The magic of McKinsey design

There were numerous reasons, both personally and professionally, that I decided to move to Chicago and join McKinsey from the corporate world, but overall there were two main drivers–the challenge of the opportunity and the potential to have more impact in the world.

Scott Inline
Scott Inline

Within my first year at McKinsey, I was fortunate to work on a variety of client engagements to create impact in a lot of different ways, like organizational capability mapping to help a pharma client plan for future growth; identifying new surgical innovation opportunities for heart health; defining a service offering to help hospitals become more efficient; and the list goes on. When I started, I was focused on healthcare, but now I’ve expanded to the consumer and advanced industry spaces.

We grow through challenge.” I am a firm believer in this quote. In a way, it has become how I’m wired. I find motivation through challenge: This is why I run marathons, and why I am learning to swim to compete in triathlons. And this is why I was extremely intrigued when my discussions first began with McKinsey.

I was recently promoted to expert associate partner, and now I’m in the position to influence the way we use design across the firm. I’m excited to spread awareness about the influence that design can have, and to bring knowledge from my healthcare background into more consumer spaces.

The magic of peanut butter and jelly

The concept of bringing design/innovation together with business analytics and strategy was new when I joined McKinsey as a design director four years ago. A lot of companies were trying it, with mixed results. The challenge and opportunity was for McKinsey to set an example: truly lead and pioneer this blending of the design and business toolkits.

As Derrick Kiker, partner and visionary for bringing design into McKinsey, has said, “the magic is in truly mixing the peanut butter (design) and jelly (business)…”. If we are able to disrupt ourselves by infusing more design and innovation into the firm, we can apply our methods to help clients grow and disrupt themselves in new ways. It’s been extremely rewarding to work closely with others on this challenge.

Design is no longer an experiment here. We’ve shifted to commodifying how design can drive great impact in all our client work.

For example, I’ve been working on a design transformation for a North American appliance company for the last year and a half. This company saw double-digit growth for 35 years after being founded 40 years ago, but in the last 5 years the market became more saturated and growth halted. They weren’t innovating at the same pace. The underlying challenge was that they lost touch with their consumers and they were struggling to reach millennials.

We started with a strategy engagement where we identified white spaces for the company to grow. Then, we moved into design to value in an effort to improve their product lines, and that led to product development. We’re starting to see that come to fruition now as the next wave of products that we’ve designed and shaped are on the market. Now, we’re talking about how to improve their sustainability. This project shows how design can truly have an impact in so many ways.

Entrepreneurial spirit

McKinsey has about 300 designers around the world. As an expert associate partner, I’m able to reach, influence, and inspire the next wave of design leaders, whether they stay with McKinsey or choose to go elsewhere.

Truly, the best part of my experience has been the people at McKinsey. There’s a strong entrepreneurial spirit here, and so many brilliant colleagues, partners, and senior partners to learn from and collaborate with. I’ve found a cohort of technologists who I share passions with, and we chase the kinds of work we want to do together.

Laying new roots in the Windy City

McKinsey represents challenge and stretch in other ways. I loved the challenge of building an innovation capability in Chicago, finding the right people, and creating the right culture. On a personal level, the opportunity meant moving my family from the east coast to Chicago.

This challenge of laying new roots in a new city was exciting and something we embraced. We are still die–hard Red Sox fans, but otherwise we have embraced Chicago and everything it has to offer. It’s been an incredibly rewarding ride.

The biggest growth I’ve experienced personally since I started is that I learned to prioritize ruthlessly with a greater level of focus than I had before I got here. It’s helped me take a hard look at what my values are in life–my family, my health and my work.

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About Scott

Scott is a McKinsey designer and expert associate partner, specializing in the pharmaceuticals and medical products industry. Prior to joining McKinsey, he was a senior industrial designer and program manager at Farm Design, a healthcare innovation consultancy. Based in Chicago, Scott has an MBA in entrepreneurship and marketing from Babson College, and a bachelor's in industrial design from the University of Cincinnati.

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