Is this what it feels like to present your new ideas to management?

I think I could write variations of this article every week. You will all recognize it:

Your organization starts a new initiative aimed at innovation|customer focus |blue sky |future business model | (fill in your description). The goal is to tap into the knowledge and creativity of the experienced internal staff for them to help develop the next great leap forward. The organization invests time, and sometimes money, to help staff get up to speed with new processes and methods and gives them (a little) time to come up with something new.

And then (drum roll please!) the employees present…

Believe it or not, imagining the worst can be a good team-building exercise.

Starting up design or innovation projects are usually times of great hope and optimism. Finally, you’re going to solve that nagging problem or to allow yourselves to explore beyond what you usually do. In typical projects things often sail through smoothly until suddenly they don’t. That’s one of the reasons I love to use Pre-Mortems: Right at the beginning I like to temper that optimism with some constructive negativism, done in a fun and engaging way.

The Pre-Mortem is simple: At the start of any project, you gather your team to think up real or imagined reasons why this project

Photo by Aleks Marinkovic on Unsplash

Do you ever run into situations like this? It starts with a conversation with a prospect, client or co-worker and sounds something like this:

  • We need help understanding our customers.
  • We are about to offer a ____ and don’t know if it really fills a market need.
  • We need to get better at innovating.
  • We know ______ doesn’t work as well as it should but don’t know why.

A great start to any conversation. But the follow up explanation is usually where things go south. What follows is often a slew of suggestions often with conflicting means and goals. …

Could be me, in a Zoom meeting, with fake background. Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Let me say right off the bat that this has been a good year workwise for me. I wrote about this previously. And yet…

I am experiencing a flash-back, a Deja-vu, of being out on my own, in the beginning when I had set up my home office and was trying to grow a business. Back then, I got up early, blogged or exercised before breakfast, pushed out content, created events and worked, or tried to drum up enough work.

I realized early on that I needed a bit more contact and structure. It was early days of social media…

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

Despite (or because of?) the pandemic, 2020 was a very good year for me.

I’ll admit it right off the bat: the changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic made my work better and more enjoyable. Not everything, some things degraded, but for the most part the adaptations forced upon all of us led to better, more creative and more impactful work. Despite the restrictions, lack of movement and in-person connection, I enjoyed my work more than I normally do, which is a lot. I feel reticence at the thought of things going back to “normal.”

Now I know that a…

I just finished reading Erika Hall’s updated version of her book “Just Enough Research.” As a designer and strategist, I do research all the time and have done so for over 20 years. I found Erika’s book refreshing, informative and critical. Critical as in every designer who does for research as part of their jobs should read this book.

If I would focus on one major thesis of the book it would be this: rigor. Hall makes the compelling case that good research, whether done by a professional or amateur demands rigor. And that rigor stems primarily from discipline and…

Last December I had the pleasure of holding a Savvy Design breakfast seminar together with a previous client of mine, Apoteket. Apotekets Product Development Manager Carola Edsman and I spoke about the launch of their new service Apoteket DosPac that provides pre-packaged medicine for people with chronic ailments who need to consume several pills per day.

Carola and her team contracted with us at the now defunct Transformator Design to help them figure out how to bring an existing service targeted toward institutional customer to a new consumer market. The service, Apodos, served large and local health care institutions. Apoteket…

I just finished Dr. Max McKeown’s “The Innovator’s Book” — a short, energetic treatise on, as he puts it, “rules for rebels, mavericks and innovators.” Dr. Max’s book isn’t a how-to, nor is it a playbook people can implement into organizations. Rather it is a collection of reminders for change makers who typically face long odds, waves of resistance and general inertia in creating innovative solutions. The truth is that for those who dedicate their work to making significant positive changes there are never enough reminders or inspirations.

A new decade. One hundred years ago we entered into the Roaring Twenties, a decade of change and wild highs that ended in catastrophe. Despite the many statistics showing how things have improved in the world over the last 20 years, the future feels tenuous if not downright dangerous.

What to do?! Can any individual really make a difference in these fast-changing times?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

People will continue doing what we’ve been doing: we’ll keep our heads down, we’ll show up to work to do the work we’re assigned, go home and enjoy friends and family, and hope for the best. A…

Photo: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen via Unsplash

I’ve trained a lot of people in human-centered design. I’ve used lots of different tools and methods. I’ve used different types of training scenarios although I’m clearly partial to working on real projects. It’s in those projects, training internal teams to innovate or training entrepreneurs to develop new business models, that I see most clearly the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t.

It has nothing to do with smarts. I train lots of smart people in design thinking who develop quite poor solutions. It has nothing to do with “creativity” (or rather what people seem to expect…

Rich Nadworny

Design Director and co-founder of Savvy Design Collaborative, focusing on design thinking, innovation and change. Vermonter in exile in Sweden.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store