Doreen Lorenzo is the former president of global creative firms frog design and Quirky. She has advised Fortune 100 companies on design and innovation issues for decades. She is an ardent believer in the advantages of “soft skills” like empathy and humor in business. She speaks at industry conferences, at private events, and to the media about her experience using these often overlooked skills to understand and motivate creative people. Lorenzo also speaks about women in leadership and coaches aspiring women leaders to help them find their own paths to success. She writes a monthly column for Fast Company highlighting female designers. While president of frog design, Lorenzo drove company strategy, oversaw worldwide operations and delivery, and led the iconic design firm to record growth. Most recently, she was president of Quirky, where she oversaw product development and operations for this fast-growing company. Lorenzo has been featured in ABC News, Bloomberg Radio, Fast Company, Fortune, and The New York Times, among others. She served as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies and Emerging Multi Nationals.
The Difference Between Good And Great | In general, being great requires a great talent. You can fake a lot of things and get away with a lot of things, but you can’t fake talent and knowledge. Some can have a great talent and never get anywhere, either because you don’t have the ambition to make the attempt or lack the stamina that it often takes to get recognized, or the simple good luck of meeting someone of influence who recognizes your talent and can do something about it.
The Characteristics Of Success | I had no formal business background. In school, I studied theatre and film. Very early I discovered I was good at managing the creative process. I’ve always thought that my academic background in the liberal arts honed a native ability to read people, manage people, and think critically about things and be comfortable with complexity and ambiguity. As it turned out, others saw all this as a valuable talent, and I made my way up the executive la der. Which is not to say that I didn’t encounter a fair amount of skepticism along the way.
Principles I Live By | Treat people well. Stay true to your values. Be honest and open with others. Follow your internal moral compass and do what is right, not what convention tells you to do.
Critical Skills I Develop | The old cliché “knowledge is power” is true. It helps to know things, especially more things than anyone else. It’s also important to fearlessly acquire knowledge by asked questions of those who might have more of it than you do—and knowing who those people might be. A logical mind helps. An ability to solve problems helps. A willingness to do the grunge work helps. An ability to look beyond the obvious for solutions is probably the most valuable attribute to have because it’s the rarest. Finally, there’s a certain level of courage to do the hard things—like ending a process that you know is going to end in failure. It is also important to understand your limitations. You team up with people who are great at what you are not and you learn from them along the way.
How I Use My Mind | Lately, I’ve been talking about using empathy and one’s emotional intelligence—to achieve one’s leadership goals. This is something I have always intuitively done, without ever realizing it as a tactic or strategy. It’s just something that came naturally to me. And I did it in the teeth of a lot of contrary opinion and counsel. It took me a while to realize that here was something that could benefit others—especially women, who come by these skills naturally as a consequence of our sex, but who are often advised by mentors—as I was—to do my best to repress them and learn to act like a man.
Performing At My Peak | The trick is to know when you are at your peak and when you aren’t. It’s often hard to do because it’s so easy to dismiss the gathering clouds of an approaching thunderstorm until it’s too late. The scouts have it right: be prepared. Be mentally ready for anything. Whenever possible, have a plan B. Practice non-complacency. You might not always be at your peak when you need to be, but be mentally ready to ramp up when required.
The Meaning Of Life | I don’t think there’s an objective answer to that—or one that we can ever know. We make our own meaning, and even there, we might not know what it is till long after we’ve ceased caring about it.
Advice On Building Wealth | Probably not to worry about growing rich and building wealth. Stick to doing what you like to do, or what you’re good at, and try to get better and better at it. Try not to get too obsessed over things, stay true to yourself, enjoy the sights along the way, and be content where that road takes you. Personally, I just don’t see that the single-minded effort to get rich is all that ennobling.
On Inspiring Others | Most times, you just stumble upon great people. The key is to recognize that and not be intimidated that they might be smarter than you. You keep them by understanding what they need to do a great job and what you need to do to help them doing a great job. The good times are going to be easy. It’s when things go bad and difficulties arise that you have to step up and provide the motivation to keep going, that the goal is worth attaining, and conveying the confidence that you know how to attain it.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I’m not sure that’s up to me. Maybe it’s more about dying happy that you accomplished something, or felt that you accomplished something, whether it was being a good mother, or spouse, or friend, or a woman who exceeded her own expectations. I’ve been blessed with a very successful career, doing very interesting things, meeting a lot of very interesting people, and learning a lot along the way that I can share with others. That should be enough.