Designing your life around love isn’t easy.  I mean, knowing that there are five love languages is nice, but implementing it is tough! Take the first one – words of affirmation – it’s hard to find a thoughtful and positive thing to say to the family every morning as we run to catch the school bus. First couple of days I googled and Whatsapped the messages but that’s not quite the same as saying it aloud. Hmmm. Was this going to be a good idea that fizzles out because the effort is too much to sustain despite the obvious benefits? Luckily retail therapy came to my rescue – I spotted a pack of affirmation cards in a shop, swallowed my pride and sticker shock, and bought them. Now, every morning we just pull a card from the stack and read it out loud!

Designing your life is a process

When we were living in Amsterdam we hardly knew our neighbours beyond a welcome dinner when we first moved into our house. The pandemic hit shortly after, and we were planning to celebrate our daughter’s 11th birthday with a quiet cake in the garden. Our neighbour’s spotted the balloon, drew “Happy Birthday” with chalk on the pavement outside as per Dutch tradition and – next thing we knew we were having an impromptu socially distanced party in our back yard with all our neighbours joining in. A beautiful way to build a community. But how does it sustain? Ah, the Dutch also have a tradition of a birthday calendar – usually hung on the back of the toilet door – to remind them of the right days to celebrate with a gift, chalk art and song. This is how a nice idea moves to a process and becomes a ritual.

How do you design a business culture

For consulting engagements on brand positioning I like to use the Hofstede Cultural Onion -it’s a handy device to convert your values into rituals and symbols. If you’d like to know more about how to do it it’s in Chapter 3 of my book “Marketing Without Money”. The point is that if we believe in something we have to invest in making it a repeatable process. Even love needs automation. And that brings me to DESIGN! Values are the foundation of designing your business Just as we have to design our family rituals around our chosen values, businesses have to bake their values into their processes and products. For example, the founder of Bhartiya City in Bangalore wanted to capture the feeling of safety and community he had as a child where he could go alone to school or the shops. So one of the design principles was that there would be a pre-school within the campus and that the walkway to that would be safe enough for a child to walk alone. A current client prizes autonomy as a value. So a lot of their expenses and absences are auto-approved. Another example of an organization baking in its values into a process. In my book I talk about how important it is to define the values of the organization, and give examples from Infosys, Jaipur Rugs and others. While this is important it is also important to put a framework to ensure that these values are embodied in what your organization actually does. Love for your customers (and family) has to be by design otherwise the fault cracks will appear very rapidly.

New Podcast Alert! 

This is the thinking behind a podcast show I am launching with my co-host Vaishnavi Reddy, titled “Business by Design” we chat with experts on how to make businesses better. The first four episodes in the season of ten are with: Nakul Shenoy (User Experience at Clear)Belson Coutinho (co-founder, Akasa Air)Nitin Sethi (Chief Digital Officer – Consumer Businesses, Adani Group)Nikhil Shankar (VP Customer and Partner Experience, Urban Clap) We hope that the podcasts share ideas on how we can design better businesses. I’m new to this whole podcast thing, but I understand that some of you may be more audio than text, so I thought I’d do a companion podcast to my newsletter. Here’s last week’s episode  The podcasts are not exactly the same as the text – I tried to do it more like a conversation. What do you think? Would love your feedback.

Designing your life

There are some CEOs going on viral on LinkedIn (who would’ve thunk in 2002 that anyone would go ‘viral’ on the site!) with messages on how you should design your life to work 18 hour days/ride a tractor to work/do interviews at midnight and so on. I used to fall into some of these routines by default – emails at 10pm because I had nothing else planned. On the other hand I did have written goals around large parts of my career and life which kept me from getting completely off track. While researching for this newsletter I discovered that there is whole book around this topic. The mindset of design is built around these five tenets – see if they can help you design your life and business!

  •  Be curious.
  •  Have a bias to action.
  •  Reframe your problems to broaden your perspective.
  •  Know that it’s a process.
  •  Always ask for help when you need it

See you next week!


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