Leading a Design Thinking Consultancy, Betting Small to Win Big, and Driving Business Growth with Design Thinking with Natalie Foley — DT101 E5

*Since our interview with Natalie was recorded, she was promoted to CEO of Peer Insight. We’ve left her title in our show notes as ‘COO’ to reflect the recorded interview.*

Welcome to the Design Thinking 101 podcast! I’m Dawan Stanford, your host. In this episode, Natalie Foley joins me to talk about her design thinking and learning journey, and how she became the VP and COO at Peer Insight. We’ll also talk about the design process, some of the key methods that drive her work, and a pathway that organizations can use when developing their own internal design thinking capacity.

Natalie talks in this conversation about what to do whenFrederick S. Leichteryou work with people who are user-centered and able to handle the ambiguity involved in design thinking. Her job as COO, she explains, is to give a guardrail or enough structure to enable people to be successful, without giving so much direction and structure as to stifle the process. She also emphasizes the value of small teams.

You’ll hear that Natalie’s emotional journey to where she is now involved coming out of her undergrad experience feeling pretty smart and thinking that with every year of experience, she would get smarter. Stumbling on design thinking opened her eyes to a new perspective: she doesn’t have to be right, because her customers or the marketplace will tell her if she isn’t. Instead, the more important angle is to know how to run a good experiment.

The design process that Natalie uses typically involves four questions. The first is “what is?” The second question, or the ideation portion, is “what if?” This second part is anchored on the first question. After this brainstorming portion, the third question is “what wows?” This involves asking people what they think about some of the ideas that came out of the brainstorming process. The final question is “what works?”

Our conversation will also cover what Natalie’s clients initially present as their desired outcomes, and how that changes during the course of their interaction with Natalie and Peer Insight. She’ll also discuss how she reframes clients’ problematic expectations into something that she can design with, as well as her workarounds for common points of struggle. Tune in to learn about all of this and much more,

Learn More About Our Guest

Natalie Foley on LinkedIn
Natalie Foley on Twitter
Natalie Foley at Peer Insight
Peer Insight
Peer Insight on Twitter

Show Highlights

[00:33] Dawan introduces today’s guest, Natalie Foley.
[01:21] Natalie takes a moment to talk about her work at Peer Insight in both of her roles there, and offers a brief description of what the company does.
[03:48] We hear more about the people piece of what Natalie does, and she explains that she’s lucky in terms of the people she works alongside.
[06:37] How did Natalie arrive where she is at Peer Insight? She shares both the high-level practical answer as well as the emotional answer.
[11:09] Natalie digs into how she has seen the types of problems or challenges that she’s seeing evolve over the last couple of years.
[14:08] When people come to work with Natalie, what are they initially presenting as the outcomes they’re seeking, and how does that change during the interaction?
[17:28] Natalie talks about reframing clients’ expectations when necessary.
[21:02] There’s an easy way and a hard way to get a client to move through the pain of changing the way they’re used to thinking, Natalie explains.
[24:18] Natalie digs deeper into the basics of the design process that she uses.
[29:36] We hear about the dynamics involved for Natalie in managing both her internal team and the client team.
[32:59] How does Natalie coach leaders in the kind of decision-making that she has been talking about?
[37:08] Natalie talks about the areas where she typically sees points of struggle, as well as her workarounds.
[43:17] We learn more about the dynamic involved with the peer insight side of things.
[47:28] On the technology front, what are some of the challenges and benefits in working with a remote or distributed client?
[49:34] Dawan asks Natalie what she would say to someone who is new to the field or wants to get into the design thinking space.
[51:44] What are some of Natalie’s favorite books in terms of design thinking?
[55:53] Natalie shares her advice for someone who is a CEO or running a business who is interested in making an investment in design thinking for their company.
[59:04] Where can people learn more about Natalie, her work, and Peer Insight?


Natalie Foley on LinkedIn
Natalie Foley on Twitter
Natalie Foley at Peer Insight
Peer Insight
Peer Insight on Twitter
Jeanne Liedtka
Jeanne Liedtka on Design Thinking 101
Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie
Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want (Strategyzer) by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Gregory Bernarda, and Alan Smith

Tell me how the show helps you.

Photo of Dawan Stanford

Your ideas support and develop the show. Tell the world how the Design Thinking 101 Podcast has helped you think and solve like a designer. Then, tell me how I might make it even more helpful.

Cheers ~ Dawan

Fluid Hive's Designing Faciltiation Course

Are you ready to design outstanding events that will engage participants and get the outcomes you need? Fluid Hive's Designing Facilitation Course is a step-by-step design thinking-fueled system for creating and leading events, workshops and meetings that solve problems, save money, and protect your reputation.

Designing Facilitation gives you 32 lessons that walk you through answering our Event Design questions, and 28 Event Design Practice Tools that help you immediately apply your learning. Dawan also offers examples and insight from his decades of experience leading events for thousands of people everywhere from the White House to packed ballrooms, cozy workshop rooms, and online spaces with remote participants.

Design Thinking 101 Courses — Framing

In this self-paced, online course, Framing: Creating Better Solutions by Finding More Valuable Problems to Solve, you will learn to create more effective solutions by understanding the problem you are trying to solve. This is the first course in Fluid Hive's Design Thinking 101 Courses Series.

Creating effective solutions begins with understanding the problem we are trying to solve. Is this problem worth solving? Where should we look to understand our problem? What’s happening inside this problem? How do we define the problem? How do we adjust problem framing as we go? During the course, you will learn to answer these questions and apply them to your work.

Resources — Thinking and Solving Like a Designer


Ask Like a Designer — Monthly articles with design ideas, methods, frameworks, templates, and a question-fueled approach to design-driven innovation. Discover new ways to think and solve like a designer.

Sample pages from inside Fluid Hive's Innovation Shield


Download Fluid Hive's Innovation Shield: a guide to avoiding innovation traps by asking 9 of Fluid Hive's Design Thinking Questions.

Your Ask Like a Designer Studio

Your Ask Like a Designer Studio connects you with people interesed in thinking and solving like a designer.

Enjoy invitations to free, live Studio events. Receive articles, Design Thinking 101 podcast updates, tips, tools, templates, workshop information, and more to help you create and perform!

Innovation Smart Start Webinar

Your next project could be easier, faster and more effective if you play smart at the start. In this webinar Dr. Dawan Stanford will teach you ways to ask like a designer so your projects succeed more often and your revenue grows.