Will the DEO Become Your Organization’s New Hero?

More than rigor, management discipline, integrity, or even vision – successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity.     – IBM Global CEO Study, 2010

There is no shortage of advice and counsel on how to become “creative” – as a matter of fact, the books and online resources available to today’s eager-to-learn leader are staggering to a fault. So much so that many leaders are tempted to throw in the towel and hope that their inherent traits or some measure of luck will suffice.

Authors Maria Giudice and Christopher Ireland want leaders to take another approach – one that organizations have used many times in the past. In their recent book Rise of the DEO, Giudice and Ireland advocate that leaders identify the strategy and function best suited to these tumultuous times and use it to guide your actions.

In a time where organizations need agility and imagination in addition to analytics, they believe it’s time to turn to Design as a model of leadership.

When we think design, our first association is change: change that responds to need, embodies desire, pursues a stated direction and reflects a shared vision. Those who are designers – either through training or by nature – actively encourage and support collective change.

Enter a new model for future leaders – the Design Executive Officer, or DEO.

Design leaders usually possess characteristics, behaviors, and mindsets that enable them to excel in unpredictable, fast-moving, and value-charged conditions.

Which pretty much describes the world leaders in organizations of all sizes find themselves today.

Giudice and Ireland have developed six defining characteristics of a DEO; do any of these look familiar to you?

DEOmindmap

Change Agent

DEOs aren’t troubled by change; in fact, they openly promote and encourage it. They understand traditional approaches, but are not dominated by them. As a result, they are comfortable disrupting the status quo if it stands in the way of their dream. They try to think and act differently than others. They recognize this ability as a competitive advantage.

Risk Taker

DEOs embrace risk as an inherent part of life and a key ingredient of creativity. Rather than avoiding or mitigating it, they seek greater ease and command of it as one of the levers they can control. They recast it as experimentation and invite collaborators. A failed risk still produces learning.

Systems Thinkers

Despite their desire to disrupt and take risks, DEOs are systems thinkers who understand the interconnectedness of their world. They know that each part of their organization overlaps and influences another. They know unseen connections surround what’s visible. This helps to give their disruptions intended, rather than chaotic, impact and makes their risk taking more conscious.

Intuitive

DEOs are highly intuitive, either by nature or through experience. They have the ability to feel what’s right, by using their intense perceptual and observational skills or through deep expertise. This doesn’t mean they have a fear of numbers. They know they that intuitively enhanced decision-making doesn’t preclude rational or logical analysis. They use both – and consider each valid and powerful.

Socially Intelligent

DEOs have high social intelligence. They instinctively connect with others and integrate them into well-defined and heavily accessed networks. They prefer spending time with employees, customers, and strangers rather than equipment, plants, or spreadsheets. “Everyday people” are a source of strength, renewal, and new ideas.

GSD

DEOs can be defined by a new set of initials: GSD – euphamistically short for “gets stuff done.” They feel an urgency to get personally involved, to understand details through their own interaction, and to lead by example. DEOs make things happen.

Is it time for someone in your organization to move toward becoming a DEO, looking at every organizational challenge as a design problem solvable with the right mixture of imagination and metrics?

inspired by and adapted from Rise of the DEO, by Maria Giudice and Christopher Ireland

Rise of the DEO

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