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 2, 2013 / Book Reviews / Strategy

Article Review: Strategic Thinking – Exercises and Tools for Creative Thinking and Strategy

BZ-blogStrategic Thinking – Exercises and Tools for Creative Thinking and Strategy
By Mike Brown, The Brainzooming Group

Strategic thinking is not a one-time event.  It is an ongoing process, involving critical thinking skills, creativity and an overall perspective all organizations must cultivate and apply daily to successfully innovate and compete in business.  Defining and implementing a successful organizational strategy relies on a solid strategic thinking approach, and the online resource, Strategic Thinking – Exercises and Tools for Creative Thinking and Strategy, outlines the characteristics of strategic thinking and contains tips, tools and tactics to help readers think strategically and creatively on an ongoing basis.

The content of Strategic Thinking – Exercises and Tools for Creative Thinking and Strategy includes:

The 4 Characteristics of Solid Strategic Thinking

  • Strategic Thinkers Seek Perspectives from Multiple Sources
  • Strategic Thinking Goes Beyond Today’s Reality
  • Strategic Thinkers Question Both the Familiar and the New
  • Strategic Thinkers Display Both Patience and Impatience

Applying Strategic Thinking Daily

  • Using Rich Strategic Questions
  • Anticipating Future Issues
  • Finding Ideas with Intriguing Connections
  • Generating Many Ideas Quickly
  • Innovating Amid Constraints
  • New Thinking with Old Ideas
  • Addressing Unknowns
  • Focusing on Efficiency and Results
  • Envisioning Possibilities
  • Telling a Strategic Story
  • Working Across and Up an Organization
  • Managing Challenging People

The Brainzooming Group is a catalyst for business people needing to successfully identify and implement strategic, innovative ideas.  Mike Brown is the author of the extensive Brainzooming daily blog, including the Strategic Thinking article and the free eBook, Taking the NO Out of Innovation.


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

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

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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

We welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

October 12, 2012 / Book Reviews / Coaching Skills / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management / Wise Talk

Gamestorming Game: Design Thinking Through Empathy Mapping

In his book, Gamestorming, Dave Gray along with co-authors Sunni Brown and James Macanufo share more than 80 games to help you break down barriers, communicate better, and generate new ideas, insights, and strategies. They have identified tools and techniques from some of the world’s most innovative professionals, whose teams collaborate and make great things happen. This book is the result: a unique collection of games that encourage engagement and creativity while bringing more structure and clarity to the workplace.

One of the very quick (20 minutes or less) and incredibly helpful games included in the book is creating an Empathy Map as a tool for Design Thinking.

The goal of the game is to gain a deeper level of understanding of a stakeholder in your business ecosystem, which may be a client, prospect, partner, etc., within a given context, such as a buying decision or an experience using a product or service.

Here’s how it can go:

1. Start by drawing a circle to represent the person and give the circle a name and some identifying information such as a job title. It helps if you can think of a real person who roughly fits the profile, so you can keep them in mind as you proceed. In keeping with the idea of a “profile” think of the circle as the profile of a person’s head and fill in some details. You might want to add eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and maybe glasses if appropriate or a hairstyle to differentiate the person from other profiles you might want to create. These simple details are not a frivolous addition — they will help you project yourself into the experience of that person, which is the point of the exercise.

2. Determine a question you have for that stakeholder. If you had a question you would want to ask them, or a situation in their life you want to understand, what would that be? You might want to understand a certain kind of buying decision, for example, in which case your question might be “Why should I buy X?”

3. Divide the circle into sections that represent aspects of that person’s sensory experience. What are they thinking, feeling, saying, doing, hearing? Label the appropriate sections on the image.

4. Now it’s time for you to practice the “empathy” portion of the exercise. As best you can, try to project yourself into that person’s experience and understand the context you want to explore. Then start to fill in the diagram with real, tangible, sensory experiences. If you are filling in the “hearing” section, for example, try to think of what the person might hear, and how they would hear it. In the “saying” section, try to write their thoughts as they would express them. Don’t put your words into their mouth — the point is to truly understand and empathize with their situation so you can design a better product, service or whatever.

5. Check yourself: Ask others to review your map, make suggestions, and add details or context. The more the person can identify with the actual stakeholder the better. Over time you will hone your ability to understand and empathize with others in your business ecosystem, which will help you improve your relationships and your results.

Mariposa Leadership is very excited to welcome Gamestorming author Dave Gray to this month’s Wise Talk where he and Sue Bethanis will discuss the innovative alternative to brainstorming – gamestorming! They will also have a chance to discuss Dave’s new book about how to keep your business on the leading edge, The Connected Company.

Sign up for Wise Talk and join the conversation on Tuesday, October 23rd from 2-3pm PT!

August 9, 2012 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / Wise Talk

Q&A with Javy Galindo on the Power of Thinking Differently


Listen to these audio snippets of last month’s July 25th Wise Talk, where professional creativity speaker and thinker, Javy Galindo, answers when Mariposa Leadership’s CEO, Sue Bethanis, asks. Topics are on various aspects of creativity and specifically, creativity in business.

Listen here for Galindo’s elegant juxtaposition of the entrepreneur and the artist, and the ways in which each of them are creative, as well as why it is applicable to business, and life.

Listen here for discussion on relationship building and working in groups, and how this to connects to creativity in the workplace.

Click here to hear the whole discussion between Javy Galindo and Mariposa Leeadership’s CEO, Sue Bethanis.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container] MORE

August 4, 2012 / Book Reviews / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation

Book Review: Disciplined Dreaming

Disciplined Dreaming:  A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity
By: Josh Linkner

Head: (4.5 of 5)
Heart: (4.5 of 5)
Leadership Applicability: (4.5 of 5)

Josh Linkner’s book, Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity is best described as a business approach to creativity. In a time where a corporation’s life span is dependent upon its ability to innovate and grow in rapidly moving markets, Linkner’s book presents a refreshingly simple method by which to imbed creativity into even the most traditional business environments.

Linkner understands that creativity in the workplace is “easier said than done,” and explains clearly how to use his book for either large organizational changes within a company, or smaller more incremental steps within a department or team.

By the end of this book, you will learn ways to generate profitable new ideas quickly and easily, empower employees to tap more fully into their own creative energy, and to use creativity to sustain a competitive advantage in the long run.  Buy it.

January 4, 2012 / Book Reviews / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation

Book Review: Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits

Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits
By: Debbie Millman

Head: (4.5 of 5)
Heart: (4 of 5)
Leadership Applicability: (4 of 5)

Debbie Millman has had lots of practice at conducting provocative interviews for her Internet radio program Design Matters, and in this compilation of 22 prominent thinkers on branding and design, it shows. As author and consumer behavior expert Rob Walker says in his foreword, “This book is no rote anthology of boilerplate lectures. It’s more like a buzzing dinner party” or salon held with a number of esteemed thinkers in and around the field of design.

Although it covers branding strategies from some of this country’s great companies, this is no rote how-to book on how to brand your products or services. Instead it is a big-thinker that delves into culture, anthropology, psychology, economics, politics, and the very essence of human nature. Ultimately it is about our drive for connection, affiliation, and why we buy into what we do.

Millman doesn’t let the interviewees stay too long in the lofty realm of abstraction, however. For example, in this interview with Dori Tunstall, a prominent design academic, Crandall says, “humans like to think of themselves as special and different from one another. Some people like to think of themselves not only as special and different but also as better than others.” Millman drills down with more questions until Tunstall is speaking concretely and eloquently about the logo and imagery for Obama’s presidential campaign and how people were able to riff on it, down to “Kids for Obama” and even “Pirates for Obama.”

Other interviewees include Wally Olins, Grant McCracken, Phil Duncan, Brian Collins, Virginia Postrel, Bruce Duckworth, David Butler, Stanley Hainsworth, Cheryl Swanson, Joe Duffy, Margaret Youngblood, Seth Godin, Dan Formosa, Bill Moggridge, Sean Adams, Daniel Pink, Deedee Gordon, Karim Rachid, Alex Bogusky, Tom Peters, and Malcom Gladwell. Buy it.