As the CEO of Creative Navy, a London-based agency that takes an evidence-based approach to UX design and user-interface design, Dennis Lenard combines pragmatic vision with a thorough understanding of research practice. He has coordinated thousands of projects across the globe. His team has provided design-innovative solutions to worldwide companies such as Jaguar, Ford, and Philips, using a structured process in which decisions are grounded in rational methodology and meticulous data review rather than intuition, blind convention, or whim. Dennis has had a diverse education with degrees in law, psychology, economics, and philosophy.
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Table of Contents
Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
Dennis Lenard: As someone who’s very passionate about smart problem solving, I was really thrilled with the outcome of our latest project. Creative Navy built an interface for medical professionals, researchers, and pharmaceutical reps. The experience is designed for complex queries in anonymized mental health records, and its main purpose is to aggregate data in novel ways, which could prove insightful to experts. I hope that this interface will play its part in the discovery of cures for patients with treatment-resistant mental illnesses and other much-needed scientific advancements in the field of mental health.
Ever since I began my journey in the field of UX design, one of my main goals was to work on meaningful projects. It’s always great to know that you’re helping, whether it be in a big or small way.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Dennis Lenard: Before thinking of changing my career path to design, I was working a drab job in marketing in the middle of an economic recession. It definitely didn’t feel smart or safe to make a major change and venture out to pursue a personal endeavor, but I and my partner cheered each other on through the thick and thin.
Back when we started, design was a largely unknown and misunderstood field. It was also mostly guesswork, which made it difficult to properly justify certain decisions. That didn’t sit right with us, and we decided to look somewhere unusual for inspiration: scientists. Their organized and logical processes made us realize that design should also be approached with a scientific mindset. That’s why Creative Navy uses data derived from thorough research practices and cognitive psychology principles to make user-centric digital products.
Thinking back on how much we’ve grown throughout the years, I’m certain I couldn’t have done it without my partner and the entire team. Our current reality was unfathomable to the version of me that quit his job to pursue something new.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
Dennis Lenard: The worst advice I’ve ever received was to focus on the agency’s growth. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s the best course of action.
Granted, the market dynamic favors bigger companies. The bigger you are, the more you can spend on marketing to attract more customers, regardless of the quality of services. This is why a lot of people advocated for growth. While their points are fairly strong, growth for the sake of growth is a short-sighted goal to me.
My long-term goal is to work towards constant improvement. Becoming better is more important than becoming bigger.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Dennis Lenard: To me, resilience is a combination of discipline, perseverance, solidarity, and a sound character. I was privileged enough to spend the pandemic working on myself as a leader, friend, and husband. As the author Viktor Frankl puts it, being in an unchangeable situation pushes us to change ourselves. I like to think that every crisis reveals missed opportunities: to be kinder, to reach out to one another more often, to offer better support. I wanted Creative Navy to be there for its clients. We worked out solutions together and have come out of the entire thing with stronger business relationships.
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision or values?
Dennis Lenard: I believe it’s fairly easy to identify and take up values and visions as an organization, the truly difficult part is fulfilling your mission. At Creative Navy, maintaining sound values and a clear vision is a given, but we care deeply about delivering on our promises.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Dennis Lenard: Meticulousness, discipline, and the courage to pursue what were, to some, unusual goals. I prefer purposeful action to baseless chatter, which is why Creative Navy is also very focused on providing added value to customers.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Dennis Lenard: Nowadays people care about more than just whether you can solve their problems. They want to work with businesses that have a similar ethos, that is in tune with their values, and they will end up researching the CEO.
We’re living in the leader as an influencer era. The best example that comes to mind is Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments. His approach to running his business and the way he tends to the relationship with his employees is very impressive. I honestly wish there were more CEOs like Dan around.
How would you define “leadership”?
Dennis Lenard: To me, leadership means taking responsibility for the people in your organization, your clients, and your community. I value the interpersonal aspects of leadership above all else. I pride myself on fostering a culture built on empathy and dedication to the work at hand.
Do you think entrepreneurship is something that you’re born with or something that you can learn along the way?
Dennis Lenard: I think anyone can learn anything they set their mind to. I’m a believer in the strength of human potential. While I admit that some people may be naturally inclined towards certain professions, this mere inclination will never be able to compete with hard work and dedication.
Entrepreneurship is a learning process. If you come in thinking you have all the answers, I’m afraid you’ll end up feeling quite overwhelmed.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Dennis Lenard: I always come back to Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena”:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
This quote has helped me understand the importance of trying and persevering. I guess in maturing as a leader, I’ve had to understand that failed attempts are prerequisites for success. It’s important to build on our mistakes and move forward no matter what. Every time I read this quote, I renew my hope and my motivation. It’s one of my all-time favorites.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Dennis Lenard for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Dennis Lenard or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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