Teaching Yourself Design Thinking + Innovating in Government with Amy J. Wilson — DT101 E19

Welcome to the Design Thinking 101 podcast! I’m Dawan Stanford, your host. Today, I’m joined by Amy J. Wilson, a former White House Presidential Innovation Fellow and the founder of the Better Government Movement. She’s here to talk about innovation, design thinking, government, and being a force for good both locally and in the bigger picture.

The Better Government Movement, Amy explains today, is built for public servants. She realized that the baton (in terms of innovation and transformation in building 21st-century government) isn’t adequately being passed on. She collaborated on research on creating change and transformation in government, and the best ways to create something that is useful and scalable across government. 

When Amy was getting started with the initial conversations around innovation and design in this realm, she started with the people who were leaning into the conversation. These early adopters, she explains, are the people who will help you unlock what the culture or organization should turn into. In addition to this powerful insight into getting through to the right people, Amy will dig into how to pass the torch and help to ensure that processes are passed on.

Amy will also share tips and insights into how to teach and support innovators, including focusing on learning to relieve pressure, and to get comfortable with ambiguity. She’ll dig into how and why she created her own innovation toolkit, and how it stemmed from her work at the Better Government Movement. She’ll explore her personal journey (and the tendencies that lead her toward burnout), list some resources and references that might interest listeners, and offer powerful insights that I hope will help you along your own design thinking journey!


Learn More About Today’s Guest

Amy J. Wilson

Amy J. Wilson on LinkedIn

Better Government Movement


In This Episode

[01:17] — We hear about Amy’s innovation and design journey, from where she got started to how she arrived where she is today.

[06:48] — Dawan takes a moment to talk about the pathway into design thinking.

[08:24] — Amy talks about the history of the Better Government movement, where it is now, and how she’s applying her skills there.

[11:48] — We learn about the plan Amy came up with to translate the information she had found into something that many people could access.

[15:33] — How did Amy navigate the initial conversations around design and innovation to get people active?

[17:50] — Dawan talks about the sweet spot in the double diamond, and Amy discusses ways that she provided value.

[22:22] — How does Amy’s work live on today in terms of the terms and processes she used, or the impact she had?

[27:12] — Amy talks about what she learned from her first cohort about what works when supporting innovators.[31:13] — We hear more about staying in the problem space, and a specific risk that comes along with it.

[33:10] — Amy talks about an innovation toolkit that came out of her Better Government work.

[39:32] — What are some of Amy’s recommendations for people trying to communicate around innovation with people working in government?

[42:29] — We learn about some of the things that Amy has pulled from her journey in terms of change and transformation.

[48:26] — Dawan invites listeners to close their eyes, imagine standing on a platform and not wanting to jump, but feeling the heat of the platform burning behind you. That, he points out, is the kind of urgency to go for.

[52:12] — Amy has been on her own personal journey associated with what Dawan has been talking about, she explains.

[55:58] — Dawan talks about one of the joys of prototyping.

[57:04] — Are there any resources or references that have been really useful for Amy?

[59:50] — How can people learn more about Amy and her work?


Links and Resources

yes@designthinking101.com (Dawan Stanford)

Amy J. Wilson

Amy J. Wilson on LinkedIn

Better Government Movement


Lean Startup

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore

18F Methods

Better Government + Innovation Playbook, Toolkit & Case Studies

Innovation Playbook

Design Thinking 101 episode 13: From Branding to Design + Teaching Design Teams + Leading Summer of Design with Karen Hold

Design Thinking 101 episode 14: Design Thinking for the Public Sector + Building and Training Design Thinking Teams with Stephanie Wade

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