EPISODE 387
Mauro Porcini
Kind By Design (with Mauro Porcini)

Mark speaks with Mauro Porcini, PepsiCo’s first-ever Chief Design Officer and the author of the timely book—both manifesto and memoir—called The Human Side of Innovation: The Power of People in Love with People. Together we explore the important call to prioritize human-centered design and innovation when it is most at risk.

Mauro Porcini
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Show Notes

Today, Commander Divine speaks with Mauro Porcini, PepsiCo’s first ever Chief Design Officer and the author of the timely book—both manifesto and memoir—called The Human Side of Innovation: The Power of People in Love with People. In the episode, Mauro makes the call to prioritize human-centered design and innovation when it is most at risk. In a constantly changing world, Mauro stands for human-centered design to maintain our human nature in business and life. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Love at work builds collaboration & efficiency. Mauro describes how kindness at work decreases redundant tasks. Specifically, many people spend countless moments trying to avoid sabotage and back-stabbing by overcompensating and looking over their shoulders. When kindness is at the forefront, time and energy are saved – and business gets done quicker, with more ease and happiness.
  • One page, 24 qualities of leadership. If you don’t read the book, Mauro recommends you simply pick up the book and turn to the one page that lists all 24 of his main qualities of leadership. Try these out in your own life, and watch your success and your organization soar.
  • Design thinking vs. design. Mauro shares the difference between design thinking and design in and of itself, sharing how many designers go to school for design and forget everything they learned regarding the design thinking process. Every design thinking organization needs designers. But not all designers are naturally design thinkers.
  • The three design thinking pillars. Design, Strategy, Prototype as the way of the future in life, business, politics, and beyond. Mauro advocates for design thinking as the ideal way to address any problem to find the most effective solution. 

Quotes:

“In the book I talk about actually, optimism, my focus on this idea. You know, kindness is, empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, but connected with action, you put yourself in the shoes of others, and then you act on that empathy on the sensitivity, optimism, one step even further, you act on the basis of that sympathy and empathy. But you also do it without stopping in front of any kind of roadblock, looking at the glass always half full.” Mauro Porcini

“But today, you need to be super efficient in everything you do, we do a, you need to create such an amazing quality in everything we do across every touchpoint you need a series of superstars in every function that work together in the most seamless way. And therefore kindness, optimists, curiosity, humbleness, these are key characteristics for this kind of teams to work.” Mauro Porcini

“I think studies have been done on this, especially with email communications, right? So if I send you an email, and I think I’m being positive, you’re gonna read it as neutral. And if I send one that I think is neutral, you’re gonna read it as negative, right? And if I send a negative forget, it’s like DEFCON, you know what I mean. But I think this is true with leaders, right? So we can come in and I feel this is my like, I can feel like I’m positive, but someone’s gonna be like, oh, Marks kind of down today. So I have to over index that positivity for them to receive it as positive. And so I think that you’ve kind of settled on that naturally. And I think that’s a really powerful awareness and skill for leaders.” Mark Divine

 

“And I was telling him, wow, I feel so privileged, because I have this amazing platform that is PepsiCo to do good, to impact the life of people, to touch the life of people, everyday billions of people to the products that we create, and really try and you know, because of this access, because of this platform, we can really, you know, try to move entire industries and society in the right direction. This is what people in love with people do and how they think. They don’t think about, oh, I’m gonna generate value for the company in the next quarter. You need that to, they’re able to have that kind of thinking. But they’re driven and motivated by the long term vision, understanding that you need to deliver short-term, else you will never be able to realize your dream. But again, empathy is the starting point.” Mauro Porcini

Links:

The Human Side of Innovation: The Power of People in Love with People by Mauro Porcini

Instagram.com/mauroporcini

Mark Divine  0:02  

Coming up on the Mark Divine show.

Mauro Porcini

Be the link between kindness on one side is an example and productivity. Between optimism and effectiveness. Between curiosity and efficiency. You talk about kindness is a nice to have and every company wants to be associated to that idea. But at the end of the day, you need to deliver results. But if you build the link between kindness and those results, all of a sudden, it becomes something really interesting.

Mark Divine 0:35  

This is Mark Divine and I’m the host of the Mark Divine Show. Thanks for joining me today. Super stoked to have you here. On the show I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational and compassionate and resilient leaders. Each week, I’d have guests from all walks of life. Martial arts grandmasters, high powered CEOs, meditation monks, and even world class designers from PepsiCo, for instance. So I’m talking today to Mauro Porcini about the human side of innovation. Mauro is PepsiCo’sfirst ever Chief Design Officer. Over the past eight years, he and his design team have won more than 1,100 design and innovation awards. And in 2018, PepsiCo was recognized by Fortune in it’s Driven By Design list. Mauro was previously 3M’s first Chief Design Officer, and he’s been recognized with several personal boards, including Fortunes 40 Under 40, GQ Italia’s 30 Best Dressed Men and Fast Company’s 50 Most Influential Designers in the US. In 2018, Porcini was awarded with a knighthood by the President of the Italian Republic, and he lives in New York City. Mauro, thanks so much for joining me today.

Mark Divine  1:42  

What’s your story in terms of like, what was your upbringing life, the influence of your parents, what brought you to America, you know, give us some of the good, bad, the ugly.

Mauro Porcini 

Mark Divine  0:02  

Coming up on the Mark Divine show.

Mauro Porcini

Be the link between kindness on one side is an example and productivity. Between optimism and effectiveness. Between curiosity and efficiency. You talk about kindness is a nice to have and every company wants to be associated to that idea. But at the end of the day, you need to deliver results. But if you build the link between kindness and those results, all of a sudden, it becomes something really interesting.

Mark Divine 0:35  

This is Mark Divine and I’m the host of the Mark Divine Show. Thanks for joining me today. Super stoked to have you here. On the show I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational and compassionate and resilient leaders. Each week, I’d have guests from all walks of life. Martial arts grandmasters, high powered CEOs, meditation monks, and even world class designers from PepsiCo, for instance. So I’m talking today to Mauro Porcini about the human side of innovation. Mauro is PepsiCo’sfirst ever Chief Design Officer. Over the past eight years, he and his design team have won more than 1,100 design and innovation awards. And in 2018, PepsiCo was recognized by Fortune in it’s Driven By Design list. Mauro was previously 3M’s first Chief Design Officer, and he’s been recognized with several personal boards, including Fortunes 40 Under 40, GQ Italia’s 30 Best Dressed Men and Fast Company’s 50 Most Influential Designers in the US. In 2018, Porcini was awarded with a knighthood by the President of the Italian Republic, and he lives in New York City. Mauro, thanks so much for joining me today.

Mark Divine  1:42  

What’s your story in terms of like, what was your upbringing life, the influence of your parents, what brought you to America, you know, give us some of the good, bad, the ugly.

Mauro Porcini 

My story, I’m Italian, as you can hear from my accent. I was born in the north of Italy. And I realized very later in life later in life, how important has been my upbringing, and especially the role of my parents in my life journey and my professional journey. My mom and dad, they were obsessed with two very important values for them. One was the value of culture, the knowledge and knowing and studying and learning, they will never really talk too much about this, they were just practicing it. And they were admiring all these people out there that eventually had that kind of culture, one of the two dreams that they had for me was to become a professor in university, because in their mind, it was the one of the best jobs to study all your life and keep growing your culture or your life. 

 

The second value was the idea of kindness, the idea of being good people, good human beings, to others. For them, that was translated in the idea of being Catholic, but the values they were talking about were totally universal interests, and then he kind of religion. And so again, it’s, you know, the second dream that they have, for me, for them actually was dream number one was, for me to become a priest. So here I am, I grew up, you know, with those kinds of parents. And for them, the idea of faith and financial success was not a goal. It was actually a track. They will never talk about this. But when I started to have a little bit, you know, a little more anymore than average, because, you know, my work was doing well. And remember, my mother started to get worried that I could lose my way, you know, my values, my simplicity, my humbleness, and all those things. 

 

The other thing that, for me, was really, really important in those years, was to observe them everyday, witness their passion for what they were doing. My father was an architect, but not a successful one. He was a high school professor, there was this core job. But then what he loved the most was to paint, to sketch, to draw, and he will do it every single day. And still today in their 80s. He still does it. My mom was working in finance, but she really didn’t like the work. She left her job when she was 38 to be close to her family. And by the way, we’re coming from a very humble family whose live the four of us in one bedroom. So it’s not that it was not easy for her to leave her job. But she just wanted to be close to the kids and do what she loved there was writing, so I will look at her writing every day of her life. 

 

Mark Divine

And you say reading you mean like journaling? Or what would she write? 

 

Mauro Porcini

Well, that’s a good question. It was a mix of journaling poems, thoughts of any kind, prayers, they would collect all these things, you know the poems and the thoughts of my mom and the drawings of my father and years ago, they started to self publish books. Now they’ve self published eight books, they didn’t care about selling to anybody. You can buy them but it’s all about their art and their passions and their content they want to share with the world, but mostly we the people close to them. 

 

So why all this story about my parents? Because this love for what you do, no matter what is your job, this extreme passion, and then this idea of being a good human being. And then this idea of knowledge and culture before anything else, is somehow what defines my professional journey. And I didn’t realize it at all at the beginning, I thought it was just the normal way of doing things. And then I realized later on, not just looking at myself, but mostly looking at the teams I beat in these big companies in PepsiCo today, in 3M, the tech company from Minnesota, before looking at the characteristics of these people, these themes, I realized that those kinds of values were the values that my teams were having as well. And that may, that juror inside the business world of this corporation, so successful, and often people don’t talk about these kinds of values, it’s something that you don’t match. 

 

Mark Divine

Right. Now I can see, you know, if you do work with corporations, which I have, I mean, just how powerful those three, you know, would be like, imagine every organization to have a family kind of value, like you feel like it’s family when you go to work, how rare would that be? Right? And how rare? Is it to have everyone lead with kindness, as opposed to their own needs? Isn’t it kind of rare that everyone actually loves what they do? So can you imagine, right? In fact, we’re trying to develop building upon the principles of this guy, Harvard professor, Robert Keegan, it’s called the deliberately developmental organization. Part of our work is to try to create these cultures where people are thriving, doing exactly what they do with compassion and kindness. And where they love to go to work, because they’re growing and thriving at work. I think this is the future, and maybe you, you’ve cracked the code. And that also.

 

Mauro Porcini

And think about these companies do not talk about kindness or compassion too much. But they do talk about productivity, efficiency, effectiveness. So the effort that we need to make, and what I’ve been trying to do all these years, but as a designer, not, you know, as an HR professional, not as an academic trying to really understand how to put numbers behind these kinds of values. But as a designer, I’ve been trying to build the link between kindness on one side as an example, and productivity. Between optimism and effectiveness. Between curiosity and efficiency. When you start to link the two dimensions. All of a sudden, the company becomes very interested in this kind of topics. You talk about kindness is a nice to have, and every company wants to be associated to that idea. But at the end of the day, you need to deliver results. But if you build the link between kindness, and those results, all of a sudden, you become something really interesting. 

 

Think about kindness, you mentioned it earlier, you go to work, and you’re surrounded by people who are not nice to you, they’re not kind to you, what do you do? Well, you go to your meetings, you do your meetings, and then you rush out of the office as fast as possible. But if you’re surrounded by people you like, there is a high probability that you’re going to spend time with them, it could be a meeting, a quick drink, or something else. That quality time is what builds the bonds, the synergy that made the team so much more efficient, and powerful, and great in general, in so many dimensions, but especially when you will face later on one week later, a month later, a year later, a moment of difficulty in a project in the business, maybe in the life of some of the team members, because there’s moments of difficulty in your private life, or moments in any way you take to walk. 

 

And so if you are leading a company or leading a team within a company, do you want people that have that kind of synergy, that help each other in those moments of difficulties, or you want people to eventually head against each other. And when one of the team members has a moment of difficulty, the other profit of the situation, imagine what happened. By the way, if you are surrounded by these kinds of people, you’re going to do a series of activities to protect yourself, you don’t want that person to stab you on the back in a moment of weakness. So you’re going to do many things to make sure that you are covered when that may happen. 

 

Now, all these things, these activities are totally redundant to the organization. They’re not necessary, the organization doesn’t need them. And so multiply the number of these redundant activities by the number of people in a cup. Hundreds of 1,000s of people in my organization, for instance, and understand the level of invisible heat, the lack of productivity generated by the lack of guidance, and this is one example but I’m sure you can think about many others.

 

Mark Divine

It’s powerful. 

 

Mauro Porcini

And we never talk about this. We talk about increasing productivity by cutting costs, optimizing processes, laying off people. We never talk about increasing productivity by investing in kindness and it’s so powerful instead.

 

Mark Divine 10:00  

I agree, and you brought up a host of interesting questions, but just I’m sure it probably hasn’t been studied. But I think it’d be easy to validate that kindness will increase creativity significantly, because when it is just put in the context of negative versus positive thinking, positive thinking, right is expansive is opening, it’s got a higher vibrational quality, and it strengthens. And it leads to that more of a spontaneous innovation or creativity. Whereas negative thinking, lack of kindness equates to negative thinking, lower vibrational energy, collapsing and shutting down, closing off the most important mental attributes that lead to creativity, which is open heart and intuition. 

 

Mauro Porcini

No, I completely, completely agree. In the book I talk about actually, optimism, my focus on this idea. You know, kindness is, empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, but connected with action, you put yourself in the shoes of others, and then you act on that empathy on the sensitivity, optimism, one step even further, you act on the basis of that sympathy and empathy. But you also do it without stopping in front of any kind of roadblock, looking at the glass always half full. Understanding, actually, if you’re changing things, if you’re acting on the kindness, if you’re shaking things around, by definition, always, always, always you will find roadblocks, difficulties, challenges. If you don’t, it means you’re not changing anything, you should wonder, if you don’t face these difficulties, am I really making any change? And so you need that kind of optimism. 

 

Now, for every characteristic that you have, in the book, I talk about 24 different skills and characteristics. And optimism and kindness are two of them. Partially they’re natural, but partially are also characteristics that you can nurture, you can invest on. In a variety of different ways, if you think about him is how many times I found myself in moments of like, oh, my God, I mean, this is so difficult, can I really overcome this kind of situation, a technique that develops is I, every time I’m in the moment, I try to stand back, I detach myself from the moment. And they do it by looking in two opposite directions. On one side, I look at the tree, the vision where I’m trying to go, what drives me every day, but really the long term vision. And then on the other side, I look at where I came from, you know, the progress that I did until then, because when you’re in the middle of the difficulty you forget, and anyway, you did already so much to get there. So celebrate that. Appreciate that. Remember, especially all the difficulties you had in the past, and remember how those difficulties shaped you, made you the person you are today. I had some challenges in my life that was so tough, so tough, but they made me a better person, a better leader, a better human being. And so when I face again, certain kind of challenges, I’m thinking, Well, wait a second, this is, anyway, my story, a step in the right direction. And whatever comes out of this, I’m gonna learn out of this. And so that’s an example of how to practice optimism. 

 

Mark Divine

But you were at PepsiCo as their Chief Design Officer, you know, as a design officer, you’re talking about packaging and brand equity and those things. How did this theme start to show up in design like and how you, you know, communicate and bring that into the culture of PepsiCo? I’m just, I’m really curious to find the link between… I can intuit it, but I just don’t really logically see how even you would have this conversation in an organization the size of PepsiCo, if you’re coming from the design department, you know.

 

Mauro Porcini

Yeah, the reason is that when you design, by definition, everything, everything, everything you do implies a change and an evolution. We call it a form of innovation. You can be radical, disruptive innovation, inventing a new product, applying new technology to something that didn’t exist before. But it goes all the way to the simple change of a packaging for a campaign. And people are out of the comfort zone, you know, embracing something if it’s too disruptive. So anything we do implies that kind of innovation now would happen is that before PepsiCo many years ago, was still a 3M. And I was trying to drive this change with this human-centered approach to everything we do. That’s what design is about, focusing on people and then anything else will come. Financial results, technologies, they’re all amplifiers enables results. But what we do is to focus on creating value for people. Identify their needs, their wants, their frustration, their dreams, and finding opportunities in that to create new products, new brands, new services, new experiences of any kind. This is what we do as designers, so here I am, I go in 3M and like, okay, I’m gonna introduce this new human centered approach to innovate. 

 

And I bring in all the tools and the methodologies that we had in the design world. And I don’t do it just by myself, I bring in renowned design firms and innovation firms that we pay millions of dollars over the years to teach us, teach the organization how to do innovation in a different way. And after a while, looking back at many projects that I ran with this kind of approach, and realize that, first of all, many projects were doing very well in market, and a variety of orders were failing miserably, eventually, even before arriving to market. So over the years, I was like, okay, maybe I need to change the tools, they need to take them to the next level, tweak things. But then I realized something pretty obvious that what was really making a difference in those projects, what not the tools and the methodologies. It was all about the people behind those tools and methodologies. 

 

And still, often, for example, you have a company that invests in design thinking, you introduce the kind of methodology, and then the project doesn’t go where you expect the project to go. And they blame the methodology, you see the same thing, things don’t work, we don’t realize it. And that actually, probably the problem was the people behind that tool, their ability to observe the words, to understand what is the relevance of knots for the company and for people, the courage and the resilience to bring ideas through the system. And we know the difficulties are, overcome all the difficulties that you face, and so on, so forth. 

 

So years ago, I came out of need, you know, it was a very practical need. I came up with this list of characteristics of the people I wanted to hire in 3M. I wrote down that list, I gave it to HR, and I asked them to use it as a filter when they were selecting all the people that were presented to me. Then it became a paper that Design Management Institute’s would review, we became the topic of many conferences. And the reason that they went more and more public with these features is that they wanted people out there to select themselves, self select, before even arriving to our organization. 

 

Mark Divine

What were some of those features, by the way? 

 

Mauro Porcini

Well, I mean, the some of them I mentioned like optimists, curiosity, respect, humbleness, combined with confidence. There are others that are more obvious in this war, but yet not the practice, like the ability to dream, to think big. You know, we’re born with an ability as kids, we’re all dreamers, we dream, we fantasize, and then society, try to normalize us, they tell us that dreaming is childish. And yet we protect the ability to dream for a while until we go to college, then we get out of college, and we go to work. And we think, still, that we can change these companies, and we can do great. And then people arrive to us and they tell us, what do you think you can do? It’s arrogant, this from you, you thinking that you can change this company, you can change his brand, you can change the world? Why do you think you can? We stop dreaming in their everyday life, because we think the dream is just not practical. It’s not good. It’s childish. Once again, there are a few people do preserve that kind of ability, they’re still dreamers. But that’s not enough, either. You need to be able to dream, but then also land those streets. Combine that with the ability to make things happen, the ability to take trade offs and compromises and understanding that those trade offs and compromises are actually just a way to get to that array in an incremental way, step by step, instead of getting demoralized by that or thinking that you’re gonna trade integrity in the purity of that trade. No, you need both to go towards the direction of your goal, your dream, your aspiration. So there are many, many other characteristics. 

 

But again, I think one of the key points that I’m making the books that I’ve been making all these years in the organization’s I’ve been working with, is the fact that we need to be more strategic in the way we identify these values and these attributes and the skills. In the way we select people with those kind of characteristics. And in the way we promote and grow people within our organizations on the basis of these characteristics. Too many times, we focus so much on the business success of an individual, you know, what this person was able to do in a specific business area or with specific projects. And we don’t think about surface skills. The more you grow in the organization, the more essential they are in this world today, more than ever. They were eventually kindness they were talking about earlier, that being that efficiency in the team, that bond that that ability to produce, you know, in a highly effective way, was not that necessary 20 years ago, because this company will reach. They have a lot of wealth, and they have huge barriers to entry to protect their businesses made of scale up production of distribution of communication of patents. It was so difficult for the man or woman on the street go and compete with one of these established brands and companies today is that through ecommerce, social media, you have you technologies that are decreasing the cost of manufacturing and production. So that person out there can come up with it, yeah. Go compete with the big brand, the big company. 

 

So the small and the big are left with just one option. First, focus on people, create real value for them. Everything else is another value. But you need to start with that, you need to do that 360 degrees, you may have a great product and a great brand, but a bad service. That’s exactly where competition is coming from. Or maybe you have all of the product, service, and branding, that are great, but maybe the product is not sustainable enough, or the brand is not purposeful enough. And this is exactly what competition would come in. And this is why in this world today, you need to focus on characteristics that eventually were not necessary back then, because you were winning anyway. But today, you need to be super efficient in everything you do, we do a, you need to create such an amazing quality in everything we do across every touchpoint you need a series of superstars in every function that work together in the most seamless way. And therefore kindness, optimists, curiosity, humbleness, these are key characteristics for this kind of teams to work. You didn’t need that kind of quality. 

 

Mark Divine

You couldn’t get away with it in the past 

 

Mauro Porcini

Exactly, exactly.

 

Mark Divine

Do you find it hard to find enough people who have these qualities? And then how do you know? How do you validate it? 

 

Mauro Porcini

It’s the most difficult part of my job. That’s why I decided to go more and more public with these ideas and then pitching them and you know, conversations like they want to make a video, you know, very selfishly, first of all, I need people to understand what kind of people we look for. So that somehow they can realize right away if they have the right match or not. I also want to attract people that are like, that are thinking this way, and they’re like, oh my god, I can go to work in PepsiCo in design, you know, great. So that’s the tool that I use, for sure, proactive, upfront. In the conversations with his people, when we interview them, what we do is to be clear, crystal clear about those characteristics, I don’t leave it to the manager, maybe you have a claim manager is gonna find people like there’s not, we’re clear about the skills. I ask the people in my team when they interview people to test all these areas with a series of questions. I also because we’re all different. For instance, when I am myself hiring people, I ask a variety of different people in my own team to interview as well. Because even if we have the same place, we all look at people in different ways. And so somehow, I leverage a different perspective and the diversity of my own team. 

 

And then mostly what is important, especially when you have them inside the organization, is to embody those skills, in everything you do every day, you need to talk about it, you need to celebrate people that behave in that way. But you also need to walk the talk, you need to behave in that way. And you need to do it in a very, with full awareness. In the past I was doing, you know, I was trying to be what I call a unicorn in a very intuitive way. But when I realized the power of these characteristics, now I do certain things purposefully in front of people to shape those kinds of behaviors. I may be extra kind or extra optimistic, or extra curious, or extra sounding, you know, in the least, so that I am purposefully sending a message to shape the organization in a way. 

 

Mark Divine

That’s interesting. And it makes a lot of sense, you over indexing on these. And communication. You know, like you said, you mentioned everyone filters communication, whether it’s body language, or verbal, through their own lens. And generally, you know, they’re going to downgrade what you think you’re communicating, it’s gonna get downgraded by one notch. And I think studies have been done on this, especially with email communications, right? So if I send you an email, and I think I’m being positive, you’re gonna read it as neutral. And if I send one that I think is neutral, you’re gonna read it as negative, right? And if I send a negative forget, it’s like DEFCON, you know what I mean. But I think this is true with leaders, right? So we can come in and I feel this is my like, I can feel like I’m positive, but someone’s gonna be like, oh, Marks kind of down today. So I have to over index that positivity for them to receive it as positive. And so I think that you’ve kind of settled on that naturally. And I think that’s a really powerful awareness and skill for leaders. 

 

Mauro Porcini

Yeah, that is also the empathy you were talking about earlier. If you study the theories on language and semantic essentially, there are a series of ingredients that you use to create meaning. There is every time a sender, somebody talking, a message, what you say, a receiver, and then there is a code, a media, a context and noises. So I studied this when I was still at school and it open a world for me, because then I’d been playing with these ingredients in a very, very, very conscious way, all these years both in my, you know, with myself or my personal brand building designing these organizations, but then also with the products and the brands we were creating. 

 

So, I may say something that is meant to be tied with my words, but then is also what you do with coda media. So the media is the example you just made of the email, you know, you want to use emails, but then maybe you have other media that you can use to convey and reinforce a message, it could be your social, or it could be an encounter with a person in a meeting, or it could be the you take the person out for dinner, and then the media become the dinner. But essentially be very, very careful, and very strategic about all the media you’re using to consistently reinforce the same message for the receiver. And then the code, the code, while in the email, unfortunately, you have a specific code, that is the written language. Now, thank God, there are emojis that are really there to help you replace in your body language.

 

Mark Divine

Right, but being aware that different people receive those differently,

 

Mauro Porcini

Exactly

 

Mark Divine

Generation z or x has canceled a lot of emojis that, you know, you and I might take for granted and be like, oh, I mean, comes up really means thumbs up. And they’re think it’s like you’re being like, flippid or something like that, or…

 

Mauro Porcini

And so I love what you’re saying. Because then that is all about receiving, you know, it’s so important to understand who you’re talking to that, because the same kind of message with the same kind of code. And the same kind of media could be the meaning could be different on the base of our receiver is perceiving all of this. So it’s so important. This is a second answer to your previous question, it’s so important to understand the people in front of you. In my case, it was the CEOs and the executive leaders, they were sponsoring the creation of a new capability. It was the people around me that I needed to take with me in the journey. It was the people in my teams, and everybody around. Customers, consumers, people out there. It’s so important to deeply understand what drives them, what is important to them, what is the code that they use, how they interpret those codes, and that we know who’s playing with it. Played on the edge of what you can do with those codes. 

 

As an example, you know, the dress code, the way you dress. So I am a designer, people expect me to be creative, you know, they are paying me for these in these companies. But the paradox is that they love the creativity, but they fear the creativity as well, because it’s difficult to control. And it’s difficult to extract money out of that creativity, escape. And so, you know, they want designers, but then they put them there on the corner, and I’m gonna call you when I need you, you know, I’m gonna use you. But then we, business leader are the decision makers. And so over the years, I’ve been playing with a visual codes and language codes two, on one side, remind everybody of my creativity, crazy shoes, like colorful, crazy shoes are talking about love and kindness and love to me is in boardrooms. But then I balanced that with a formal jacket, I always wear a jacket, you know, in those meetings in these rooms. And I balanced the words, emotions, love with productivity, ROI, return on investment, and many other things. And so there is always this, I provoke you, I show you that I bring in a diversity that you want, that you value, but they also show you that I’m one of yours, I talk your language. And together, we can leverage that creativity to disrupt the company. Now, if I’m in the boardroom, and I’m asking for millions of dollars of investment in a project or my team, you know, I will be a little bit more conservative still with the crazy shoes, but you know, maybe it’s a black jacket, double breasted. If I am at the World Business Forum, talking to all these CEOs from all around the world is the case I have the credibility because I’m on the stage. And then I gotta go wide, but I deliver still business messages. But I deliver them with, you know, crazy jackets and my full body language. Because I’m in the context, I’m inspiring them. In the context of the boardroom, I need to reassure them, but still with the sparkle of creativity. So yeah, code the media is so so important. And the understanding of the receiver. Empathy is super important, right? 

 

Mark Divine

I think I need to hire you as my dress consultant. I’ve been stuck on jeans and a blue blazer for a long time.

 

Mauro Porcini  29:42  

That’s your identity transfer identity. Right? The Navy SEAL, I’ve got to move beyond that. Just what do you do with your identities? I bet you either need to get some wild shoes and dress like I know I was going to ask you about your dress because I saw here that you were considered one of the 30 best dressed men from GQ Italia.

 

Mark Divine 30:00  

That’s pretty cool. That’d be very kind to me.

 

Mauro Porcini 30:05  

So in this new age, where technology and AI and everything’s moving really fast, right, and so it’s been termed the exponential age. And I’m involved in a doctorate and leadership program right now. And we’re studying these things. And one of the most important skills that leaders will have that computers and AI won’t have is creativity. And how one of the most important skills for leaders in the future is going to be design, because there’s a lot of other things that’ll be handled by algorithms and robotic things. So what is your perspective on the role of design in terms of leadership capacity, leadership, development, and moving it from the fringe into the center of the organization as a domain of excellence? 

 

Mauro Porcini

Looks? I agree with your, what you just stated, that is a very important leadership scheme. It should be taught in all kinds of schools. But we need to be clear about what design is.

 

Mark Divine  31:02  

Well, let’s start there. And oh, by the way, there’s very few design schools, right? I mean, in business or for business? 

 

Mauro Porcini

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

 

Mark Divine  31:11  

And you don’t find that MBA with design as your major, right, I think that needs to change. 

 

Mauro Porcini

But first of all, you know, there is a difference between design and design, thinking. Design is really connected to the output of what you do. So at the end of the day, as a designer, you want to create products, or a digital interface or a piece of graphics. So there is the component. Design thinking is the way of thinking and behaving and operating of these designers, is what you learn in design school. What drives you to act as a designer and produce those outputs, but it could be applied to anything, could be taught to other kinds of capabilities? 

 

Mark Divine

I agree, thank you for that distinction, I think design thinking is what I’m thinking, 

 

Mauro Porcini

Yeah, of course, it is important, even for us designers, because paradoxically, there are many designers that are not design thinkers. They learn at a school, but then they started to work, they got trapped in the definition of design that is just generating the piece of art and graphic and that product, and they forgot what they learned in school. And this is important, because I saw so many companies thinking oh, I’m investing in design thinking, they hire designers, they will not design thinkers, they fail in what the company was expecting from them. And they blame design, without understanding that they should bring just themselves because they didn’t hire the right people with the right design thinking kinds of skills. 

 

So the design component, by the way, this I think is important too. So the other opposite direction is when you have a bunch of non designers that are good as design thinkers, but they still need the ability to at the end to design something, therefore you still need those designers in the mix. Now what is design thinking? Essentially, there are multiple definitions, but one that I think is a good fit for our conversation right now is this connection between empathy, understanding people, but caring about them, you know, in the subtitle of my book is people in love with people. This is what design thinkers are. People that love other people, people that care about creating value for them through the platforms that this company is offered that. I was talking with one of our executives from HR, just a few minutes before having this conversation with you. And I was telling him, wow, I feel so privileged, because I have this amazing platform that is PepsiCo to do good, to impact the life of people, to touch the life of people, everyday billions of people to the products that we create, and really try and you know, because of this access, because of this platform, we can really, you know, try to move entire industries and society in the right direction. This is what people in love with people do and how they think. They don’t think about, oh, I’m gonna generate value for the company in the next quarter. You need that to, they’re able to have that kind of thinking. But they’re driven and motivated by the long term vision, understanding that you need to deliver short term, else you will never be able to realize your dream. But again, empathy is the starting point. 

 

The second pillar of design thinking is strategy. So you teach to these leaders the culture of love for others, that’s culture, and then all the tools that you need to have the kind of attention for others. It starts with culture. And then strategy is, essentially, once you understand what is relevant to orders through empathy, you need to figure out what is relevant to your company to your business through strategy. And there are three main dimensions that you want to focus on. The first one is that important: The business model. I have an intuition of something that people may need. Like I don’t know premium beverage in a specific market. The question from that same strategy is, do I have the right business model to sell premium beverages? If my distribution is something else, then you need to ask yourself, the second dimension is within strategic is processes. So do I have the right processes to manufacture that, for instance, or to dry that idea within my organization in an efficient way? And the third dimension is culture. Do I have the right culture within the organization now to embrace that idea, so for instance, if forever organization made or six sales reps that are so good at selling entry level price products, so mass products, and they’re going to be able to sell the dream, so premium less and you know, all kinds of products that are different. Am I going to have the right management and understand how to manage with confidence at completely different kinds of price positioning and communication strategy for premium products. So this, I think, is about understanding what people need, but also understanding how to strategize a business model processes and culture, often we forget culture to make that thing happen. 

 

And then the third pillar is prototype. And this is why it’s called design thinking. And it’s not called pink thinking or whatever thinking, because you now are going to use the tools of the designers to create mockups, prototypes. And all of this is the prototype in the process of innovation is the prototype you take to market, even a business could be a prototype by itself, if you see that as an opportunity to learn and extract insights out of that. So all of this prototyping, I talked about this in the book, there are multiple values, but very briefly, is the value of aligning everybody around an idea, is the value of unlocking the ability of different functions to contribute to the co creation of that idea, all the way, by the way, not just the internal functions of the company, but customers, consumers people out there. Is also the power of what they call the power of the shiny object, is the power of these prototypes to excite to unlock sponsorship and investments. And all of these build confidence in the organization to take the risk of the new idea, and also drives productivity and quality in the process. This is what design thinking is. And it can be applied to anything, any kind of thing. It doesn’t need to be a product or a brand. It could be a country, it could be any shooting HR, in finance, anything. 

 

Mark Divine

So it really is about design thinking, your book, and who is the target audience? Is it CEOs? Or is it just like people who want to start their own business? Is it future leaders? 

 

Mauro Porcini

Love this question that the key target audience is my daughter? I’m joking, but I’m not joking. I wrote this book thinking, Okay, I want for her, she’s seven months, almost seven months old, I want her to be exposed to all of these things, because they wish that somebody would have told them to me when I was young. So immediately after then, of course, is the new generations, is people that are getting ready today, at school and then at the beginning of their professional journey to change the world. Now, then the other target is the business leader that have the power to hire these kind of people in their teams in their companies to change the trajectory of these companies. And so, you know, I hope that by reading these books, they get full awareness about what are the key traits that you need in this new world, to drive the kind of change with them, of course, all the HR world, and the people that are really consulting with this business leader to find the right talents. And then this approach applies to literally anything. But of course, branding, innovation, of any kind is at the core of the book with so many examples that come from the world of PepsiCo, throughout my life in Philips designing wearable technologies, but also many other products that have been put into in the streets of New York, in Dublin, in Paris and Italy, in my city, where I was born as the stories for my childhood. So there is a lot of theory is, is an innovation book is a leadership book, but is also there is so much of my life to make this theory, by far, you know, more digestible and approachable and accessible through the pages of the book.

 

Mark Divine

This is awesome. This was so much fun to talk to you about. If someone’s listening to this, and they’re like, oh, this sounds really fascinating to me. But I’ve got a literally have 37 books on my nightstand that I’m waiting to get to, you know, maybe I’ll put this on my list at number 38. But what can I do tomorrow? Is there one or two things they’re like, start here, do these things, start doing these things and you’ll be well on your way that you can share? 

 

Mauro Porcini

Look, if you don’t want to read the book, check the page with the 24 characteristics of the unicorns. You don’t even need you know, there are hundreds of pages to explain them. But if you read kindness, curiosity options, all these characteristics, start to practice their everyday. Just try for six months, try to practice the idea of kindness, even if you don’t read what they meant. 

 

Mark Divine

Don’t try to bring them into your organization, start working on them. 

 

Mauro Porcini

And there are others like being proactive, go the extra mile, and there are many others. Try and see what happens. See if something changes in the next six months, I’m sure you will see changes, I have no doubt. I mean, even just the moment you behave in a different way, with the people around you, you will see people reacting. And so try to read the full book it’s one page, they’re all together and start to practice them. And then you can find me in LinkedIn and Instagram. I’m very active. Let me know what happened after you practice them because I’m really curious. And it may become the topic of my next book, you know, all these people are they’re starting to practice these ideas. And this is what happened. 

 

Mark Divine

What is your Instagram and your your social media?

 

Mauro Porcini

Mauro Porcini on Instagram and in and in LinkedIn, easy to find that is now the amount of opportunity out there. But as far as I know,

 

Mark Divine  41:15  

All right, man. Oh, that was really, really enjoyed talking to you. I really appreciate your time. And thanks for bringing this book out into the world. And, you know, it’s definitely needed right to have these conversations to help people take the lead with that compassion and kindness. Thank you so much for giving me that time and your platform. It’s been great. And thanks, everybody for listening to us today. 

 

Mark Divine

Yeah, it’s been an honor.

 

Mauro Porcini  41:40  

Well, that’s another fascinating conversation in my robe porcine love the discussion about the human side of innovation and how love and kindness and compassion and empathy are really critical for leaders today. And it’s not just about design, it’s about the bottom line. Really great, great episode. Thank you so much Mauro for being on the show. 

 

Shownotes are up on our website at Mark Divine.com. And you can reach out to us at Twitter @MarkDivine and @realMarkDivine on Instagram and Facebook. Find me also on LinkedIn, and this episode be on my YouTube channel, quick plug for the newsletter, Divine Inspiration, which comes out every Tuesday, where I have the shownotes from the podcast, my blog, other interesting things that are happening in my life and around the world, I think you’ll really enjoy, go to MarkDivine.com to sign up and subscribe and to share with your friends. Thanks so much for my amazing team, Jason Sanderson and Geoff Haskell and Q. Williams, who helped produce this podcast bringing credible guests to you every week. And if you haven’t reviewed or rated the show, it’s very helpful. So go to Apple or wherever you listen to the show to review and rate it.

 

So again, as usual, thanks so much for being part of the change that you want to see in the world. We’re going to do this at scale. And like Mauro said, I’m very optimistic about the future because there are a lot of kind, compassionate people out there. So turn off the TV, shut down this social media and help other people recognize the kindness and the compassion is all around them and to lead with that, by example. And so let’s do that. Till next time. Your host Mark Divine. Hooyah.

 

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