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Saudi Uproar, Tencent Music, Tesla Milestone: CEO Daily for October 12, 2018

Good morning.

“Design is just changing a product to do a better job.”

So said Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi last night, in explaining how she and Chief Design Officer Mauro Porcini used design thinking to change the culture at Pepsi. Nooyi, who stepped down as CEO just 10 days ago, and Porcini were guests at a Brainstorm Design dinner in New York, hosted by Wallpaper, Time and Fortune (WTF, for short).

Nooyi said after she became CEO in 2006, she quickly concluded “our products tasted great, but on the shelf they didn’t look inviting.” So she hired Porcini, who had been at 3M, to bring change. Since then, he has steadily expanded the design staff he oversees to encompass not just packaging, but the entire customer experience. “Packaging is a very small part of the story,” Nooyi said.

Porcini said that many people in the company were initially resistant to the design approach, having been trained as managers to focus on efficiency. “Design is inefficient by definition,” he said. “Innovation is inefficient by definition.”

But over time, the design approach has embedded itself in the Pepsi culture, influencing far flung things like the way the company introduces new products to retailers, or the experience it creates at the Super Bowl each year.

Asked how many big companies truly understand the power of design to create business value, Nooyi said: “If it’s 15%, I’d be shocked.” Porcini is convinced the percentage will grow over time, as companies come to understand that using design principles to recreate their products and services can help defend them against the threat of disruption.

Still don’t get the value of design thinking in creating great companies? Then you may want to consider attending our Brainstorm Design event in Singapore next March 5-7. Details here.

Have a great weekend. More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

Saudi Uproar

Business leaders are starting to properly react to the disappearance and reported death of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. First, Richard Branson pressed pause on two tourism projects in Saudi Arabia and suspended talks about Saudi investments in his space ventures, and now Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has pulled out of a major business conference in the kingdom, whose sovereign wealth fund is a major investor in Uber. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and Arianna Huffington have also withdrawn from the Future Investment Initiative shindig, and the New York Times has pulled its sponsorship. CNN

Tencent Music

The current market turmoil has reportedly led Tencent to postpone the IPO for its music-streaming business, until November at the earliest. Tencent Music feared the selloff (which seems to have abated for now in Asian and European markets) could undermine its pricing. Wall Street Journal

Tesla Milestone

Good news for Elon Musk, and President Donald Trump for that matter: Tesla outsold Mercedes-Benz during the July-September period in the U.S., according to Atherton Research’s Jean Baptiste Su. Su also reckons Tesla could outsell BMW in the current quarter, as its sort-of-reasonably-priced Model 3 grabs more customers. USA Today

Cryptocurrency Plunge

The cryptocurrency scene had another scarlet day for no apparent reason, with its total market cap falling by $6.72 billion in the 24 hours up to 11.30 p.m. Eastern Time. XRP (better known as Ripple, though they get annoyed if you refer to the virtual coin thusly) led the decline, with a fall of almost 8%. Ethereum was also down more than 7%. Bitcoin got off relatively lightly with a 0.8% drop. CNBC

Around the Water Cooler

Brexit Deal?

British Prime Minister Theresa May told her Cabinet that the U.K. is close to striking a Brexit deal with the EU. It’s certainly the end-game for something—euroskeptic ministers may quit if she agrees to keep the U.K. in a “temporary” but effectively indefinite customs union with the EU. The European Commission says there’s “no breakthrough yet.” Financial Times

Cosmetic Changes

Estée Lauder, a minority investor in the Toronto-based skincare firm Deciem—which makes a cult line called The Ordinary—is trying to have its co-CEO ousted. Brandon Truaxe announced via Instagram on Monday that Deciem’s stores would be shuttered and “almost everyone at Deciem has been involved in major criminal activity.” Estée Lauder is not amused. Vox

Billions Less

This week’s stock market turmoil snatched billions of dollars from the wallets of some very wealthy people—particularly those in the tech world. Here’s a rundown of how it hit the likes of Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Larry Page. Fortune

Ballmer On Voting

Former Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer writes for Fortune that Americans voting in the midterms crave impartial data to help guide their choices. To that end, Ballmer and his wife Connie’s USAFacts service has launched a “Voter Center” to list congressional candidates’ positions next to “charts and data on how the country is doing on that issue.” Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.