Charter Engage: Know IT

Design Thinking - We Are All Designers!

April 19, 2023 Charter Season 1 Episode 4
Design Thinking - We Are All Designers!
Charter Engage: Know IT
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Charter Engage: Know IT
Design Thinking - We Are All Designers!
Apr 19, 2023 Season 1 Episode 4

💭FREE Charter Engage: Know IT Podcast Series – Design Thinking – We Are All Designers!

This podcast explores how Design Thinking can aid successful corporate digital transformation. It's a problem-solving method, using customer-focused empathy to create products and services that meet their customers' needs. The program covers theoretical and practical business problems that Design Thinking addresses, real-life customer scenarios, and advice on getting started and partnering with Charter.

We’ll hear from our guests, including April Bilbrey, a Business Architect & Experience Designer; Wade Crick, the Principal Business Architect, Ronnie Scott, the Chief Technology Officer, and Mark George, the Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets for Charter as they discuss how Design Thinking’s powerful approach to problem-solving can help us all to become Designers and be more innovative and effective in our work.

💙Leave a Rating and Review on Apple Podcasts

Let Charter help drive your business outcomes Forward, Together.

Show Notes Transcript

💭FREE Charter Engage: Know IT Podcast Series – Design Thinking – We Are All Designers!

This podcast explores how Design Thinking can aid successful corporate digital transformation. It's a problem-solving method, using customer-focused empathy to create products and services that meet their customers' needs. The program covers theoretical and practical business problems that Design Thinking addresses, real-life customer scenarios, and advice on getting started and partnering with Charter.

We’ll hear from our guests, including April Bilbrey, a Business Architect & Experience Designer; Wade Crick, the Principal Business Architect, Ronnie Scott, the Chief Technology Officer, and Mark George, the Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets for Charter as they discuss how Design Thinking’s powerful approach to problem-solving can help us all to become Designers and be more innovative and effective in our work.

💙Leave a Rating and Review on Apple Podcasts

Let Charter help drive your business outcomes Forward, Together.

Charter Engage: Know IT – Podcast 2 – Design Thinking - We Are All Designers!

[Recorded simultaneously in Victoria, BC; Calgary, AB; and Brussels Region, Belgium]



[0:08] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Good day, and welcome to our podcast today called “We Are All Designers!” This is the latest episode of Charter’s new podcast series called “Charter Engage: Know IT.” I'm your host, Mark George, the Director of Energy, Resources, and Industrial markets [for Charter.] 


For the past 25 years, Charter’s built a very successful business as a reseller of networking, IT, security, and collaboration products and services. Recently, we made the strategic decision to invest in and build a much broader systems integration business - focused initially on companies in the Energy, Resources, and Industrial (ER&I) markets. To do this, Charter will take responsibility for customers achieving business outcomes, leveraging best-in-class technology, and a comprehensive portfolio of professional services to integrate and optimize across the traditional IT and OT infrastructures. To put these comprehensive solutions together, Charter will partner with third parties to help our clients achieve their digital transformation and business objectives. 


As business cycles get shorter and more competitors enter the market, it's critical to take another look at how you can leverage strategy to pivot or transform your business in this climate. Today's podcast focuses on one of the pillars of a successful corporate digital transformation strategy, called Design Thinking. As you'll hear from our guests, design thinking is a problem-solving methodology that focuses on understanding the needs and the desires of employees, customers, and other key stakeholders. By empathizing with the user, design thinking can help organizations create products and services that truly meet their customers’ needs. 


Our program today has three parts: i) first, we’ll look at the business problems that design thinking helps to address. both from a theoretical and a practical point of view; ii) second, we’ll discuss the different approaches organizations use, and provide some real-life customer scenarios of how design thinking helped transform those businesses; [and] iii) finally we’ll provide some advice on how to get started and the role that Charter can play in collaborating with you in the Design thinking process. 


I'm pleased to welcome three industry executives to lead our podcast discussion. April Bilbrey, a military and Cisco veteran. She’s provided a cross-industry technology and Design thinking expertise to hundreds of clients to help them drive digital and sustainable transitions and transformations. Secondly, I'd like to introduce Wade Crick. Wade is the principal business architect for Charter and leads our Design thinking workshops. Finally, it's my pleasure to introduce Ronnie Scott. Ronnie is the Chief Technology Officer for Charter. And together, all three have worked extensively across the globe helping companies become more innovative designers - with an outward-looking and customer-centric focus that fundamentally helped them speed up their business transformation efforts. 


So, let's begin today's discussion with a question. What is Design thinking and how does it help businesses solve problems? April, why don't we begin with you?


[4:02] April Bilbrey, Business Architect & Experience Designer

Thank you and thanks very much for having me here today. So first, I love the title “We are All Designers.” And that's the thing - we are all designers. And the real reason for this is because everything is designed. It's just designed with intention, or as a consequence of circumstance. And a lot of times it's simply the second scenario, but it doesn't have to be. 


So, for me, design thinking - it's in the name. It's about thinking before doing. So, it's creative, and everyone is creative or born that way; it's collaborative, so we don't stay in our own mindset or with our own views, we go out and seek information. The people who are at the heart of our business problem or the space in which we want to innovate, we go to them to discover, if you will, with empathy – what it’s like for them, either to have that problem or to need some kind of innovation. Design thinking, quite simply, is a collaborative and creative way to solve business problems or innovate. 


[5:19] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

And Wade, as you and I were thinking about the topic for today, of design thinking, this has been a fundamental part of the Business Architecture process. Maybe give us your views of design thinking and how you’ve seen it help businesses solve their problems.


[5:37] Wade Crick, Charter, Principal Business Architect

Thanks, Mark. And design thinking certainly is a foundational tool that's used with enterprise architecture and business architecture. And, as you go through helping companies with digital transformation, one of the first things you do is understand who the stakeholders are and what is top-of-mind, or their concerns. There is no better way to actually understand what is top-of-mind for stakeholders, and the best way to do that is to actually walk in their shoes. And that's really the first part, the first stage of design thinking. It's always interesting to see how, as I work with companies, and engage with them, and you start doing stakeholder mapping, and defining personas, assigning names to the personas (to make it very personable, right,) and even better, actually going out into the field - moving out of the, sort of, their comfortable office and spending time out in the field with those who are actually going to be using a product or service - that leads to great insights as to how they would actually use something that you might design for them.


[6:41] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Now Ronnie, one of the questions that comes to mind as I listened to April and Wade talk about this is, “Do you have to be a large company to use design thinking? If you're a small-medium business or a mid-market company, can it be employed?” And I just sit here and I ask myself “Why don't all organizations use it?” What's your perspective on that? 


[7:05] Ronnie Scott, Charter, Chief Technology Officer

Thanks, Mark. [That’s a] really good question. So, to start that answer, I'm going to go back to something that April said. She said the whole reason we do this is it's about thinking before doing. And I’ll confess. I’m an engineer. I love to do before thinking. And I don't want to make that sound rude, but I learn from doing, and trying, and creating, and all those kinds of things. So, I am the “doer,” not the “planner.” But it doesn't matter if you're an engineer, or a baker, or a manager, or a builder, everybody has to know their endgame. Everybody has to plan. And so, anybody who's looking forward and thinking “I want to do the next thing. I want to grow my business, I want to enlarge my customer base, I want to add a new service.” We need to stop and say “OK, what are these outcomes?” And that leads me to what Wade was talking about, which is about this idea that there’s a whole lot of stakeholders that could be affected by the moves that I make at the beginning, in ways that we can't foresee, from that beginning point to the end. So, it's up to us, regardless of what size business you are, regardless of what role you have, regardless of where you fit in your business to think “What does this model look like and where are we going?”, “Who, am I going to affect?,” and “What are the people going to want out of the outcomes of the changes I’m making now?” So, there is no limit. Anybody who's thinking and planning should be able to say “Design thinking? This is an interesting way that I can make my outcomes better for the people that I'm going to try and affect.”


[8:43] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Well, that's a natural segue to kind of the next question, I'd like the four of us to tackle. I read a recent McKinsey [& Company] report that says design thinking is the single biggest competitive advantage that you can have if your customers are loyal to you.[1] Because if you solve their needs first, you'll always win. So, the notion that any size company, any size organization, can start to think about what their customers need, that they can start to think about how they develop a more customer-centric culture, where the employees are encouraged to empathize with the customer and to think creatively (as April said right off the top of the discussion,) they can all start to collaborate on how to solve customer problems faster, better, and cheaper. A major benefit then is that this can lead to a more engaged workforce, which all of us are concerned about these days, and ultimately improve the customer experience.


So, with that as, kind of, the introduction, I’d value each of your thoughts on design thinking and the point about customer loyalty and engaging your employees in this process. April, we’ll start again with you. 


[10:02] April Bilbrey, Business Architect & Experience Designer

OK, thank you, Mark. So, there’s a well-established business case for design thinking. Well, you name, it somebody's written about it. And I would refer to the Design Management Institute’s study,[2] because it was over 10 years. They looked at companies. A basket of companies that we consider design-driven company companies – you know companies like Apple, companies like Cooper Coldwell or Herman Miller. And, what they found, just following the stocks of these companies for 10 years, is that they did on average 211% better than the standard and poor 500. 


And so why do we care about stock, right? We’re talking about customers. We’re talking about internal alignment. Well because this price is a reflection of how the market sees the management of that company, the portfolio of that company, and the revenue and margins they're able to drive. And what they found, what was common across these really blockbuster companies, is that they can get customers faster, and keep them longer, and they can charge higher margins because the value of what they're selling is so well received by the customers. They see the value; they perceive the value. You can have faster time-to-market when you’re a design-driven company. And internally, there is a stronger organizational alignment. We’re talking with each other; we're sharing our institutional knowledge. Empathy isn't only about the end users or customers, it's also our approach for each other. So, there's a real business case for design thinking and putting our customers or users at the centre of everything we do -it feels good. I mean, there’s a lot of knock-on effects from doing things with positive intent, and they know it. They sense it; they see it in what we do for them. And so, design thinking is smart business. 


[12:10] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Wade, as you and I work every day in the market together, we often talk about time-to-money.  April referred to time-to-market and the metrics that she's referenced that the Design Management Institutes’ 10 years study produced are amazing. What's your thought on the notion of engaging the broader employees in this, focusing on the customer, and ultimately being part of the design thinking (still theoretical) approach? Because I know, shortly, we’re going to move into the practical examples. Any other thoughts you have, on what April has suggested? 


[12:46] Wade Crick, Charter, Principal Business Architect

You know, as a follow-up to April’s comments, it's interesting to see how design thinking gets lots of publicity, occasionally right? And it's back, sort of, in vogue. But in fairness, design thing has been around since 1985, so it's not a new framework. But it has been widely adopted by certain industries. And certainly, for us that are technologists, that have worked at companies like Cisco and Microsoft, and so, on it's widely used by those companies for designing products for customers; but also, in how they engage with customers to help customers drive new innovation and new outcomes. 


And it all comes down to that central idea of human-centred design and customer intimacy. Well certainly, at Charter, here, we take great pride in the fact that we have great intimacy with our customers. And I would say there's no better way to really understand your customers than to walk in their shoes and engage in a design thinking exercise; where everybody gets to participate and contribute an idea, and there's no bad ideas. So, it’s amazing to see, always, as you work through a workshop, how one idea leads to another, to another, and ultimately to a prototype that you can go and test, with those customers you are designing for.  


And, another central idea of design thinking, of course, in terms of time-to-value is it gives the opportunity to test an idea and fail fast, and also learn fast. So, if your prototype isn’t going to work for your customer, you’ll go back and revisit with the customer what their real needs are and walk in their shoes again. 


[14:14] Ronnie Scott, Charter, Chief Technology Officer

Thanks, Wade. I think that's really good input. But I wanted to add on top of that a couple of things. So, first of all, you see, there's no bad ideas. I'm not sure about that. I think there's some bad ideas, but we can put those aside. 


I did want to say, from myself at Charter, we’re a smallish organization with about 125 people. And one of the things I really appreciate about the work that Wade has done with our team, on a number of design thinking engagements, is what he was talking about - everyone gets to participate. And I don't know if you've encountered it yourself, but you often hear about employees mumbling that the management don't listen, or that they are not involved in the process. Design thinking, by definition, involves everyone, along the process, and within your organization. And once that's good, from a morale perspective, and from an involvement engagement perspective, it's also good from an input perspective. You get different viewpoints. You get different thoughts on the matter. And it gives us an amazing way to collaborate. And the interesting part is that yes, sometimes you get into a room and you think about it, but also the way that we have been doing this (and we use Miro board,[3] as a way of doing that, we can continue to add to that over time, so it's also not just a point-in-time process. And so, we're able to continue to go away and have thoughts afterwards and think “Oh yeah, what about?” And Wade has done great job of corralling us and getting us to put these inputs onto our Miro board and add a few thoughts as we've gone through the week. And I think it's just fantastic that we get to leverage the best of everyone in these kinds of scenarios. 


So yeah, I think not only are we looking at great customer outcomes, we're looking at great internal outcomes as well.


[16:02] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Well, that's a natural segue into then, as we're thinking about design thinking, April you've been in this world a long time, I'm sure you've seen approaches that work and maybe some that don't work as well. Ultimately, maybe you could walk us through the notion of what are some of the design thinking frameworks, but almost as importantly how they fit into the overall framework of innovation and or change - because we hear lots of other approaches like lean and agile, and even, in the broader sense, the strategic planning process that organizations all over the world walk their way through every year. Maybe give us some sense and your insights into the different frameworks, and perhaps some of the phases that then, between you and Wade, you've seen companies put together as they've embraced the design thinking approach.


[17:04] April Bilbrey, Business Architect & Experience Designer

Well, I tell you, if you Google design thinking, you're going to come across a gazillion frameworks. And I’m not exaggerating just to make the point that, you know, we've all got one and we’ve all got our favourites. You know some of my early training in human-centred design was with the Nielsen Norman group, and they have an UX sort of angle, and I really like the practical nature of their framework. Cisco Systems has a great framework. It's basically three different processes: and you come up with your cool idea. Gamestorming [4] – you open, you explore, you close, and you can do that as many times as it takes to get to your big idea. The Double Diamond [5] is a big one. 


But what all these have in common is (and indeed I also love to do) it’s just hit the pause button. Even if you think you know the solution, or the innovation, or whatever it is, hit the pause button. Go and explore. Do a little research. And, you know, it doesn't have to be anything super heavy. You know, you don't necessarily have to be walking the streets polling people, but we just don't assume that we know everything. 


So, we go and look at it, as Wade said, you know walk in their shoes, look at it through their eyes, have some empathy. And empathy isn’t an event. We don’t snap our fingers, right? And suddenly, we have empathy. It’s a process. So, we go in and do this process a little bit. And then, the other part that all these frameworks have in common is what I’ve already said, it is about empathy. It's about pairing our traditional analytic research or our traditional analytic discovery, where we get the numbers, and you know we have marketing help us find out the data and all these kinds of things, and we pair that with the empathetic discovery. 


And when you zoom out, design thinking, and Wade, I think, does a great job on the blog of kind of walking us through what the steps are, if you zoom out, you can see that once you finally get this great idea, well then guess what, now you need to go and put the idea out there. You’ve got to get out of the building, and you have to see - does this idea work? You put it out there with the intention, not to have a big hit, but to learn how close or far are we; what's the real fit of what, we think, is the solution, versus human or humans at the centre of what we’re building. And then you tweak it until you feel like it's pretty good. And so that tends to be called lean, like what Wade said, you fail fast. Or you just get it out there. 


And then once you've done that, I think Gardner [6] does a pretty good job in their framework around this, from the design thinking and the lean. Once you feel pretty good about your solution: you know you've road-tested it, and you're ready to let it rip, well, then you’ve got the agile part of things. The agile part of things, where you can take it in pieces and you sort of deliver some kind of value to your internal stakeholders, and your customers, or your users - you deliver that regularly to keep the momentum. 


Then, as things change, and forgive me for introducing the military term VUCA, (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) [7] – that’s today. We live in a VUCA world. So, you know we may have a great idea that everybody believes in, including our customers, and then in six months, something's happened, the market is disrupted, we get just a major system shock (or even a minor one,) maybe a competitor flexes, and suddenly we need to shift a little bit. And so, with agile, we also have this ability to kind of meet the, I wouldn’t say ever shifting (we don't want to end up with a Frankenstein,) but you know, the shifting kind of needs of our customers and partners, as well. It just makes sense, [to] start with design thinking. 


[20:59] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

So ultimately, Wade, regardless probably of the tool you use, I know that in a lot of the work that you do with customers in the market, one of the things that you like to introduce is the notion of the journey map. Maybe, could you walk our listeners today through how does a journey map help an organization, perhaps, better understand their customer’s pain points, and some of the challenges that they are facing? 


[21:27] Wade Crick, Charter, Principal Business Architect

Yeah, certainly. Again, as April was pointing out, there’s many different frameworks, and I would say that we all sort of take and build our own kind of personal framework, and how we do this work. And I personally like using journey maps because a journey map takes the experience somebody that's using a product or service goes through and highlights what works for them and what doesn't work for them – visually. And that’s something can be shared with senior executives and management when you’re wanting to explain to them how you're going to improve the situation or the experience for a customer, a user of the service. It makes it very visual. 


So you can do that with journey mapping tools like PowerPoint and so on, but you can also, even better, actually just go out into the field with somebody and use your smartphone to take pictures of what they're doing, and then turn that it into, like, a series of stories, or a story around “Here's their actual experience,” captured with pictures, and then highlighted where you can improve that experience with some new capability. Again, the key with journey mapping is taking a customer experience and turn it into a visual journey that will resonate with the person that (actually) you're capturing the journey for, but also the people that need to go and invest in your idea, to help you build it out.


[22:49] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

I'm new to the term VUCA world, but ultimately, I've walked in a lot of customers’ shoes. And, I know that in the climate that we’re all in, it doesn't matter what industry, or what part of the world we're in, fundamentally we know from research that the best design performers increase their revenues and investor returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry competitors. Once more, as April said earlier, over a 10-year period, design-led companies outperformed the S&P 500 by 220 percent. So, for all of our guests today, given your extensive industry experience in the global markets, please share with us some of the real-life examples that you've seen of organizations that have embraced design thinking into their business transformation process. April, why don’t we start with you?

 [23:48] April Bilbrey, Business Architect & Experience Designer

So, a really great example of how effective design thinking can be for business value, but also aligning internally, is one of a major, major industrial manufacturer. And they would buy these big, expensive OT devices. But it would take them about six months to get them online. And it wasn't a matter of, you know, moving it to the factory floor, or any of these kinds of things, it was getting it on the network securely, safely, all the things around this. And so, with the design thinking workshop, we got the security people, the OT people talking with the IT people, and next thing you know, you can buy a device and have it up and running in a matter of weeks, not months. Because everyone could understand what was happening in the current process and, you know, why it was important. 


But, let's face it, a lot of smarter people than me have said a lot of today's problems were yesterday's solutions. So, instead of trying to fix this problem with that problem, as Wade was mentioning, you look at it across the journey – you look at all the pain points.  And then, we’re able to find a solution to the most important of these issues, and in such a way that everyone's needs are met. All of the different departments are able to tick their individual boxes and have that machine “rocking and rolling.”


[25:28] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

And Wade, I bet you've seen one or two customer engagements where you’ve started, and at the end, it seemed the keys to the Kingdom come together, in that kind of a collaborative environment. 


[25:41] Wade Crick, Charter, Principal Business Architect

I have, you know. And it's always interesting when you start engaging with the customer and they want you to help them with, like, a new service (it could be something like “How would we make virtual care better for our patients in healthcare?”) And, you know, of course, the starting point always is “Who are the stakeholders,? What are their concerns?,” and the idea of creating personas – personas safe for the patients. People that are using the healthcare system, and also the clinicians, or the doctors and nurses that provide the care. 


And it always amazes me how engaged the people that are now designers, and powered to be designers, get in creating those personas, and giving them names, and making them very personable. And describing what's the points for them, and what would make their jobs better. And it's always amazing to see what comes out of that. You would never imagine, by yourself, any of those things, yet as they work through that, they were very engaged, and you get great, great insights that you'd never get any another way.


[26:38] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator


Well, you learn a lot walking in people’s shoes, don't you Ronnie? And, at the end of the day, not only do you have extensive customer experiences in the design thinking and business architecture world, but I know that Charter also uses design thinking to help drive customer intimacy. Maybe share some of your insights, either from a customer perspective, or from a Charter perspective, or both. 


[27.01] Ronnie Scott, Charter, Chief Technology Officer

Yeah, sure. Actually, I'm going to reflect too, that, to be honest, I don't know what rock I've been hiding under, but that VUCA thing is new to me as well. But I'm going to start there because it's actually really interesting. Because you use words like “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous,” and yet, what that immediately throws into my mind are those smart goals, which are “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.” All the exact opposites. And so, that's exactly what we try to find here. And again, this innate engineering behavior, that “just get out and do it,” can lead us down those paths of volatility, and uncertainty, and complexity, and ambiguity. All these kinds of behavious, because we built it (and we just weren't quite sure where we were going) can have really bad outcomes. 


So, what I want to reflect on is, actually, a customer I worked with in the past, again in the emergency services perspective. And Wade talked a lot about the patients and the outcomes there. But, when you're working with emergency services and you’re talking about people’s lives, we as engineers, or builders, or management and service providers, or whoever you happen to be - if you are affecting people's lives, you're going to want to know you're doing the right thing.  And what I found, as an engineer back in those days when I was working specifically with a law-enforcement agency, was to be able to know that what I was giving them as a technology solution (and yeah it sounded like the right technology solution,) was actually going to achieve the outcomes and goals that they wanted. And I think that's the really interesting part because we tend to think “Well, it’s slowing down the process, and it's adding complexity,” and you know what the right thing to do is, anyway. So, what you're adding though, is this comfort and alignment that everybody is on the alignment of the same smart objectives or goals, and that we’re all moving down the path together. And what I found was, and I had a really good relationship with this customer by the end, is that we all trusted each other much more because we’d spent time trying to work out what the actual goals were, rather than saying “Oh, you need a new network? Here it is.”  And you can imagine, it doesn't matter what you apply that to, if you've got to achieve something and you're helping your customers get there - if you're on the same page of knowing what those outcomes are, what the steps we’re going to take, and how it's going to affect those people, everybody wins.


So, yeah. I've seen it in the real world myself. And yes, at Charter, we've been using it extensively. As I've mentioned, Wade has been leading the way with that. But we have some great customer stories ourselves in a variety of segments, already. We've been able to engage with the customers, engage our staff, and drive to which really exciting outcomes.


[29:48] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

April, the other day as we were preparing for the podcast, you introduced an amazing topic to me called the Trojan horse. I absolutely want to share that with the audience today as we think about design thinking, how to get started, and how to bring it into an organization. 


[30:06] April Bilbrey, Business Architect & Experience Designer

Thanks, Mark. So, yeah. Sometimes you'll hear me say that design thinking is a Trojan horse into our stakeholders. And I don't mean that it’s a bait and switch, I don't mean we’re trying to fool anyone, but we say “Look, we're going to solve problems and we're going to do it in a way which is very collaborative, very egalitarian, and it’s fun. Usually, people think “Ah, fun. That’s great.” This is actual, serious fun. So we are rolling in this Trojan horse where what's coming out of it is real change, like solving, sometimes, these big, hairy, audacious goals or even creating internal alignment, where we may, sometimes, see each other as on the opposite sides of the table; and certainly not in a positive way. So, design thinking can be this, sort of, fun and happy introduction to what is, in fact, serious fun. 


I will also follow that up that sometimes when we introduce the concept of design thinking to certain stakeholders (maybe people in our company that we need to get on board,) they may see that as, like, something kind of silly “Oh, that’s that posted-note stuff.” But again, this is not gluing macaroni on paper plates and “Oh, look at us, we’re very creative.” But in some ways, we still need to get these folks on board. So, whenever we talk about design thinking with people who are maybe more traditional, we can talk about things like “This helps us evolve,” so it's an evolution not a revolution. 


Design thinking has been around for a long, long time. You heard Wade talk about in the ‘80s, they were coining the phrase Dieter Rams, in the 70s, was coming up with “10 Principles of Good Design.” [8] I mean, these kinds of things. And it's also it's a predictable, structured process we can even show you upfront – the steps we will take, the time it will take, and that sort of thing. So, we can bring people along with us, whether they enjoy that creative aspect, or maybe they say “Oh, I don’t trust it. It just seems a bit too whimsical.”


[32:24] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

So, we spent the first part of the program talking about theory. Secondly, we talked about approaches and some examples of customers and, quite frankly, how Charter has used it internally. But I have a question for all three of you. Where do I start? Design thinking - how do I bring it into my organization? How do I get my boss to support it? And ultimately, how can Charter help in the design thinking process? So, Ronnie, why don't we give you the opportunity to start first, and then we'll bring in the rest of the team?


[32:56] Ronnie Scott, Charter, Chief Technology Officer

Yeah, I'm really keen to answer this question first, because I think you really want to focus hard on the people who do it. And April and Wade will bring a lot more insight into how we do that. 


But I do want to reflect on our last series of podcasts, a little bit, just before we go there. When we were talking about, for example, the Internet of Things and how we bring that to the energy sector, one of the things we talked a lot about was “How we begin?” And we started with this message of “Start Small.” And I think there is a real learning you have to do to know how to use design thinking well. And starting with small, manageable projects, rather than the big ones that are going to involve dozens, or hundreds, of people across multiple different segments is, obviously, a better way to learn. So, I just wanted to put out there first, as always, start small, learn, and grow your capabilities over time. 


[33:51] Wade Crick, Charter, Principal Business Architect

Ronnie, you’re absolutely correct in pointing out that one should start small, and every time you go through a design thinking workshop, you will learn. And perhaps, for myself personally, Cisco where I worked before coming to Charter, was great at training us. And I did get the opportunity to get training in design thinking framework methodology. And, of course, we actually used it inside Cisco to design. And April, you were part of many of those workshops. You led many of those workshops for us. And you know, by having somebody be your facilitator for the first couple of workshops, that's really key because you will learn courses theory and you might go and take design thinking courses. Many, many organizations offer classes in design thinking, but for me, personally, the best way to learn how to do it is just to practice with somebody that's going to be your mentor and help you facilitate a couple of these. And again, start small. Make sure your workshops are small in size and learn from that. And each time you do it, you will learn more, you'll feel more comfortable, and more show real results for your management around how you're creating new innovation in products and services that are centred on the customers (that the management that you're working with cares about.) 


[35:06] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

April, other steps you’d suggest?


[35:09] April Bilbrey, Business Architect & Experience Designer

Yeah, thank you. If you want to get started, experience it! That's a great way to learn design thinking. Join a workshop. There are lots of groups - facilitation groups, design thinking groups, Meet Up groups. I myself am, just for the fun of it, [say] “Hey, let's do a lightning decision jam workshop,” whatever it might be – just experience it. I think it's a great way to learn design thinking. 


But there are also, frankly, I have a few favourites. The Nielsen Norman group. They’re just an old favorite, and they have a design thinking 101 page, with lots of interesting short videos and links to other things. I think that’s really good. Boy, it’s tough to narrow it down. Gamestorming is probably one of my favourites because they have lots of techniques that you can do and they organize the book, which is, also, fully online, for free. For me, it's much easier to buy the book, and read it, and follow it. But how do you open? How do you get started and get people talking?  How do you explore whatever it is? And then if you need to close, and make a decision, what are the games, if you will, the techniques that you can do to help this happen? I think that's a really good resource. And then, maybe one more I can suggest is a book, which is also fully online for free. And the book is called “The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures.”[9] So, adding that structure, which actually liberates people – it lets their creativity flow. And they have these 33 different liberating structures. And liberating structures aren't designed thinking but there's a really big overlap if you look at it in a sort of Venn-diagram way. And a lot of those techniques can be applied to design thinking. Give it a shot! 


[36:56] Mark George, Charter, Director – Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Well thanks for issuing that challenge, April, because ultimately, I hope everyone has seen today that design thinking is a very powerful approach to problem-solving that can help all of us be more innovative and effective in our work. It means putting customers, employees, and the planet at the centre of problem solving by empathizing with others, defining goals, ideating, prototyping, and testing your solutions. We can all be designers and create remedies that work.


I want to thank April, Wade, and Ronnie for your amazing contributions to this podcast and for the insights you’ve provided to our audience. I hope this has been a valuable investment of your time and I want to challenge you to reach out to Wade or to myself and schedule a call with us, to begin to initiate the design thinking workshop process. We’ll help you walk through what the scope of work includes: the inputs, the outputs, the timing, and the costs associated with a design thinking workshop. The key to that is a business transformation roadmap, where we can help you understand goals, make the highest impact, and the best outcomes.


So again, I want to thank you for joining us. And please note that the Charter team is already working on the next episode of Charter Engage: Know IT. So please watch the social media channels for further details! Thank you!



[1] McKinsey & Company (2023, March 26). What is Design Thinking. What is Design Thinking. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from


[2] Design Management Institute (n.d.). What is Design Thinking. What is Design Thinking. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from


[3] Miro (n.d.). Miro as Your Whiteboard Tool. A Collaborative Digital Whiteboard. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from


[4] Gamestorming Group (n.d.). Expeditions by Gamestorming. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from


[5] Design Leadership Notebook - Medium (2019, August 2). The New Double Diamond Design Process Is Here. The New Double Diamond Design Process Is Here. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from


[6] Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2020). Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from


[7] Barber, H.F. (1992), "Developing Strategic Leadership: The US Army War College Experience", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 11 No. 6, pp. 4-12. 


[8] Domingo, M. G. (2021, January 1). Dieter Rams: 10 Timeless Commandments for Good Design. Dieter Rams: 10 Timeless Commandments for Good Design. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from


[9] The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures (2014, August 28). The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures. Retrieved April 18, 2023, from