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How Weight Watchers and Ford Are ‘Redesigning’ Their Businesses

Companies that specialize in design aren’t just building aesthetically pleasing products like the iPhone or skyscrapers. They are “designing” their businesses and strategies to conform to a constantly changing world.

That’s one takeaway from a discussion of social impact and design during the Fortune CEO Initiative conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Tim Brown, CEO of the global design firm IDEO, believes that “businesses need to get more intentional” in organizing themselves in relation to shifting societal norms or movements.

Consider the potential that self-driving cars may fundamentally change the country’s transportation system. The auto giants recognize the potential change autonomous driving can have on their current business models, and so they’ve been increasingly investing in or partnering with ride-hailing and robotics companies to remain relevant as the world changes, Brown explained.

Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman also discussed how the company had to “redesign” its business in light of changing social norms and shift from being “a leader in weight loss, to a leader of wellness.”

Instead of just focusing on the idea of shedding pounds, Weight Watchers is trying to encourage healthy lifestyles, which includes eating fresh produce. This means that Weight Watchers had to eliminate some 70% of the food products it once made, like its more old-school “food bars” that may have contained artificial sweeteners, which nutritionists now generally frown on.

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“We are going to go out and own the healthy kitchen,” Grossman said of how Weight Watchers is changing, or designing, its business to accommodate a new world and encourage healthy lifestyles.

Clarification: This article was changed from the original to more fully describe IDEO and to be more precise about how automakers are partnering and investing with tech companies.