The 10 Most Inspiring Business Leaders, 2018

Tim Kobe: Designing Meaningful Human Experiences For The World’s Most Beloved Brands

Tim Kobe Eight Inc.

Established in 1989, the globally recognized provider of extraordinary designs and an award-winning strategic design firm, Eight Inc. (8) has been the forefront of innovation creating ground-breaking experiences for the most beloved brands. Having its 30th anniversary in 2019, Eight Inc. will celebrate its vast journey of success with its 11 studios across the world.

Mirror Review interacts with Tim Kobe, the Founder, and CEO of Eight Inc. In this exclusive chat, Tim expresses his valuable views about being a good leader and his astonishing journey of leading Eight Inc. Here are the excerpts.

Who is your ideal leader?

An ideal leader for me possesses qualities that we see in and learn from others like the visionary approach of Steve Jobs, inspiration of Richard Branson, wisdom of Robert Mondavi, and creativity of Achilie Castiglioni. There is always something more to improve and all these qualities are particularly difficult for one individual to possess, because leadership is contextual, and changes dynamically according to people and objectives we meet and interact with. Even great leaders can only aspire to be better. Being better is a combination of strength and softness, fast and slow movements, and aggressive and patient decisions. Often, it is a struggle to balance these bi-polar needs. The focus should be on areas where there are opportunities to improve the dynamics of the team and retain a continuous learning mentality every day.

What are the qualities of a good leader?

It’s obvious to say that a great leader manages to bring the best out of each team member. The challenge is inspiring them to achieve more than they may have imagined and provide the unique combination of trust, challenge, growth, and satisfaction for each employee. A great leader demonstrates deference to the team’s success over the success of an individual or themselves. He makes people feel valuable, trusted, and driven to improvements where they are weak, and provides safe environment to help them become more emotionally intelligent.

As a leader, what are the challenges faced by you and how did you conquer them?

The biggest challenge is change. To conquer change, one should use the application of learning and recognize the need to transform without making a negative impact of decisions. Change is a difficult human condition, but it is often necessary and enables the success that drives the organization.

Tell us something about your team? What is the importance of a team for a leader?

At8, our team structure is designed to have traditional leadership roles. As we have multiple offices across the globe, we have organized our teams effectively. Some employees on the management side are connected across all offices and some from other teams come together for a project. Their location may change based on the project being undertaken. In such conditions, a team leader is essential for the deliverability of the work being undertaken and to enable a successful relationship with our clients to bring a positive result. Our leaders begin as design interns and grow to become the interface of our collective studios with our exceptional resources and capabilities. Our non-client facing side is focused on the growth and engagement development of the team members. Everyone is offering similar approach to our clients with somewhat unique opportunities to learn from.

How will you define Eight, Inc.?

8 is a unique idea. It is not about an individual, but a group of people who share in a similar belief about design. We created 8 to be a place that attracts the great people who are curious, creative, and emotionally intelligent. The design and considerations for the studio were to ensure that we can deliver quality and successful design outcomes. We built it on three primary principles.

  1. To create things we are most interested in and create great outcomes for things we love.
  2. To do meaningful work with the best possible people.
  3. To be compensated appropriately for the value we create.

8 is neither an agency nor an organization, it’s messy, creative, and dedicated company. We are not interested in employing a stylistic approach to design, but in more real design. We don’t have traditional agency roles. Our work is built on the premise that good design creates positive outcomes for people. Kevin Kaiser at INSEAD has conducted a great deal of research around the topic of value creation and value destruction. Good design creates a positive outcome for people because they intuitively know that it is adding value to their life.  This value-added perspective connects directly with the positive outcomes that result from good design and the experience of it.

Any meaningful design has helped progress the human condition. As a design-led business, progressive thoughts, curiosity, and humility are fundamental to our success. 8 is merely a vehicle for achieving our shared goals to consistently recognize and respond to the challenges of our clients, our business environment, and the world around us.

Which is that one unique quality that differentiates Eight, Inc. from its competitors?

Other than natural elements, there are very few things in the world, which are not designed. In some cases, even natural things are being reformed and redesigned. Design outlines not just our products, but our lives as well. The behaviors, the environments we live in, the products and services, as well as our communications are created by design. If successful living is important, then the design is essential.

We believe complex conditions require small teams of people who can solve complex problems. We are a practice consisting of people focused on creating better human outcomes as the key to design and business outcomes. We design to create real human value and to drive competitive advantage in business.

How do you see the future of your venture over the next decade?

Our practice is built on lifelong learning for all of the individuals in the company. Personal growth and development includes growth and improvement of the group. We are looking for areas to get better every day. In addition to developing our teams, we are dedicated to improve our results. Our business purpose is to progress the human condition with our design rooted in benefits of our clients.

Tell us about the change you wish to implement in the world.

There are no shortages of opportunities for designs to improve the lives of people and how we interact, impact, and improve our relationships with one another in our environment. A key driver for us is to help elevate the perception of design in our world by demonstrating value creation. We believe in an approach to living and creating successful outcomes for people. The act of creating value is fundamental of what design should be able to offer.

What advice you would like to offer to the young leaders?

It is extraordinarily important for young leaders to be clear about why you are engaging in any pursuit. To lead a team, the communication of the belief or purpose of the business is a core responsibility of the leader. Designing an environment of performance and emotional safety is important. Creative teams are inherently sensitive, taught to question, but they should have the emotional capacity to exchange ideas and criticism. From a business structure aspect, it is important to ensure that the framing of organization is intentionally built around delivering an experience to the end user. The purpose of any business is to deliver goods or services that others need or desire. Remember you work for your customers, not the shareholders first and foremost.