Strategies & Insights

Debate & Discuss with Sean Lilly Wilson, Chief Executive Optimist, Fullsteam Brewery

Posted: May 28, 2015 by
Linda Casey

As a senior business leader, what do you expect your design and marketing team leads to contribute to the business strategy?

Because I have a tendency to want to do too much, I look to my design and marketing people to cut to the core of our message—eliminating unnecessary details and focusing design on the key message. Pablo Picasso once said, “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” My marketing and design pros put this into practice much better than me.


What are some of the benefits of having design at the business strategy table? Vice versa, what are the benefits of having design report to marketing and having marketing at the strategy table?

This, of course, depends on how the team is constructed and whether or not design wants to execute or join in strategy. I’ve definitely exhausted a few design folks by involving them too much in early strategy conversations. I think the secret is to float a few concepts out there and get some interplay between marketing and design, so everyone is vested in the success and feels a part of the strategy. But perhaps not too early!


Can you share some tips for designers and marketers on how they can improve collaboration with senior business leaders?

1) Ask the business leaders for three examples of designs they consider edgy, yet still effective.

2) Find out who is the boss of the senior business leader or who they think their boss is. For a C-level executive, this can be the customers or the company’s shareholders. Understand that you’re designing for the person or audience to whom the senior business leader feels most accountable as well as that senior business leader. Help the senior business leader deliver results to their boss.

3) Don’t be afraid to delve into the strategy world as much as you care to; ask why, even up to five times, for each topic if you don’t quite understand the strategy behind the decision.


How has your current reporting structure helped your company develop amazing brands?

There’s a fair amount of trust involved. We get each other; we cut to the chase; and we respect each other by listening.