Ayse Birsel: A Multicultural Individual Who Thinks Logically As Well As Creatively

Ayse Birsel

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The award-winning designer Ayse (pronounced Eye-Shay) Birsel is the author of Design the Life You Love and the design process that underlies it, Deconstruction: Reconstruction™. She founded the design and innovation studio BIRSEL+SECK based in New York City with her husband and partner Bibi Seck. She is one of the Fast Company’s Most Creative People 2017, on the Thinkers50 Radar list of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of organizations and she lectures on “Design the Work You Love” to corporations around the world.

Creativity and Logic Co-Existing Together Makes the Difference

I think differently. I’m a problem solver and I break problems down to put together new solutions. I am a visual thinker, a woman who is multicultural and who can think logically as well as creatively. I’m also a systems thinker and I’ve been working with Fortune 500 companies and their leaders—from Herman Miller to Toyota to GE—for many years. All these together make me a different thinker. I teach my process, Deconstruction: Reconstruction™, to our clients, to their leaders and their teams, and even to their end-users so that we can all collaborate and think differently to solve tough problems together. These qualities make me who I am and make me love what I do.

Influenced Tremendously Impacted the Leadership

The person who has had a tremendous impact on me as a leader is Marshall Goldsmith, known as the world’s number one leadership coach. One of the most transformational things Goldsmith taught me is based on an anecdote. I had just interviewed Goldsmith for my podcast, Design the Life You Love, and I was telling him that I have a big talk coming up.

Ayse Birsel Quotes

Goldsmith said that he had recently given a talk to 20,000 people and said, “I’ve done so many talks, but 20,000 is a big audience. I wanted them to be happy. And then I realized this is not something I can control. I reminded myself that the only thing I can control is to be happy. So I went on stage really happy to be with all these people. And it was one of my best talks and I had a standing ovation. When you go do your talk remember the only thing you can control is you—go out there and be happy.” There are many things Goldsmith has taught me but this one is one of my favorite. In order not to forget Goldsmith’s lesson, my first slide of all my talks now says only one word, happiness. For more, I recommend reading any one of his bestsellers, like What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, or How Women Rise, with Sally Helgesen.

Innovative-Trio Programs for assisting the clients’

BIRSEL+SECK is a design and innovation firm based in New York. We bring simplicity, systems-thinking and user-centered empathy to the complex problems of life, work, experiences, products, and business. We co-design with our clients and their users.

Our programs are:

  • Design the Work You Love: Doing a job you love can fundamentally accelerate your success. This program will give you agency to imagine your best work and radically transform your professional performance by doing more of what you love.
  • Design the Team You Love: Great teams and strong collaborations are the secret sauce of leading, innovative corporations. Here are strategies for leading and participating in highly collaborative teams that believe in the power of a shared purpose.
  • Design the Products You Love: Our customized innovation program for developing breakthrough concepts adapted to different industries, from automotive to office systems to aging.

Simple Process Solving Highly Complex Problems

Our process is simple enough to be learned by anyone but can be applied to highly complex problems. This is what makes us stand out in the market. Our long-term plans are to bringing our train-the-trainer and licensing programs to more of our clients so that they can incorporate our process into their innovation programs.

Design the Life you Love

My craziest idea is my book and program, Design the Life You Love. It is about applying the design process to one’s life, which I consider as our biggest project. It started as an experiment and today thousands of people across the world have designed their lives and work using it, ages 13 to 90+. And it has designed my life and work too.

Be Confident and Break the Stereotypes

  • To be fearless, not perfect. Sticking to an idea and completing it is more valuable than diverging and losing yourself in possible ideas in search of perfection and running out of time. This is a lesson I teach my graduate students at School of Visual Arts. Marshall and Sally Helgesen make a similar point in How Women Rise that they call, the perfection trap.
  • Be visible. There was an amazing article published, Picture a Leader. Is She a Woman? When executives imagine leaders, they—women and men—draw men. According to the article the solution lies in more people being exposed to women in leadership positions. I want the next generation of women leaders to be visible so that together we can change this stereotype.
  • Be both, not either, or. As a woman leader I often find myself in an either, or, situation and find that the best answer is to bring opposites together and be both—you can be feisty and elegant; you can be a mom and a professional; you can be a caregiver and think about yourself and be self-centered; you can be independent and collaborative.

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