October 24, 2013 / Articles We Like / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation

On: "Productivity Improvement: It's Not What You Think"

In this article, author Dorie Clark sets out to challenge the traditional mindset on what it means to improve one’s productivity. Many executives try to increase productivity using times of intense focus without interruptions. Dorie contends that this “head’s down” approach isn’t the only route to increased productivity, and may hinder creativity and innovation.

In the article, Productivity Improvement: It’s Not What You Think, published in the National Center for the Middle Market, Dorie redefines productivity. She draws on the expertise of Mariposa CEO, Sue Bethanis, for tips on behaviors executives can adopt right away to positively harness the energy in office interruptions. Read it now.

What is your definition of improving productivity? How do you go about making the most of office interruptions?

Comment below! Or pose a question via Ask Mariposa.

October 2, 2013 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation

3 Reasons Why Design Thinking Generates More Innovative Ideas

Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This holds true in business today.

Leaders face intense pressure to innovate but can have difficulty generating breakthrough thinking that leads to innovation. Many generate and settle on ideas in isolation, without input, testing and feedback.  And they go nowhere.  To avoid the insanity trap, a different way of going from idea-to-innovation is needed:  leaders need to think like designers.

Here are 3 reasons a leader who becomes adept at design thinking generates more ideas that lead to innovation than those who don’t:

  • They develop empathy for the customer.  Empathy for the customer can be achieved through many methods, including interviewing and videotaping.  What it gives leaders is context for idea generation and decision making and a view into how to design something that will work for the customer.
  • They are willing to fail fast, and try again.  Prototyping is the gold standard for product design, and it works for designing services and experiences for customers as well.  Prototyping allows leaders to test an idea quickly and solicit feedback quickly in order to refine it quickly.
  • They hone their ability to influence others. Leaders who think like designers understand that an idea alone will not become a financed project until support for that idea can be generated.

Want more tips?  Read our Leader as Designer article.

August 1, 2013 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / Mariposa Articles

Leader as Designer

Learn how to utilize Design Thinking in your role as a leader.  This essay, Leader as Designer, by Mariposa Leadership CEO Sue Bethanis, opens up Design Thinking to different applications and audiences that goes beyond product development. She offers a clear 4 step process to easily move from idea-to-innovation. The results: successful services,  new experiences, and novel solutions to old problems.




May 16, 2013 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation

Get the Most Out of Brainstorming as Part of the Design Thinking Process

breakthrough model copyFaced with a challenging business problem to solve?  You need an idea.  Not just one idea, but many useful ideas.  In our experience, leaders who think like designers by using a design thinking process for solving business problems generate more potential useful ideas than those who do not.

In our work, we take our clients through a design thinking process using our Breakthrough! model. This 4-step process helps leaders generate and execute innovative ideas because it blends practicality with imagination. Through the brainstorming step, it is possible to generate a vast number of ideas – if the session is set up properly.  To get the most out of your brainstorming session, consider these critical success factors:

  • Be clear about the specific problem upfront.  Clarity on the problem guides the brainstorming process.
  • Encourage imagination.  Unconstrained thinking is the backbone of innovation!
  • Break the large group into smaller groups. A large group format limits idea generation as well as lends itself to groupthink and creates a potential scenario in which one person might dominate while others remain silent.
  • Each small group member produces an idea…and another…with limited time.  First individuals generate ideas alone on sticky notes. Then, in a small group format, the ideas are shared/posted aloud quickly without commentary.  Members are then challenged to add a large number of ideas in a limited period of time. With several small groups, the net is cast wide for maximum idea generation potential.

For additional tips on frenetic brainstorming as part of a design thinking process, culling the list of ideas, and other steps in the Breakthrough! model, download our Free Executive Guide to Design Thinking.

May 8, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation

Ask Mariposa: A Design Thinking Approach Can Help Solve Problems

Michael asks:  We could use more creative thinking to solve a problem we’ve been working on. Could a design thinking approach help?

Sue Bethanis, CEO responds:

Thinking differently and coming up with new ideas for tough problems is at the core of design thinking.  Design thinking taps into imagination and practicality, which taken together form the backbone of creative problem-solving and innovation.

Our design thinking workshop is a working session for teams tasked with solving any product, service, or experience challenge.  The team is led through a clear design thinking process, which starts with empathy (something most groups skip) and includes brainstorming to generate and cull as many ideas as possible.  The ideas most likely to produce breakthrough solutions are prototyped using creative, 3-D methods utilizing right brain thinking.  Getting messy and creative cultivates new thinking!  The models can be used to test the ideas with others and refine with a more sophisticated prototype from there.

Once you grasp the principles of design thinking, you’ll see that they can be applied to any business problem.  To learn more, check out these resources:


April 17, 2013 / Blog / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation

Products Are Hard Conference Recap: Design Thinking Process and More!

IMG_1414b IMG_0292b





The 2013 Products are Hard Conference on April 1st proved to be rich with insights and fresh thinking on the product development process.  More than 200 product designers, developers, marketers, entrepreneurs and executives were treated to stimulating talks throughout the day by various thought leaders, including Mariposa Leadership CEO Sue Bethanis.  Sue presented a design thinking model that leads to breakthrough thinking and therefore has value for leaders beyond product creation.  Attendees participated in a rapid prototyping exercise to get a taste of how a design thinking process can be applied to solve wicked customer or team problems, as our clients have done in our Design Thinking workshop.

We captured brilliant tidbits from the presenters. Here are a few of our favorites:

  •  “LEAN Startups: Learn. Measure. Build.” Janice Fraser, Founder/CEO, LUXr @clevergirl
  • “Hardest part of product management is creating order from chaos. Listen. Learn. Think (dream). Test.” Sarah Rose, VP Product, ModCloth @sarahfrose
  •   “Understand all your customers. Your product must produce value for all of them.” David Charron, Senior Fellow and Lecturer in Entrepreneurship, Haas School of Business @d_charron
  •   “Few things lose investor confidence more than an inability to launch. Better to launch and learn.” Charles Hudson, Venture Partner, SoftTech VC @chudson
  •   “Product building challenge: knowing when working with opinion vs. fact. Turn opinion to hypothesis and test.” Hiten Shah, Co-Founder, KISSmetrics @hnshah
  •   “Using design thinking for services is equally important as using it for products.” Susan Bethanis, Ed.D., CEO and Founder, Mariposa Leadership @suebethanis
  • “If trying to design products for global users, think about similarities in shared social and psychological rewards.” Judd Antin, User Experience Researcher, Facebook @juddantin
  • “Empathy interviewing requires beginner’s mind, getting off your own agenda!” Indi Young, Consultant @indiyoung
  •   “The people who make the product need to fall in love with it first.” Chris Lindland, CEO & Founder, Betabrand @Betabrand

Products are Hard presentation slides are available for viewing.



December 27, 2012 / Blog / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / Wise Talk

12/19 Wise Talk audio snippets on Networked Leadership with MJ Petroni

creatives introverts and networked leadership

Last week’s Wise Talk was an interesting conversation that developed ideas around networked leadership as it contrasts the traditional hierarchical model.

Check out these audio snippets where guest MJ Petroni expands on his article A Field Guide to Creating Cultures of Innovation.

In this first snippet, MJ talks about his extensive field of study, Cyborg Anthropology, and how it relates to emerging organizational structures:

Listen to MJ’s definition of networked structures:

In this last audio snip, MJ talks about the necessity of creating a space for introverts in the networked leadership model. This is where executive coaching comes in:

Click here to access Mariposa Leadership’s Wise Talk archives, and click on “Hierarchy to Networked Organizations” for the full audio of this session.

For more information on Networked Organizational Structures, please visit Causeit.org

We welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

December 13, 2012 / Articles We Like / Blog / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management / Wise Talk

What is the future of organizational leadership? Join the experiment.

hierarchies have got to go

Organizational practices are changing – an always evolving business environment and constant innovation have become the new norm.

Communication between people is changing – we are acknowledging the necessary balance between choice and overload from the non-stop flow of information coming toward us.

The way people relate within organizations is changing – linear thinking is out and interdisciplinary collaboration is encouraged; more often becoming required to stay ahead of the curve.

So, what’s next?
As these different facets work with these changes, organizational structures must be called into question. We are presented with an opportunity to transition from hierarchy into a networked leadership model. As we welcome the advantages of collaboration and social technologies, we focus on the attributes needed to deliver results across organizational boundaries. Theories become facts as we discover ourselves in the future of leadership development and business management practices that really work.

In A Field Guide to Creating Cultures of Innovation by Causeit.org, we are given a web of concepts and tools so that we may better embrace this new norm of leadership and productivity.

We are provided with concepts, practices, videos, examples, and even a handy glossary to help us navigate the new ideas being presented and inspire collaboration.

This is a leadership experiment in the making and we hope you will join us for our next Wise Talk on Tuesday, December 18th from 2-3pm pacific time as Mariposa Leadership CEO, Sue Bethanis discusses the transition from hierarchy to networked organizational structures with innovation team consultant, cyborg anthropologist, and founder of Causeit.org, MJ Petroni.

Topics for the interactive discussion will include:
• How do you define this new normal of networked structures?
• How can creative thinkers, be they introverted or extroverted, leaders or technicians, be supported in this new model?
• How can structural and cultural components you and your clients put in place create more innovative and effective organization?
• What practical first steps will make a more creative, hospitable workplace?

Click here to learn more, sign up to join the conversation, and submit your own questions and ideas!

December 6, 2012 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / Wise Talk

11/29 Wise Talk audio snippets on Designing For Growth with Jeanne Liedtka

Design Thinking for Managers

Last week’s Wise Talk with Jeanne Liedtka was a rich and harmonious conversation. Mariposa CEO Sue Bethanis described it as “awesome”.

Check out these audio snippets where guest Jeanne Liedtka expands on her book co-authored by Tim Ogilvie, Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers.

In this first snippet, Sue introduces Jeanne, giving us a little background:

Listen to Jeanne’s definition of design thinking:

The 4 distinctions that Jeanne has identified for managers are:

  • What Is
  • What If
  • What Wows
  • What Works

In this audio snip, Jeanne talks about “What Works”:

Click here to access Mariposa Leadership’s Wise Talk archives, and click on “Designing For Growth” for the full audio of this session.

For more information and to buy Designing For Growth, please visit http://designingforgrowthbook.com

We welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

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