Tag Archives: Design Thinking

You Can’t Innovate Without This One Thing

You Can't Innovate Without This One Thing

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

It just landed on your desk. Or maybe you campaigned to get it. Or perhaps you just started doing it. How the title of “Innovation Leader” got to your desk doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that it’s there, along with a budget and loads of expectations.

Of course, now that you have the title and the budget, you need a team to do the work and deliver the results.

Who should you look for? The people that perform well in the current business, with its processes, structures, and (relative) predictability, often struggle to navigate the constant uncertainty and change of innovation. But just because someone struggles in the process and structure of the core business doesn’t mean they’ll thrive creating something new.

What are the qualities that make someone a successful innovator?

70 answers

A lot of people have a lot to say about the qualities and characteristics that make someone an innovator. When you combine the first four Google search results for “characteristics of an innovator” with the five most common innovation talent assessments, you end up with a list of 70 different (and sometimes conflicting) traits.

The complete list is at the end of this article, but here are the characteristics that appeared more than once:

  1. Curious
  2. Persistent
  3. Continuously reflective
  4. Creative
  5. Driven
  6. Experiments
  7. Imaginative
  8. Passionate

It’s a good list, but remember, there are 62 other characteristics to consider. And that assumes that the list is exhaustive.

+1 Answer

It’s not. Something is missing.

There is one characteristic shared by every successful innovator I’ve worked with and every successful leader of innovation. It’s rarely the first (or second or third) word used to describe them, but eventually, it emerges, always said quietly, after great reflection and with dawning realization.


Whether you rolled your eyes or pumped your fist at the word made famous by Brene Brown, you’ve no doubt heard it and formed an opinion about it.

Vulnerability is the “quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”  Without it, innovation is impossible.

Innovation requires the creation of something new that creates value. If something is new, some or all of it is unknown. If there are unknowns, there are risks. Where there are risks, there is the possibility of being wrong, which opens you up to attack or harm.

When you talk to people to understand their needs, vulnerability allows you to hear what they say (versus what you want them to say).

In brainstorming sessions, vulnerability enables you to speak up and suggest an idea for people to respond to, build on, or discard.

When you run experiments, vulnerability ensures that you accurately record and report the data, even if the results aren’t what you hoped.

Most importantly, as a leader, vulnerability inspires trust, motivates your team, engages your stakeholders, and creates the environment and culture required to explore, learn, and innovate continuously.

n + 1 is the answer

Just as you do for every job in your company, recruit the people with the skills required to do the work and the mindset and personality to succeed in your business’ context and culture.

Once you find them, make sure they’re willing to be vulnerable and support and celebrate others’ vulnerability. Then, and only then, will you be the innovators your company needs.

Here’s the full list of characteristics:

  1. Action-oriented, gets the job done
  2. Adaptable
  3. Ambitious
  4. Analytical, high information capacity, digs through facts
  5. Associative Thinker, makes uncommon connections
  6. Breaks Boundaries, disruptive
  7. Business minded
  8. Collaborative
  9. Compelling Leader
  10. Competitive
  11. Consistent
  12. Continuously reflects (x3)
  13. Courageous
  14. Creative (x3)
  15. Curious (x4), asks questions, inquisitive, investigates
  16. Delivers results, seeks tangible outcomes
  17. Disciplined
  18. Divergent Thinker
  19. Driven (x3)
  20. Energetic
  21. Experiments (x2)
  22. Financially oriented
  23. Flexible, fluid
  24. Formally educated and trained
  25. Futuristic
  26. Giving, works to benefit others, wants to make the world better
  27. Goal-oriented
  28. Has a Growth mindset
  29. Highly confident
  30. Honest
  31. Imaginative (x2)
  32. Influential, lots of social capital
  33. Instinctual
  34. Intense
  35. Iterating between abstract and concrete thinking
  36. Learns through experiences
  37. Likes originality, seeks novelty
  38. Loyal
  39. Motivated by change, open to new experiences
  40. Networks, relates well to others
  41. Observes
  42. Opportunistic mindset, recognizes opportunities
  43. Opportunity focused
  44. Passionate (x2)
  45. Patient
  46. Persistent (x4)
  47. Persuasive
  48. Playful
  49. Pragmatic
  50. Proactive
  51. Prudent
  52. Rapidly recognizes patterns
  53. Resilient
  54. Resourceful
  55. Respects other innovators
  56. Seeks understanding
  57. Self-confident
  58. Socially intelligent
  59. Stamina
  60. Takes initiative
  61. Takes risks
  62. Team-oriented
  63. Thinks big picture
  64. Thrives in uncertainty
  65. Tough
  66. Tweaks solutions constantly
  67. Unattached exploration
  68. Visionary
  69. Wants to get things right
  70. Willing to Destroy

And the sources:

Image Credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

What You Must Know Before Leading a Design Thinking Workshop

What You Need to Know Before Leading a Design Thinking Workshop

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Leading a design thinking workshop can completely transform your company for the better. According to the 71% of brands that champion design thinking, making a shift to a design-centered mindset will dramatically improve productivity and work ethic amongst your staff.

Are you ready to take your team to the next level?

If you’re ready to take your team to the next level by leading a design thinking workshop, it’s essential to know the basics of design thinking first. Having a deeper understanding of this human-centered approach will make it easier to get your team on board with this process.

In this article we’ll cover the basics of design thinking and the best way to approach leading a workshop for your team with the following topics:

  • What is Design Thinking?
  • A History of Design Methodology
  • The Six Phases of Design Thinking
  • Leading a Design Thinking Workshop

Understanding Design Thinking

Design thinking is a creative problem-solving method that centers on the needs of the end-user, by considering them first when creating products or services. When you authentically understand the wants and needs of the consumer, you can develop successful products and services they value and use to improve their lives.

Ultimately, a design thinking approach helps you understand the experience of the end-user by adopting the end user’s mindset and creating your product or service from this perspective.

A History of Design Thinking

The human-centered design process is an extension of the design thinking methodology. Though scientists, creatives, scholars, analysts, and engineers have studied this methodology for the past several years, the idea to apply a design mindset to problem-solving as a business strategy didn’t exist until the cognitive scientist and Nobel Prize laureate Herbert A. Simon coined the term in 1969. Simon explained the modern idea of design as an applicable way of thinking about business in his book, The Sciences of the Artificial.


Since Simon began the conversation about the design thinking methodology, many academic elites and experts have adopted this concept and expanded upon it. Yet one thing remains the same: the user should be at the core of any design process. The human-centered process is an exploration of how to accurately and innovatively create a product or service that satisfies consumers’ wants and needs.

“We must design for the way people behave, not for how we would wish them to behave.” –Donald A. Norman, Living with Complexity

Women with Laptop Pexels

The Six Phases of Design Thinking

Let’s take a look at the six phases of the human-centered design process to learn how to create with purpose as you prepare for leading a design thinking workshop.

1. Observe & Understand Users’ Behavior

The first phase of the design thinking process is to observe and understand the end user’s behavior to learn as much as possible about their needs. This allows you to better understand the people you are designing for as you approach problem-solving from their perspective. Doing so will allow you to deeply empathize with them and identify opportunities to better cater to and address these issues.

By identifying the end user’s behavioral patterns you’ll have a clearer understanding of what your customers enjoy and what they are dissatisfied with. This phase allows for greater innovation as you build trust and connect to your consumers.

Women Collaboration Pexels

2. Ideation

The ideation phase focuses on brainstorming new solutions based on what you learned by observing the end-user. Remember to stay focused on a human-centered design process while generating ideas. The use of divergent thinking is critical in this stage to foster creativity and generate as many ideas as possible.

In the ideation phase, everything is fair game. For example, instead of worrying about the details of how your potential ideas will work, focus on “why not?”

There are no right or wrong answers, only potential creative solutions to the problems you’ve identified. When you prioritize the needs and desires of the people you are creating for, you’ll arrive at the most successful solutions that you’ll continue to refine through the rest of the design thinking process.

3. Prototype

Now that you have potential solutions, it’s time to bring your best ideas to life with rapid prototypes. In this phase, you’ll test your ideas in real-time with real people to get their feedback. Rapid prototypes are quick and easy versions of the ideas you want to create. Their role is to ensure that your vision is on target and it allows you space to make amendments based on feedback before you make the final product.

This experimental phase isn’t about perfection. The goal is to create a quick, tangible prototype so that you can test it.

Group of People Whiteboarding Pexels

4. Feedback

In the feedback phase of the design process, you’ll test your prototype. This is perhaps the most vital part of the human-centered design process as it will determine whether or not your idea works for the people you are designing for.

Get your prototype in the hands of your target consumer and ask them: how and why does this product/service achieve or fail to reach your needs and desires? During this stage, you’ll want to collect as many details as possible from testers as you’ll use this feedback to finalize your solution.

5. Integration

The integration phase of the design thinking process helps you to identify the usefulness of the proposed solution. Consider the feedback you receive and how you can implement it into your design to make it better. This is a fluid process: integrate, test, and repeat until you reach the best version of your idea. Once your solution is fully-fledged and replicable, it’s time to share it.

6. Application

It’s time to send your idea out into the world! During this last stage of the design thinking process, make the final prototype and share it. It’s important to keep an eye on changes in your target audience and their needs and desires as time progresses so that you can make adaptations to your design as necessary.

With each new update, return to phase one and repeat the process for best results. Remember that the user’s needs change over time, so it is important to anticipate future alterations to best serve consumers’ changing needs.

Leading a Design Thinking Workshop

When we approach innovation with a human-centered design process, we are able to empathize with and therefore better understand the end-user and what they truly desire. Everything we create is an extension from t

When we approach innovation with a human-centered design process, we can empathize with and therefore better understand the end-user and what they truly desire. By leading a design thinking workshop, you’ll encourage your team to innovate in this human-centered way. As you create everything from this level of self-awareness, you’ll ultimately develop better products and services as you improve your company and team as well.

Once you have a clear understanding of the design thinking process, you’ll be able to lead your design thinking workshop with your team. Whether your design sprint is a few days or a few hours, a well-executed design thinking workshop will help you keep your customers’ needs top of mind.

Hiring a professional facilitator is one of the best ways to lead a design thinking workshop at your company. At Voltage Control, our team of facilitators is happy to assist you in your design thinking needs. With a clear understanding of this methodology and an effort to lead your team with the same mentality, you’re sure to see the benefits of adopting a design thinking approach.

This article originally appeared on VoltageControl.com, you can find it HERE.

Do you want to learn more about human-centered design?

Voltage Control facilitates design thinking workshops, innovation sessions, and Design Sprints. Please reach out at hello@voltagecontrol.com for a consultation.

Image credits: Pexels, Unsplash

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Problem Seeking 101

Problem Seeking 101 Charles Kettering

GUEST POST from Arlen Meyers

When federal agencies in charge of protecting Americans’ health recommended that there should be a pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine, state health leaders listened and suspended its use. People may experience a mild headache after vaccination. The headaches associated with the blood clot occur one to three weeks after the shot and are more severe.

One expert recommended asking patients, “Is this like headaches you’ve had before? Or is the quality of the headache something that you’ve never experienced before?”

The 12 steps to biomedical innovation starts with being a problem seeker, not a problem solver. Eventually, to be successful, customer problems and solutions need to meld around a VAST business model i.e. one that is not just profitable, but that demonstrates:

1. Validity Regardless or which elements of your model you choose, they have to be valid. In other words, the dogs have to eat the food. When the dog won’t eat the food, you’ll have to change your approach and try again.

2. Automaticity At the very start of planning your venture, you should think about how you are going to work on your business, not in it. Reducing hands on time to manage operations will give you more time to lead the company and create strategies for growth and give you more personal time to enjoy the fruits of your success. Outsourcing, automating or using technologies to ramp up operations, sourcing and distribution is a key part of scaling, and something that investors want to see…which brings us to the next piece.

3. Scalability Your business model is primarily a way to create a business machine that can produce an infinite number of products. Think of it as a device that takes in customers and creates profits out the other end and can do so at quicker and quicker speeds.

4. Time and Traction Finally, your model need to create as much profit as quickly as possible with a growing customer base that is loyal to your brand.

Many doctors, scientists and engineers start with solutions looking for a problem. Some find it or, eventually, as their inventions or technology evolves, markets appear to those who have the talent to see them. The more typical model, and one that is more common among the startup community, is to find a problem and devise a solution.

But, how do you pick the IDEAL opportunity given the almost infinite possibilities? Here are some tips:

I Identify the problem: Seeing a problem is an important skill and core competency of savvy entrepreneurs. It typically is the result of personal experience, primary research talking or watching others or secondary research. Whichever problem you pick, look for ones that:

  1. Will make a very big difference in people’s lives if you solve it
  2. Has the potential to be very profitable or create lots of user defined value, typically at least 10x the value compared to existing offerings or the status quo.
  3. Is something that taps into your passion or satisfies your psychic need
  4. Anticipates future customer/stakeholder wants and needs
  5. Has an extremely high level of market pain and frustration, where customers know they have a problem and have unsuccessfully and repeatedly tried to solve it
  6. Has limited barriers to entry
  7. Has the right potential risk-return profile that matches yours
  8. Is not one dominated by incumbents
  9. Is easy to explain and understand
  10. Someone is willing to pay enough for your solution so that you can make it profitably

Where massive success comes – where a good idea becomes great – is when it meets five simple criteria:

  1. It is the first solution to a problem or gap (it is “innovative”)
  2. It is the first WORKING solution to a problem or gap (it is “innovative and effective”)
  3. It is the most affordable, comparable, option for its market (it is “innovativeeffective and affordable”)
  4. It consistently examines its effectiveness and seeks to improve (it is “innovativeeffectiveaffordableand adaptive”)
  5. It is powerful enough to create a loyal following that naturally wants to – and does – share the idea with others (it is “innovativeeffectiveaffordableadaptive and influential”)

How do you find problems worth solving?

  1. 1. Solve a problem that you already face
  2. 2. Observe a problem and solve it
  3. 3. Anticipate a problem and solve it
  4. 4. Create a problem and solve it
  5. 5. You have a personal stake in solving it
  6. 6. The 3 W’s: Will customers WANT it, is it WORTH it, can you WIN at it?

Identifying a problem starts with identifying a customer archetype that has it. Beyond guessing, identifying that person and describing their problem can only be done by talking to, working with or observing potential customers.

Doctors call it taking a pain history and documenting the chief pain complaint, the history of the present illness and their past medical history. In other words, talk to people and have them describe:

  1. Where is your pain?
  2. How bad is it?
  3. How long have you had it?
  4. On a scale of 1-10, how would you describe it?
  5. What have you done in the past to make it better?
  6. What makes it better or worse?
  7. What other problems do you have that makes the pain better or worse?
  8. How have you treated it in the past?
  9. Is the pain constant or intermittent?
  10. What would you pay to relieve the pain?

Startup geeks call this process customer discovery by “getting out of the building”. Doctors call it making house calls. Here is the ultimate list of customer discovery/development questions.

Here is a customer interview script.

Remote patient programs , for example, don’t just automatically work out. They have to be carefully planned and developed in order to gain traction and produce results. Most importantly, they have to target the right patients.

D Define and represent the problem

Primary or secondary research should give you some idea about :

  1. Market size
  2. Market growth
  3. The competitive landscape
  4. Where you intend to play
  5. What you see that others don’t.

Once you have done these things, then you can:

E Explore and experiment with possible strategies or solutions and risks involved with each by identifying customer segments and creating a value proposition canvas and a business model canvas

Here’s an into to value proposition design

When you create new value propositions and growth you need to focus on high-value customer jobs. These are not necessarily the most important jobs from your customers’ perspective. They are the most promising jobs from your perspective as a solutions provider. High-value customer jobs are characterized by the following, they are:

  • Important: When customer’s success or failure to get the job done leads to essential gains or extreme pains, respectively. Examples are managing the security risk of an ecommerce website, or designing and implementing the strategy at a company.
  • Tangible: When the pains or gains related to a job can be felt or experienced immediately or often. Examples are traffic during your daily commute, or managing a constantly overflowing email inbox.
  • Unsatisfied: When current value propositions don’t help to relieve pains or create desired gains in a satisfying way. Maybe the desired value proposition doesn’t even exist. Examples are the inexistent cure for hangovers, or calorie-free chocolate.
  • Lucrative: When many people have the job with related pains and gains or when a small number of customers are willing to pay a premium. An example of the former is listening to music on the go. An example of the latter are rare diseases for which customers or insurers are willing to pay a premium.

Here is a list of stakeholders that represent customer segments. But, job title is only one part of creating a customer persona. Here’s what Linkedin Sales Navigator won’t tell you and how to fill the gaps.

If you listen to or watch customers enough, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll discover. Here are some examples.

Don’t send out a questionnaire. Here’s why you need to interview stakeholders to identify their value factors that are most important until you get saturation.

A Act on a selected strategy or solution

L Look back and evaluate

Most businesses fail because 1) they don’t offer the right value proposition-market fit or 2) they don’t have a viable business model. Your business model canvas is anchored on your value proposition. Your value proposition (doing the job the customer wants you to do, removing the pain they have to endure to do it now and offering a product that meets or exceeds customer expectations) starts with understanding your customers. Focusing on your customers or market segments starts with those who touch the problem every day.

Design thinking describes this process i.e. understanding a problem from the customer perspective, putting yourself in their shoes by either interviewing them, watching them or experiencing what they experience. and create a range of solutions that you then design, prototype and test.

Design Thinking Diagram

Customer centered design means you have to learn how to talk to humans.

Before you do all this, though, decide whether the industry or market you decide to tackle is, the words of my friend, Tom Higley, the CEO at www.101010.net, the right founder-opportunity fit. That usually means finding independence, mastery and purpose and scratching all those psychological itches, be they pathological or not.

Perhaps the most powerful problem is one that you make personal but don’t take personally.

Here’s the problem with saying, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.”

The education pioneer, John Dewey, said, “a problem well-put is half solved”

That happens when you arm yourself initially with the information you get from being a problem seeker, not a problem solver. Even academic scientists are getting the message.

Image credits: MisterInnovation.com, Interaction Design Foundation

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

600 Free Innovation, Transformation and Design Quote Slides

600 Innovation, Transformation and Design Quote Slides on Innovation, Change and Design

Free Downloads for Keynote Speeches, Presentations and Workshops

Looking for a compelling quote for a keynote speech, workshop or presentation on any of these topics?

  • Innovation
  • Digital Transformation
  • Design
  • Change
  • Creativity
  • Leadership
  • Design Thinking

I’m flattered that people have been quoting my keynote speeches and my first two books Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire and Charting Change.

So, I’m making some of my favorite quotes available from myself and other thought leaders in a fun, visual, easily shareable format.

I’ve been publishing them on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

But now you can download twelve (12) volumes of fifty (50) quote posters, for a total of 600, for FREE from my store:

You can add them all to your shopping cart at once and download them for FREE.

Print them, share them on social media, or use them in your presentations, keynote speeches or workshops.

They are all Adobe PDF’s and the best way to add them to your presentation is to:

  1. Put the PDF into FULL SCREEN MODE
  2. Take a screenshot
  3. Paste it into your presentation
  4. Crop it and adjust the size to your liking
  5. Change the background color of the slide to a suitable color (if necessary)

Contact me with your favorite innovation, design thinking, change, transformation, or design quotes and I’ll consider adding them to my library of future downloads.

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Voting Closed – Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Vote for Top 40 Innovation BloggersFor more than a decade I’ve devoted myself to making innovation insights accessible for the greater good, because I truly believe that the better our organizations get at delivering value to their stakeholders the less waste of natural resources and human resources there will be.

As a result we are eternally grateful to all of you out there who take the time to create and share great innovation articles, presentations, white papers, and videos with Braden Kelley and the Human-Centered Change and Innovation team. As a small thank you to those of you who follow along, we like to make a list of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers available each year!

Our lists from the ten previous years have been tremendously popular, including:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2015
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2016
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2017
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2018
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2019
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020

Do you just have someone that you like to read that writes about innovation, or some of the important adjacencies – trends, consumer psychology, change, leadership, strategy, behavioral economics, collaboration, or design thinking?

Human-Centered Change and Innovation is now looking to recognize the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021.

It is time to vote and help us narrow things down.

The deadline for submitting votes is December 31, 2021 at midnight GMT.

Build a Common Language of Innovation on your team

The ranking will be done by me with influence from votes and nominations. The quality and quantity of contributions to this web site by an author will be a BIG contributing factor (through the end of the voting period).

You can vote in any of these three ways (and each earns points for them, so please feel free to vote all three ways):

  1. Sending us the name of the blogger by @reply on twitter to @innovate
  2. Adding the name of the blogger as a comment to this article’s posting on Facebook
  3. Adding the name of the blogger as a comment to this article’s posting on our Linkedin Page (Be sure and follow us)

The official Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021 will then be announced here in early January 2022.

Here are the people who received nominations this year along with some carryover recommendations (in alphabetical order):

Adi Gaskell – @adigaskell
Alex Goryachev
Andy Heikkila – @AndyO_TheHammer
Arlen Meyers – @sopeofficial
Braden Kelley – @innovate
Chad McAllister – @ChadMcAllister
Chris Beswick
Dan Blacharski – @Dan_Blacharski
Daniel Burrus – @DanielBurrus
Daniel Lock
Dr. Detlef Reis
David Burkus
Douglas Ferguson
Drew Boyd – @DrewBoyd
Frank Mattes – @FrankMattes
Gregg Fraley – @greggfraley
Greg Satell – @Digitaltonto
Janet Sernack – @JanetSernack
Jeffrey Baumgartner – @creativejeffrey
Jeff Freedman – @SmallArmyAgency
Jeffrey Phillips – @ovoinnovation
Jesse Nieminen – @nieminenjesse
Jorge Barba – @JorgeBarba
Julian Birkinshaw – @JBirkinshaw
Julie Anixter – @julieanixter
Kate Hammer – @Kate_Hammer
Kevin McFarthing – @InnovationFixer
Lou Killeffer – @LKilleffer

Accelerate your change and transformation success

Mari Anixter- @MariAnixter
Maria Paula Oliveira – @mpaulaoliveira
Matthew E May – @MatthewEMay
Michael Graber – @SouthernGrowth
Mike Brown – @Brainzooming
Mike Shipulski – @MikeShipulski
Mukesh Gupta
Nick Partridge – @KnewNewNeu
Nicolas Bry – @NicoBry
Pamela Soin
Paul Hobcraft – @Paul4innovating
Paul Sloane – @paulsloane
Pete Foley – @foley_pete
Ralph Christian Ohr – @ralph_ohr
Richard Haasnoot – @Innovate2Grow
Robert B Tucker – @RobertBTucker
Saul Kaplan – @skap5
Scott Anthony – @ScottDAnthony
Scott Bowden – @scottbowden51
Shelly Greenway – @ChiefDistiller
Soren Kaplan – @SorenKaplan
Stefan Lindegaard – @Lindegaard
Stephen Shapiro – @stephenshapiro
Steven Forth – @StevenForth
Tamara Kleinberg – @LaunchStreet
Tim Stroh
Tom Koulopoulos – @TKspeaks
Yoram Solomon – @yoram

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

We’re curious to see who you think is worth reading!

Everyone hates to fail, why do you?

Everyone hates to fail, why do you?

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

If you have ever had a significant setback, made a serious mistake, or failed at completing an important task, you will have experienced some kind of deep emotional and visceral, largely unconscious, negative, reactive response to it.

By becoming passively or aggressively externally defensive and blaming and punishing others for the outcome, or by withdrawing internally, and attributing self-blame and self-punishment for what may have happened.

Everyone hates to fail because either type of reactive response stings and causes discomfort, dissonance, sorrow, suffering, and pain since you are feeling ashamed, judged, and shamed by yourself and by others. We need to re-think how we approach and digest failure, to scale and leverage it as one of our 21st-century superpowers.

Sabotaging your chances of success

According to a recent article in Psychology Today, this reactive response triggers your avoidance motivation, which then often exceeds your motivation to succeed!

Describing that the fear of failure causes us to then unconsciously sabotage our chances of success, as well as our ability to cultivate and manifest the superpowers necessary to thrive in the 21st century.

Self-doubt settles us into a denying the need to experiment, and a reluctance, full of excuses, to experiment further with adopting, iterating, and testing new and novel ideas. Or in taking smart risks, that help you connect, explore and discover and design opportunities for making important and necessary, personal and professional changes.

Pivot and adapt to disruptive events

Yet, our ability to experiment, test, validate and iterate creative ideas is critical to surviving and thriving through the current decade of both disruption and transformation – which more of us are viewing as a series of relentless, continuous, and exponential changes, requiring unlearning and radically new learning processes.

In a 2021 Deloitte survey of 2,260 private – and public-sector CXOs in 21 countries, 60% of the respondents said that they believe disruptions like those seen in 2020 will continue. The resulting challenge is underscored by another of the survey’s findings:

Seventy percent of the CXOs do not have complete confidence in their organisation’s ability to pivot and adapt to disruptive events.

This confidence can be developed by re-thinking how we approach and digest failure, to scale and leverage it as a 21st-century superpower.

Developing 21st-century superpowers

Here are the four key superpowers, to be supported by digital technologies:

  • Nimbleness: The ability to quickly pivot and move. (“We used to do this, and now we do that.”)
  • Scalability: The ability to rapidly shift capacity and service levels. (“We used to serve x customers; we now serve 100x customers.”)
  • Stability: The ability to maintain operational excellence under pressure. (“We will persist despite the challenges.”)
  • Optionality: The ability to acquire new capabilities through external collaboration. (“Our ecosystem of partners allows us to do things we couldn’t do previously do.”)

Rethinking our fears of failure

None of these 21st-century superpowers can be developed without experimentation and collaboration.

Where you are able to self-regulate your fears of making mistakes and failure, by becoming a smart risk-taker who willingly, stretches the envelope and steps outside of your safety and comfort zones.

This helps maximise your potential and ability to learn and develop in the growth zone, where we stop self-sabotaging our chances of adapting and learning, succeeding, and growing in an uncertain and unstable world.

Everyone hates to fail because it’s hard to self-regulate the basic emotions of disappointment, anger and frustration, and deep shame. Resulting from and the distorted thinking patterns that accompany failure, often immobilising you which results in an unwillingness and inability to disrupt yourself and take intelligent actions.

Slow down to rethink, respond, regroup, play and thrive

It all starts with leading, teaching, mentoring, and coaching people to slow down, to learn, and appreciate the value of taking “time-out” for retreat and reflection.

At ImagineNation, in last week’s blog, we described how this involves developing regular reflective practices, where people can pay deep attention, and learn how to master these basic emotions and unresourceful thought patterns. How this allows them to be playful and experimental in developing new mindsets, rethinking habits, and resourceful emotional states, which are foundational for developing 21st-century superpowers.

Failure can become valued as a process and resource for effecting significant human-centric change, deepening learning, and improving your future fitness.

Consequences of avoiding failure

According to the same article in Psychology today – “shame is a psychologically toxic emotion because instead of feeling bad about our actions (guilt) or our efforts (regret) shame makes us feel who we are”.

By getting to the core of your egos, your identities, your self-esteem, and your feelings of emotional well-being and resourceful thinking habits.

Because everyone hates to fail, we all unconsciously seek ways of mitigating the implications of a potential failure – “for example, by buying unnecessary new clothes for a job interview instead of reading up on the company – which allows us to use the excuse, “I just didn’t have time to fully prepare.”

Benefits of embracing failure

Rather than succumbing to the notion that everyone hates to fail, it is much more useful to develop healthier ways of embracing and flowing with it which might:

  • Motivate you to reflect deeply to consider and deliberate as to what might be the most intelligent and brave actions to take under the range of circumstances you find yourself in.
  • Inspire you to risk-taking those intelligent actions through developing sound risk anticipation, management, and mitigation strategies that help boost your confidence.
  • Commit to doing just a bit more, in inventive ways that add value to the quality of people’s lives as well to your customer’s experience of your product or service.
  • Encourage you to access your multiple and collective intelligence, be more courageous, compassionate, and creative in co-sensing, co-discovering, co-designing, and co-creating innovative solutions to complex problems.
  • Enable you to learn from others, and harness people’s collective intelligence to adapt and grow, through teaming, in ways that serve the common good.

Tips for rethinking and self-regulating fears of failure

A few tips to support you to rethink, respond, regroup and thrive that we will explore more deeply, through real-life stories and examples, in our next two ImagineNation™ blog posts (November and December):

  1. Be willing to redefine and reframe failure as what it means in your unique context, review past failures and see if you can find benefits that resulted from them.
  2. Set approach goals and not avoidance goals to view failure as a challenge that can be mastered.
  3. Control the controllable by intentionally managing your mindsets, shifting any negative perspective, and unpacking distortion and generalisations about failures and their negative consequences.
  4. Imagine yourself doing well, achieving your goals by composing and painting a picture or image of a desirable and compelling future success.
  5. Develop healthy self-compassion for when you do mess up, make mistakes and fail, by being kind and understanding, and empathic to your won humanness.
  6. Focus on every experience, no matter what it brings is an opportunity for deep learning and creative and inventive change.

Rather than living in a world where everyone hates to fail, why not adopt the rethink, respond, regroup, thrive pattern, be future-fit and develop your set of 21st-century superpowers in the face of the acute disruption of COVID-19?

Where it is expected that the business environment, over the next three to five years, will be the most exciting and innovative period that many of us may learn from and experience in our lifetimes?

Want to know why you might have a fear of failure?

Participate in our online research study “Ten Signs you may have a fear of failure” which we adapted from the article “10 Signs That You Might Have Fear of Failure… and 2 ways to overcome it and succeed” by Guy Winch Ph.D. in Psychology Today. Click here to access the survey.

We will happily share the results and findings with you if you leave your name and email address on the form provided. By sharing these details, you will also qualify for a complimentary 30 minute one on one online innovation coaching session, with one of our global professionally certified coaches to help you overcome your own anxieties and fears about failure and develop your 21st-century superpowers.

Join our next free “Making Innovation a Habit” masterclass to re-engage 2022!

Our 90-minute masterclass and creative conversation will help you develop your post-Covid-19 re-engagement strategy.  It’s on Thursday, 10th February at 6.30 pm Sydney and Melbourne, 8.30 pm Auckland, 3.30 pm Singapore, 11.30 am Abu Dhabi and 8.30 am Berlin. Find out more.

Image credit: Unsplash

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Nominations Closed – Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Nominations Open for the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021Human-Centered Change and Innovation loves making innovation insights accessible for the greater good, because we truly believe that the better our organizations get at delivering value to their stakeholders the less waste of natural resources and human resources there will be.

As a result we are eternally grateful to all of you out there who take the time to create and share great innovation articles, presentations, white papers, and videos with Braden Kelley and the Human-Centered Change and Innovation team. As a small thank you to those of you who follow along, we like to make a list of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers available each year!

Our lists from the ten previous years have been tremendously popular, including:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2015
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2016
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2017
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2018
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2019
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020

Do you just have someone that you like to read that writes about innovation, or some of the important adjacencies – trends, consumer psychology, change, leadership, strategy, behavioral economics, collaboration, or design thinking?

Human-Centered Change and Innovation is now looking for the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021.

The deadline for submitting nominations is December 24, 2021 at midnight GMT.

You can submit a nomination either of these two ways:

  1. Sending us the name of the blogger and the url of their blog by @reply on twitter to @innovate
  2. Sending the name of the blogger and the url of their blog and your e-mail address using our contact form

(Note: HUGE bonus points for being a contributing author)

So, think about who you like to read and let us know by midnight GMT on December 24, 2021.

We will then compile a voting list of all the nominations, and publish it on December 25, 2021.

Voting will then be open from December 25, 2021 – January 1, 2022 via comments and twitter @replies to @innovate.

The ranking will be done by me with influence from votes and nominations. The quality and quantity of contributions by an author to this web site will be a contributing factor.

Contact me with writing samples if you’d like to self-publish on our platform!

The official Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021 will then be announced on here in early January 2022.

We’re curious to see who you think is worth reading!

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Announcing Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly

Human-Centered Change and Innovation Weekly Newsletter

We’re about two months into the re-birth and re-branding of Blogging Innovation as Human-Centered Change and Innovation.

At the same time I brought my multiple author blog back to life, I also created a weekly newsletter to bring all of this great content to your inbox every Tuesday.

Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly brings four or five great articles as an email to you from myself and a growing roster of talented and insightful contributing authors, including:

Robert B. Tucker, Janet Sernack, Greg Satell, Linda Naiman, Howard Tiersky, Paul Sloane, Rachel Audige, Arlen Meyers, John Bessant, Phil Buckley, Jesse Nieminen, Anthony Mills, Nicolas Bry and your host Braden Kelley.

You can sign up for the newsletter here:

I would be interested to know whether you prefer:

  1. Tuesday
  2. Sunday

And, if you’ve missed out on previous issues and would like to explore them, you’ll find the links below:

Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly

Finally, if you know a globally recognized human-centered design, change, innovation, transformation or customer experience author that should be contributing guest articles to the blog and newsletter, have them contact us.

I hope you continue to find value in everyone’s contributions to the conversations around human-centered change, innovation, transformation and experience design!

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Creating 21st Century Transformational Learning

Creating 21st Century Transformational Learning

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

I was privileged to attend one of the first Theory U; Presencing Leadership for Profound Innovation and Change Workshops presented by the Sloane School of Management, in Boston in 2008. This means that I have been able to observe, engage with and participate, from both Israel and Australia, in the evolution of Presencing and Theory U as powerful resources and vehicles for effecting profound transformational change and learning.

Intentional Change and Learning

I have seen and experienced the growth of the global Presencing community, as it transformed from a small, diverse, thought-leading group in the USA, seeding a range of deeply disruptive core concepts, as described in their groundbreaking book – Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future into a global movement.

Where they introduced a radical new theory about change and learning, I also participated in its evolution into its current manifestation, as a global movement for profound transformational change. Which seeks to create, within the whole system, intentional shifts that break old patterns of seeing and acting that continually create results, on a planetary level, that are no longer needed or wanted. Achieving this by encouraging deeper levels of attention and intention, as well as deep and continuous learning, to create an awareness of the larger systemic whole, ultimately leading to us to adopt new and different mindsets, behaviors, actions, and systems that can help to shape our evolution and our futures.

A Turning Point

It is suggested by many, that we are at a turning point, a critical moment in time, where all of us, individually and collectively, have the chance to focus our attention toward activating, harnessing, and mobilizing transformational change and learning to shape our evolution and our futures intelligently. To maximize the emergence, divergence, and convergence of new patterns of consumer and business behaviors that have emerged at extraordinary speed and can be sustained over long periods of time because digitization, coupled with the impact of the global pandemic, have accelerated changes faster than many of us believed previously possible.

Paradoxically, we are facing an uncertain future, where according to the World Economic Forum Job Reset Summit – “While vaccine rollout has begun and the growth outlook is predicted to improve, and even socio-economic recovery is far from certain” no matter where you are located or professionally aligned.

Leveraging the Turning Point

This turning point, is full of possibilities and innovative opportunities potentially enabling organizations, leaders, teams, people, and customers to embrace the opportunity to change and learning in creative and inventive ways to shape our evolution and to co-create our futures, in ways that are:

  • Purposeful and meaningful,
  • Embrace speed, agility, and simplicity,
  • Scale our confidence, capacity, and competence through unlearning, relearning, and innovation.

Resulting in improving equity for all, resilience, sustainability, growth, and future-fitness, in an ever-changing landscape, deeply impacted by the technologies created by accelerated digitization, by putting ourselves into the service of what is wanting to emerge in this unique turning point and moment of time.

Forward-looking leadership

This is validated by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), who outlined, in a recent article the key strategies employed by most innovative companies in 2021 that “forward-looking leaders soon looked to broader needs affecting their companies’ futures, such as resilience, digital transformation, and customer relevance”.

Realizing, like the authors of Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future, the need to build the systemic ability to drive change, learning and innovation, by transforming their ambitious aspirations into real results through:

  1. Clarifying a clear ambition: that is meaningful and purposeful, compelling and engaging that aligns to people’s values and helps build “one team” mindsets.
  2. Building systemic innovation domains: that are strategically and culturally aligned, enabling people and technology to connect, explore, discover, design, and deliver the ambition through making changes and learning, collective and ecosystems approach that provides clear lines of sight to stakeholders, users, and customers.
  3. Performance management: that acknowledges and rewards collaborative achievements, results in transformational change and learning through smart risk-taking, experimentation and drives accountability, and celebrates success.
  4. Project management: that provides rigor and discipline, through taking a human-centered, and agile approach that allows people and teams to make the necessary shifts in assigning and delivering commercially astute, ambitious, radical, and challenging breakthrough and Moonshot projects.
  5. Talent and culture: by exercising leadership that brings people and teams together, collaborating by fostering openness, transparency, permission, and trust so people can safely unlearn, relearn, adapt and innovate. By supporting and sponsoring change initiatives, by harnessing and mobilizing collective genius, by granting prestige to innovation roles and valuing radical candor, generating discovery and challenges to the status quo.

A Moment in Time

Some thirteen years later, in a recent Letter, Otto Scharmer, one of the original authors of the Presence book, shared with the global Presencing community, that it:

“feels as if we have collectively crossed a threshold and entered a new time. A time that was there already before, but more as a background presence. A time that some geologists proposed to refer to as the Anthropocene, the age of humans. Living in the Anthropocene means that basically all the problems, all the challenges we face on a planetary scale are caused by… ourselves”.

He then stated that “Being alive at such a profound planetary threshold moment poses a critical question to each and every one of us: What is my response to all of this, what is our response to this condition, how am I – and how are we – going to show up at this moment?

Showing up at this moment

Change and learning today involve people, developing their knowledge, mindsets, and behaviors, skills and habits. So, making a fundamental choice about how you wish to show up right now, as a leader or manager, business owner or employee, consultant, trainer, or coach, is crucial to making your contribution and commitment to shaping your own individual, and our collective evolution and our futures.

Taking just a moment

It may, in fact, be beneficial, to take just a moment – to hit your pause button, retreat into reflection, stillness, and silence and ask yourself Otto’s question – how am I, and how are we as a business practice, team or organization going to show up at this moment?

Drawing on my experience as an innovative start-up entrepreneur in Israel, people can either be forced to change and learn through necessity, conflict, and adversity in order to survive. Alternately, they can choose to change through seeing the world with fresh eyes, full of possibility, positivity, optimism, and self-transcendence, to innovate and thrive.

  • How might you develop the courage to make transformational and systemic changes and learning and innovation your key priorities to survive through necessity and adversity, or thrive through unleashing possibilities, optimism, and positivity?
  • How might you develop the compassion to focus on developing both customer and human centricity in ways that are purposefully meaningful and aligned to people’s values and contribute to the good of the whole (people, profit, and planet)?
  • How might you be creative in transforming your time, people, and financial investments in ways that drive out complacency, build change readiness and deliver the deep and continuous change and learning that equips and empowers people to deliver tangible results that are valued, appreciated, and cherished, now and in the future?

Not only to take advantage of the moment in time but to also use transformational change and learning to extend your practice or organizations future fitness and life expectancy, because, according to a recent article in Forbes –  “Half of the giants we now know may no longer exist by the next decade. In 1964, a company on the S&P 500 had an average life expectancy of 33 years. This number was reduced to 24 years in 2016 and is forecast to shrink further to 12 years by 2027”.

This is the final blog in our series of blogs, podcasts, and webinars on Developing a Human-Centric Future-Fitness organization.

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of a human-centered approach and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, within your unique context.  Find out more

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Experience Thinking – The Next Evolution for Design Thinking

Experience Thinking - The Next Evolution for Design Thinking

GUEST POST from Anthony Mills


Design Thinking is an incredibly powerful way to approach the design of just about anything that involves an interaction with people (or other intelligent creatures). Its underlying philosophy of Human Centered Design requires that we develop a comprehensive empathic understanding of the customer and their situation in a particular context. This can only happen when we dissect the situation – using the many different Design Methods available to us – to understand the customer’s underlying values, beliefs, motivations, priorities, expectations, and preferences. From this we understand their real needs and desires. This is what we are doing when we work through the divergence of hypothesis formation, the convergence of hypothesis testing, the arrival at a compelling Point of View, and from that the definition of relevant Design Principles. And it is what empowers us to thereafter work through the divergence of solution ideation and the convergence of solution testing – all to arrive at the most optimal solution to the right problem, reframed at the right level. This results in new innovations that resonate with real market needs. Powerful indeed!

But, there are limitations.

The limitations lie not so much in Design Thinking itself, but rather in how Design Thinking is typically used.

The manner in which Design Thinking is typically used is what we refer to as a “static approach.” That is, it is generally used to understand how a customer interacts with a product or service at one particular moment in time – typically the most critical moment in time – or in one particular mode of usage – typically the most critical mode of usage – as though everything were about this one particular “freeze frame”. It may examine, for example, how they sit in a chair, how they use a toothbrush, how they read a user interface, or how they comprehend a set of service instructions. This can work okay for very simple products and services, but not so much for complex ones. Sometimes the lens of focus is zoomed out to examine more moments and more modes, but rarely does it venture so far out as to truly understand the entire product or service experience in its entirety, as well as the overriding brand experience it must convey. To do this, we need a different approach.

A Different Approach

Fortunately, we have a different approach. We call it “Experience Thinking”, or XT. One can think of XT as a more “dynamic” approach to Design Thinking, in that it seeks to examine the entire product / service / brand experience in its totality. By combining the tools of Design Thinking (the Design Methods) with the tools of Customer Experience Design and Customer Experience Management (CX Journey Maps, Stakeholder Analysis, NPS, etc.), it takes the practitioner through the Design Thinking journey for each and every touchpoint in the entire customer experience – or through whichever touchpoints are of interest. This ends up being far more powerful than the narrow-lens focus of static Design Thinking, albeit at the price of additional work.

Experience Thinking is, in fact, what has allowed companies like Apple, Uber, Mercedes, Tesla, Harley Davidson, Patagonia, and Amazon to all produce such highly differentiated offerings that each deliver a coherent and compelling brand experience. In most cases, this brand experience extends well beyond the product or service itself to encompass a far broader value proposition focused on lifestyle or workstyle enhancement. Experience Thinking understands this, and it understands that the emotional and social outcomes involved are just as important (and in some cases more important) than are the functional outcomes. And so offerings get designed that deliver compelling experiences that satisfy those emotional and social outcomes.

Understanding the essence of Experience Thinking then, the next logical question is always, “Okay… so how does one use Experience Thinking? How do they go about carrying it out?” That is a great question.

A Simple Four Step Approach to Using Experience Thinking

In our work with clients, we have a very specific and defined approach to how we do this. It involves four steps.

Step 1 — Foundation: The Brand Experience

We always begin with the brand:

  1. What is the brand persona or brand DNA that defines this brand?
  2. What is this brand’s relative positioning in the market (is it luxury, mid-tier, or value-line)?
  3. What brand promise is this brand making, and what expectations does this then create for its customers?
  4. What brand language (descriptive, visual, and experiential) is being used to convey this brand promise?

And finally, as a consequence of all of the above, what is the overall brand experience we are attempting to deliver, and what, therefore, is the brand experience lens through which we must design the associated product experience or service experience that is to follow-on from this?

These are all crucial questions. For existing brands, the answers are often already known, though they sometimes have to be polished and sharpened a bit. For new brands, we first must answer these questions before proceeding further. An important implication, however, is that this process does not depend on having an existing brand or even an existing product category; it can just as readily be applied to an entirely new brand and/or product category so long as we can define the above points that we intend to deliver for the brand.

Step 2 — Manifestation: The Customer Experience

Once we have defined all of the above, and thus our brand experience lens, we can then move on to the next step, which is to look at either the entire customer lifecycle (eight stages – four on the buy side and four on the own side), or some particular portion of the customer lifecycle that we are specifically interested in.

Using a relatively standard CX Journey Mapping process, we then design our intended customer experience, making sure that at each touchpoint we undertake careful Cognitive Task Analysis so that we fully understand the cognitive and emotional “dance” happening between our offering / brand / business and our customer, as well as capturing all of the on-stage and back-stage stakeholder actions required to stage this experience as designed (the latter can also be complemented with Swim Lane Analysis to help better visualize the timing of each action). Undertaking Cognitive Task Analysis requires a sound understanding of Experience Psychology. As an aid toward this, we recommend reading any of Don Norman’s books, but in particular The Design of Everyday Things.

Step 3 — Translation: The Product (Service) Experience

Next, having defined the intended customer experience, and in so doing understanding the intended attributes of each of its touchpoints (for example, are certain touchpoints to be fast or slow, simple or complex, what human factors or ergonomics concerns have to be considered, what emotional responses need to be evoked, and so on), we then use a tool that in our case we call the Product Experience Framework, or PX Framework (known generically as an alignment model) to map these experience attributes into corresponding product or service attributes. Such attributes might include, for example, size, weight, location, color, finish, actuation force, ease of interpretation, styling, craftsmanship, and so forth.

In using the PX Framework, we step through each and every “event” involved in using the product or receiving the service. Events represent the individual interactions the user has with the product or service, and as such any given touchpoint can include any number of different events. For each such event, we document all of the pertinent attribute details for the product or service. One can see the structure and content of the PX Framework at The Legacy Innovation Product Experience Framework.

Since highly complex products and services tend to involve lots of events (or potential events), this can end up being a very large document. In some cases, therefore, it is helpful to treat each major subsystem separately, with someone watching the overall product integration so as to ensure harmony between all of them.

Step 4 — Realization: The Design

Finally, having the PX Framework in hand, one is at last ready to sit down and actually design the product or service. They now have as an input to this design a clear prescription of what its attributes need to be in order that using the product, or receiving the service, will in fact result in the intended product or service experience, which will in turn convey the intended brand experience for the affected brand.

A New Design Philosophy — The “Designed Experience”

This approach – and Experience Thinking in general – is incredibly different from what so many designers and engineers are accustomed to doing, which is namely to just jump straight into designing a product or service without any idea whatsoever what its attributes need to be to deliver a particular experience. Indeed, they have not even attempted to define in the first place what its product or service experience needs to be, only that it needs to accomplish some outcome in the end; the assumption being that whatever happens along the way toward that outcome is not particularly important – usually an incredibly erroneous assumption!

We believe so strongly in this approach, in fact, that we have wrapped our entire design philosophy around it and have given that philosophy a name. We call it the Designed Experience Approach, and all of the information arising out of these four steps we refer to as the Designed Experience Model. A key tenet of this philosophy (and of Experience Thinking in general) is that the design of a product or service cannot be considered complete until we have first gone through this process of defining its intended product or service experience, together with its intended brand experience. This process must be done, and the resulting insights must be applied, so that we can design all of the product or service attributes accordingly, thus ensuring the final design is in fact capable of delivering its intended experience.

Recently we taught this design philosophy and its accompanying process to a major American automotive OEM in Detroit. The team we were working with there found this to be an incredibly eye-opening approach, because it finally allowed them to make the connection they were looking for between product attributes and the overall intended customer and brand experiences.

Why & Where?

The final two points that need to be made about Experience Thinking are why it is so important, and where it is most applicable. But these two points are best addressed in reverse order.

In terms of where Experience Thinking is most applicable therefore… it is most applicable anywhere we have a branded business and thus a branded line of offerings. Because they are branded, they have a specific brand promise that they must live up to, and ideally this is a brand promise that differentiates and distinguishes the brand from other brands. The need for differentiation is therefore incredibly strong. As a consequence, we must design the products and services associated with this brand in a highly intentional manner so that their attributes can in fact deliver on that brand promise and ensure the level of differentiation we are attempting to achieve. The contrast to this, of course, would be commodity products and services that are undifferentiated. Such products and services need only accomplish their intended outcomes; how they do so and what happens along the way is not overly critical in their case.

In terms of why Experience Thinking is so important then, it is precisely as described above. In those cases where we must espouse and then deliver on a specific brand promise – so that we can differentiate ourselves – our products and services no longer matter by themselves. What matters in these cases is the experience that those products and services are able to deliver. Thus how they go about achieving their intended outcomes, and everything that happens along the way, are all incredibly, incredibly important. They must be things that deliver on our brand promise and thereby reinforce our brand message, which in turn builds our brand value and allows us over time to capture increasing market shares.

The thing is, the vast majority of businesses and their offerings are – to one degree or another – branded. Those who are truly hungry for market leadership tend to be the ones who most readily recognize this and therefore put the most effort into building their brands. This in turn means they are the most eager to embrace Experience Thinking and to use this approach to design their products and services to deliver on their brand promises.


The questions to ask yourself, therefore, are:

  1. “Is our brand as differentiated as it needs to be?”
  2. “Does it have a compelling brand promise that lets us define a unique brand experience?”
  3. “Have we defined specific product and service experiences that are aligned to that brand promise and brand experience?”
  4. “Are we designing our products and services to have the attributes they need to deliver on those experiences?”
  5. “Should we – like perhaps some of our competitors are doing – be using Experience Thinking to design our next offerings?”

If the answers to these questions are “no”, “no”, “no”, “no”, and “yes”, then it’s probably time to get serious about shaking up your design process – time to start applying Experience Thinking. Though it does take more time and effort to do, it tends to pay back greatly in terms of commercial success and ongoing brand building.

Image credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.