CEO Insider

3 Ways CEOs Can Benefit By Thinking Like Designers

Most organizations typically relegate creatives, especially designers, to their marketing departments, where they can create pretty logos, brochures, and marketing materials. As a result, it is highly unusual to find creatives (right-brained individuals) leading large enterprises or organizations. 

The last well-known creative/right-brained CEO the world remembers is Steve Jobs. That’s probably because designers and creatives thrive in unstructured, chaotic, and free-flowing environments. They need room to allow their minds to wander and take mental leaps that are not obvious to other people.

Jobs was a highly-skilled designer who led Apple to become one of the greatest consumer products companies in the world. He accomplished this by leveraging his design skills to make non-obvious connections between disparate concepts.

While you could argue that his managerial dexterity was what helped him build the business, I believe his skills as a designer made it possible for him to create products that people love and, to this day, continuously treat as cultural totems.

Suppose you’re a CEO looking to tap into your inner design genius and leverage your newfound creativity to grow your business. In that case, here are three distinct benefits you’ll experience when you start thinking like a designer.

Develop Your Creative Muscles

A design project typically starts with a design brief in almost all cases. This brief sets out the parameters in which a designer is allowed to create a project for a client.

For all practical purposes, the design brief provides the constraints for the project. A designer is only allowed to work within the confines of the brief. Anything else will be unacceptable to the client.

To ensure that we can meet or exceed each clients’ expectations, we rely on two unique variables to help my team constantly build and stretch their creativity muscles.

The first variable is that each designer takes the first fifteen minutes at work to review our library of design resources every morning.

Our design library has many examples of good and bad designs. Continuously looking at this library ensures each designer trains their brain on how to spot good designs from bad designs instinctively.

It’s an idea I borrowed from watching a documentary about how the U.S. Marines constantly train themselves to stay sharp and ready for action.

The Marines practice using and cleaning their weapons daily. This constant training ensures that they can spring into action with a moment’s notice and still perform at very high levels of efficiency and effectiveness.

The second alternative method we use to build our creative muscles is to reach out to great designers in other companies every week and hire them part-time to mentor our design team.

We know that if we stay in our bubble and only rely on our institutional knowledge, we may fall into a rut. But by inviting external designers to share their knowledge with us, we’re able to learn from the wisdom of others as well as give them feedback on their experimental ideas.

This interaction helps the mentor and the mentees stay sharp and guarantees that clients get the best results.

Become A Highly Skilled Storyteller

The second most prominent advantage of thinking like a designer is that it helps you master the art of storytelling. Every design tells a story.

From the psychology behind the choice of colors to the symbolism of the selected typeface, a designer’s primary goal is to evoke certain feelings and behavior patterns from those who interact with their work.

As a CEO, your primary job is to mobilize and inspire your team to action. All other tasks rely on the CEO’s ability to get their leaders to buy into the vision. Designers tell stories about each design project by starting with a general idea of what they want to achieve.

They then incorporate the necessary elements from other sources to help them achieve their original goal. This incorporation is usually the most challenging step. As a CEO, you need to find disparate resources from across your organization to help you craft a narrative that will galvanize your team to action.

Become A Master At Crafting The Grand Strategic Vision

Being able to craft a grand strategic vision is one of the powerful benefits of being able to think like a designer. For example, Steve Jobs was so brilliant at designing that he obsessed over every little detail that went into making his products.

Even though he knew that 99% of his customers would never see the inside of his computers, to see the arrangement of the microchips and processors, he still was obsessed with controlling every aspect of their design to make it aesthetically pleasing to the user.

By focusing on the details, he was able to extrapolate that skill to create a broad strategic vision for the future of Apple. As a result of the grand strategy Jobs formulated many years ago, his vision has ensured the company would continue to dominate the personal computer industry for many years to come.

Thinking like a designer means you must be able to see how the day-to-day actions fit into the grand scheme of things. You then need to take a step back and coordinate all the different vision pieces to have one definitive grand strategy.

Building a great company requires many different skills, but I believe the best skills are learned in the trenches working on projects. I hope by sharing my experiences and showcasing the experiences of other great designers, corporate leaders can become better equipped to lead their organizations.


Written by Sergey Krasotin.
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Sergey Krasotin
Sergey Krasotin is the Design Director & Co-Founder at Humbleteam. He leads UX workshops and mentors the fastest-growing teams at Y Combinator, Techstars, Seedсamp, WeWork, and others. To date, he has shipped 80+ digital products with improved acquisition, conversion, retention, or revenue. A total of $550M is raised by the startups Sergey has been working with since 2015.


Sergey Krasotin is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.