News|Coaching|02 Feb 2022|Andrew Barraclough

Design Leadership lessons for the next Chapter

After 10 years of successfully building Design as a critical competence at GSK Consumer Health I have chosen to close this chapter and look for my next challenge to transform another business who puts Design at the heart of what is does.

I have looked back and pulled together the lessons learned which I will take forward into a new role with an organization which has a desire to build a clear ambition for Design.

We hear management consultancies shouting about the power of Design to step change organizations, add shareholder value, create new business models, build distinctive assets and experiences. But what does this actually mean in reality on the ground at the front of the fight to win hearts and minds in an ever increasingly competitive marketplace?

“We need to build on Design Thinking to then deliver Design Linking.”

– Andrew Barraclough, Global VP Design GSK CH 2011-2021

At C-suite level, how can you elevate the power of Design to build innovation and powerful connections with consumers and customers?

I joined GSK Consumer Health in 2011 as Global VP of Design, and over the last 10 years I established Design as a key business driving lever, building an internal design leadership capability covering 35 brands in over 140 markets. Our remit entailed everything from design thinking and innovation to digital design, product design, environments, retail, shopper, communication, packaging and even sound design. We built full experiences for brands that added bottom line value. The mindset was ‘better design for business, better design for people and better design for the planet’, ensuring Design delivered against KPIs on of these areas.

Design can add significant value to your business, but you need to reframe how you see it. It is not something you do at the end of the process to make something look good. Businesses need to think of design as colouring outside of the lines, breaking traditional boundaries, connecting business departments, solving expensive business questions, building innovation pipelines and creating enduring experiences as a strategic lever in a business.

Design leaders need to dispel the myth that design is hard to measure, hard to track and hard to show ROI. This is nonsense as all functions need to show ROI, deliver against KPIs and drive growth. Brand equity measures must increase, brands must grow, distinctiveness must increase, and pipeline growth through innovation is a must…… so how did we deliver this and what did we learn along the way that I will take into my next challenge?

Let’s start looking at how Design leadership has evolved within large organisations over the last 10 years first.

Design can be used to build brands and innovate new products, services and business models with Design/Innovation Leadership excellence. Looking at the Designer’s education, their mindset, experience and skillset one would expect that design leaders have an advantage and maybe even have a natural bias towards competences in the space of creativity, participation, belonging and meaning.

I recently spoke with Frans Joziasse, owner of PARK on my key learnings over the last ten years.

Joziasse: How did the design journey at GSK Consumer Health start?

Barraclough: The long-term corporate vision was set to become the first fast moving health care company in the world. I created a strategy ‘design connections’ with Design delivering connected, unique branded consumer experiences, see image 1.

Image 2: GSK Design eco-system for Flonase (source: GSK CH, 2018).

The strategy had a clear 5-year roadmap including the building of a global design leadership team and a network of preferred design agencies. This roadmap looked at Design strategically, tactically and operationally in the areas of resources, communication, process, systems, tools, culture and set a clear transformational vision.

Of course, you need to get buy-in for this from key stakeholders and have business sponsorship. Today, GSK Consumer Health has a team of 35+ design directors and design managers that strengthens a portfolio of leading global and regional healthcare brands, with distinct and purposeful consumer experiences and innovations.


What do you think is critical for having impact with Design?

To drive more value in your business you need to have skills beyond the traditional business intelligence (BQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), they will only get you so far…if you want to disrupt categories, find new revenue streams, get more value from your current marketing spend then you need to look to Design to deliver for you. A Design Leader will bring creative intelligence (CQ) to have real impact on making the world a better place, see image 2.

Th Design Leadership Triangle by PARKImage 1: DL Intelligence-Triangle (source: PARK/AB, 2021). Read more about the DL Triangle.  

I partnered with the global and regional brand teams across consumer and ‘expert’ touch points to guarantee brand congruence and consistency. We directed and managed our internal and external global partners to deliver best in class distinctive brand experiences.


In the area of Business Intelligence, what have been your main learnings?

Have a Clear Vision. Start small, Create poster children. No one believes until they see it!

  • Create one project prototype, then scale fast for all brands.
  • Measure what you do and deliver.
  • Don’t just talk about it, show by doing, make it real.

Think and act Macro and Micro. You have to be T shaped to survive.

  • You need to be able to see the big picture all the time above the weeds.
  • You need to roll up your sleeves and get into the weeds to help make it happen.


What key learnings in the field of Emotional Intelligence can be distinguished?

Talent, talent, talent.

Its everything, invest heavily in people and constantly develop them to be ready for future business challenges.

  • Create internal and external training opportunities.
  • Build Annual Design Summits to pull the team together and envision the future.
  • Adding diverse people and backgrounds into the design team.


Lastly in the space of creative intelligence, what did you focus on?

Be Creatively Generous. Pay it forward and it will pay back.

  • Be open and share everything you do, don’t look for glory.
  • Take people on a creative journey small step by small step.
  • Driving design thinking into innovation, prototyping it and then scaling it.
  • You need to make the key stakeholders clear that Design is not one big thing it’s a little bit of everything.


How did you connect creative intelligence with business intelligence?

Be Strategic, Tactical and Operational. You can’t choose one!

You have two big objectives only at the end of the day. Design Guardianship and Design Excellence. But in order to deliver against these two massive pillars you need to be able to deliver from artwork to new brand creation and everything in between, always putting the consumer front and centre.

Further-on, hedge. Always have a Plan B on everything you do.

You are working in a very dynamic environment, from projects falling over to massive joint ventures where integration was key. You have to always look for how to zig and zag as a team and always be in support of the company, category and brand missions.


And what did you do to connect creative intelligence with emotional intelligence?

Find and build a coalition of the willing. Identify the allies and the enemies of change.

Transformation is hard in any area and a creative one is no easier than any other, you have to find and build allies where you can create and drive change early and fast to gain momentum, momentum is key to driving the change.

Spread Bet for greatest returns

You have to choose projects for all, not just exclusively marketing and brand teams, but cost saving design to value projects for the supply chain, value creation projects for procurement, engagement projects for HR for example.


What do you take from your learnings going forward?

  • How critical it is to build all three skills (BQ, EQ & CQ) to be successful.
  • The importance of a new model to look at Design Leadership qualities to ensure right fit for the organisation/business challenges.
  • I have developed with PARK a model that distinguishes four common types of Design Leaders depending on their skills to connect their CQ with EQ and BQ, see image 3. This also highlights the pitfalls of not focusing on all three attributes.

The four types of design Leaders by PARKImage 3: 4 types of Design Leaders.

The Innovative Design Leader runs Design and Design Thinking as key drivers for establishing a culture of creativity in an organisation. Integrating Design Thinking capabilities into the innovation process is a common way these design leaders adopt a creative culture. That not only demands the inputs of employees but also the creative expression of the employees The challenge here is the potential disconnect from the business, brands and categories where Design could be seen as an ivory tower, distant and disconnected.

The Commercial Design Leader understands the importance of data and pushes CEOs on performance linked to KPIs critical to the organisation’s strategy. Commercial Design Leaders will provide their designers with clarity about what are the most important duties and deliverables of the design, in which ways and with which metrics is Design held accountable? This is very functional Design leadership and can lack creative oxygen and inspiration. There is a lack of creative quality and drive to deliver design excellence for consumers.

The Empathic Design Leader blends creative intelligence with emotional intelligence, and will hire and allocate design resources relevant for the business. They are networkers who are very strong in building competencies and high-performance teams. They enjoy a high level of trust, which crucial for developing a culture where conflicts are not avoided, and where commitment, accountability and attention to results are key. Here people love working in the team and the leader is seen as a hero but these are short lived feelings as the business quickly sees only expense and little focus on the brand, category and business mission.

The High Impact Design Leader recognizes how and when to sync creative intelligence with emotional and business intelligence. They make it crystal clear who owns which parts of the end-to-end consumer/customer experience and drive strong collaboration with Heads of Marketing, Strategy, R&D, Sales and Operations. They use metrics such as lead time, design costs, consumer satisfaction, freshness index and encourage ways of working, which are very effective to elevate Design’s role and ambitions. Finally, they realize that Design is not holy but wholly, directing towards a people culture of adhocracy, contemplation and reflection. Guiding towards risk as an opportunity and purpose. They truly bring together Better Design for Business, People and Planet and can drive transformation with Design in an organisation.


What is most challenging for Design Leaders?

I have always expanded these capabilities with additional (business and or psychology) training, and benefit from having a diverse career background working in R&D, Marketing, running my own Agency and working in a large agency before taking on roles in Design Leadership.


Embracing the concept of life-long learning has been a crucial thing you have championed at GSK. How do think the Design industry will evolve?

I see a dynamic environment that needs clarity on accountabilities of Design, and new corporate ambitions and value delivery. We need to shift towards circular Design, system Design and social Design that foster qualitative community life in the long run, instead of solving people’s everyday problems. Designers need to simulate natural systems, which are adaptive, complex and have a systemic structure.


How can design help top management balance the pressure for more efficiency with friction to act holistically?

The polymathic mindset of a designer needs to expand over time on a growing number of subjects and complex bodies of knowledge to be able to create systems. I like the notion of Ravi Naidoo of Design Indaba who emphasises a systemic approach. We need Design Leadership that encourages interconnectivity, non-hierarchical organizations and linking business with society and our planet. We need to build on Design Thinking to then deliver Design Linking. Design Leaders must enable connectedness to drive out transaction costs and unnecessary rework.


Leaders have started to reimagine strategy by creating new models of differentiation, embedding societal value into products and services, reimagining business models for sustainability, and reshaping ecosystems to support these initiatives. What will the board room expect from design in the future?

Design has to evolve their value proposition of design accordingly. Design will need to redefine its belief system. Focusing only on consumer and business outcomes will be viewed as narrow-minded. A belief that all design must have a positive social and environmental consequence will become the norm.


What is your advice for CEOs, CTOs and CMOs of companies that want to lead with Design?

The future is bright for Design, but we need to stay realistic. When Design Leaders are going to push for new areas such as digital and ecological transformation, they must use their emotional intelligence at its best. Design is too important to leave it to the individual design leader. It needs reflecting, listening, sharing, mentoring and collective learning to become successful. We need servant design leaders that share power and put the needs of the people and the stakeholders they work with first and helps them to develop and perform as highly as possible. At the same time, we need to embed senior designers into the board room while cultivating a collaborative top team environment in which a design leader can thrive. Design must be a peer of the organisation’s other business functional leaders or it will fail and be lost in the cracks never realising its full potential.


Finally, the renowned economist Kate Raworth states, that we need to consider the planet’s ecological limits and secure the social foundation for all humans to have a decent life. What is your case for optimism?

Kate is a strong believer that the future regenerative and distributive economy needs innovation on a system level. And that creativity, participating, belonging and meaning are the future sources of system innovation. It becomes obvious from my Design Leadership experiences at GSK Consumer Health that Design has grown it’s responsibility and accountability, driving forward the future agenda for digital and ecological innovation.

I believe that progressive organisations are starting to see the full potential of Design to drive innovation and business growth on a system level. Those who see Design as a service department will likely fail in the future, as those who recognise the often massively untapped potential of Design will, I believe, flourish.

The challenge for Design Leaders is to be ready to connect creative intelligence with business and emotional intelligence. They need to be ready to take on this challenge, to show the real power of Design Thinking and Design Linking as I believe that Design has the power to be a significant part of any companies change agenda delivering better for people, planet and business.

The interview between Andrew Barraclough and Frans Joziasse was online recorded, December 2021.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on January 21, 2022.

Original article: Design Leadership lessons for the next Chapter

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