Designing for humanity, not shareholders


In collaboration with our friends at FNDR, we are excited to share FNDR’s Corner – a weekly series of business and cultural provocations that encourages everybody to think like a Founder.

Netflix’s The Social Dilemma is the latest reminder of what happens when businesses seek growth without caring for their customers’ well being. And what it looks like when customers become users, and then become the product and then the raw material for someone else’s product. Despite the confessional nature of the interviews with contrite ex-Facebook and Google whiz kids, an undercurrent of pride ran through many of them. Even as they were admitting to dubious practices you could hear the satisfaction and wonder at the sheer scale of some of the moves they’d made and the number of people they’d affected.

Chasing the American Dream, we’ve misunderstood economic success as human success, building systems around the wrong metrics: We’ve praised business growth, over the basics of the bottom line; we’ve given over control of our data, attention and privacy to technology all for the ease, speed, efficiency and convenience; we’ve used technology to distract us from reality and to service our every want, while ignoring our needs; we’ve outpaced ourselves with the new speed of life and we’re losing our balance, and connection with each other.

What we’ve done to make business succeed, has not protected our humanity along the way. Our collective focus on financial maximization has left human needs behind, and the “human recession” is no longer a theory. We’re in it. Has this innovation created something genuinely new or just solved for a new method of distribution with Amazon, Spotify, and Netflix? Do Instagram or TikTok create connection or just deal in distraction? Have we understood that we’ve crowned new monarchies while forgetting we wanted democracies?

Have we even begun to realize the unintended consequences of it all or the price we are paying with our data? Are we really getting to the “good stuff” in life, in business, and for the world, or have we just created a new set of systems that we are all in service of? We’ve seen technology power a wave of innovation that has created new businesses and entire new industries, with progress unrivaled by any other time in history. But with it, we’ve become obsessed with the scale, and our sole metric has become growth. We’ve lost sight of the fundamentals of good business and created systems designed to maximize shareholder value at the expense of human impact. We’ve crowned new leaders because they could code, not because they had a higher order human ethics or ideals.

With it, we’ve given up so much power to the leaders of the companies who drive so much of our lives, but we don’t understand their intentions or motivations, and they certainly aren’t accountable to us, the consumers. Innovation as we’ve known it is not the true opportunity of the future. Technology has been outpacing the human condition and we need to create a new balance. We need to focus on innovation that not only creates value, but captures value for businesses, shareholders and, most critically, for the people participating in them.

The shift has already started, and we’re seeing it come to life working with some of the Founders creating this next wave. These Founders are not the same — they are not pure technologists, but they understand the human condition — they are focused on designing for empathy, connection and trust. They are building right-sized businesses that are equally as good for the business as the people who will use them. They have a clear human intention and are driven to live up to it.

Three fundamental shifts the Founders of the next wave are creating:


1) A shift from Disruption to Adaptation. Rather than breaking down and reclaiming existing solutions, they are creating new innovation around the way we want to live. If the ethos of the last wave was “move fast and break things”, the ethos of the new wave is “move forward and make things.”

2) A shift from Distribution to Contribution. The first wave created never before seen access and methods of distribution. We have better, easier ways to get to the things we want, but did things fundamentally change? The next wave will succeed by solving for the content itself, not just for the way to get it.

3) And, finally, a shift from Distraction to Interaction. The first wave created platforms to capture our attention and capitalize on us. The next wave needs to live up to its original intent of creating real human connections and interactions — those that bring true value to the end user.

FNDR works with the Founders of the world’s most transformative companies, bringing voice to Founders’ vision and defining culturally relevant, sustainable businesses. They are in direct conversation every week with the leaders who are building the next generation of business. They are fascinated by the shared themes and challenges seen across categories, and what it takes to lead a company intentionally.