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Weaving Design Thinking into Teams, Leaders and Organizations with Holly O’Driscoll — DT101 E51

Today’s guest is Holly O’Driscoll, the founder and CEO of Ampersand Innovation, a boutique consultancy focusing on bringing more human-centered design, innovation, strategy, and leadership development to the world. During the conversation, you’ll learn about intersections between innovation and leadership, designing and facilitating innovation teams, and insights into shaping organizational innovation. Host: Dawan Stanford.

Show Summary

Holly believes her journey into design began when she was kicked out of kindergarten after only two weeks (only to be promoted to first grade) for her precocious behavior. Later, in middle school, she started her own business, renting out pens and pencils to her fellow classmates. She’s continued pushing boundaries, asking difficult questions, and challenging assumptions.

Her undergraduate degree was in Chemistry, with her future plans aimed at going to medical school, but a chance interview with Proctor & Gamble on her college campus changed her career trajectory. She ended up getting an MBA and working at P&G for 22 years, traveling all around the world servicing plants, before moving into the corporate design organization in the company, which was still in its early stages. Holly’s introduction to design thinking would also come during her time at P&G, when she returned to work after maternity leave – and it changed her life. After that first training, Holly entered a rigorous design thinking training program co-developed by Stanford She would eventually take over P&G’s North American design thinking role, and two years later, she became the head of the company’s Global design thinking.

In 2018, Holly left P&G to start her own consultancy after numerous requests from business colleagues asking her to come and do the same team training and work she was doing for P&G. Now, she’s in the process of finding ways to transition her work into the virtual space while still maintaining the same thoughtful, meaningful experience that comes from an in-person event.

Listen in to learn more about:

  • The intersection between innovation and leadership
  • How our “on demand” culture can create challenges when it comes to time expectations and design thinking
  • Our society’s obsession with perfection and getting things right
  • The two things Holly believes prevents innovation teams from achieving their goals
  • How learning design thinking is like learning a new language
  • The importance of the right mindset in an organization wanting to use design thinking
  • The HIPPO concept
  • What Holly considers when building teams
  • The facilitation exercise Holly uses to build rapport and connection in a team
  • When an organization really needs someone outside the org to facilitate a team

Our Guest’s Bio

Holly O’Driscoll is an industry expert in the field of Design Thinking and human centered innovation. Throughout her 20+ year career, Holly has built a reputation as a master human centered innovation strategist, trainer and facilitator having led programs in more than 20 countries. She is the former Global Design Thinking Leader at Procter & Gamble, where she led more than 250 workshops, often at the request of C-suite executives. She is the founder and CEO of Ampersand Innovation, LLC; a Design Thinking and human centered innovation strategy consultancy.

Show Highlights

[02:20] Holly’s very early start into pushing boundaries and challenging assumptions.
[05:05] The chance interview with Proctor & Gamble during college that changed Holly’s career plans.
[07:43] Her introduction to design thinking.
[09:00] Holly’s transition from P&G to starting her own consultancy and teaching at Rutgers.
[11:50] The early challenges Holly faced while facilitating design thinking
[13:00] Holly talks about some of today’s challenges for design thinking because of the “on demand” business culture.
[14:50] Making design thinking part of a business’s everyday mindset.
[17:37] Holly’s advice for building and leading a strong team.
[19:04] The two things that can keep an innovation team from being able to solve tough problems.
[20:50] How learning design thinking is a little like learning a language.
[21:55] The importance of leaders providing opportunities, support, and space for people to practice their design thinking skills.
[25:46] Holly talks about how mindset is a key to successful, sustainable design thinking in an organization.
[28:00] Choosing curiosity and the sense of being on a learning journey over being right.
[30:18] The HIPPO concept and how it can affect a team.
[31:09] Key leadership qualities needed to create a safe space for innovators.
[31:31] The correlation between inter-team relationships, social capital, and a team’s success.
[32:49] The importance of thinking about mindset and social capital when building a team.
[33:01] The things Holly considers when assembling a team.
[34:00] Holly’s facilitation exercise at the first meeting of any team that helps teams build personal connections and relationships.
[37:03] The signs and signals of a team that has started to come together.
[40:02] Books and resources Holly recommends.


Holly on Twitter
Holly on LinkedIn
Holly on Design Thinking Ireland
Holly on Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation Education
Interview with Holly on Irish Tech News
Podcast Interview with Holly on
Book: Why Design Thinking is Good Business Thinking, by Holly O’Driscoll
Books Holly has contributed to:

Book Recommendation: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck
Book Recommendation: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Book Recommendation: The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Book Recommendation: Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes, by Margaret Heffernan
Book Recommendation: Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World, by Adam Grant
Book recommendation: The End of Average: Unlocking Our Potential by Embracing What Makes Us Different, by Todd Rose
TED Speaker Margaret Heffernan

Other Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

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

From Branding to Design + Teaching Design Teams + Leading Summer of Design with Karen Hold — DT101E13

Building Design Capacity + Measuring Design Value + Designing Studios with Doug Powell — DT101 E16

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Cheers ~ Dawan

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