1. We Are All Designers

American By Design

Now that we know who the next President of the United States is going to be, some of us are disappointed and some are feeling pretty upbeat. But after months of speculation, we can at last stop wondering and move forward.


Here’s something I fiercely believe. We have a responsibility as business leaders, as American citizens, and as citizens of the world to design a better future. We can whine about who won and who didn’t. Or we can begin rebuilding today – by applying the fundamental design-thinking methodology we’ve been talking about recently.

What kind of world do you want to design? Our Freeman manifesto states that we want to help create prosperity, learning and social connection. It says that we want to help advance society… and elevate the human experience. To me, that means that we resist the temptation to engage in polarizing rants, and instead focus on pulling the country together by urging congress to get behind things we all know are important. Let’s start with things like job creation, education and infrastructure – not with empty promises, but with fiscal responsibility toward balancing the budget.

Sure, it’s hard not to get discouraged when we hear people griping every day that America isn’t the country it once was. But I believe that America’s greatness has less to do with the elected officials in Washington, D.C., and everything to do with the American people; our work ethic, combined with an ability to dream big dreams and make them a reality, is what defined our country.

We find ourselves on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s bigger than the USA and our government squabbles. It affects every country in which we do business. Every culture on the planet. The opportunities and challenges are exponential. Freeman is poised to create entirely new ways of serving the needs of our industry, and we will no doubt disrupt existing value chains. This can drive tremendous growth – the kind of growth that can spur economies across the globe.

We know that leadership is design, and design is how we change things. Here are a few simple things we can each do to effect positive change in our country.

Be your better self. Lead by example. Listen to learn, not just to offer a rebuttal.

Be a fact checker. In the age of social media, where anyone with internet access can be a publisher, fact checking is negligible. According to Pew Research, a majority of U.S. adults – 62% – get news on social media, and 18% do so often. Check your sources before you share – and you will gain the credibility and influence of a true leader.

Be productive. When you help grow your part of the business and help your customers grow their business, it generates opportunity for a lot of people.

Be trustworthy. Clearly, this election has caused a serious trust deficit. But we need to move on, and the best way to inspire others to get back to work is to earn their trust.

Make it personal. Resist sweeping generalizations. Think about people as individuals; treat everyone with respect.

Nothing in this list is controversial or revolutionary. But if we all acted on it, if we encouraged our legislators to do the same, I think we’d find more people working on solutions and fewer people working on excuses and accusations.

As Freeman moves closer to its 90th anniversary celebration, and as I contemplate our company’s rich history, I am convinced that Freeman itself stands for the very attributes people feel America has lost. Let’s embrace our values. Let’s collaborate in a spirit of trust. Let’s connect people in meaningful, transformational ways. Let’s focus on a future we’re proud to leave the next generation.

That’s the America we learned about as kids. That’s the America I still believe in.