Meet Eleanor Morgan, the chief product officer striving for collaboration—not consensus
We’re thrilled to welcome Eleanor Morgan to the InVision team as Chief Product Officer. She comes to us from Casper, where she was Chief Experience Officer and led all aspects of the company’s digital experience and operational software, helping to guide the company to one of Fast Company‘s “Most Innovative.” She polished her strategic acumen through 10+ years at IDEO, guiding dozens of other companies through digital and customer experience transformations. She’s a hybrid product and design leader, mission-driven, and a builder above all else, and we’re thrilled to introduce her to our readers. Here, Inside Design editor Liz Steelman talks to Eleanor about what shaped her leadership style, her thoughts on how Covid has changed digital product development, and the key difference between collaboration and consensus:
What is the biggest shift you’ve noticed in digital product creation in the past five years? In the last year?
Eleanor Morgan: There are two big intersecting shifts.
First, design has broadened from a deep, single craftsperson discipline to a more upstream, cross-functional “design thinking” process. Any company that doesn’t realize that design is a strategic activity now is woefully behind. Companies that strategically leverage design are taking over the world. It’s not just happening in the obvious design-driven categories like retail, travel, and hospitality. Even in traditionally design-lagging categories like healthcare (with companies like One Medical, Oscar), financial services (with companies like Square, Stripe), and enterprise software (with companies like Slack, Zoom) we’re seeing design become a competitive advantage. Across categories, companies are now hiring Chief Experience Officers, Chief Design Officers, or heads of product and design at the senior most-levels.
The second intersecting shift is that digital experience is becoming the central customer experience. Digital experience is no longer just one of the touchpoints in a multi- or omni-channel experience. Going forward, it will be the anchor point for all customer interactions, whether that be in-person or via a call center. And while more companies have been digitally transforming in this way for the last decade, coronavirus has exponentially accelerated this trend in the past five months.
Together, these two shifts have expanded the universe of collaborators around digital product design. More roles, disciplines, and skillsets—from developers, product managers, writers, legal teams, marketing, design operations, store designers, retail staff, GMs, executives—are being integrated into the digital design process than ever before. I can’t think of a more exciting category to be in, or a more impactful opportunity than to help create the future tools that support this new kind of collaboration.
I am probably biased since I’m a fellow InVisioner, but you’ve modeled great leadership since your first day. What has impacted your idea of leadership?
EM: I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great role models and many cycles on different types of teams. At the most essential level, a lot of what I’ve learned about leadership can be credited to playing competitive sports growing up and through college. I learned so much about how to be a good teammate, how to handle wins and losses, how to maintain focus and optimism, how to take responsibility, how to lead through adversity, and how to grow a team. I often say that if the design and tech industry disappeared tomorrow and I had to choose another job, I’d probably be a coach. I think sports are one of the best training grounds for leaders—especially female leaders—and coaches have an outsized impact.
I feel like “collaboration” is a word that gets thrown around a lot. It can almost feel like a cliché at times. What reminds you of the true meaning of collaboration?
EM: To me the most effective collaboration is when:
- You can celebrate your differences and leverage them to make your work better (i.e. you lean into diversity)
- You experience “creative combustion,” or sparking new ideas as a result of working with each other (i.e. you are actively listening and building off of each other’s thinking)
- You can’t tell where one person’s idea ends and another’s begins—and it doesn’t matter (i.e. you are working so fluidly together it’s impossible to separate authorship)
One of the hardest, but most important leadership skills to cultivate is knowing how to facilitate great collaboration, understand how it differs from consensus, and then leverage it toward better decisions. To me, collaboration yields better inputs into decisions and creates better work. It is greater than the sum of its parts. On the other hand, consensus is just averaging out everyone’s opinions. I think confusing these concepts can be the death of truly exceptional collaboration.
LS: What are you most excited about in this new phase of your career?
EM: In every phase of my career, my goal is to grow and learn from everyone around me, so I’m excited to be at a company that has “humility” and “relentless self-development” as two of its cultural principles.
I’m also excited to help a company grow better, not just bigger. Not only are we building amazing things, but our goal is to build them with a central goal of operational efficiency and excellence. I find that incredibly energizing. Efficiency can often be misconstrued as just cost-related optimizations, but it’s so much more than that. Teams working well together are efficient. Teams with strategic clarity are efficient. People passionately doing the jobs they were meant to do is efficient. Efficiency is the result of so many parts of a company working together in lock step towards a shared goal. Efficiency can be beautiful, and I’m excited to help drive towards this alignment.
Lastly, I’m excited to be a part of a community that’s intentionally pioneering how to work together when we’re physically apart. Building great culture is a passion of mine, and I’m so happy to apply what I’ve learned around team culture into a new environment, and push forward what it means to be a fully-remote company.