After nearly a decade as a design thinking consultant, I’ve learned two main lessons. One: everything can be improved by a little empathetic research, and two: services are really, really hard to sell.

Me with a startup client, super pregnant with twins

The book “This is Service Design Thinking” fell into my lap 10 years ago and completely changed the trajectory of my career. I was a marketing freelancer who consulted with startups and investors to bring clarity to their communications (to each other and to the customers). I was a writer who understood storytelling and marketing, and I was filling a huge need.

I started prototyping pitches and…

NEON Challenge Discovery is a free MURAL template. Need access? Click here.

Facilitation Experience Level: Intermediate

Want to improve your facilitation skills or train an internal team to facilitate? Check out our upcoming trainings.

The NEON Challenge Discovery framework gets teams, stakeholders and leadership aligned to start product development with total buy-in and clearly communicated project parameters. We developed this process through thousands of hours spent working with some of the best product teams in the world to help them build better products, save time and reduce costs.

We recommend an internal facilitator (or external, if you don’t have one) to run the framework. Because the material can be deeply entrenched with…

We were on the brink of what felt like a scientific discovery. We were grinning stupidly and jiggling our legs in our chairs, watching the sticky notes line up on the wall.

We were researching the product development process with teams from all over the world — Bangkok, San Francisco, Hamburg, New York — and no matter the product, no matter the team, we were able to recreate our results every time.

We’d uncovered the most important element of product teams, and it was missing in every single case.

Each team was tasked with the same experiment (I mean, we’re…

What’s the project you would do if there were no barriers?

We all have a fantasy project — the game-changing, career-defining dream work we hope to someday get to do. But roadblocks (internal, external, real, perceived) get in the way. Tiny Piñata isn’t just a sounding board or a cheerleader. We join our clients in the trenches, learn their challenges from the inside out, and help people do the work they were meant to do.

So! What’s keeping you from your dream project?

It would never work — Is that the company line, or a fully explored and proven belief? You’re holding onto this idea for a reason…

This is an excerpt from the book Empathy at Scale by Dana Publicover, available to pre-order here for February 10, 2020 release.

How Empathy Solves a Problem

The problem before me was relatively straightforward: the company was experiencing very low retention in new hires, specifically in the junior and associate levels, in the age 25–35 demographic. The client and I had gone through a few exercises to attempt a clear diagnostic and were experiencing a breakthrough. They just didn’t know it yet.

“I think our onboarding might be…boring.”

The simple confession, delivered by my client in an almost-whisper, was met with sympathetic nods around the…

Look at all the junk back there. And yet, one piece stands out.

For about six months, there’s been a toy tambourine in the backseat of my car. As a parent of two toddlers, that’s not particularly odd (and with two toddlers, I’m guessing it’s not the worst thing I’d find back there either). Since it’s not in the way, it doesn’t get moved when I’m buckling up the car seats. In fact, I never think about it.

Part Two in a series about Digital Transformation. For Part One, click here.

When done strategically, digital transformation can revolutionize (read: transform) your entire business and touch every element. But adding it as an isolated department or initiative — keeping it siloed — will keep its success isolated.

Other projects may not share the same success opportunities. At larger companies, change tends to happen incrementally and in isolated channels — and yes, that strategy may be why many of them remain in business — but for true, revolutionary change, those barriers need to come down. You may think that the…

This is Part One in a series on Digital Transformation. For part two, click here.

Firefighter aims water hose at burning wood shed in a farm field.
Firefighter aims water hose at burning wood shed in a farm field.

Companies tend to make a very big deal about digital transformation, paying potentially millions of dollars for consultants and teams to “come do it” for them. In the vein of websites, then e-commerce, then social media and most recently innovation, large companies know they need to engage in the next thing in order to stay relevant.

Let me clear something up for you quickly: digital transformation is not a complicated concept. It just means re-evaluating traditional ways of doing things that may have a digital…

paper mockups of digital screens
paper mockups of digital screens
Not just a pretty artifact.

When I started my career, I was an intern and Jr. Copywriter at a few midtown NYC agencies. At this low level, it was always exciting when the bosses would run through the halls screaming “Emergency meeting!! Conference room, NOW!” We’d throw down our already overdue work and run into the meeting, and more frequently than perhaps it should have been, the meeting was about a client’s complete derailment of the plan and a strong objection to the work we’d shown them. As a person who now works with my own clients, this is the stuff nightmares are made of.

Dana Publicover

sales experience designer. founder, Publicover&Co. author, Empathy at Scale

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