IDEO on Practicing Empathy & Running Sprints from Home

June 12, 2020

In this episode of The Solution Set, Owen Rogers, Melanie Bell-Mayeda, and Carl Fudge from IDEO address audience members’ top issues in the Spring of 2020. Bell-Mayeda and Rogers are both Partners at the design firm. Carl Fudge is a Portfolio Director. IDEO is one of InnoLead’s strategic partners.

See three questions the IDEO team answered below. Watch the video above for more.

How can we engage people in fun, virtual design sprints?

Melanie Bell-Mayeda: [One tactic] we’re seeing is having an owner of content, and an owner of culture and experience. … That owner of culture and experience is diving into every tool… So, do you do dynamic polls? Do you start off with a fun exercise like a Pictionary game? What can you actually do differently in Zoom, that’s interesting and fun, that you couldn’t have done in person?

Another little tactical rule of thumb is you…only want to talk for about 10 minutes at a time. Because much more than that…[and] people start checking their phones, because it’s very easy to get distracted…

Owen Rogers: One of the things that we’ve started doing is at the beginning of every session, rather than being [in] silence [while] everybody’s coming into the room, we play music for five minutes, and we let everybody get oriented.

Carl Fudge: One [important aspect] is being able to get on people’s calendars. … I think as we design these things now, I love the quote, “Never waste a crisis.” So now is the moment to go back into work and design work how you want it to be — not what it was…

What are the most crucial skills for innovators in 2020?

Melanie Bell-Mayeda: The softer skills of innovation and design [are especially valuable] in this moment. … People who are really able to identify signals in the chaos are so critical right now, because it’s hard to determine what is of the moment, and what is actually pointing to a future state. … So, how do we take what we’re learning right now and understand how that might move forward?

Carl Fudge: We want innovators to have a really, really good understanding of what the overall corporate strategy is. What markets are they interested in? What capabilities are they trying to build, and what kind of partnerships [do] they have… Those concepts are really going to be grounded in helping the company achieve its goals. I think sometimes, we’ve ended up with concepts that are not totally aligned with the strategy, and that’s made it difficult to get them launched.

When we actually get towards launch, we want to make sure that innovators are able to think about execution, not just think about great strategic ideas, but also think about how to actually get them built…

Owen Rogers: As you’re learning things…become a master, so that you can teach and share that with others. So, Carl is a master of business design and, as the skill of business design…evolves, he needs to be at the cutting edge of it. He needs to be teaching the rest of IDEO. … One of the things that makes innovators very special [is] they’re able to work across the silos.

How has videoconferencing and remote work changed the way teams practice empathy with end users?

Melanie Bell-Mayeda: One of our presenters was about to go on with this major point, and his daughter came in the room. … And the chat was just filled with people who were like, “We love you, Joe. … Your daughter’s adorable.” … People used to have an office persona and then a home persona. Those worlds are so blended right now, and I think it is allowing us to see a little bit differently…

Carl Fudge: We’ve always put such a high emphasis on being in the room with each other to collaborate, but also being in the room with users. … We’ve always gone to people’s homes to have in-person conversations so that we can really get a feel for who they are, their family, and to build that trust and that safe space so they can talk about things like their health and their finances… We’ve been able to still build some of that trust and build some of that safe space remotely through these virtual conversations. The fact that everybody is doing this at home with their family has normalized this medium, quite rapidly, in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if we weren’t all at home at this moment.