability have been siloed, united only at office parties and the occasional brainstorming session. But we live in a time that requires new leadership. We live in a time that requires people who look at every business challenge as a design problem solvable with the right mix of imagination and metrics."

- Rise of the DEO, page 16

The Big Idea

Designing Culture is the New Craft

"DEOs believe that the success of a business lies in its people and their powerful, meaningful connections to one another."- Rise of the DEO, page 14

The authors make the point that culture must be crafted. In fact, 80% of companies do not intentionally craft their company culture. Here’s a sample of other ingredients that belong to the new craft of designing creative organizations:

  • Social Intelligence: Is empathy a part of the culture code? Is your culture an environment where meaningful relationships and creativity thrives?
  • Systems Thinking: Can people anticipate emerging forces, patterns, and trends on the world stage? Can they make sense of unseen influences and engineer their future course of action?
  • Co-Creation: How do people from different disciplines work together to create great things?
  • Taking Risks: Do you allow small bets, useful disruption, and experimentation?
  • Expertise: Do you allow yourself and others to evolve their processes, values, and skills? What about possessing both expertise and “the beginner’s mind?”
  • Permission to Fail: Is experimentation allowed? Partial successes? Are systems built to report mistakes and convert them into actionable company wisdom?
  • Iterations: Are your products, services, and culture allowed to grow? Do you build minimum viable products and evolve them through time?
  • Playful Work: Do you make play a part of everyday productivity and skill-building? Do you see playful work as amplifiers to “social, emotional, and cognitive development?”

Each chapter has a few pages that elaborates on each topic. When one of those ingredients is missing, just imagine the consequences.

Insight #1

Crafting Towards Co-Creation

"Some have described co-creation as a response to greater complexity or the need for greater efficiency. These definitions fit, but co-creation and the collaboration that it enables provides DEOs with a few notable superpowers."- Rise of the DEO, page 67

We live in an age where society’s challenges are rarely solved by one discipline alone. Think of a product or service that required multiple rounds of feedback, iterations, and stakeholder input. Think of the collaboration between many disciplines to make them come to life. But is it really enough to “just do it,” “be creative” and enforce these attitudes? The authors reveal some clues on what design-inspired cultures do differently:

  • Agile Development: Adapt agile development (or even Lean Startup) concepts to your current processes.
  • Systems Thinking: Know how your company makes sense of events, patterns, emerging trends, and unseen influences.
  • Wicked Problems: The challenge you face isn’t isolated but part of a greater ecosystem of other connected challenges.
  • Diversity: Rather than solitary genius, think group genius. There’s a wealth of research showing that most breakthroughs occur in groups, and when teams are varied in discipline, skillset, age, hobbies, expertise, and cognitive types. Look more into the value of being “T-Shaped.”
  • Problem Solving: Back then, business schools were all about “the one right answer,” the hyper focus on convergent thinking. Now we need both divergent and convergent thinking, and the guts to reframe the problem when our assumptions turn out wrong.

When you make “design” a shared activity for everyone, enthusiasm for the future grows, fellow collaborators feel included and valued, and the illusion of silos lift.

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Insight #2

Crafting Towards Originality

"Original. This coveted description brands jeans, art, recipes, and even sin. It signifies something unique and not derivative, something rare or noteworthy. Originality is what others are drawn to copy or driven to acquire. But for a DEO, originality isn't a quest or a creative goal. For a DEO, being an original is the only option."- Rise of the DEO, page 174

Originality isn’t eccentricism or rebellion for its own sake. It’s not paying empty lip service, or claiming the title just because the word is popular and fashionable. That’s what imitators do.

The authors note that originality emerges naturally when one can understand the passions, talents, insights, and traits that make up her DNA. She doesn’t conform to predefined roles and stereotypes. If she has aptitudes that are contradictory, so be it: She finds ways to make paradox exist in harmony. She may know vulnerability, fear, and isolation in the beginning of her career, but she knows that the only way forward is with faith and action.

There are three unifying traits that originality requires:

  • Mastery: The mastery of a discipline, trade, or craft that comes from years of study and practice. One revealing mark of mastery is the ability to take whatever’s old and turn it into something new and novel for their industry.
  • Adaptability: The ability to apply various talents and skills to fit her surroundings without changing who she really is. If she learns something new, it’s to amplify her originality, as well as her company and its people.
  • Curiosity: Curiosity is at the core of a DEO’s creativity because they know it leads to the greatest learning. It amplifies problem solving and uncovers hidden opportunities.

Rise of the DEO: Leadership by Design is for all of us trying to grow and craft 21st century organizations. Today’s business challenges are an ecosystem of new design problems. That’s why it doesn’t pay to stay isolated, alone, and proceed with “business-as-usual.” That’s why there’s a huge leap in vocabulary, skillset, and method in what DEOs and their companies do.

Read the book

Get Rise of the DEO (Part II) on Amazon.

Christopher Ireland

Researcher, strategist, idea generator and alliance builder, Christopher started her career with the notion that businesses could benefit from a better understanding of people and culture. Her ability to create simple explanations of complex human behavior and to translate those insights into effective design and development strategies attracted a wide range of clients including Microsoft, HP, Pepsi, Levis, Gap and more. As a co-founder and CEO of Cheskin, a firm that pioneered design research in Silicon Valley, Christopher had a ring-side seat to unrivaled feats of creation, innovation and reinvention.

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