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 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:


March 4, 2013 / Book Reviews / Strategy / Wise Talk

Book Review: Playing to Win

playing-to-win-cover-newPlaying to Win: How Strategy Really Works
By A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin

Head: (4 out of 5)
Heart: (3.5 out of 5)
Leadership Applicability: (4.5 out of 5)

In Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, authors A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin draw from their years of experience working at Proctor & Gamble and the Rotman School of Management to explain the strategy behind one of the most successful corporate turnarounds of the century. They address how leaders of companies, big and small, can use simple techniques in their own organizations. The authors set out to right the wrong thinking about strategy.

Strategy is not about having a vision, and it’s not about having a plan. For the authors it is about winning. Winning requires a strategy that is managed and joined by a set of five questions. Playing to Win provides a provocative definition of strategy as the answer to these five questions – the same five questions no matter what your industry, size or situation:

  • What is our winning aspiration?
  • Where will we play?
  • How will we win?
  • What capabilities must we have in place to win?
  • What management systems are required to support our choices?

Strategy is boiled down to two key factors: 1) Where to play? and 2) How to win?  “These two choices,” write Martin and Lafley, “are tightly bound up with one another, form the very heart of strategy and are the two most critical questions in strategy formulation.” Playing To Win answers these questions in a winning way through a simple framework that’s both easy to understand, use, and makes it accessible to all.

Strategy begins with making choices and tough decisions. If this does not happen, you will never have a genuine strategy. But as the book points out, developing a strategy is not difficult, provided that those involved are prepared to address key questions and welcome a diversity of views to identify the best direction for the business. Buy it

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.