Design Your Life: Leveraging Design Thinking For Better Executive Health

By Steven P. MacGregor

Why does management development focus almost solely on the neck up, when the demands placed on managers and executives touch every facet of their lives? In this article the author discusses a design-thinking approach to sustainable leadership.


The designer constructs the world within which he sets the dimensions of the problem space, and invents the moves by which he attempts to find solutions. – Donald Schön


Jordi couldn’t figure it out. He was sleeping well enough. He was exercising without excess. All the boxes were checked. The same habits and routines that had served him so well over the years, and which led to his recent promotion, were in place. But he was exhausted. Ever since he started in his new role, he was finishing each day physically and mentally drained. It had started to cause tension at home, where he was unable to fully participate in family life, and where he was able to recover just enough before starting work the next day.

And it was at the start of that workday where we uncovered the insight that was to re-invigorate his energy and performance. For years his daily commute had been a 35-minute journey on a moped in heavy city traffic. With the increase in quality and quantity of decisions in the new role we identified the issue of decision fatigue1 as being a key factor, with much of that precious decision-making energy being used on a stressful (though accustomed) morning commute. We replaced the moped journey with a scheduled daily private taxi, allowing the executive to spend some free time, arrive at the office relaxed and with decision-making energy at optimum levels. Design thinking was used to re-engineer his day and improve his personal sustainability.


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