Transcript Solving Problems Through Design Thinking

Transcribed by See Blog

Mitch Simon 0:10
Welcome to another episode of team anywhere where CEOs, leaders and experts at building teams, companies, organizations, and amazing cultures

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 0:22
share how to lead from anywhere in the world. I’m your co host on the East Coast, Jim Bianco Mathis,

Mitch Simon 0:28
and I’m your co host on the West Coast, Mitch Simon. And we invite you to join us team anywhere.

On today’s episode, we interview Hannah Burson, founder and CEO of the design thinking consultancy salt Collaboratory. Design Thinking is a human centered approach to creative problem solving. Hannah introduces us to design thinking into mural, an online tool that allows people from all over the world to collaborate in a creative, productive and engaging way. We challenge Hannah to use design thinking to approach how a company might determine how to bring their employees back to work. We’re certain you’ll enjoy discovering how design thinking is imperative in today’s world to effectively team from anywhere.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 1:27
Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of team anywhere. And I am your co host, Ginni Bianco maphis, on the east coast. And I am here with my co host, Mitch Simon, on the west coast. And we have a fabulous and exciting person with us today, Hannah, who will give us a little more about herself. However, in terms of some background, she is CEO of her own organization, salt Collaboratory. And she will explain that a little bit to us, which is a consulting company that helps clients acquire design thinking, to amplify focus and collaboration and creativity in their work. And previously, she’s held positions at leading consulting firms, including point B and Seattle, cap, Gemini, Ernst, and young in London.

Unknown Speaker 2:25
Welcome, Hannah.

Hannah Berson 2:27
Thank you. I’m so excited to be here with you. Welcome. It’s

Mitch Simon 2:30
great to see you.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 2:31
So, Hannah, please share with us what you’ve been up to in the past year. And we as we all have been pivoting and looking toward 21? What has it been like for you? What

Hannah Berson 2:44
have you learned? Well, I actually started my own company in late 2019. Of course, not knowing that any of this was going to happen to us. And I left big for a management consulting after working there for many years to start my own shop, as you mentioned, where I could focus on what I had come to prefer to do with my clients, which is to integrate design thinking skills into our work. And of course, I had a few clients to start as we always do in the beginning. And my first client was a consulting company, in fact, who wanted to bring these skills to their own consultants. And I would do my commute. And I would get out of the car with my big flip charts and sticky notes and have to make two trips and set up the room before and started doing my work thinking this was how my year was going to play out. And then of course, it didn’t. And like all companies, that client and some of my others frozen place for a while. But fortunately for me, I had had enough time to build a relationship with this client, who was genuinely interested in learning about this way to work. And so we work together to transition out in person work to a virtual setting. I was a little nascent in my skills using these virtual tools. I, I’m so old, I used to drive stick, so I kind of felt like the girl was drinking a little. But we learned by doing and that’s definitely a theme for design thinking and a theme for these virtual collaboration tools. You just simply can’t be good at it out of the gate you have to learn. But I had a patient client, and we wound up together. And by the middle of the year and even towards the end of the year, we had our full program up and running. And by now actually with that particular client, I’ve trained over 100 of their people in design thinking and these online programs.

Mitch Simon 4:44
Can you hear me Can you share for our listeners because when I found out about you I immediately went to the internet and said oh she’s she’s an expert in design thinking what’s that? So she can really help out. You know what design thinking is and why it is so important today.

Hannah Berson 5:00
Sure. So I love playing with definitions of design thinking, if you Google it, there are hundreds of them. And they’re all correct, because there isn’t really one specific design thinking definition, the working definition that I play with the most is think of it as a disciplined approach. Right. And I say that because sometimes if you walk past a design thinking room, and you see the sticky notes and the leftover lunch, you think this is a mess, and I could never work like this, I don’t know what they’re doing. It’s not for me. But actually, if you learn the skills and methods, it’s actually a very disciplined approach. And it’s approach that you use when you’re trying to creatively solve a problem, a hard problem. So often, a lot of our problems in our in our lives don’t actually require that much creativity, we’ve done it a million times before the solution works, why go there. But with the types of problems that we’re starting to see in corporations, and frankly, in the world, they’re too complex for our off the shelf solutions. And we have to come up with something different. And doing that with a group of people can work really well, if it’s facilitated? Well, and if the tools and methods that are applied are smart, and well thought through that experience of using the discipline, with a group of people can yield incredibly creative and interesting results. So design thinking is often considered off limits for corporate people, because it’s what the designers do. It’s what the people at Apple do with it, it’s for products. But actually, it can be applied in the organizational context, because we’re still at the end of the day solving problems for people.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 6:51
Now we’re in a hybrid environment, and I’m a leader. And we’re, we’re dealing with a problem. And I’ve got 10 people, 12 people 16, let’s say, around the world, how do I do this? Alright, so

Hannah Berson 7:09
fortunately, for us, there were companies thinking about this before the pandemic, so when the pandemic hit their products were ready for market already in the market. There are several of them, some of the large organizations like Microsoft and Google absolutely offer these collaborative tools. The concept is that when you’re when you’re in an analog setting, you usually are in a room where you have, say, a whiteboard that you can work on. And the beauty of the whiteboard is that whoever is at the whiteboard with the pen becomes the center of attention, and pulls everybody towards them to watch what they’re doing. And if they’re on, you know, at the whiteboard, and they’re writing something up, and they’ve set up everybody’s station, you know, with sticky notes and pens, then they can say write your sticky note or walk up to the whiteboard and stick it up. We’ve all done something like this. So the technology out there mimics that experience. But because the engineers are super smart, and all of that, it actually takes it to a whole new level. The technology that I use is a company called mural. There are others in the market that do very similar things. And what mural allows me to do is before a meeting, it allows me to set up a virtual whiteboard with my work areas and my templates, and my pre populated, you know, here’s a bank of sticky notes you’re going to be using. And here’s some icons that make it feel a little bright and happy. And I can lock everything down so that when somebody comes into my whiteboard, they can’t mess it up. And there’s only certain areas they can contribute. And what I find and your example is exactly correct. I have done these workshops with 20 people across the world in productive sessions together. And the way that I usually do it is for most people, this is still very new technology. Fortunately, it’s been designed in a way that people who are collaborating with you on the whiteboard really need to know very little about how to play the game. They need to know to add a sticky note what you do by double clicking, they need to know how to grab a sticky note what you do by grabbing it, there’s really no yeah, Want to know, we have to know if you’re setting one up you have to know a little more. But getting people who are new to this technology to play along is actually surprisingly easy. And in fact, honestly for me one of the most exciting things about design thinking is that ability to see how your colleagues mind works. You know when you have to write down your stick exactly and they write down theirs. You have no idea They think like that it’s fascinating.

Mitch Simon 10:02
Tell me a little bit. And I mean, I, I just did this yesterday. So I would know a little bit about this stuff. Tell me what you found with the reactions of remote team members who have been, you know, given the freedom to express themselves have been given the, you know, I see I see mural is like a playground, given they’ve been given the opportunities to share their ideas, especially at a time when everyone is so dispersed. Tell me about what your what you’ve noticed with people using this tool in, in, in having them come together as a team?

Hannah Berson 10:50
Well, I, you know, I often all of my, whether it’s a cohort that I’m teaching or groups that I’m working with, I always ask for feedback so that I can improve things do. The one piece of feedback that’s consistent is that when I’m working in these groups of 10, or 20 people, there’s always a part of the session where we use the Zoom breakout function. Yes, right. So okay, I want you to go into a group of four or five and do this tool, and then we’ll come back together, or I want you to work on something. And I’ll mix the group’s up. And they all come back and say how much they appreciate that focused working time that they have, often with colleagues, they don’t know very well. And that intimacy of as you know, I don’t, I don’t know about you guys. But there’s, you know, there’s something incredibly distant about zoom. But there’s something incredibly intimate to because all you’re doing is looking at the person’s face the whole time. And so you’re focused on their whole being. And so when you’ve got just those four phases on a window, it’s actually a very intimate thing, especially if you’re working with good instructions on something together. So I think that that functionality of seeing the big picture of I see where we’re going, I’m learning something new, I’m moving through an exercise, and then I get to think, really deeply about something. And I think just on that point of thinking deeply. The other aspect of this way of working that is so refreshing for people, is that experience of really thinking hard. In design thinking, you’re asking people hard questions, you know, tell me about your experience with this. What worked for you? What didn’t? Where did you see potential? Or what are your ideas for? How might we do something? I have to think I don’t know, I’ve to think, and you say you never know, you get that feeling of I’m going to a place in my mind that I haven’t been to before I haven’t been for a long time. There’s nothing. Right? So there’s, there’s so much happening to people on so many levels in these types of sessions. They’re learning new things, they’re meeting new colleagues, they’re working in a different way. They’re being asked to think hard and contribute. And then because of honestly, the beauty of mural, at the end of it, the combination of neural and those magic tools that we can talk about Jenny, you really can see how your little fingerprints had an impact on the end story. And then there’s some

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 13:30
accountability there. There’s, there’s accountability on the one hand, and empowerment on the other.

Hannah Berson 13:37
And I think the other thing that it helps people learn how to do is to stay in alignment with each other, you know, we’re all different. And we think about things differently. And if you think about a regular zoom meeting, where there are eight people sitting around the call, nobody’s writing anything down. Everybody’s just a pining and pontificating or whatever. And some people are having an argument and one person will withdraw because they can’t get their hand that’s been put up paid attention to and we know what this feels like. And you come off the call and you text somebody and you say a company that someone says said that I’m never going to do what we decided. I’m not on board with that. I didn’t say it, but I’m not on board with that. And what design thinking in this mural world, which is very visual does is before you move on to that next stage, you have to move together. And so you vote. And if you don’t win the vote, then at least you realize that everybody else in the group will understand or used to at least what democracy was, you know, you, you understand that if six people like this and you didn’t, Oh, well. This is where we’re going. Or we have a debate over the importance or impact of one thing or another and we listen to each other and we land somewhere. And so we learn the importance of of working through our differences. There’s a landing somewhere rather than, you know, airing them on on a text function after.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 15:07
And Oh, good. Go ahead.

Mitch Simon 15:09
Man, I want to I want to, I want to ask you a consulting question. And so there’s a couple reasons why we wanted to have you on. One is because you’re brilliant, the others because you’ve, I think you’ve lived in every continent that I’ve lived in as well, which is kind of interesting. And the other is, so the the mural, and design thinking is a great way for companies who are virtual or hybrid to really create together to think together to end and as well to build relationships together. Now, I wanted to know, how would you approach a hairy problem? This is kind of interesting, because there’s a lot, there’s a lot of stuff online, but not too much on how to go back to the office. And I’m wondering, from a design thinking perspective, if I am the CEO, and I am getting close to everyone in my company, having their second shot. And I now need to ask people to come back or, or not tell them to come to come back or request that they come back? How would How would a design thinker, think about and propose a way for their company to actually approach having to come back to work?

Hannah Berson 16:32
How Funny you should ask.

Alright, so one of my big clients at the moment, is the chief people Officer of a real estate investment and management company, who has exactly this challenge for the teams around the world. And they’re in real estate. So out of all people, they should know what hybrid offices and things need to look like. It’s not that they don’t know what they want. They also know that they want people back in the office, they’re not one of the tech companies that’s getting completely remote. And so this person, this chief people officer had enough knowledge out there to know that something like design thinking could help her bring people along. And so I was given the opportunity to work with her and we had to craft something together. And so we start this next week. So I can’t tell you how it’s gone yet. But the plan is, the plan is to work with representatives from various regions of the world and various functions in the company, because different regions and different functions have different needs. And to get a good 20 person representative sample, we’re not scared of the numbers. And the first thing that we’re doing is we’re showing these participants, so we’re going to be doing this five times across these different groups. We’re showing these participants that we heard them and we paid attention to what they said, because most of these companies are doing pulse surveys and and we actually really did pull through the comments from the last survey was in November. So we pored through their comments by each of these region. We said in this in each region, this is what you care about. This is how you’re weathering the storm. And they’re in the middle of doing another one right now. But the challenge, often in design thinking you might say what a treasure trove of issues, let me focus on that. The problem for us is three months ago feels like three years ago. And that isn’t necessarily the right point in time. But it is important to acknowledge because if I was sitting in that meeting, and you didn’t even mention the stuff, I’d already totally told you I’d be a little annoyed. So that’s the first thing. And then we’re saying to them, okay, we’re gonna break you into groups after we’ve taught you how to use mural. And we’re going to do an exercise from design thinking called what’s on your radar. Now, we want to ask you as you as you think about coming back to the office, what’s important to you, in let’s say six areas like career development, work life balance tools and technology. In a fill in the blank, we can decide whatever the SEC team connections, what do you care about what’s going to be important to you in any solution? And each small breakout group will design their own radar. With that question myself. I have five kids and I need to be I want to have dinner every night with my children. That’s what I’ve learned from the pandemic. Whatever happens that’s, that’s a requirement for me. So people will share what they want and they’ll do it in full breakout intimate groups on teams. I’ve been on zoom. And then while they’re doing that, I will spy on them and I will Copy the center of their radars into a consolidated one. And after they present back, I’ll say thank you, you’ve now told us across the 20 of you, what you care about the most, doesn’t mean I can give you that. But at least I know what you care about. Now I have to truncate my sessions, because I’ve only got four hours in total with them, when really you need two days or three days to do this properly. So what I decided to do next was recognize that many of them actually are not educated in the space of hybrid work. They, you know, they’re doing their work every day, they’re not reading the Wall Street Journal article, or you other guests who had a white paper, they’re very heads down, so they don’t know what’s out there. So I want when I ask people to ideate, I like them to have to come at it from a place of knowledge if if I can. And so my gimmick for educating them is another design thinking tool called by a feature. And I’ve created for each of them, their very own store, hybrid, you know, their hybrid store socially distance, they don’t have to shop with anybody else through the aisles. And there’s three aisles, there’s technology, real estate, and people. And on the shelves, there are options, like I have a fancy pen set up at home for my office, or, you know, my, when I go back, there’s these types of conference rooms, or these types of data that another guest talks about popping into virtual meetings, of leadership, you know, maybe we do something like that. So there’s options for them to look at, and I’m going to have them spend their money, their 100 bucks or whatever. If you want terraces and outdoor gyms, you know, that’s 50 bucks, if you want a headset, that’s 10 bucks, because we want people to realize that there’s, you know, these things cost money. So that would come out in the first session, telling us what they like, and then understanding what’s out there. And then when they come back, two days later, we will do ideation with them, where we’ve converted the center of the radar into how might we questions, that’s a skill set, that’s hard. So I wouldn’t ask them to do that. They’ll just do these are our ideas. These are the ones that bubbled to the top, this is the concept we would build them into. And then we’ll have a little gallery walk where we choose the best concept. And we tell them, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. This is your way of understanding the space, and telling leadership, what you think could be helpful. The sausage will come out how it comes out. There’s no guarantee here, but they will have spent four hours Learning Design Thinking learning mural, telling us what they care about, share learning and sharing ideas. And then my client is the chief people officer will be able to gather these up and say, Hmm, there’s something here or we’re sticking without.

Mitch Simon 23:01
Right, thank you.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 23:04
That was a wonderful example really took us also into some of those magic tools that we had been talking about what exercise would best get this particular group working on this particular decision, you also said something important about you’re working with the leader, or your main client in and I am sure you just are asking them questions, so you can come up with that. I also hear you’re doing even stuff behind the scenes when they’re out in their breakout room. Right. So then you hurry up, you come back and they see a composite and and a key thing watch. mural then allows you to do

Mitch Simon 23:50
and I think what I really appreciate about your answer is that i would i would bet that if you have 20 people in a room, there’s at least 25 different opinions of how we want to go back. And the the biggest challenge of going back right now is is getting buy in. Because you know, whatever decision you make, you might have 20 upset people. And the idea though, is that they they were able to participate in this very hairy solution which going back to what you really what you originally opened up with Hannah is that the old style of management is I’m the CEO and I’ve got this all figured out. And every CEO does not have this figured out. And every CEO is really looking I think the most important thing right now is buy in at you know, of course the the most efficient solution is also important, the most efficient and effective. But the biggest issue right now is just buy in into being able to have a say as to what the future holds because we’ve all had a taste of Pretty much for most of us 100% remote work. And also 100% of no restaurants, no, no theater No, no, no social tell friends. Yeah.

Hannah Berson 25:10
And I think the important thing is, you know, the other definition that’s out there about what is design thinking is that it’s a mindset. And when leadership is able to let go of that I’m supposed to know everything all the time, and I make a decision that I’ve done to, I have really smart people who work for me. And if I know how to squeeze the juice out of their brains towards a particular problem space, we can do incredible things together, which reduces the whole change management where I made a decision, and now I need to convince you, now we’re, every decision but and, you know, if leadership is able to say, look, this is, this is the best we’re going to do to go back to the office, and we’re gonna work with you one month, two months, three, six months in to see how it’s going. And the areas that are not going well, we’re going to work with you to come up with ideas to fix them. And we’re in this together, and we can move through this together in a smart way. You know, building that confidence in the leap for a leader is that there are other ways to work and you know, in, like, I’ll tell you, my daughter’s 11. And she can get her design thinking badge in her Girl Scout troop. Right? When I learned all of this from a recent university graduate kids are learning to use these tools and methods in their school programs, were the ones who missed the lesson. So if we don’t catch up, and learn and model to younger people in our organizations that we encourage this way of working, their skill will die out, they will do PowerPoint presentations for everything the way we do them. And so we have to Yeah, and, and, you know, learn,

Mitch Simon 26:57
I’m really excited that we were able to get you on the podcast, and I’m and I’m seeing a lot of opportunity for especially with with every new process is going to have to go through design thinking. So you know, how do we have a strategy retreat? How do we bring people back? How do we bring people together? How do we, you know, create culture? How do we maintain culture? I mean, all these things are brand new to us, because the old way is pretty much over. Sorry.

Hannah Berson 27:30
I gave an all hands meeting at this consulting company. And I thought I would take some testimonials from some of the people who’ve been through the class. And there was this one young woman and I said to her, you know, what does it mean to you? Or whatever the question was, and she said to me, it’s such a relief to have learned these tools. Yeah. Because when I’m presented with a hard question from a client, I now know where to start. And, you know, I kind of teared up a little bit, because my early years as a consultant in these large companies in London, was miserable. Because I want us to redesign Morgan Stanley’s operations team of hundreds of people on Friday for presentation on Monday, I had no idea how to do that. That’s not fair. You know, and that was my issues. We’re working through that.

Mitch Simon 28:22
You figure this out, and Morgan will love it. So so let’s I think the the obvious question now as we as we close up the podcast is how can we find you? And how can we work with you? If this is really really, you know, sparked an interest and also, we recognize that we have a lot of problems that only Hannah can solve.

Hannah Berson 28:48
Well, there’s that’s not true, but I’m happy to help so the name of my company is assault, collaborative, Collaboratory. Salt, like the salt you put on your food. But Jenny, Jenny mentioned, and you imagine all the places that we’ve lived in it, it actually comes from, it’s an acronym. I stole the idea from my daughter who was doing something similar when she named a restaurant, but the acronym stands for South Africa, Seattle, Amsterdam, London, Toronto, and Tel Aviv, and those are all places. I’ve been fortunate to be able to live and work. So it’s it’s all of me. So I have a website called Collaboratory calm, and Hannah Burson on I don’t know how many of us are on LinkedIn, but probably not too many. And I’d be happy to help anybody enter this world. There’s there’s lots of resources and lots of ways to learn how to work this way. And I love it. And I love my work. I can honestly say that now after many years, that this is

Mitch Simon 29:49
great, and you have a really fantastic really quick video that really explains this design thinking in a way where I think everyone will go, oh my god, how could I not No this

Hannah Berson 30:01
right. We work section of the website. Yeah, that, you know, we this is another podcast but there’s other podcasts and webinars where I love to talk about this.

Mitch Simon 30:11
Great. Well, thank you, Hannah. Thank you, Jenny. Thank you to our great listeners who are growing. And we look forward to another episode of team anywhere. And we look forward to bringing Hannah back one day to share her greater insights with our listeners. Thank you and until next time, we’ll see you on our next episode of team anywhere.

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