Cocoon Experience
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Cocoon Experience

Cocoon’s first five years. Founders’ views.

Cocoon Experience celebrated five years since its creation in 2016 by Anabela Fernandes and Sara Felizardo. For this joyous occasion the team prepared a few questions to ask the founders and uncover a bit more about this journey so far. How has Cocoon grown, how it’s shaping its present and what’s in vision for the future of the company.

Sara Felizardo on the left and Anabela Fernandes on the right.

1 — What was your motivation for creating Cocoon Experience?

Anabela: To make business transformation really happen, respecting business stakeholders, and to create great experiences not just for customers, but also for our clients and our team.

What do you mean by ‘really happen’?

Sara: In 2016, although human centred design methodologies were already present in many projects, the truth is that design and customer experience were not part of the companies’ core business and, as such, many projects ended up being put away in a drawer. It was fundamental to implement deep changes across all business departments and to do that every department and service partner had to be involved in the design process otherwise the new product or service would hardly see daylight. We knew fear of change was the biggest impediment to innovation and that fear had to be addressed openly, with dialog, during the design process. Cocoon was born to create the right environment for that to happen, that ‘s why we named it Cocoon.

2 — If you could go back in time, is there something/anything you would tell yourselves to do differently?

Sara: Of course, if I had known what I know today five years ago, I probably would have done some things differently. But if I could travel back in time I think the only thing I would say to Sara from 5 years ago would be “Go ahead you’re doing the right thing”!

Anabela: Sure we made a lot of mistakes and we could have done so many things differently, but I’m very proud and grateful for what we’ve learned from those mistakes. We are continuously growing, evolving. No workshop is the same, no report is the same, no prototype is the same. So, I wouldn’t change a thing in the past, because that past led us to where we are now, and because for us mistakes are the fuel to continuously improve the present and the future.

3— How has Cocoon evolved in the past 5 years?

Anabela: We evolved in so many ways… We are more mature, but not less passionate; For me the biggest changes were:

1. Our purpose changed. It shifted from being human-centered to become life-centered. At the beginning we wanted to design and deliver great human experiences. Today we aim to design meaningful and systemic solutions. Five years ago we weren’t consciously looking at the negative effects of our focus on the customer experience. We didn’t consider the side effects on other people beyond the customer or the company’s employee. Whatever we, as humans, do has a consequence that lives within a complex system and sometimes it directly affects people without being fully perceived as a negative consequence. A sole focus on customer experience can harbour systematic consequences which are very hard to “fix”.We must be conscious about it in order to make conscious decisions.

2. Our methods for co-creation changed too. In the beginning we stimulated creativity and collaboration with our clients using mainly Design Thinking approaches but with time we found out it wasn’t enough to create the necessary dialog around a systemic problem. That made us look for other methods and that is how we incorporated in our co-creative workshops practices like Social Presencing Theater and 4D Mapping (from Theory U) or Social Panorama techniques to analyse and redesign new systems (from the Psychologist Lucas Derks).

Can you tell us a story about a successful event that really made you feel like “Oh yes, that’s why I created this company for.”?

Sara: We had lots of those moments… The first time we felt such pride was perhaps when we celebrated our first anniversary. After a year of Cocoon, we already had three success stories to tell: for the first time a driver could track in real time the tow truck arriving near their vehicle using the LOGO app — an insurance solution, then in Lisbon people began to move around more sustainably by joining a new mobility bike sharing solution called GIRA hence joining a service that was feared to have little traction due to cultural reasons and it became a success, and in the healthcare field it became possible to schedule appointments, consult exams, make admissions and payments, without having to wait in a single line or waiting room, by using the MyCUF app. Our purpose to make business transformation “really happen” was coming true.

There are many other moments, essentially made up of feedback from clients and the team, such as when one of our projects went into production and the client sent a thank you email to the entire team not just for the excellent work, but also for the companionship and resilience throughout the process. Also whenever I see people growing and making their own achievements, I realize we’re on the right path and feel such joy “Oh yes, that’s why I created this company for”.

4 — How would you describe the company today?

Anabela: A real cocoon that has the alchemy of transforming whatever comes in into something beautiful, valuable and world friendly. A company with a unique and very strong culture where business, friendship and sustainability walk hand in hand.

5— Which values were present at the moment you founded Cocoon and are still present today, five years later? What challenges did you face to keep them?

Sara: We changed the purpose, we changed convictions, we changed the ways of doing, but the values remain the same. It was the values that joined me and Anabela in this adventure, it was values that made every person in our team join us, it’s the values that make people that have already left come back, it’s the values that make our clients want us to keep working with them. These values are Transparency, Respect for the individual, Collaboration, Balance, Agility, and Attitude to make things happen. Values that helped us make tough decisions. I wouldn’t call them challenges. I guess that challenges could have taken place if we had values that could compete with each other, like for instance having to make a decision between the team’s life balance and financial growth. Notice that there is no value related to money in that list. It takes courage to be a company with our size, driven by values without including financial growth as one. Yet we’ve always been a financially healthy company since day one. For us money is the inevitable outcome of being true to our values and serving our purpose with our hearts.

We are very proud to be a truly purpose driven company since the beginning. We know it’s not an easy decision. — Sara Felizardo.

How did the TheoryU process impact Cocoon?

Anabela: We became united like never before, and for the first time we co-created a vision for the future of Cocoon. It was wonderful to enter a process not knowing what would come out, just trusting each other. It was wonderful not having to establish the vision for the company alone with Sara like we did in the beginning, but letting a new and unique vision emerge from each and everyone. We couldn’t have done that without a well structured framework like TheoryU. We all shared our deepest concerns and dreams and from that we built this common vision.

It’s so much easier to work in a team we can trust and where everyone knows where we’re heading. A team that always moves forward to accomplish that vision, no matter what. — Anabela Fernandes.

6 — Tell us about the team.

Sara: A team of mature people. Where we set a mission or a goal and it automatically organizes itself to achieve it. With no naive expectations of flawless team-mates and where dialog and diversity of points of view are welcome. Everyone is totally different from one another, and yet we work beautifully together. It’s a dream team.

Happy 5th anniversary Cocoon! Here’s to many more! Cheers! 🥂

7 — Where do you see Cocoon in the next 2 years?

Anabela: We see a Cocoon that helped a lot of mature companies understand the value of letting it’s employees, clients, partners and community participate in their transformation process, starting with the creation of a new vision, and coming out of the process aligned and invigorated for action like they never knew possible. We also see a Cocoon that keeps learning and changing without fearing what it can become.

8 — What’s one project or sector you would like to work with?

Sara: I know that there is a desire across the entire team to work on humanitarian projects. Honestly, we haven’t found a way to do this yet.

Anabela: Also Art. Finding new effective ways of closing the gap between art, business and public.

9 — How’s the best way to describe the impact Cocoon has had in your life?

Sara: The word work took on another meaning. It is synonymous with joy, fun, growth and challenge. And the best part is that I made new great friends. Cocoon is also a family for me and makes me a better person every day.

Anabela: My love for Mondays! I don’t remember liking Mondays before Cocoon. And it’s not what you might think — seeking a break from a tiring weekend with the kids (they are grown now). Cocoon feels like home.

About Cocoon Experience
Founded in 2016, Cocoon focuses its company services into transforming businesses products, services, and organisations into more delightful and sustainable experiences. Cocoon’s mission is to aid their clients in the comprehensive understanding of their current customer experiences and social impacts, co-create a new vision and make it come alive through applied Service Design, Strategy and UX Design.

Cocoon was founded by Anabela Fernandes and Sara Felizardo.
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Cocoon Experience Contacts.




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Cocoon Experience

Cocoon Experience

Service Design & User Experience. We nurture CX and Sustainable Digital Transformation.

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