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Today I’m pleased to share a guest post from Mariposa Leadership.

Catherine Courage, VP of Product Design for Citrix, joined Sue Bethanis, CEO/Founder of Mariposa Leadership, as a guest on Wise Talk, Mariposa Leadership’s monthly Leadership Forum featuring experts on cutting-edge leadership topics. Sue asked Catherine for insights on what works – and what doesn’t – when creating a “design thinking (and doing)” culture within an organization. What follows are key insights from the conversation:

Our favorite quote from Catherine:
Keeping your team inspired is critical to success. Hire a team of A+ players, and give them exciting and challenging problems; then just get out of their way. And take time to recognize and reward greatness and be sure to have fun as a team along the way.

Insights from the conversation:
Design thinking is a different mindset. In an engineering-driven company, like most technology companies are, it’s about execution and driving forth solutions very quickly. However, the design thinking approach is not geared toward execution and driving toward solutions immediately. It’s about taking a step back – looking at the big picture – because if you start with a solution in mind, you’re going to be focused on constraints and existing things that could result in only incremental improvements. You’re never going to get to that next breakthrough.

Design thinking is not only about ideation. The customer is your first focus, but it’s not about conducting focus groups with them. Instead, Catherine says spend time with customers in their world, observe them, and truly develop empathy for them. Also, listen, deeply understand their needs, and then ask, what are all the things we could possibly do based on the problems we see and our understanding from the customer? Once you have many answers and ideas around that, narrow them down. Ask, what do we realistically think is the right solution? This is when you come up with phenomenal ideas that never would have emerged otherwise.

Catherine also says as you start to refine what you want to build, keep the customer engaged and iterating the ideas. Get prototypes in front of customers; get feedback on them early and often. As mentioned, it really is all about ideation and the customer – those two are the core of the process.

What we found most interesting about what Catherine said:
Catherine mentioned the biggest barrier in the customer observation, prototyping, and iteration process was the sales team. “They disliked the idea that designers were going out and talking to the customers – they thought it would mess up their deal. But in reality, the customers love it! They love that you’re out there asking them and that you care enough and want to make their product better. It gives them a sense of affiliation. It’s usually the sales team you have to convert by getting them out to see the reaction. When they see what a huge asset it is to sales, they realize it’s like saying, ‘Our company cares about design and we care about our customers. Your voice matters and you can play a significant part in shaping your products.’”

Practical tool to apply:
How do you take the customer observation data and turn it into something tangible? It’s crucial to regroup quickly. Using whiteboards and post its, do an “affinity diagram” where people write their discreet findings and discoveries down on post-its, group them according to trends, then identify what’s repeating and what’s related. Use color coding – green post-its for the really great ideas uncovered, pink post-its for the difficult moments that uncovered things that must be fixed, blue  post-its for the innovative ideas and “aha” moments had. You will end up with a very visual map. From there, transcribe it all into a document and move to prototyping.

For more insights from design thinking and innovation experts featured on Wise Talk, Mariposa Leadership’s monthly Leadership Forum hosted by CEO/Founder, Sue Bethanis, download the free Executive Guide to Design Thinking. You can also listen in on Sue’s Wise Talk interview with Catherine.

About Mariposa Leadership, Inc.
Mariposa Leadership, an executive leadership coaching firm, has served the Bay Area’s most successful companies in Silicon Valley and the SF Bay Area since 1996.  High-tech and other demanding industries leverage Mariposa’s individual and executive team coaching programs to accelerate leadership performance.

Wise Talk is Mariposa’s monthly Leadership Forum hosted by CEO/Founder, Sue Bethanis. With more than 100 sessions recorded to date, Wise Talk’s unique dialogue via teleconference features informative interviews with selected experts from around the world and covers the latest in leadership topics such as strategy, customer experience, employee engagement, design thinking and other cutting-edge leadership content.