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.

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 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

We welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

November 15, 2012 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / Wise Talk

Wise Talk 11/29/12 with Jeanne Liedtka

Find any innovation leader in an organization and chances are they have been practicing design thinking all along. However, leaders don’t need to be naturally talented or creatively gifted to foster business development; a systematic approach is needed to problem solve.

Design thinking starts with the ability to understand a customer’s needs and figuring out how to pilot a new idea with minimal risk. In the book, Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers, co-authors Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie demystify design thinking by translating “design” from an abstract idea into a practical, everyday tool any manager can profit from.

Join us Thursday, November 29, at 12 pm PT, on Wise Talk as Mariposa Leadership, Inc. CEO Sue Bethanis talks with strategy consultant and educator Jeanne Liedtka on the ability to turn abstract ideas into practical applications to maximize business growth.

Topics for the interactive discussion will include:

• What is your interpretation of design thinking?

• You describe the design thinking process around four questions: What is? What if?
What wows? What works? Can you tell us a little about each one.

• How is design thinking beneficial to managers? How can a non-designer apply
design thinking to solve intractable problems?

• What advice could you offer a corporate leader or manager that might doubt their
own ability to innovate and foster growth inside their organization?

• What is one example of a simple tool that a practicing manager can use right away?

We welcome you to join this month’s Wise Talk teleconference and submit your questions for discussion. Sign up and be entered to win a copy of this month’s leadership resource, Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers. One lucky listener will be announced at the end of the talk!

November 8, 2012 / Book Reviews / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation

Book Review: Designing For Growth

Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka & Tim Ogilvie

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

Practicing managers don’t have much time for buzzwords and platitudes. Managers are doers, and when they hear about a promising solution, they want to know how to do it. Design thinking is one of those topics that has burst onto the scene accompanied by lofty promises but precious few practical details.

Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers is the book that provides those details. It goes beyond the theory and philosophy of the recent books on design thinking, showing you how to apply design thinking in a step-by-step way to solve complex growth opportunities. This book translates the fundamental promise of design thinking into a straightforward set of tools that the practicing manager-without any design training-can use immediately to create growth and innovation. The design thinking process described in this book is built upon four questions:

  • What is? – Exploring the current reality
  • What if? – Envisioning alternative futures
  • What wows? – Getting users to help us make some tough choices
  • What works? – Making it work in-market, and as a business

The book contains 10 ready-to-use tools — each aligned to one of the four questions. These tools include visualization, brainstorming, customer journey mapping, value chain analysis, customer co-creation, rapid prototyping, concept development, assumption testing, and the learning launch. This book will help you discover strengths you already have, develop some new ones, and give you the tools and templates to be an instant brown-belt in design thinking.

Mariposa Leadership is very excited to welcome Designing For Growth author Jeanne Liedtka to join CEO Sue Bethanis on this month’s Wise Talk. Join us on Thursday, November 29th from 12-1pm PT as they plan to discuss the ability to turn abstract ideas into practical applications for optimal business growth. To sign up for Wise Talk and submit your questions, please visit our website.

For more information and to buy Designing For Growth, please visit

We welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

November 1, 2012 / Articles We Like / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management / Wise Talk

The Cultivation of Leadership and Design Thinking

Leadership team development is at the forefront of growth and as a business scales, it must do so in a way that is smart and sustainable. In addition to executive coaching to assist organizations with growth, today’s successful leaders need to embrace tools and methods for innovation and problem solving. Design thinking is one of those methods and a proven approach to growth.

In the article, Design thinking and the new language of leadership, *Tim Ogilvie conveys the process of design thinking through a narrative about an executive and his business travel experience.

He identifies three design thinking tools for leadership:

  • Journey mapping
  • Visualization
  • Co-creation

Journey mapping, also known as empathy, is a way to walk in your customer’s shoes, to see the world from their perspective, and is the most fundamental way in which the design process differs from an analytic process. Rather than breaking things down and tweaking the trouble spot, design thinking seeks to build up something new while framing it in a holistic context.

Once you’ve mapped the customer’s journey, leaders become problem-solvers, immediately seeing new possibilities. The problem is: Will the customer see them the same way?

To help solve this, leaders can implement Visualization, also known as ideation — the process of forming and testing ideas in planning, ad-hoc, and research and development activities. Essentially, it’s a tool to create clarity and transparency for collaborative work. This can be done through various methods – gamestorming especially, provides numerous possibilities.

That being said, visualizing a new result is only part of the process. Co-creation, also known as prototyping, is a tool that lets the market tell companies which solution works best. This is the results driven aspect which shows the progress that’s been made. Co-creation is used to engage customers directly in “playing with the future” so we can discover what will truly meet their unarticulated needs.

No mater what the business is, using these design thinking distinctions, leaders can meet the needs of their customers and provide a better product or service before a problem or unmet need becomes common. Leaders who design the growth of their organizations and innovate in such a way will keep themselves on the leading edge of thought. And in the long run, the effort it takes to do research and development using design thinking will in turn save you time and resources.

So, what are you waiting for?

We welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

*Tim Ogilvie is CEO of innovation-strategy consultancy Peer Insight and co-author with Jeanne Liedtka of “Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers.”  We are very excited to welcome co-author Jeanne Liedtka to join Mariposa CEO Sue Bethanis on this month’s Wise Talk, Thursday, November 29 from 12-1pm PT where they plan to discuss the ability to turn abstract ideas into practical applications for optimal business growth. For more info and to sign up, please visit our website.

July 20, 2012 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management / News

The Breakthrough! Model Explained

breakthrough model

What wicked problem do you want to solve?  An operational efficiency? A new iteration of an old product?  A totally different offering that will hit home with your customers? How about a new revenues stream? These sometimes intractable problems need a breakthrough approach to be solved. Breakthrough! is a model and program designed by Mariposa Leadership’s own CEO, Sue Bethanis, to incorporate the latest most cutting-edge thinking.

Breakthrough! is a fresh model for fostering creativity, empathy, brainstorming, and problem solving in a corporate environment. The Breakthrough! model provides a specific method which can help leaders address customer needs and issues in a more efficient and creative way. Leaders will not only understand the customer more deeply, but will also have an arsenal of tools to use by which to expand upon that newfound understanding.

The key to applying the Breakthrough! model is to let go of the traditional incremental mindset that may stifle creativity. Through Breakthrough! (Empathy –> Brainstorm –> Prototype –> Test –> Implement), corporate leaders learn to balance and combine analytic thinking with intuitive, creative thinking so to maximize innovation and problem solving.

The aim of the Breakthrough! model is to provide the knowledge to create a starting point from which true innovation can grow and flourish to benefit any company in terms of problem solving, strategy, and idea generation.

Post your thoughts and questions in the comments section below!

May 1, 2012 / Book Reviews / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation

Book Review: The Design of Business

The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage
By: Roger Martin

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

One of the biggest challenges facing leaders of established companies is how to embed innovation for brand new products and services into what are already streamlined business practices built around achieving consistently reliable results from existing products. All too often organizations, and the business schools that fill out their top leadership ranks, are too focused on analytical thinking at the expense of intuitive thinking, which means they are asking “why” questions based on data analysis from the past instead of “why not” questions about something that cannot yet be proven.  The most successful businesses however, balance the two in a “dynamic interplay that I call design thinking,” Martin states.

Martin has developed a model called the Knowledge Funnel, which progresses from a quest to solve “mysteries” by researching and/or intuiting a basic hypothesis about some aspect of the industry or customers’ lives, to “heuristics,” which are the basic strategic plans and processes to build or manufacture or supply the product conceived of in the previous stage, and finally to “algorithms,” where the process of production or service fulfillment is streamlined in an easy replicable way so that workers (or even software) can be consistently trained to deliver it. Opportunities exist at each stage, but the most successful companies don’t get stuck at any one stage; they are continually moving new ideas through the funnel. Moving down the funnel provides efficiencies of scale and lower cost labor, allowing the company to grow and ideally, fund more R&D and creative design to add the next new thing to the top of the funnel.

Martin spends time carefully making distinctions between stages of the funnel and between the notions of reliability and validity. Analyses of past and current data tend to focus on reliability-how well an incremental product improvement will satisfy critical feedback from the last version, for example, or whether a political poll can be replicated across different groups of people.  Validity, however-whether a new product will be a hit or whether that poll actually predicts the winner-cannot be determined from past data, and often takes that leap of faith that makes more cautious, logically-oriented types cringe.  All too often a company, based on the culture of its leaders, will favor one at the expense of the other.

Product & Gamble’s stumbles and subsequent recovery and thriving make for an interesting case study of Martin’s points, as well as the usual stars of innovation books such as Apple, Cirque Du Soleil, and Research in Motion.  The book is clear, concise, and easy to understand.   Like the best business books, it doesn’t try to tell you what to do-it provides a model for a new way of thinking about your own business.  Buy it.