August 9, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Difficult Conversations

Erica asks: My department head is an extremely brilliant man and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.  But lately, I’ve noticed a shift in his behavior that is beginning to strain our working relationship.   He has become very irrational, negative, and all over the map with requests and demands.  What can I do to keep our relationship in tact without stepping over any boundaries?

Eric Nitzberg, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

A lot depends on the level of trust an openness you have with him.  This is a delicate situation, so you’ll want to be thoughtful about any approach.  If you have a pretty open, high trust relationship you might broach the subject directly, “It seems like you have been a little on-edge lately.  I’ve noticed some changes in your leadership style.  Would you be open to talking?”   If you can’t address the issue directly, then I would consider which of the new behaviors are the biggest problem for you, and what you might do about them specifically.  If “requests all over the map” is the most frustrating issue, you might try having a neutral conversation with him about that issue, “I want to make sure I’m aligned with your priorities.  Can we talk about what’s most important among your requests?”

July 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Creating Positive and Collaborative Communication

Demitri asks: My colleague has an answer for everything and dominates all of our team meetings, screaming for attention.  She bulldozes ideas and ridicules anyone who disagrees. No one on our team wants to step up and call her out on this “annoying” behavior.  What can I/we do to create a more effective and positive experience in our meetings when we need to work with this type of person?  

Dina Silver, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

Tough situation!  As you are already experiencing, colleagues who dominate meetings create a range of challenges for other team members including: creating an atmosphere of annoyance, distaste, disaffection and disappointment for all present who are unable to participate fully and see no way to stop the bulldozer.  Meetings become solo acts for the benefit of the loudest voice instead of forums for team collaboration.

It is the responsibility of the team leader to intervene in order to create a safe, innovative and participatory forum for all employees.  Consider speaking to the team leader offline about this issue.  Frame it as a need for stronger team dialogue and a desire for your meetings to be a forum where all voices are essential.   Offer ideas for improving team communication.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Limit the number of minutes each member speaks at a time (3 minutes, for example).  You can use an egg timer, your watch or phone’s timer application.  This will force everyone to pare down his/her thinking and share the crucial core of his idea.
  • Every person who wishes to contribute to the conversation has  the uninterrupted opportunity to do so.
  • Phones and other devices are turned off during the meeting.  If you are present in the room, be present.  This ensures all participants are listening to each other and not simply waiting for their chance to talk.
  • Start and end meetings on time. Do not catch late people up by rehashing what others have heard.  This will be awkward at first, but people will adapt and appreciate this.
  • Agree on meeting communication norms:  no personal attacks, blaming, eye ball rolling or disdainful comments.  Stop the behavior the moment it occurs.

Finally, every person in the room, including you, has a responsibility to enforce positive and collaborative communication.  Do not let old habits creep back. Gently remind team members of the rules of engagement and help the conversation get back on track.

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.

December 4, 2012 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: Corporate Power Shifts

Harpreet asked:

Our company is going through a power shift where power is being transferred from the owner/founder of our company to our CEO and other top leaders. The owner’s inability to let go is creating problems – how do we start a conversation/solve this issue?

Barbara Baill, Senior Leadership Consultant responded:

This is often a challenging transition for any founder-lead organization. A lot of “the right answer” is situational. Is the founder being forced out by the board or is this a voluntary transition? Has the owner’s future role, if any, been defined?

You seem to imply that founder/owner will continue to remain involved in the company. Someone will need to start the conversation with the owner. Identify a trusted advisor or coach the CEO to take on the role of advisor himself. Let the owner describe their vision for what a successful transition looks like. The owner obviously has invested a lot into building this organization up to this point. If they will have a role after the transition is complete, it has to be clearly defined. It is important to honor their knowledge, experience and contributions, and define how they can continue to be informed and valued in their new role.

The CEO and his team will need to be patient and respectful yet clear in the communication of what the business needs are for the owner in this next phase of the company’s development. As in any difficult conversation, the CEO will need to listen and be empathetic of the founder’s perspective as well as be willing to have a compassionately honest conversation about what is critical for the business now.

Share your thoughts on this response in the comments section below, and ask us anything here:

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.

October 17, 2012 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / Wise Talk

Q&A with Saul Kaplan on Business Model Innovation

Listen to these audio snippets from our September teleconference, Wise Talk, where guest Saul Kaplan discusses some of the ideas behind his book, The Business Model Innovation Factory.

In this first snippet, Saul talks about how you must become the disruptor, or else you will be disrupted:

In this snippet, Saul explains that the key to an innovative business model is experimentation, willingness to fail, and to try more stuff:

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

We welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

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