There’s a few questionable things that came about in the 80’s but design thinking certainly isn’t one of them. What is design thinking? In short, design thinking is a problem solving framework.

With design thinking you bring your whole-self to the process without restraint or the negative inner voice. You bring a state of mind that empathises with customers but also with your colleagues you’re working with. Once you can do this the solutions are only limited to the participants imagination and the ability to seek, understand and then act on insights.  

So how does this apply to leadership? Great leadership, not unlike design thinking, is dependent on the ability to identify a problem and make progress on a possible solution. Problems or opportunities may be within the organisation or may lie in waiting with a customer need that has not yet been met.  

Design thinking, helping leaders  

In the article ‘Design thinking should also serve as a leadership philosophy‘ Jesse Himsworth from Forbes highlights two key elements that assist leaders.  

  1. The Power of The Collective Brain 
  2. The Value of Human-Centred Design

The power of the collective brain refers to the fact that ideas stemming from a collective of people with different views and insights is strengthened to that of an individuals. When one person (normally one with the highest rank) is coming up with all the ideas no matter how ‘intelligent’ or ‘naturally skilled’ they may be, the idea still stems from one set of skills, abilities, views, biases and experiences, rather than many. Having many points of view in a room, as opposed to one that dictates, is always going to be a more robust and stronger idea that stands a better chance of success.  

“Decisions made and executed by diverse teams delivered 60% better results” states the report from Cloverpop titled “Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision-Making”.  

Ideas and innovation are strengthened by collaboration and there’s plenty of stats to prove it.  

The Australian Government report Competition of Collaboration used data from around 7,000 Australian small and medium enterprises and they “found a significant link between collaboration on innovation and productivity growth — the impact of collaboration on innovation increased annual productivity growth by 4.1 per cent.”

 The benefits are irrefutable. The ability to harness ideas and bring together diverse points of view increases the success rate of new ideas (innovation) but is also attributed to improving the overall sustainability of any organisation. I always like to mention the sidenote of empowering individuals and helping them to find moments of joy and purpose in what they do each day. To me this is where the magic lies.   

How diverse is your team?  

Now let’s look at the team you, as a leader, are creating. Yes, I say creating because every hire, every recruit will determine the abilities of your collective brain. Diversity is a key component of collective brain that can break through the limitations of traditional thinking and create more innovative ideas.  

The BGC Report ‘how diverse leadership teams boost innovation’ states that organisations which leverage diversity in developing their solution have an advantage of 19 percent more in their innovation revenue over those that don’t.  

The X Factor  

Now to the value of a human centred approach.  Design thinking firstly relies on empathy. So, in this case leaders who have the ability to put themselves in their teams and their customers shoes. Good to Great, author Jim Collins notes empathy and humility to be the X factor of great leadership.  

If leaders successfully embed empathy into their organisation we then get a more engaged workforce.  

The ‘Empathy Monitor Report’ makes mention of the following benefits of a workplace that embeds empathy:  

1.Retention 

  • 92 percent of employees would be more likely to stay with a company if the organisation empathised with their needs. 

2. Overheads 

  • 60 percent would be willing to take less pay if their employer showed empathy, and 78 percent would leave an employer for equal pay if the other company was empathetic. 

3. Productivity  

  • 77 percent of employees would be willing to work longer hours for an empathetic employer. 

So once leaders have developed a culture of empathy what’s next?  

Constant improvement, regular feedback and individuals who are open minded enough to receive and welcome feedback can be your competitive advantage. Embrace it! An organisation dedicated to innovation realises that it is a continuous pursuit that promotes failure as an opportunity for learning. 

 Let’s talk about what’s in it for them….. and what’s in it for you as a result.  

“They hear me”…. Empowerment  

Empowering teams and instilling confidence to teams can be a momentous move to improving the decision-making abilities of teams. Not to mention improving proactiveness and productivity.  

Employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. (Salesforce

“What I do matters, to me!” Sense of Purpose 

If what you do each day is aligned with your own personal cause then there’s no doubt you will be happier at work as well as happier after hours. If you’re fulfilled 9-5 then homelife becomes more enjoyable and let’s face it a happier community could only eventuate. No Sunday blues, no manic Mondays.  

80% of employees felt more engaged when their work was consistent with the core values and mission of their organization. (IBM

“Trust me I got this!” Decisiveness 

A decisive team means less time for leaders to have to guide direction. Therefore, it allows leaders to dedicate more time to connecting with the wider industry and dedicate time to thinking about the future direction and strategies of the business rather than putting out fires and reacting to day to day challenges.  

70% of employees ranked being empowered to take action at work when a problem or opportunity arose as an important element of their engagement. (SHRM

From here decide what is the biggest challenge to your business. Use empathy in your approach to break down the barriers to that challenge. Whether it be within you company or your customers.  

The design thinking approach will help you to not only address any problem that comes your way but you’ll also reap the benefits of knowing that you are contributing to a happier community and happier workforce.  

Sleep easy in knowing that when your people go home each day, they don’t dread the time they need to be back in the office and instead thrive within their home life and spread the word within their network of the positive influence of your organisation.

Make advocacy and an engaged and empowered workforce your strongest competitive advantage.  

Olivia O’Connor, Liv By Design

Video 3min watch

How? was the question I was asked last week after posting a video on ‘bringing your culture online’.

Here’s a quick exercise anyone can implement to refocus on your culture as well as encouraging your team turn up to your online meeting with a mindset of active contribution rather than passive attendance. Heighten your teams engagement and leverage their creativity.

Here’s a quick vlog on one of what I consider to be one of the best tips to holding a creative online meeting.

The numbers and research don’t lie, most of our meetings suck. According to research by Gallup senior executives spend two days or more a week in meetings despite the fact that 67% of meetings are considered to be “failures”. I’d dare say that time would have significantly spiked in the last couple of weeks for most execs.

Anything that requires us to turn up and zone out is not just a waste of time but a waste of our creative potential, a waste of an opportunity to truly connect and collaborate.

You can’t write an article on improving meetings without quoting some scary stats. Steven Rolberg’s research states that…

62% of participants said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.

71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient.

64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.

Poor meeting structures lead to low engagement and poor culture. If you want a more productive team who creates big ideas and gets stuck into creative problem solving, then you need to dedicate time to connection and heightening collaboration. The way to do that is to ensure you allocate time in your meeting to focus on culture, create an interactive experience and tie the jobs to be done back to the overall higher purpose and vision for the team.

Allocate time

In my experience this works best in the opening of the meeting. Dedicate 15 minutes at the beginning of your next team meeting and use this time to seek input from everyone who attends. This will help you stop your team feeling like passive participants and make them feel more like active contributors and idea makers.

Interactive experience

In a time like this where things are so uncertain, and people are experiencing high levels of change and stress

Some think of focusing on culture and engagement as nice things to do or the icing on the cake. We need to make the cake first sell it then we’ll think about ourselves later. Wrong. Instead, think of engagement and your culture as the cake tin. It’s what enables you to make the cake in the first place. Want a better cake? Then fix the holes in your tin.

So here’s 3 activities to get you started…

Method 1.

BRING YOUR VALUES TO LIFE.

Grab your list of values. Select one each week or each meeting and ask the team to each come prepared with one or two ideas as to how that value can be represented in your next online meeting.

Collate the ideas, discuss and pick some nice easy ways that you all agree as a team you want to uphold over the next few weeks.

Use the next meeting to summarise what was agreed to and at the end of the meetings to a value check in. Take 2 mins to write down how you think it went. Keep experimenting and tweaking as you go.

Benefits: This activity requires everyone to do some pre-work before the meeting so they are already in the mindset that they will be required to contribute.

It helps your team focus on agreed to goals and decision making. There’s not one individual who makes the call but a group who are working together. Essentially you are working out your collaboration and team cohesion muscles.

Method 2.

GET VISUAL.

Get participants to get and A4 piece of paper and a sharpie. Ask them to draw a picture 5 mins before they’re due to dial in that represents how they have been feeling that morning or day. You can have fun with this but just make sure the image is visible to everyone online. (Hence the sharpie instead of a pen). If the kids are at home grab a crayon if you have to. Then ask everyone to show their picture. If there is anyone who wants to share why they drew that picture. You’ll find some people are feeling great and some who might be feeling a little challenged that day could perhaps do with a phone call from someone who has some energy to give that day to support them. We’re all going through a lot so morning you might be on top of the world and afternoon you might need a pick me up.

Benefits: How many emails do you send each day? How many drawings do you do each day? By drawing an image, you are instantly activating new pathways in your brain. By opening new pathways, it allows you to interpret information differently and allow more critical thinking and creative problem solving.

Method 3.

GIVE A SHOUT OUT.

Tell a story that represents someone demonstrating the values either within your organisations or serving a client.

Give recognition to someone who has helped deliver on a project or task. Then go a step further and ask them to explain how they managed to get all the work done or how they prioritised this job with everything else they had going on.

The more you can get other to recognise positive behaviours and not just outcomes the more you help them to realise that they too can deliver on their seemingly endless tasks and major projects.

Benefits: This builds trust within your team and it helps people feel valued for the work they do. Trusting one another is one of the most valuable commodities we possess, and it is vital to cohesive teamwork. By going the one step further and asking the recognised team member to explain ‘how’ they achieved what they did or how they prioritised means that others in the team can then see how they themselves can follow positive behaviours and processes for the same outcomes. This step also fosters transparency and avoids the ‘hold your cards close to your chest’ behaviour which fractures teams. Success breeds success.

Don’t forget that your workplace culture is your own. Develop your own rituals. You can adopt some of the above or go out on your own and create something unique to your organisation that can create a sense of comradery and belonging.

Experiment and improve. Question the outcome, structure, behaviours and necessity of every meeting. Was it necessary to all jump online? Did everyone need to be there. Could the same be achieved by simply heading onto a teams chat or slack. If it’s an important announcement does everyone need to login at that point in time or could you simply send a video Prime Minister style give everyone a chance to digest then come into an online meeting to discuss peoples thoughts and questions.

If you’d like more tips on how to bring your culture online get in touch. No pressure, no pitch.

Stay creative! Cheers, Liv

This morning may have been the first morning most of the community logged into workplace meeting from home. How did it go?

Some are relishing the change. Others having their laptop set up in the bedroom and across the hall from the bathroom with 2+ kids at home is proving to be challenging or more like the multitasking challenge from hell.

Before you reach for that bottle of SSB before 10am lets press reset.

The problem with most online meetings is that it can be a distracting set up. Then its mostly a my turn, her turn, his turn to talk set up. Here’s a few tips to think about before you connect tomorrow.


Start with a culture moment


Take 10-15 mins to share some positive moments of what you’ve noticed happening with your teammates, colleagues and leaders around you.

Congratulate people who are demonstrating the values and behaviours you want your organisation to embrace now more than ever and into the future.

If your facilitating ask a leader or manager to start and then get everyone involved.

Being present


There’s nothing worse than a leader logging in when they feel like or taking calls while the meeting is going on. Yes, it’s time for urgency but support your team by dedicating solid time to them. I’m not talking about a one-off life or death moment I’m talking about a solid pattern of repetitive behaviour.

Look to structures meetings so they’re kept short and work them around the other priorities for the day. If it can’t be done say your piece and bounce. You’ll feel better about addressing the major priority you have, and you won’t diminish the time the rest of the team need to connect.

Give your team the freedom to collaborate and get back to you.

Driving engagement


There’s nothing more detrimental to any meeting than a ‘lets go around the table and share what we’re working on today, this week, for eternity’ structure.

It sure can feel like an eternity. While people speak other participants are checking out their hair or how killer their new virtual background looks.

Think about how you can mix it up.

Who’s going to do what, by when?


Last and you know it’s not least. Ensure as a team everyone keeps each other accountable. Reiterate the importance of the tasks outlined and the implications if things don’t progress.

There’s nothing more refreshing than leaders and teams who can be completely open and honest with each other. Think of it as a half time motivational huddle.

Then get out there smash those tasks and keep the progress updates as frequent as sales alerts at Christmas or the onset of a retail shut down during Covid-19. Ooops too soon?

Now is the perfect time to start speaking to your customers and refine what and how you are offering your products or services. With people’s routines in upheaval and new needs evolving everyday its more important than ever to find out what your customers are thinking, feeling and doing.

The needs of society are being transformed right before our eyes. The elderly and disabled are being given their own shopping hours, baking has seemed to make an all-time come back with flour being raided from shelves and of course the major need that kicked everything off and signalled the beginning of the apocalypse, the need for toilet paper.

If your chasing sustainability and growth for your business in this rapidly changing environment, then focusing on the needs of your customers is the most certain way to get there.

Add 60% on to your bottom line. Is that a better figure to what you’re pulling in now? Or perhaps the future is so uncertain you’re not sure what the rest of the financial year has is store. Research by Deloitte and Touche, states customer centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to companies without such a focus.

With a customer focus you’ll be in good company. This little gem is from Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder.

The most important single thing is to focus obsessively on the customer. Our goal is to be earth’s most customer-centric company.”

It’s hard to argue that there isn’t value in being customer focused. Especially when you are quoting a guy that makes variably $11.5 million per hour. That’s right per hour, it’s not a typo.

Business Insider Australia states “Amazon has 14 leadership principles that guide its employees’ business decisions, but founder Jeff Bezos said just one is the “secret sauce” to the trillion-dollar company’s success. Focusing on what customers want or need has driven many of Amazon’s most profitable business moves.

“The No. 1 thing that has made us successful by far is obsessive compulsive focus on the customer as opposed to obsession over the competitor,”

Bezos said in a talk at the Economic Club of Washington on September 13.

Using your data to analyse customer needs?

The problem with using data to analyse customer demand is the lag. By the time you’ve got the data to make a decision the needs may have changed . That’s how quickly things are moving. It’s also tricky to predict where customer behaviour will go.

If you have an in depth understanding to what is in the heart and minds of your customers, then you will beat any algorithm.

How to get started.

It’s simple. For an organisation to become customer centric we need to connect to the customer. The simplest way to do this is by talking to them.

I embark on customer empathy interviews regularly and I have a 100% hit rate on uncovering invaluable insights about customers and their needs. It helps organisations validate their ideas or their gut feel for the right solution and it erodes the uncertainty in making tough business decisions.

Once you have the key insights it’s about refining how you can better improve your service, your customers experience or you may uncover a huge slap in the face opportunity that helps you design a whole new service. Put simply, it helps you meet the needs of customers. The “secret sauce” as Bezos terms it, to success.

Ex-President Barack Obama making calls himself to voters from a local campaign field office in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Get customer centric in 4 days

Here’s how I can help.

Day 1-2 – I Start interviewing your customers

Day 3 – Write up a complete customer insights report to help you understand your customers and their motivations

Day 4 – We hold an on online workshop with your team to get creative and find new solutions and new ways of doing things

It’s time to get human. Organisations need to understand their customers and jump in their shoes. If you’d like to chat more about how to design solutions for your customers send me a message. I’m here to help.

I’m about to embark on another series of empathy interviews and I’ve found myself in the same place I do every time before I pick up that phone and reach out to my client’s customers. Nervous!

I’m nervous about the reception I get on the other end of the phone. I hate to think of the fact that I’m imposing on people’s day, perhaps I’m interrupting them. Sometimes people aren’t receptive to being asked their opinions. We are so used to getting surveys from organisations that when we receive a phone call from a human asking us questions we are surprised.  “Wow, you actually are asking me real questions?” is what one of my interviewees said.

Here’s where I’m going to be honest 98% of my interviews are amazing and I’ve never gone without gaining incredible results. NEVER. It’s why I do what I do. I love bringing new insights to organisations and helping them learn more about their customers. BUT I have stumbled on 1 or 2 individuals who were let’s say not so receptive. Wait, I said I was going to be honest…. OK they were pretty nasty and of course these very short conversations are the ones that always stick out in my mind. Not the other 100’s of conversations that I’ve had. You know all those ones that were hugely valuable and insightful for my clients and entirely fascinating for me.

This is why I understand why organisations find it hard to reach out to their customers.

Despite the fact that asking your team to talk to your customers could be the cheapest and most valuable thing your organisation can do, it’s not being done.

It’s not my job….

It becomes even trickier when you get into debates of who’s job is it to talk to the customers. If you have a customer’s service team it’s them. If you have a service delivery team it’s could also be their job or a sales team… yep they’re right, there it’s up to them.

Here’s the problem with that. In a situation where you are delivering the service people find it hard to be upfront. They want the service to remain up to scratch so they’re not going to bite the hand delivering the service. Then there’s re-pour. Anyone in sales are good at creating re-pour it’s how to make a sale step.1 in sales 101. The customer wants a good deal, so I’ll keep my mate onside.

Whilst we all find it hard to ask for feedback it tends to go up a notch when its from a customer. No body wants to be reported as doing a bad job so let’s navigate this idea quicker than an F1 car at a round roundabout.  

3 tips for getting customer insights FAST!

1. Put yourself in their shoes

Empathy is the starting point to success. Think abut what your customers are faced with and how your product or service is either helping them or potentially hindering them.

2. Have a plan

I said a plan. Not a script. Think about the key challenges your business is facing and how that relates to your customer.

Don’t get skewed feedback. Look at the relationship between the person asking the questions and the person answering. Here’s where a third party from outside your organisation is ideal.

3. Make it a focus

Think about the importance of the information you’re after. Remember the most innovative companies in the world all have one thing in common. Being connected to their customers and gaining insights on their needs.

Want to fast track the process of getting customers insights? Shortcut all the accountability issues, crush the lead time it takes to get insights and ensure you get open honest (not skewed) feedback that you can take right into your strategic planning. Here’s where I can help. Contact me for more details.

Let’s chat about how I can help your organisation become more connected to your customers.

Put the customer’s needs first and you’ll thrive.

“Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.”

Kevin Stirtz

How to Apply ‘Dignity of Risk’ to create an Innovative workplace

The theory of Dignity of Risk isn’t a new one but when I first heard it, I was intrigued. 

Dignity of risk is the idea that self-determination and the right to take reasonable risks  is essential for dignity and self-esteem. So excessively cautious caregivers can impede a person sense of dignity by simply trying to keep them safe. I guess its what parents are familiar with when we talk about wrapping our kids in cotton wool.  

The concept came about in reference to adults who are under care. So we’re talking the elderly, people living with disability, and/or people with mental illness. Since then it has also been applied to children, including those living with disabilities. 

Dignity of Risk also has relevance to creating a flourishing workplace culture and developing innovation focused teams. So here’s the whole story of how I uncovered Dignity of Risk and why I think we can use this in our workplace culture to help new ideas and the purpose of people thrive…..  

I recently had an impromptu conversation with CEO, Mark Fitzpatrick from the Telethon Speech and Hearing Institute for Kids.

As parents and knowing the next wave of school holidays were soon upon us we started talking about the challenges of yeah you guessed it… parenthood. Now there’s a lot of places this conversation could have gone but we hit the age-old analogy of wrapping your kids cotton wool and simply wanting to protect them.  

With 2 young girls I can immediately relate to hearing myself say “put that down, don’t do that, get down” and it’s on repeat throughout most of the time I’m with them but I think we all struggle to let go of the reigns. Everything in our core tells us to avoid and prevent mistakes and risks. I remind myself that resilience is an essential strength that can only be gained through a few mishaps here and there.  

Mark then mentioned the theory of ‘Dignity of Risk’. He explained the theory in that we need to allow individuals to take reasonable risks and that by hindering them to take risks is not beneficial to them in the long term. Whilst we might stop them and help them avoid short term harmwe’re actually doing them a disservice by taking away the decision to take and action and experience the results.  

Since then it has stuck with me as I think it 100% applies to conversation we have in organisations about stimulating an innovative workplace culture.  

Innovation is reliant on empowering people to take risks. Unfortunately, often those who that take risks in an organisation feel as though they stick their neck out to do so. If that risk then fails to hit the mark then the result is often less than dignified. If mishandled the risk taker can feel vulnerable, less respected and even at risk of losing their position or role altogether.  

An innovative culture also relies on psychological safety in the workplace. For people to have the courage to voice their ideas they need to feel safe to do so. Therefore, the repercussions and reactions of new ideas and failures need to be very closely monitored and considered.  

Heinrich Rohrer a Swiss physicist who received a Nobel Prize for the design of the scanning tunnelling microscope was quoted as saying ……

“We had the freedom to make mistakes. That’s something very important. Unfortunately, this freedom gets lost….. and you do the common things. You don’t dare do something beyond what everyone else thinks.”  

A leaders point of view

From a leader’s point of view mistakes cost time and money. However, they are also essential to learning and uncovering new things. Whilst we can monitor the level of risk so that our company, as we know it remains, our reign of control cannot be so tight that it cripples any effective decision making.  

If you’re telling your team to step up you need to ensure they have room to do so which may mean you need to take a step to the side. Use your expertise to encourage and guide but don’t tell and direct. 

We all have the fundamental right to make mistakes and learn and grow from trial and error but many organisations still aren’t run this way. It’s success at all costs, except the cost of failure. Failure is unacceptable.  

How can we apply dignity of risk?

Drive & Nurture Individual Purpose  

Firstly, we need to ensure all our employees have full knowledge of the impact of their roles, choices and opportunities. This ties into how they fit within the organisation and how they impact and influence their colleagues, customers and the overarching organisational vision. We can all play a part.  

Communication   

Secondly, we need to encourage the development of their communication skills to enhance transparency across the organisation, build trust and develop the leadership potential within each team member.  We can all lead.   

Collaboration 

Thirdly, our employees need to feel safe to express ideas, empowered to make decisions and confident enough to work with diverse opinions. We can all find solutions.  

Bring Your Whole Self  

And fourthly, we need to encourage individuals to have a strong sense of personal identity and self-worth by supporting their ideas, strengths, passions and personal purpose. We can all flourish.   

I say this as I continue to struggle with that Saturday morning trip to the playground but reflection and awareness is the first step to improving anything right? Here’s to loosening the reigns …..  ;o)