In the past months I’ve read several articles and blogs about the possibility that Jonathan Ive, SVP of Industrial Design at Apple, could succeed Steve Jobs as CEO. As far as I can tell this is only a rumor, but it prompts the questions: Is corporate America ready for the design revolution? Can designers be CEOs? I can only imagine how much fun that would be, not only for the people working in these companies but for the consumers, finally getting products and services that go beyond their expectations. And imagine what that would do to the stock price.
Although to many, designers as CEOs, may sound like a crazy idea. I believe designers could do very well as top executives. Designers have a unique set of skills that combined with traditional management knowledge could create a new kind of leader, more in tune with today’s needs. Why? Because they know how to explore possibilities, connect the dots, simplify complex information down to a relevant summary and remind of us of context and humanity. They know how to work closely with engineers, marketers and outside manufacturing contractors. Rather than being simple stylists, they’re leading innovators in the use of new materials and production processes.
With this I am not advocating that any designer can be a good CEO, but a few have a unique set of skills that are more relevant to today’s and tomorrow’s competitive markets. Where almost everything is commoditized and differentiation can only come from thoughtful products and services, companies must go farther than just talking about design and begin using it.
Design is a powerful tool that is just being discovered and mildly used by most companies and strategically implemented by a few. I wonder how long it will take for most board of directors to understand the value of design and make bold moves to utilizing it?