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Why Mauro Porcini Believes in the Power of People in Love with People

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 12/20/2022 | 5 Minute Read

Don’t call them consumers—they’re human beings.

Innovation is an act of love. 

A process is only a tool.

These are just some of the insights you’ll find in the pages of Mauro Porcini’s new book, The Human Side of Innovation: The Power of People in Love with People.

Born in Italy, Mauro joined Phillips Design in Milan after receiving his education and later started his own design firm, Wisemad. He would work for 3M for a decade as a design manager until joining the global food and beverage company PepsiCo in New York, where he’s their senior vice president and chief design officer. He’s passionate about design and many other things as well, like fashion, art, and writing. As a creative person, he knew he would one day write a book—he just had to wait until everything in his life fell into place to make it happen.

“The right moment was when I had the time, but mostly the peace of mind to be there, to write a book and enjoy the act of writing,” Mauro said. Mauro has taken notes throughout his professional life, documenting his successes and failures, but he knew a book would require serious attention. “That moment arrived a few years ago when I found stability in my personal life. I found my significant other, my partner, Carlotta, and we started to talk about having kids. I was also in the middle of my PepsiCo journey. My credibility was established, and design was getting a lot of traction inside the company. Something was working with the connection of all these things in my personal and professional life.”

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As the title of his book implies, Mauro firmly believes that long-lasting innovation doesn’t come about strictly from data, tools, or financial analysis; instead, it comes from visionaries who have a deep love for humanity. These ideal innovators aren’t only designers. "They can be CEOs or scientists, designers or marketers, lawyers or singers, caregivers or sales reps, governors or writers,” he mentioned. No matter what their title, they create with people in mind.

Mauro’s book is part memoir, part handbook for anyone who wants to make a personal and social impact. These innovators—unicorns, as Mauro calls them—have qualities that set them apart. These are characteristics he not only values in himself but in those he works with, those he hires, and those that inspire him. It’s quite a hefty list, and these skills won't always come naturally to someone. Mauro admitted that the ability to dream and to bring those dreams to life, as well as kindness and optimism, always came naturally to him, while the ability to sit back and listen with humility is one he gained through years of work and experience. Unicorns have their innate gifts but also nurture the ones that don’t come as naturally.

Mauro also details the principles of good design in his book, another extensive list he’s developed while at his previous workplaces and PepsiCo. Particularly striking is his mention that “there is no such thing as ‘good design’ in absolute terms; ‘good design’ is absolutely relative.” That only further emphasizes how Mauro sees design as dependent on people and how the best solution hinges on the needs and desires of the person you design for.

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One core set of these principles centers on sustainability, in all aspects of the term. That incorporates sides of sustainability that people may not often consider, such as aesthetic sustainability—harmonious, pleasing to the senses, and without any redundancy—or intellectual sustainability—design is accessible, intuitive, and user-friendly. But Mauro naturally covers the more talked-about sustainability that includes social, financial, and environmental—that final one, in particular, posing quite a challenge to a company as large as PepsiCo.

Last year they announced the pep+ initiative, and Mauro and his team continue to evolve packaging to make reusable options more popular among their fans (like with SodaStream Professional and the customizable Gatorade Smart Gx Bottle that tracks the hydration data for an individual). It’s been a bit of a balancing act to find solutions that are good for the environment, safe for consumption, convenient, and ultimately best for the person eating or drinking the product.

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“On one side, companies like PepsiCo are trying to do the right thing,” Mauro said. “They're offering reusable bottles, but people are not embracing them fast enough because they want full convenience. So as designers, we're trying to imagine a new form of value benefit for the end user to push them to buy something good for the environment. If you have an additional value of essentially full customization of the product, eventually, you're going to buy that. So this is an example of what we're doing as a design team and as the company, in general, to push reusability.”

The book is a collection of simple yet insightful truths that act as a kind of manifesto, and it explores how the best innovation focuses on the human experience. But in a digital world (one where Gen Zers never experienced life without a smartphone or the internet), is this human side of innovation at risk?

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“The digitized world is going to connect even more human beings, just in a different way, through a different kind of media,” Mauro said. “The idea of a wall separating countries is so alien, especially to the new generations native to this digital world. More and more in the future, we'll date through apps, we'll do more shopping than we do today, and we'll work and live in this digital world. We’ll be in the Metaverse—as we call it today—connecting with people. But then once we connect with them with the same kinds of emotions that we have in our physical life, we're going to have the same kind of interaction and feelings and disappointments and joys in the digital world.”

Ultimately, it’s all in the subtitle of Mauro’s book: People in Love with People. Designers and dreamers alike can peek into his mind and better understand what experiences and beliefs have shaped him as a person, learning from him along the way.

“I hope the biggest takeaway people have from the book is the importance of love in everything we do,” he said. “There’s the love for the people we serve, we need to make sure that we love what we do, and the love for the people surrounding us, for our colleagues, and the people we want to work with.”