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Lead a Creative China 2030 is a year-long creative leadership program aimed at nurturing executives whose aspiration is to transform China’s economy. First of its kind, the program equips participants with creative tools and mindsets including design thinking, creative leadership and business innovation required to lead and navigate this significant change.

Offered by world-leading design company, IDEO and esteemed academic institution, Tsinghua University through its PBC School of Finance and Academy of Arts & Design, participants benefit not only from these organisations’ combined repertoire of design and business insights and expertise, participants also benefit from access to their global network of pedigree contacts.

The program is unique in setting the levels of practical outcomes it is to deliver. Firstly, at the individual level, it is cultivating a generation of creative and purpose-driven leaders. Secondly, at the organization level, it is elevating design to become a core competitive edge for Chinese companies; and thirdly, at a societal level, it is enabling the country’s transformation from “Made in China” to “Created in China”.

The inaugural class, which kicked off in January 2018, attracted more than 30 participants, aged 27 to 61, from privately and publicly-owned enterprises, across 12 industries, and from nine regions around China. From the founder of a 27-year-old manufacturing company that matured with China’s economy to the CEO of a FinTech startup at C-series funding, the class is a dynamic cohort of bright minds and burning ambitions.

The emerging impact we are seeing is a string of heartening personal transformations. Given the position participants hold in their organisations, the broader business culture in China and therefore the expectations upon these leaders, the most challenging transformation of all to have achieved is understanding the importance of asking the right questions. And most critically, realising that leaders can be the ones asking the questions and not have all the answers.

As China’s economy shifts from manufacturing-led to consumption-led, business leaders, whose past experiences are centered around maximizing efficiency so they can deliver faster and cheaper, are challenged to chart their own paths. Having a cohort of creatively confident business leaders who deliver positive impact through design, who know how to unleash the potential of others and are skilled at maximizing and perpetuating an organization’s capability to innovate is indispensable.

The first cohort graduated in January 2019. The length and the commitment needed for this program is a testament to our intent to offer a global notion of innovative growth and creativity that balances elements from the East and the West, while integrating the best of thinking from the investment, design and innovation communities. Yet it is less an end and more a beginning. Through the past months of studying together, a community of enlightened leaders has emerged; not only are they taking their own selves as leaders, their companies and industries to the next level, they are also willing to play a significant role in helping the next class and cohort to be successful.

“We wanted to create a way to bring together the nation’s business executives to connect with each other and arm them with tools, mindset to be future-fit, for business success and the greater good for the society. It is why the nature of the program is focused on individual leadership, their businesses, and helping participants understand the connection between the momentous force of business and societal impact by exploring ideas like circular economy, design for augmented intelligence, and new forms of radical collaboration. Fundamentally, we hope we can equip the next generation of China’s business leaders with the ability to creatively problem-solve in an era where the right questions matter more than having the right answers,” says Charles Hayes, Partner at IDEO and one of the principal instigators of Lead a Creative China 2030.