Select Page

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,

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

Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Design for Good + Gut Checks + Seeing Power with George Aye — DT101 E50
Human-Centered Design + Designing Exceptional Customer Experiences with Lis Hubert and Diana Sonis — DT101 E101
The Experimentation Field Book with Natalie Foley — DT101 E123

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

Need help right now? Try Fluid Hive's Innovation Shield.

Download this step-by-step guide!

It helps make everything you create more valuable by asking simple questions.

Our workshops and courses are built on Fluid Hive's Question-based Learning and filled with tools ilke this one. Enjoy!

Images of pages from Innovation Shield

Join Dawan in a Free Design Skills Workshop!

Solve Like a Designer

A unique introduction to design thinking and more!

11 June 2024, 1:30 PM ET, 90 minutes, Register Here!

Workshop Design Lab

18 June 2024, 1:30 PM ET, 90 minutes, Notify Me!

Free workshops for people who want to develop, practice and learn design skills for creating services and solutions.

Live, interactive, practical experiences led by Dr. Dawan Stanford.

Your Ask Like a Designer Studio!

~ a free resource

You get Design Skills lessons and workshop invitiations, course discounts, Ask Like a Designer articles, podcast announcements, and more!
Cheers ~ Dawan

The Designing Facilitation 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.

Find Better Problems Course

In this self-paced, online course, Find Better Problems: Creating Better Solutions by Framing More Valuable Problems to Solve, you will learn to create more effective solutions by understanding the problem you are trying to solve.

Creating effective solutions begins with finding, defining and refining the problem you're trying to solve. I help you do that and more with step-by-step instruction and practical templates.