Be hungry. Hunt the world for insights, for information—and not just in relation to the
project you are working on. Do it always! Hunt always for the new, for the different, for the
exciting, for the unusual.
And love diversity
Nurture yourself with diversity. Never be afraid of diversity!
Listen with humility
Open your ears and open your mind! Be a sponge! With age and promotions, we all risk listening
less and less. How many times have I talked more than I listened, and in doing so lost the
opportunity to learn from amazing people. Do not fall into the trap of arrogance because you
will stop learning and you will become sterile.
Be confident. Take decisions.
Listening doesn’t mean not acting. Learn, and then act.
Change, success, innovation—it is all about making confident decisions. The avoidance of
decision-making acts like a cancer in an organization. I have failed in the past when I pushed to
over-strategize and to collect every possible bit of information, thus delaying necessary action.
I also failed by acting too fast. Finding the right balance is the hallmark of a good designer and
of a good leader. Decide when to make decisions. And act on them!
Optimism reduces the level of stress produced by complexity and increases the level of performance.
The designer, called to deal with wicked and complex problems every day, should be the most optimistic
creature on earth! The psychologist Tali Sharot has shared compelling scientific data about the role of
optimism in leadership and success. Have a look at her 2012 TED speech.
Go the extra mile.
Faced with a goal of 100, many will reach 90 or 95; a few will reach 100. You, Mr. or Ms. Design, must go
above and beyond. Always. Set 105, 110, or more as your personal goal, and if you reach it, then you will
be the only one up there.
Thinking like a designer
The qualities I have listed above apply to the design world, but they are not unique to that world.
For designers, there are some other qualities—a set of additional skills that define the design thinker.
They can be found in individuals who are not designers, but they belong to our world. These are the qualities
that define a design thinker:
Design thinkers are able to envision the big picture immediately. They are abductive and holistic in
their way of thinking.
Design thinkers are elegant—in the process, as well as in the solutions.
Polyglot and storyteller.
Design thinkers are able to deliver messages that are understandable and relevant to various target audiences
inside and outside the organization.
Design thinkers do not run away from the magic of intuition. They recognize the role that the mysterious
sparkle of a visceral idea can play in the process of innovation. And what’s important is that they
manage intuition inside the boundaries of firms and corporate processes.
Design thinkers are dialectical by definition. They smoothly jump from one field to the other, moving
from marketing to technology, from anthropology to manufacturing, from communication to research. This
ambiguity is part of their essence. They are fully comfortable with the conflict between rationality and
soul, between functionality and style, between process and intuition. In fact, they thrive in the middle
of that storm! When searching for new solutions, design thinkers surf comfortably on the fine edge between
the feasible and the unfeasible.
Design thinkers are human-centered. They don’t care at all about customer satisfaction;
they are in love with their customers. Try to translate this concept to your personal life. When you
want to satisfy somebody, you do everything you can to fulfill all his or her needs. But when you love
somebody—your spouse, your son, your mom—you do more, more than they may expect. You surprise
him or her and enter the sacred field of the magic, of the extraordinary, of the memorable.
We, as designers, are lucky.
Design is at a crossroads. Companies are trying to figure out how to embrace and leverage design.
We are crafting a new role and a new space for design in the business society.
It is a change that the next generation will read about in design histories yet to be written.
And we are lucky. As professionals, we are thinkers, as well as doers.
We translate insights into action. By serving the firms we work for, by leveraging the resources of our
clients or of our companies, we also have an opportunity to shape the world. We actually have the
opportunity—and the responsibility—to shape a better world. Our mission must be one of
“dreaming” of things that can add practical, emotional, and poetic meaning to the life
of each individual—not to produce unuseful and unsustainable products that pollute our world both
ecologically and visually.
We want to design meaning, not products.