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Eric Moore

Creative ideas are tough to sell. They start vague and, until fully realized, are malleable concepts prone to change. So how do you prove the value of an idea before it is created? With design thinking, of course.

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Know your audience

Creative ideas are tough to sell. They start vague and, until fully realized, are malleable concepts prone to change. So how do you prove the value of an idea before it is created? With design thinking, of course.

In part three of our design thinking conversation, Eric Moore joins Chris Do to discuss what is at the heart of this beloved concept: knowing your audience.

You may hear design thinking referred to as human-centered design. That idea of designing with people in mind is what makes design thinking both a mindset and a framework. And the main ingredient is empathy.

In this chat, Eric shares stories from his experience using design thinking at scale and working with enterprise-level SaaS companies. He also offers a free (no strings attached) gift that you can download from thedesignthinker.org.

Oct 12

Know your audience

Creative ideas are tough to sell. They start vague and, until fully realized, are malleable concepts prone to change. So how do you prove the value of an idea before it is created? With design thinking, of course.

How to prove the value of something that doesn’t yet exist

Creative ideas are tough to sell. They start vague and, until fully realized, are malleable concepts prone to change. So how do you prove the value of an idea before it is created? With design thinking, of course.

In part three of our design thinking conversation, Eric Moore joins Chris Do to discuss what is at the heart of this beloved concept: knowing your audience.

You may hear design thinking referred to as human-centered design. That idea of designing with people in mind is what makes design thinking both a mindset and a framework. And the main ingredient is empathy.

In this chat, Eric shares stories from his experience using design thinking at scale and working with enterprise-level SaaS companies. He also offers a free (no strings attached) gift that you can download from thedesignthinker.org.

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How to prove the value of something that doesn’t yet exist

Episode Transcript

Eric:

Creative ideas can be tough to sell. You're trying to convince someone of something that doesn't exist yet. So I think design thinking says, "Okay, well how do I make them feel less uncomfortable? That this thing we're going to birth into existence isn't just magic. It's a way to prove what value you bring even before the thing is created."

Chris:

Without further ado, I'd love to have Eric introduce himself. He's the person I met through the community and we've gotten to know each other quite well. Yeah, he's a super cool awesome human being. So without further ado, Eric, can you introduce yourself?

Eric:

Well, hi everyone. My name is Eric Moore. You may see me online as, "The Design Thinker." What that really means is I'm the only communication strategist who blends design thinking with the art of nonviolent communication. And I do so transforming quiet leaders into influential storytellers.

And what that means is I like to work with new and emerging leaders, people who might be new to the role and don't quite know how to communicate with their team. Because for so long they've just been doing the work. And I like to work with older or executive leaders who maybe are losing touch with their younger team mates.

Chris:

Wonderful. I'm kind of flying blind here a little bit and trusting myself and Eric's very capable hands. And so Eric, how do we structure today's conversation with the format? How does this work?

Eric:

First and foremost, I think it's good to just hear what you think design thinking is? I'd like for you to just give your basic definition, some of your experiences with it, and then I'll dig into my professional experience, maybe give a few stories.

And then today I want to give people a gift, no strings attached. I want to give you a gift, a couple of methods that I use so you can walk away with something tangible and as Chris says, "Make it real for you in your world." What do you think, Chris? Does that sound okay?

Chris:

That sounds wonderful.

Eric:

What's your definition of design thinking? Because I know that that term feels a little clunky to some.

Chris:

Yeah, it's oddly broad and specific at the same time. And so I'm just going to throw out, and I'm no design thinking expert myself, but I think design thinking is a way of approaching a problem to help you understand what your user's needs are and helping them to achieve whatever goal it is while making it as easy as possible for them to do that.

I think for me there's some overlap between what user experience design is and design thinking. And so when we talk about user experience design, we're saying things like, "Give them what they want in the fewest number of steps." And that's a very broad and generic thing to say, but it's actually very revealing about certain mindset.

And once I started developing websites and building apps for people, I had to take a whole different approach. I had to get inside the mind of the person who's going to use it, the consumer, the end user, whatever it is, and try to understand what is it they're trying to accomplish and work through the flow and do that for them. Mostly in a digital way. But that's my understanding of it. Eric, did I totally get that wrong?

Eric:

No, no. I think that's a fair description definition because you're right, a lot of people will come up to me and say, "Oh, you do UX?" I'm like, "That's part of it." But before I share my definition, what's your experience with design thinking? I have a guess where I think you've had experience other than the website stuff, but before I give my guess, I want to hear about your real world experience with design thinking.

Chris:

Shoot, now you're putting me on the spot here.

Eric:

I kind of am, but it's okay.

Chris:

I think, because I'm not sure my definition, how close it is to what you're talking about because you're the professional here. I think about the things I've helped my clients accomplish. For example, one of our real estate developer clients, a multibillion dollar corporation, they do commercial real estate, they do class A buildings. And so when we are trying to understand their end customer, who's making the decisions in terms of leasing out these ginormous buildings, we started to map out the user experience, the flow, and started to solve some of the problems. And it revealed a bunch of different, at least for me, kind of more innovative approaches to marketing real estate.

When I think about it myself in terms of our Futur Pro Community, the members who make what we do possible, I'm obsessed with what I can do to serve them better. And so we're constantly evolving as a private paid group coaching community, like what we can do to help them succeed. And so I would think that those roughly fit within the larger category of design thinking. Again, I don't know how far off I am on this, Eric.

Eric:

Look, Chris, I'm not trying to put you on the spot. The reason I ask that is so I know where you are at, where I can meet you at in terms of how to frame the definition. And you have a lot of the working parts there. So kudos. It very much is about understanding the user experience, the flow, and your obsession with your community is really a big part of it. And so do you know the adage, Chris, "Know your audience?"

Chris:

I think I do.

Eric:

So that phrase is at the heart of design thinking. That's why when if anybody here looks up, Google's the definition to design thinking, you'll often see the term human centric or human centered. And you're not only putting people at the center of your work, but you're getting to know them as part of the process. And so that's really key to understanding design thinking.

So a definition I like to use is, this design thinking is both a human-centric mindset and a framework for solving problems just like a designer. We can get into defining designer later, but a lot of people might say, "Well, Eric, how can it be both a mindset and a framework?"

So first let's talk about the mindset. Design thinking requires you to enter the workspace with your client in mind or customer, whichever C word that you like to use.

So for example, let's say, Chris, you're a graphic designer who specializes in, I don't know, marketing collateral and you just got off the phone with your client and they need something with a quick turnover and a fairly conservative aesthetic. And at that moment, I'm using you, Chris, here. You think, "I've got this new layout that's pretty cool and I've been sitting on it for a while. I think I'm going to use that here."

This is when you pause and say to yourself, "Am I doing this for me? Or the client?" Mindset. Mindset, okay, I think we can kind of get our heads around that, but how do we actually do the work? So that's where the framework comes in. And design thinking provides you with repeatable methods for keeping your process, your creative process, on track.

Now, Chris, in all fairness next to you, I might not be the most creative, but I do consider myself creative and I work in the creative business world. I write, I produce visual communications, but I am a subpar project manager. Full stop. You don't want to call me to manage your project, but managing your client's project is crucial to your success. We have to recognize that.

And what design thinking provides is a distinct set of methods that can make managing projects both fun and simple. I want to give you one last twist to all of this. Design thinking asks you to invite your client into the process. By staying connected to your client at specific intervals, you can transform yourself from a designer to a trusted advisor.

Now, I know you might be out there thinking, "Great Eric, thanks for the platitude." And I suspect you're saying, "There's no way I'm ever going to invite my client into the process. They're just going to micromanage me." Or you may say to yourself, "Yeah, right. They paid me to be creative, not them." Stop. That's the mindset again.

Design thinking has very specific places throughout the design life cycle where clients will join and where they will not. And we are going to talk about those places shortly. So again, mindset and framework. Chris, what do you think?

Chris:

I like where this is going and now that you've shared your perspective in how you see this, I'm making a lot of connections and mapping my own journey as a creative professional and how I evolved. And I want to say this because they're probably a handful of creative people in the room, traditionally trained graphic designer types, where we went to school to study the visual arts and the perspective, or the mindset, of a person in a design program, especially the one that I experienced, it's a very solitary endeavor.

We don't work well with others and we see the brief. Sometimes we write the brief, sometimes we're given the brief and then we go away and we come up with ideas and then we present. There's a big presentation and we show our clients the different ideas that we came up with in hopes that one of them is going to be celebrated and they're going to say, "This is freaking amazing. You're a creative genius. No wonder we want to pay you this. And everything that we heard about you is true and you've delivered above and beyond." But as you know, this is not always the case.

Oftentimes we'll present something and we're so excited about it and then we're not seeing the reaction that we expect or hope for. And the other person is looking very stoically at the work and we can see a little pain or consternation building up in their face like, "How do I tell this person they totally missed the boat?" And this is what Arthur Blarens talks about, the addiction to presentations, that feeling that you have, the excitement, the energy level, how you're pumped up and the adrenaline is flowing and you think you're doing your best work and you show it to the client and it either rises to the moment or it falls hard and it's very emotionally painful for creative types to go through.

And in my intro, I talked about my friend Jose Caballer, who introduced me to user experience design. And I have to say, I'm a little embarrassed to admit this. It was the first time that I really stopped thinking about myself, what I wanted to do, what my ideas were, what my taste level was. And I just had to understand and study the user profiles. We had to build user profiles and understand what is it like to be them? What is it like for them to manage their work life and their personal life? And to see all the pain points and the challenges and then different frameworks that I learned all of a sudden transform the way that works.

I'm very excited to dig deeper with you, Eric. I just wanted to give some creative context because I'm on the other side of that spectrum where for a period of my life I was a pure creative visual artist.

Eric:

That's a great share. Now for some of you, what I'm about to say if you're not familiar there is... Do you guys call it a product or a resource core? Jose's core?

Chris:

It's a framework. It's a product, but yeah.

Eric:

So I'm just going to say something a little controversial. Design thinking is a foundation of core. Meaning the two or three methods that I saw in core come from the heart of design thinking. So if some of you out there who are familiar with it, that can help maybe ground the conversation a little bit, but I'll get into some more specifics later.

But to relate it back to Chris's story, I've seen some of the videos with you and Jose in the room and Jose's just commanding the room with the workshop. And I must admit, Chris, I could see you were, I don't want to say stilted, but you seemed like a little fish out of water. Is that a fair assessment?

Chris:

That is more than fair, my friend.

Eric:

And the reason I point that out is because, not to make fun of you, but that's a common reaction for most of my students that I work with or people who I'm trying to get through the process. Even creative types such as yourself are like, "Hey, Eric, I kind of do this already. Why are we wasting time on this?"

So I want to hold that thought and just say thank you, Chris, for sharing that because that's a very common initial reaction to it. So let's actually talk about the framework and we're going to get a real here. And I don't mean that in sort of a controversial sense of the word, but arguably design thinking got its start in the 1950s from a MIT professor by the name of John Arnold. And what he was recognizing, as a engineering professional or professor rather, his students were just building to build and what they built, it was great, but it was only built for an engineer.

Bolts were sticking out and he had to use certain tools to even use the thing that they built. And he proposed that, "I'm going to come up with a fictitious character called Methanians," which is short for creatures built out of methane. "And they're kind of like these bird light creatures with three eyes, but they love being sold to. So create a product for them."

And his point was getting the engineers out of the way of being engineers and trying to make something for something else that's not them. And even though there's no such creature as a Methanian, the point was still there, that even because we're humans, we often can miss the mark building something, creating something for another human. So this exercise spanned out decades later, went to Stanford and Stanford has a d.school of design where that the sort of framework of design thinking was born.

If you Google design thinking Stanford, you're probably going to see five or six hexagons in succession: empathize, decide, ideate, prototype, and test. Well, for me, I feel like it's a lot. It's overwhelming. I appreciate the framework. I totally respect all the people that have come before me. I stand on the shoulders of those giants, but I needed to break that model down a little bit further.

So those hexagons can get kind of clunky and they kind of lose their meaning. So I've created what's called the real world model, and it's only four things. Number one, you have to see the world. That is really about empathizing with your end user, your customer,. Even if you're not building the next iPhone, when that phone call comes in, "Hey, Chris, I want to work with you." And Chris, you're very good proponent of just slowing down and listening, but truly empathizing.

"Oh, why do you need that website? Are you sure? Do you really want to spend that amount of money with me? Okay, tell me more. Why are you struggling?" Really getting inside the mind of your customer. But what design thinking asks you to do is really immerse yourself once you take on that client. You can interview them. You can do what I like to call fly on the wall observation, which is pretending to be a fly, not interrupting your client, watching what they do, what are the things they click or interact with? Who do they talk with? So that's seeing the world.

Once you see the world, you've got all these observations. Now you have to understand it. What the heck did I just see? So this is part of the decide and ideate portion of the Stanford Model. How do I start to narrow down all these observations? You're deciding, you're synthesizing, you're pairing down whatever the language you want to use there, but you're starting to get to a point where you're coming up with ideas, you're not quite making anything yet. Although use a sticky note, scribbled on a whiteboard, whatever gets the idea out. It's a great way. And there's a couple of methods that I'm going to share with you later on what you can do here with design thinking.

Okay, Chris, so we see the world. Now we start to understand it. And it's these two steps that are so critical. Don't just jump to being like, "Ah, I know how to fix that website. Boy, company X," I'll use your commercial real estate, "Gosh, their website really sucks. I'm going to propose doing a website." But they don't really need that. So you want to stop and truly understand what their problem is. And, Chris, if I recall quickly, it was more about understanding a user experience versus just another website?

So those are critical. See the world, understand it. Great. Now that you understand it, here's the fun part, you make for the world. See the world, understand, now make for the world. This gets into prototyping and testing.

Now for some of us that term prototyping doesn't fit because you might be just a graphic designer. I don't build these little physical objects, but that's okay. I think of a logo designer, graphic designer who has multiple iterations of the logo versus a circle maybe then it has a triangle cut out. Nope, maybe it's a circle plus the triangle plus the rectangle. Oh, maybe it's a cutout, maybe it's black on white and white on black and all these different iterations. That's a prototype. And when you really lean into design thinking, you show that to the client in its most unfinished form.

Much like what Chris was saying, don't wait for the reveal. Don't pull this big cover of over a big poster board and go, "Ta-da." No, bring them into the process and go, "All right, customer, what do you think? I'm kind of feeling these three to four different logo designs?" And then you test it with them. And there's a great set of methods in there to do this in a way in which you're not overwhelmed and you're not doing a ton of revisions. Much of what Chris advocates for. Don't go into revision hell,

All right. Lastly, you've seen the world, you understand it, you've made something for it. Now you have to tell the world your story. This is essentially marketing or pitching your work. Yes, your client has been probably with you through the whole process, but at the end when you're finished, you have to pitch it. You have to remind them not only of the design decisions they made, but you're reminding them why they hired you.

That passion, that pitch, that storytelling you're giving them about the thing that you've created. You're basically becoming their advisor, they're believing in you, and they're also being able to take that same story and pitch it to their customers. In a way you're training them to be kind of like you in getting people excited about the end product. And so I'm going to stop there and give you a couple of use cases but, Chris, I know that's a lot to unpack, so good time to pause.

Chris:

Actually, the way you've explained it is super clear and I'm enjoying it. One thing I needed to ask you about, because I did do a Google search on design thinking Stanford framework, and there seemed to be a lot more steps, but one thing that sounded different than what you were saying, and maybe you've modified it, but where they start with notice, empathize, it says define, you say decide. Is it supposed to be decide or define or is that just a Freudian slip kind of thing?

Eric:

It might have been a mix up on mine, but yeah, it's define.

Chris:

Okay, beautiful. I just want to clarify in case some people are looking it up and finding a little disconnect there. I just want to quickly relate something here because design thinking for some people is a buzzword. And for a while there really large corporations were buying up smaller design firms that had just the word design thinking somewhere on their website.

And so if you wanted to be purchased by IBM or something, you just start to change your company and use that language. But there's a lot simpler way of understanding this for people who may have worked in the motion design or commercial production industry. What we talk about a lot is we start with a very kind of onion skin process where we peel back layer at a time until we get to the core. And the core is the finished commercial or film that you're making and you start off with a script, written words, that then get translated into storyboards. And the storyboards become an automatic, which is a really crude version, the prototype if you will, the cheapest and ugliest version of the finished thing timed out maybe to music and sound design.

And then the rest of the process is a continuation of refinement. And now something that I'm a big advocate for is if you involve your clients early and often you're doing some really good things for yourself. Number one is you're empowering them and you're incorporating them so they feel engaged and part of the creative process. So they have as much ownership of the outcome as you do. And it's nice to do that. It's a good human thing to do versus building a wall between you and your client. And we have to just get over this concept that we must work in secrecy because people will judge us poorly for half finished ideas.

But what you're doing is you're alleviating the anxiety that your clients and customers feel because they're waiting, tapping on the table for weeks on end without knowing where it's going. Their biggest fear is you're going to show them something that they just don't like and now they've lost something, they've lost valuable time, and potentially you're going to have to start over.

We also know that it's cheaper to fix a problem when you can identify it early. Imagine finishing a complete commercial production or music video and your client says, "I hate this. This is terrible. This is nothing at all what we talked about." And so as a creative professional, whether you're a freelancer, independent business owner, or you run a 50 person agency, if you could start to let go of your guard around the old idea of holding on to the work without involving your client, you're going to continue to be stuck in this way and you're going to pay for it in terms of revisions of the dreaded late cycle revisions at the 11th hour. Okay, Having said that, Eric, I'm going to turn it back over to you.

Eric:

No, that's great. I appreciate you sharing it. It reminds me of, I don't know if it's a quote, but it was something Matthew Encina had written in the Pitch Kit, which was, "Creative ideas can be tough to sell. You're trying to convince someone of something that doesn't exist yet." So I think design thinking says, "Okay, well how do I make them feel less uncomfortable? That this thing we're going to birth into existence isn't just magic and it's a way to prove what value you bring even before the thing is created."

And so that's really what you were sort of bringing out in me, Chris, in that statement. So I just wanted to relate that to Matthew's quote. So see the world, understand the world, make something for the world story, story tell to the world. I'm just going to share a couple of methods in here. I want to make it just a little bit more tangible and then I want to share some stories.

Seeing the world is really all that research, empathizing at a deep level. It's based in ethnographic research, and that's a fancy word for saying you're going to write about people, you're going to study them. I've spent many years trying to understand ethnographic research and it's a labor of love, but I know a lot of designers out there are like, "Dude, I got to work fast. I don't know how much time I'm going to be able to spend with people."

So one simple technique, one method, which isn't necessarily unique to design thinking, which is interviewing. Interviewing is a very quick and efficient way of getting to the heart of your client's problem. Here's the thing, don't just interview one person. Talk to your client and say, "Okay," pretend you're my client Chris, "Chris, thank you for sharing. Who else should I be talking to? Who will," I don't know this collateral that we're building, "who should have a say in it?" And then understanding how best to interview them.

I'm not going to go into the different interviewing techniques and styles, but that's one way you can do that at scale. And plus we've got so many tools out there, I think like Otter and Scribed and all these transcription services. Of course with the permission of the interviewee, just have a conversation with them and let the closed caption or the capturing system get the context or capture the words from the interview. I find I get a lot more richer engagement when I'm just having eye contact.

My other favorite part of seeing the world is the fly on the wall where you just sit and observe. Obviously, again with permission, you don't want to be that weirdo sitting in the corner like, "Who's that person?" Scribbling furiously about everything I'm doing. It's a great way to be able to do that and social distance as well. For some that's still a concern.

And so these are really two good ways to get started, both from a completely remote situation and one from being in person. There's ways to do this in remote. I go into much more detail in a different call, but for now you get the idea now.

Oh, so you've gone and done all this research. Here's some methods to help you start to winnow down or synthesize. I love this technique, it's called Rose, Thorn, Bud. Now if any of you follow me, I'm probably a broken record when I talk about it, but it is such a simple and elegant method unique to this design thinking world in terms of looking at your observations and giving them categories.

So one way I might do this, Chris, you were describing the commercial real estate client. Maybe they want you to do the whole environmental graphics package. Well, what I might do is go and actually walk the space, take images, photographs, what does it look like at night? What does it look like midday when the sun's up high? Then I come back and I look at these images and Rose, Thorn, Bud is really just a metaphor for what did I like what I didn't like and where do I see opportunity?

So rose is all the pretty parts, all the things I liked. Thorn, they're prickly, I was turned off by them, and the bud is something's about to bloom, but I'm not quite sure yet. So I write these down on sticky notes or I post them on a virtual whiteboard like Miro, and it's just a way to get it out of my brain. And then when you step back, it works like a beautiful heat map. You start to see where all these interesting opportunities or challenges are.

Why is that important you say? Because then you can start to narrow down on the problem and you can start to prioritize where to start. A lot of newcomers to design thinking are like, "Oh, my goodness, I just got a ton of observations. We've got a lot of problems. Where do I even start?" So Rose, Thorn, Bud is a great way to do that.

Chris:

Okay. Rose, Thorn, Bud. I've heard you say this before, I love the metaphor. It makes total sense. Rose is the things that you like, thorn is the things that you don't like, and bud is the budding opportunities that are yet to blossom. And so we're looking out for those things.

Eric:

So the second method after that is affinity clusters or clusters or themes you might have heard. But essentially it's then taking all those roses, those thorns, and buds and putting them in buckets or clusters that they have affinity, meaning they're similar in scope or they're similar in their challenge. And I find these just highly approachable.

These were the two methods I really glommed onto when I approached design thinking. And they're not like a mind map. It's not drawing these circles and expanding and expanding. It's the opposite. It does use circles, or clusters if you will, but the goal is to winnow down, pair down. And if you're doing this with a team member, it's a great way to see if the two of you or how many of in your group are saying the same thing. And the beautiful byproduct of that, Chris, is it builds consensus. You'd say, "Whoa, Chris, you and I, we saw that too, we saw the same thing." Great.

Then when it comes to actually deciding on what to work on, you're not going to sit there and fight and argue like I've seen a lot of creative teams do. They're like, "No, we need to go for the call to action button here." And the other person says, "No, I think we need to have lots more white space." And then it's this whole back and forth about where they should start first.

So there's a lot more going on than just doing the work of observing and synthesizing your data. There's a lot of team building in there and it's a wonderful byproduct. Let's get to two others and then we'll jump into some stories. All right, so the prototyping, I think Chris has made a wonderful case for this is in using Blarens position that, "Hey, don't wait till the end to do this big reveal or the presentation. Start prototyping. Sharing off your iterations."

I'll give a personal example. I was asked two weeks ago to put together a pitch deck. These people asked me to sort lean into the storytelling piece and maybe punch up some of the visuals. Oh, okay, great. But I forewarned them. I said, "I'm probably going to annoy you because I'm going to ask you, is this going to work? Do you like this?" And what I'm doing here is I'm not trying to annoy them, but I'm trying to understand what frequency do they want to be involved in. And it was great.

My client said this, "This is what I needed because the last designer I worked with, the last copywriter I worked with, they would disappear. They're in their secret lab and then when they pop up and I didn't like what they presented, they got offended." You could feel the defensiveness in their voice and they said, "We really appreciate you being a little bit more open to it."

And so prototypes can be copywriting, it could be just a clunky little paragraph put up in front of them. And for us as creatives, we're our hardest critics. I thought I wrote some pure dribble, something pretty basic, put it up in front of the client and they're like, "Oh, my gosh, you're a genius." And so I have to laugh and it keeps me humble, but at the same time it's proving the process is working. Showing a prototype no matter what creative field you're in, has been helpful.

The other thing that I do there is I do it what I call, think aloud testing. It's like putting your brain on speaker phone. So if it's a website, Chris, I might come to you and say, "Okay Chris, here's just some wire frames. I'm not going to even tell you what to do. Go just play with it."

And Chris might say, "Well what am I supposed to do?" And I'll say, "I can't tell you." The point of it is you want to see how the individual user reacts to your initial design. And if it requires so much explanation, it's probably a good sign you're not created something in this case that's user friendly. So that's think aloud testing. And that could be done with anything like copywriting.

I'll say to Chris like, "Hey, I just wrote this body of copy for the hero section of the website. Just read it out loud." Chris reads it out loud. And he's like, "Eric, that's horrible. That just sounds clunky." I'm like, "Great. All good. Now I know. Let's keep going." And then lastly, a final method I'd share with you is when you're going to pitch, when you're going to do your storytelling, it's called cover story. Or it's like pretending that your product, or your final thing, is going to show up on a magazine and maybe it's the New Yorker or it's Time Magazine, name your favorite publication.

But what you're doing here is you're trying to instill until the client, "Hey, this thing we're doing could be pretty prosperous for you." And some people call it future scaping or seeing into the future. What does it look like? What does success look like? And it's not something foreign to the graphic designer creative community.

Chris, I know you do like your team does a lot of mock ups. What would this thing look like if it was a physical book or if it was a poster? This is very much in the same spirit. So those are some of the key methods that I use frequently in design thinking.

Greg:

Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back. Welcome back to our conversation.

Eric:

Let's tell a story of design thinking in the real world. So Chris is right. There's been a lot of, I don't know if it's in the zeitgeist or the buzzwordy, but there's a reason why corporations or major companies have adopted design thinking. Because frankly it just works.

Now I have my opinions on how people make it work in these corporations that I don't agree with. But there is one standout organization that I absolutely adore and talk about a lot. It's PepsiCo. Now, the former PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi, arguably one of the best performing CEOs for PepsiCo, actually put design thinking to use in her company.

The board was totally against it. I don't know if this is entirely hued in the story, but she was, I think, one of the first women CEOs. So there was a little uneasiness about her coming in and using this sort of buzzwordy term. But what she knew at that time, there was this growing desire of customers to be able to connect to brands with purpose.

Now if you spend enough time on either LinkedIn or Instagram, that's all brands talk about. We have this purpose, we have this mission, and that purpose is more about at a human level versus, "Hey, we're on this mission to make a ton of dough." I think Whole Foods has, "We have this purpose to have people eat healthier," and I'm maybe butchering it, but it's more leaning into a human purpose than that of like, "Oh, we make better products than the other guy."

And so at that time, that wasn't quite in the zeitgeist. It wasn't really popular. And so Indra hired pretty renowned designer by the name of Mauro Puccini to help her in this design thinking effort. And what they were finding is like, "Well, what the heck is our purpose? We make junk food. Let's just be honest." And so using some of the design thinking techniques, they wanted to see the world. What is the world of people who use Pepsi type products? They had chips and other soft drinks and things, they make Doritos.

But what they found is the purpose is like, "Yeah. Cool, you make junk food, but we want healthy food too." So Pepsi Coke came up with the purpose of having healthier products. And part of the process Indra came up with, and this is a quote from her Harvard Business Review article. You can see it online for free. She said, "We wanted to make a portfolio of products that had fun for you food and some which were good for you."

Now, I don't know, I might be a little sucker for those types of platitudes, but it helped really condense down that, "Hey, we're not getting rid of who we are as sort of this fun for you food, but we're also going to give you some good stuff." And it wouldn't have been without the design thinking process that they got there.

So they were able to, I think they acquired Quaker Oats, Tropicana, they made less sugary juices, Naked Juice, Izze was another one. They were reducing their salt and sugar and fat in their core products. And she and Mauro really attribute using the design thinking methods to ask the right questions of their customers. And what they found is people didn't want more multiple flavors of Doritos. They wanted these healthier products. So Chris, were you familiar with that story?

Chris:

No, I wasn't. And I know Mauro, so this is really cool to hear. And I also am a sucker for good copywriting. So they took the word junk food and just turned that into fun for you. I'm like, "All right, I accept that." And then we'll also make some things that are actually good for you. And you can tell that that is probably the culmination of a lot of work, thinking, and processing and synthesizing so that you could distill it down to something super simple and memorable and repeatable. And that's really important in terms of the storytelling part of it.

So a lot of you, as you're working on your messaging and your positioning, you'll use too many words. And an exercise I do with anybody I'm working with, I'll just tell them, "Cut down the words by half." And you'll have to make some hard decisions. And then eventually you'll boil it down to its essence. So fun for you, good for you. I like that. Nice story, Eric.

Eric:

It's so great. I love it. Now I think the challenge here, Chris, is if I was in the audience and I heard this story, it's like, "Yeah, well thanks Eric, but where's all the design thinking?" So unfortunately I wasn't there in the room, so I don't know what particular methods they employed, but I thought it was a really solid story. It proved to... They became very profitable because of this. I don't know the exact numbers, but the board members completely, if I were in the room, I bet they'd shut up. And we like, "Okay, good job Andrew and Mauro, keep it going."

But I can share a personal story and give you some idea of where this fits in the real world. I had a client a few years back before the pandemic, so we were able to do a lot of the work in the physical space that was a pretty major SAS or cloud based company that they made a big mark in automation, particularly in HR and IT support services.

So think if you know work for a company and you have to submit for taking time off for holiday or vacation, they created software that makes that really super easy and automated. Well, in 2019, they asked me to come help with a sales strategy. I'm thinking, "Well, I'm not really known for my sales strategy, but okay." We can get to how that came about later. But what they were experiencing was some exponential growth like 10 x. And arguably that's not a bad problem to have. Growing is great. They were making a lot of money, but the sales team was getting burnt out. Because they couldn't scale fast enough, they couldn't onboard new employees.

And so what was happening is the sellers, people should be out there connecting with their customers. They were managing all the administrative tasks. So think SOWs and terms and conditions and data entry. And I want to be clear, it wasn't the sales team was above that. It wasn't like, "Oh, well we're the sales people, we can't do that stuff." No, it was just they we're not staying connected to the customers. That's their goal is to keep going out there, making the money, and getting more customers.

And it also created challenges for connecting to new prospects. They were banging down the door. They wanted this product line. "What are you going to do? I totally want to take your money customer, but I can't onboard you correctly."

So by the time I was brought in the team, Chris, you know this, I think if anybody follows Blarens knows this, they came in self diagnosed. "Oh, we know what the problem is, Eric. You just need to help us install a new CRM platform." If a number of you've never had to do a big enterprise install, you count your lucky stars because it is a bear, it's a beast. It can take a long time. And there's a whole process. Whether it was pure arrogance or naivete, I was like, "Guys, I don't feel this is right." And in hindsight, it was really my design thinking training.

I said, "Look, I don't think this is really your problem. I think software might help." But then I proposed we do a week's long design thinking set of workshops. It doesn't mean we're all in the room all day, but we brought in people from their global community, different sellers, their administrative people, project managers, executives. And we got into a workshop and I said, "All right, Rose, Thorn, Bud, what's working? What's not? Where do you see opportunities? And at the end of the week, everybody was pretty much saying the same thing, "Please do not install another piece of software."

And so that was a huge win just by doing that alone. Just pausing. Even getting the executives to say that, and I'll fast forward here, we did a lot of other methods, all the things I shared with you. Hearing their voices, at the end of the day, we created a prototype and I asked everybody to create these little prototypes out of paper, like sticky notes, anything we had in the room, scissors, tape, we didn't have to do anything.

I had a group of people create, they said, "Well, what if we did a little app to track our administrative stuff?" And they used sticky notes on their phone and each sticky note as you pull it off, emulated a different screen. And so it was fun to see them sort of go through these exercises. Look at the end of the day I had to do some work. I told them, I said, "I don't think you need another piece of software. You do automation already. Why don't you create a crowdsource platform to work with other administrative staff in different parts of the world?"

And they're like, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, all your West Coast sellers are only depending on your West Coast administrative staff, the people who can do the Ts and Cs and the SOWs. So why are they only depending on them?" "Oh, well Eric, they only trust them." "Yeah, but you've got people in Australia who aren't busy. Why don't you create an automation process where they put in these sales requests and while they go to bed at night on the West Coast, on Australian time, they're just going through checking the basic administrative needs. And in the morning it'll be there in their email and the sale will have been completed." And they loved it. They were already doing automation.

So I was able to help them at the end of the day, not only think creatively about it using design thinking, but here's the real business value. I saved them $8 million in software licenses. Now the software people probably were mad at me, but my point is that there's real business value there. And just slowing down and taking the creative process like design thinking and reframing the problem.

Chris:

You should have done value based pricing on that one.

Eric:

I can't talk about the details, but you're pretty close.

Chris:

If you save somebody $8 million, you should get a piece of that. And so we're seeing it applied in the real world where you can naturally improve the business function. And so then design thinking extends way beyond just thinking about a visual problem. You can just design and solve for business problems. And I love that because it is an empowering thing for creative types of people to be able to work on more than just the visual aspects.

It's one of the biggest pain points that people have that we tend to get relegated to just doing the things that seem to be superficial in terms of how it might impact a business. So for those of you that have an appetite for getting into the business function, Eric, you mentioned earlier about going from being a designer to being a trusted advisor. And that's why design thinking is so valuable to businesses. I have a question here from my friend Anna Lee. How can you validate the tests of the prototype? What is your method to validate the tests?

Eric:

Yeah, there's a few that you could do, but ultimately one of the biggest ones I lean on is system usability scale. I know it sounds super dirty, but it's been around since 1992. I forget the gentleman's name that created it, but he worked for an old school IBM spinoff, and it's basically 10 questions and it asks, "Can you use this product? Is it hard to use? Do you need to be taught more?" It's 10 questions. I can't rattle off all 10 of them. And if you score higher than 66, you've got something that's viable. And so, to me, that's a great way to quantify some viability or if it's working.

The other one is the think aloud testing. If I see someone really struggling to use a design or try to describe it, then I make note of that. And that's when I go back and say, "Okay, we got to do this again." I hope that helps, Anna Lee.

Chris:

Let's continue. Where else are we going to take this?

Eric:

That is it. Frankly, I have a short PDF of the two methods and how to use them. If you go to my website, which is thedesignthinker.org, at the bottom, there's a resource for design thinking. Feel free, download it. No obligation. You don't need your email. I really want you to put this to use today. Rose, Thorn, Bud. You could use this with your family. Oh, I don't know if you have teenagers, Chris. I know you do. I'm actually going to a graduation today for my youngest. So I wanted to say congratulations on your son's graduation.

Chris:

Thank you.

Eric:

That's awesome. Although my youngest is graduating preschool.

Chris:

Little difference there.

Eric:

Yeah. Big day in the Moore household. No, but I do have an older daughter. She's 21. And when she was in her teenage years, she was very difficult to speak with. She just didn't want to talk. And I get it. She didn't want to talk to her old man. I used to use Rose, Thorn, Bud with her and say, "Just what was great for you today? What was challenging? And where do you see opportunities?" And it was so great. We could do that at the dinner table.

You don't have to use sticky notes. I'd just be like, "All right, RTB me." Or Rose, Thorn, Bud. She's like, "Oh, well, so and so talk to me. And they were really sweet. And then, oh, Mr. Johansson gave me really crappy homework, so that was my thorn. And bud, I think I can finish the homework before 8:00 tonight, and then I can watch my favorite YouTube star Chris Do."

Chris:

So you didn't whiteboard that whole thing and diagram it out at the dinner table. That'd be really nerdy, Eric, if you did that.

Eric:

Yes.

Chris:

That'd be too much. And that's when she rolls her eyes and is like, "Oh, dad, lol" and does a TikTok about you.

Eric:

Yeah, no, she probably would.

Chris:

Yeah?

Eric:

She probably would.

Chris:

So how do people get this resource again?

Eric:

Again, it's www.thedesignthinker.org. And you scroll down to the bottom, near the footer, there's a link for the design thinking resource.

Chris:

And when Eric says it's the gift, it means that you don't have to put in your email address or anything. It's not one of these funnel things or is it?

Eric:

Nope.

Chris:

And when you say gift, people always like, "Ugh," because we've heard that. And it's just a way of saying, "Hey, welcome to my funnel." And this is not the case. Not the case at all. Traditionally speaking, we haven't had too much opportunity to bring people up on stage to ask questions or contribute to the conversation. So let's do that for right now. Nathan, welcome to the stage. Go ahead and unmute yourself and ask your question to Eric.

Nathan:

Hey, thank you for bringing me up here. When it comes to different types of design thinking curriculum and sorts of, I guess, methodologies, what are the resources you've had that you've sort of come across that you find most impactful, that really narrow things down in addition to Rose, Bud Thorn or things that you...

Chris:

Like frameworks?

Nathan:

Yeah.

Eric:

I also believe in systems thinking, which is a whole nother ball of wax, in terms of a framework. And really at the end of the day, the best way to describe it is think of a bathtub, filling it with water. And you have to have a stock in that system, which means the water is the stock. You need to have flows, which of course is the spigot. And then you need to also think about the spout, or sorry, the drain. That's also a flow. And you want to keep that water at a certain level, and you also want to keep it warm.

And so system thinking asks you to be mindful of, "Okay, how much water do I bring in? How do I control the temperature? And how do I keep it at a certain level?" And that's been very helpful for me because it introduces this concept of feedback loops.

And feedback loops is a type of framework where you're listening and you're receiving messages about, "Oh, the tubs getting too... It's going to overflow. We need to open the drain. Oh, the water's getting too cold, we need to up the temperature." So that's a pretty sort of hard visual to think about. But the feedback loops is what's helped me in working with clients and in getting messages out there. It's like, "Okay, well we can create this beautiful message," but at some point someone's going to tell me it's terrible. So I have to be mindful of those feedback loops. I'll stop there, Nathan, and see if that resonates.

Nathan:

Yeah, it does. It's the different ways of thinking of the things that give people the most feedback. Just you were able to pick up from that kind of kernel from what I was talking about. So it really goes to show how useful the, I guess, the methodology is for you to really find where things sort of connect. So thank you for that.

Chris:

Hey, Nathan, I have one framework for you that I think you'll really, really like, I learned it from one of my friends that works in product design, and here's what she said, "Task, gap, and opportunity." And it's a great way for you to get your toes into the whole looking at it from a user centric point of view.

So the task is the jobs that they have to get done at working at home. And so you could make a list of that. So you would start at the beginning of the day, and let's say it's a busy mom who's running a corporation. And so you're like, "Okay, what does she have to do?" And you would just list it out, get kids to school, get to work, manage a team, and write a report, or do a presentation. And you would just write all the tasks that she has to get done that day, on a typical day.

And then you look for the gap where there may be some points of friction. And so each one of the tasks like, "Okay, getting the kids off to school on time, getting the kids up, preparing meal, whatever." And you would just write all the gaps, the points of friction.

And then from your design user-centric mindset, you were like, "How do I improve or ease the pain of each one of these tasks that are important to us as a company or organization?" Now you won't be able to solve all the problems, so you prioritize the ones that you think your company is best suited to solve.

And oftentimes, that is a great way to generate new business concepts, new marketing concepts, whatever it is, because what we do is we pay for transformation. So if you're able to help people solve a specific problem, make their life easier, you win, they win, the company wins. I hope that is helpful to you. Task, gap, opportunity.

Nathan:

Thanks, appreciate that.

Chris:

You're very welcome. Okay, I have another question from our mutual friend, Anna Lee Hansen, who's asking this question, what do you see as the biggest difference between what your methodology is and design sprints? Is there some overlap? Is design sprints built on design thinking? So you just wanted to hear what the difference was between the two?

Eric:

Yeah, I get this question frequently. So short answer for me is design thinking is the foundation, and design sprints is a spinoff of it. Design sprints, for those of you don't know, typically it's a form of design thinking sets of workshops. But it's done very, very rapidly. So think four maybe five days.

The distinction I would make is that in design sprints, it's usually pretty clear what the problem is you're trying to solve for. So in the book Sprint from Jake Nap, they have this sprint about a robot delivering a toothbrush to a person staying in the hotel. So the guests forgot their toothbrush, they send a request. Well, and this robot delivers the toothbrush.

So to me, what that is more or less validating a solution you already have. And I think it's valuable to do that. What design thinking says is, "Well, what are you going to do if you don't know what the problem is? What are you going to do?" You should not shoehorn a solution at the beginning and then use design thinking to validate it. Design thinking asks you to take a few steps back and go, "Well, Chris, you just came to me and asked you to build a website. Great, let's go build a website. Well, there's a lot of conversation and stakeholder buy in to say, Chris, no, hold on. We don't really need a website. We have a problem with marketing."

And so that's where I would make the distinction between those two.

Chris:

Okay. Wonderful. Thank you much. Diana. Have you been able to move yourself into a more...

Diana:

Is this better?

Chris:

A little bit.

Diana:

Thank you, thank you, thank you. The question that I wanted to ask is, Eric, do you mentor people? Have you, and how do you see that relationship if someone approached you about it, basically? Thank you.

Chris:

Thank you, Diana.

Eric:

Yes. I get energized by mentoring people, especially when that light switch goes off. Chris, I'm sure you've seen it where they're like, "Oh, this is how you do it?" Or, "This is what it means to actually get paid for..." When you teach people how to slow down the conversation and get them out of their self diagnosis.

One of my favorite mentees, Jennifer Glover, was a early student of mine, and she just got so excited that she went off and just got a job doing design thinking at a big company. And she reminds me every day that I've inspired her. And it's those things that I look for. So yes, long story short, I do enjoy mentoring.

Diana:

Thank you.

Chris:

Okay. Thank you, Diana. All right, We're going to move this over to Eric. And Eric, you have the distinction of being our last person to be able to give some input or ask your question. So please just if you have a question, start with your question, Eric.

Eric Tubbs:

Okay. Yeah. Thank you very much. So I've gone through the Design Thinkers Academy a couple years back in Amsterdam and wanted to know, are you utilizing the double diamond methodology and use the journey stakeholder mapping, all those type of methodologies in your process and framework?

Eric:

Yeah. Before I answer that, how was your experience there, Eric?

Eric Tubbs:

It was fast paced, just absorbing from a fire hose, but it was good.

Eric:

You're still alive to tell the tale.

Eric Tubbs:

Yeah, exactly.

Eric:

Great question, Eric. Yes, and I do use the double diamond. And for those of you who aren't aware, it's from the Design Council out of the UK, and they're an organization that typically works with the government in the UK to help you and help use design to solve interesting social and economic problems. And what the double diamond essentially says is it's literally two diamonds drawn side by side, not diamonds, you put in your a ring, but that the various points on either side, you're either diverging in your thinking or you're converging.

It's sort of the go out and do a bunch of research and then, okay, now make sense of that research. And then the second diamond is, All right, go out and do a bunch of prototypes and then now come narrow down to one. And so that's, for the audience, if you're not familiar, that's what Eric's talking about.

I use that more or less as a way of holding a discussion around design thinking, "Hey, team, here's what we're going to do. Come up with a bunch of ideas. Don't tamp them down. They're not bad ideas. Just kind of get them out there and then we'll diamond down into what we think it is."

Now to your second part, Eric, I think it was customer journeys? Yes. When it makes sense, sometimes I use the term experience mapping, because I think customer journeys has a little bit of a different flavor to it. Meaning you're focusing on a specific set of interactions that they're doing. I like the methods of experience mapping because they ask you to not only look at the journey, but how are they feeling? What time of day was it, what things were they interacting with? And I think customer mapping can do that. I just haven't quite seen it framed up that way. But does that answer your question, Eric?

Eric Tubbs:

Yes, it does. Then the other thing is I've done some workshops before and before you get into the double diamond, well the double diamond is to get to that problem statement. But then sometimes you may have a number of challenges or opportunities and a our challenge is trying to figure out the right one to go for, if that makes sense.

Eric:

So what's the question? Of how I use the double diamond or?

Eric Tubbs:

Yeah, yeah. Or being able to... It's starting from somewhere. You mentioned what the design sprint, you kind of know what the problem is to a certain extent or the challenge is, but sometimes there may be a challenge to get to that problem and I didn't know if there's a way that you kind of work through that, to go from a challenge to that particular problem statement?

Eric:

Yeah. So again, just to give people some context, the double diamond, the first diamond is what they call the problem space. And then the second one, correct me if I'm wrong, Eric, it's sort of like the creation space. It's the solving space. So what I think I hear you say, Eric, is at that very beginning, the very tip, the left tip of that diamond, the very pointy part that assumes you know what the problem is. And what I think I hear you asking is, "Well how did you get to know what the problem is?" Is that correct?

Eric Tubbs:

It is one of those things where organization or a company may have, let's say, multiple challenges or opportunities and then in a way you kind of need to narrow it down. And I know there's this organization called, I think it's AJ&Smart or something like that. And they kind of have this lightning decision jam and I didn't know if there's something in addition to just doing a lightning decision jam to narrow down that challenge to start the design thinking process or if there's other ways of being able to do that?

Eric:

I see. I have a method I like to use, it's called ID Matrix or Impact Difficulty Matrix. And essentially, I won't go too deep into it, but essentially you pick anywhere from three to 10 challenges, like you were talking about an organization probably has lots of challenges, but I say limit it to 10 and then you map out what's low hanging fruit, what has high ROI, what's going to be more strategic, meaning what's going to take more long term in terms of solving it and then what's pure luxury? Yeah, that's a nice to have. It's a challenge, but I don't think we need to solve for it right now.

That's a method I use frequently to get, particularly executives, because every challenge is their baby and they feel like they have to solve for it. I put this little matrix up and I say, "Decide we're not leaving this room until we decide." So then they understand of these 10, which go first, which goes second, which go last.

Eric Tubbs:

Great. Great. Thanks. That does validate my thinking. Thank you.

Eric:

You're welcome.

Chris:

All right. It got a little nerdy there, Eric, and I appreciate that. The two Erics got super...

Eric Tubbs:

Sorry, man.

Chris:

No, no. No need to apologize.

Eric:

Chris is only calling me out.

Chris:

User journey mapping, double diamond, impact effort. I love it.

Eric:

And breathing and margins. I don't know. I'm losing all my typography. You get there too, brother.

Chris:

All right. I know, I know. What is it? Nerd recognizes nerd. And that's what we're going to do. Okay. On behalf of Eric, I just want to thank everybody for tuning in today. So if you've enjoyed this conversation, there's a couple things I'm going to ask you to do. One is first give Eric Moore a follow and anybody else that you've enjoyed, if you geeked out with Eric Tubs or anybody else, feel free to follow them. Thank you so much for tuning in.

Greg:

Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Future Podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony Barrow for editing and mixing this episode. And thank you to Adam Sandborn for our intro music.

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