Over the past week I’ve been answering a number of questions about running remote conference with 150+ attendees. This is a quick primer to help organize your own large remote conference.

1) Clear objectives

The most critical piece of hosting a large online conference is to have crystal clear objectives. A typical conference format of people speaking from a stage to a crowd of 500 people will inevitably lead to low engagement online. Instead, it is worth taking a step back and considering the purpose of the gathering. Is it to have people share what they are working on? For people who don’t…

Learn to apply design thinking through solving real business challenges

Innovation beyond the workshop

We started Staircase to partner with fellow leaders eager to use Design Thinking to solve complex problems, but who weren’t fully prepared to do so after an introductory Design Thinking course.

Our 35 years of collective experience has shown that the best way to apply Design Thinking is by combining a kickoff problem framing and tool introduction workshop with ongoing remotely facilitated sessions that focus on solving a real world business problem.

Sample 8-week Remote First Agenda

This learning model is intended to solve two distinct corporate challenges. First, how to effectively take classroom learnings back into the workplace. Second, spending time and money on…

The search for “out of the box” thinking

A commonly requested outcome from a design thinking workshop is creative ideas. This type of question is frequently asked:

“How do you get folks to think outside of the box when it comes to the ‘innovation/prototyping/solutioning’ part of the workshop? Are there exercises, tools or the like to facilitate thinking outside of the box and creativity?

I think about creativity from a few different perspectives.

A guide to introducing user story mapping

At a recent Design Thinking Boulder meetup, I ran a workshop on how to use user story mapping to connect design thinking with agile development practices. The following is an agenda that you can also use to introduce user story mapping to your product teams or at a DT meetup in your community. (Check out the original book by Jeff Patton or my take on how to “Build experiences not features” for IBM Design.) Special thanks to my co-hosts Rebecca Radnaev and Zoe Wedel, as well as Sovos for generously offering to host the meetup.

Agenda: Ninety minute intro to User Story Mapping

User story mapping end result

Kickoff (:00-:03)

Video: User story mapping in…

Design Thinking: Large companies like IBM and USAA have invested significant sums of money in it. Stanford, Harvard, and MIT teach courses about it. It’s reputed to catalyze innovation, boost team confidence, and help de-risk product launches. So what exactly IS design thinking methodology, and why have so many Fortune 500 companies decided it’s valuable? What can and can’t it do? And is it something we should use (even if we’re not designers)?

This is how Becky and I advertised a workshop on design thinking at Viget here in Boulder, CO. The goal of the workshop was to introduce people…

Where the students teach the classes, assign their own grades, and choose their own projects to launch

Should a class about entrepreneurship be itself entrepreneurial?

In the Fall of 2018, 43 juniors and seniors at the University of Colorado — Boulder went on an self-governing adventure. They walked into their entrepreneurship 101 course thinking it would be like most of the rest of their classes with lectures, midterms, and assignments. What they got instead was a self-governance experiment: choosing their own ideas to explore, teaching their own classes, and setting their own grades. The goals of the class, learning about the foundations of entrepreneurship, were the same as other section of entrepreneurship 101. The way they got there was a bit different. …

Why is it so difficult to pick great startups out of the crowd?

The truth is that picking the startups that will succeed is difficult even for the most qualified groups, including accelerators, angel investors, crowdfunders and venture capital firms. Why?


Most investors rely on the same old methods of picking startups: They poll their constituency, ask everybody who they like and admit those founders. At root, it is still a popularity contest.

TractionTank is different.

TractionTank allows any startup that passes some basic filters to join the accelerator, receive the benefits of traction training and marketing cash, and…

Design at Business is an inter-company design community that provides a forum for design practitioners to get together and discuss the challenges they face using design in their businesses. In December 2018 coaches and facilitators from a variety of companies congregated at St. Pete Beach, Florida to host the second Design at Business (DatB) Unconference.

Learning from the first iteration in 2017, we covered a widespread variety of challenging topics in our two and a half days together — from imagining and supporting behavior change in a world of pilotless planes, to “peeling an onion” to understand the problem under…

Frustrated with seeking unanimous agreement? Climb the mountain of self-governance nirvana!

You’ve heard of self-governance right? Read the Holacracy Constitution?

Tl;dr 1) Self-governance without explicit, written process is a frustrating search for universal agreement guided by benevolent leadership. 2) Test out more formal self-governance by identifying decisions the team makes and write/practice specific processes for making those decisions. 3) Adopt a simple framework that allows the self-governance processes to grow and adapt with the team. 4) Avoid the decision making swirl through one final act of centralized decision making by a high authority figure.

Self-governance with no explicit process is exhausting and frustrating

Here’s the story I see. Team wants to be flat (yay no managers!) Team wants to promote…

Eric Morrow

Founder and Principal, Staircase Strategy

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