Clothes + airplanes + IT + $ = radical design thinking collaboration

Diana Joseph
May 20, 2014 · 3 min read

What a week! Olga Trusova (@olga_t ) and I recently returned from Boston where we attended a design thinking bootcamp in Fidelity’s amazing ThinkSpace. For the last year I’ve been working at Citrix, running an learning program for innovators — design thinking is our backbone and the driver that’s begun to shift our culture toward innovation since Catherine Courage took on the role of SVP, Customer Experience. Design thinking is a framework for customer innovation that draws on all of my favorite human qualities: empathy, imagination, initiative curiosity, discipline and perseverance … it results in new things that solve real human problems.

Last month we were lucky enough to be invited to a two-day event hosted by Fred Leichter & his team at Fidelity. They hosted design thinkers from Nordstrom, Jet Blue, Fidelity and Citrix, four non-competing companies with established design thinking practices. Each company sent two experienced coaches and 8-10 associates, most of whom were brand new to DT. Five things that astonished me:

* Novice design thinkers stepped right up & took risks in front of strangers from other companies
* A design challenge that I thought was about finances turned out to be about cross-generational communication, something that matters to all four companies
*Total strangers on the street were willing to talk to us about the toughest conversations in their lives
* Only one prototyping injury
* We immediately forgot who worked where

Our challenge: how might we facilitate conversations about topics that people usually avoid, including finance?

Our quarterback Matt Templeton sent our fantastic Red Team out into the world to interview a huge range of people — estate planning lawyers, three-generation families, retired military. We listened, we put ourselves in their shoes, we synthesized … We made daring inferences and we built prototypes to test our assumptions. Risky stuff, my friends.

We met a retired army sergeant, mother of two. We were amazed to realized that her toughest life & death conversations with her mother felt safest on the phone, when they couldn’t see each other’s faces. We thought it would be game-changing if she could feel that safe in all her tough conversations.

We thought it would be game changing if everybody could feel that safe in their tough conversations.

We created a prototype: financial advice and family counseling delivered by real people, in your own comfy living room. Lousy idea as it turns out — everybody’s shy about the mess, where are the kids going to do while we’re talking, and when there’s a tough moment going on, who wants strangers in the living room? But by putting it out for testing with real people, we learned that people are hungry for guidance about how to have tough conversations. What information do I need before I start? Are there words I can say to make my family feel more comfortable? How many conversations will I need?

Really satisfying bootcamp. Even more satisfying: being part of this radical collaboration between totally different companies in totally different industries, who nevertheless face the same challenges when it comes to innovation. Can’t wait for the next rotation, is it our turn to host yet?

Shout out to Team Red and my co-coach Mark Rogers— thanks for putting up with my coaching, learned a ton working with you!

Would love to hear your perspective — post comments about your collaborations and explorations below!

Diana Joseph

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