Jennifer Kilian Utilizes Empathy to Drive Creativity

Jennifer Kilian is Vice President of Digital at McKinsey where she leads the McKinsey Digital Labs design team as they aim to infuse design into better business practices. She was interviewed by Doreen Lorenzo for Fast Co. Design as a part of a series of interviews with women in the design industry.

Kilian was drawn to design by her yearning for a deeper understanding of humans in order to craft better real-world situations for them. Her time spent leading design teams for companies and agencies gave her a broader perspective towards innovation and empathy. And along the way, she learned that her design work was not an extension of herself, but an extension of the people she was designing for.

For Kilian today, design means “freedom from the past and the opportunity to create a new future.” In the past she would she would have defined design as a problem needing solving, but now she speaks excitedly of design having evolved towards limitless opportunities, including as the collaborative development of long-term relationships with people through products services and experiences.

Kilian touched on how being a woman affects her career. Although empathy and integrative thinking are strengths that have made her job easier, she must still contend with traditional gender role bias. She does note that those types of difficulties are changing for the better, and she assumes roles of leadership confidently and creatively.

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