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Design Thinking 101

Oct 2, 2018

Tune into today’s episode to hear my conversation with my friend and colleague Karen Hold, an innovation strategist who helps individuals and organizations build cultures of creativity and collaboration using the language of design thinking. Our conversation today will cover her path from brand management at Procter & Gamble into design thinking, her leadership at Summer of Design and Design Thinking DC, how she works with individuals and teams as they learn and practice design thinking, and much more.

Karen is the daughter of a lawyer, and points out that she grew up in a home that used auditory language to communicate. She married into a family of visual communicators, and discovered that she’s more of a visual communicator than an auditory communicator. This opened up a learning journey for her about how people communicate, and how some learners can be lost in conversations because they don’t communicate in the language that is being used.

Design thinking gave Karen a framework to find an intersection where various learning styles can be optimized. She became a voracious reader on the subject, digging into books such as Designing for Growth and The Experience Economy. She has since focused her career on equipping others with the tools to do this kind of work using alternate communication styles.

In our conversation, Karen digs into the process of leading people through their first encounters with design thinking. She points out that communication and helping people to organize their thoughts clearly is a big part of the process, and explores the importance of collaboration and the role of a leader in helping to develop it.

Tune in to hear more about all of these topics, as well as the warning signs of a struggling team (and some strategies for getting them back on track), the trend toward virtual collaboration with teams, the relationship between community partners and the design teams at Design Thinking DC, the role of peer coaches, and other fascinating and valuable topics.


Learn More About Today’s Guest

Karen Hold at the Design Gym
Karen Hold on LinkedIn

@KarenHold on Twitter


In This Episode

[01:42] — We hear about Karen’s learning journey, and how design thinking has been involved in her career.

[07:31] — What were some of Karen’s aha moments in the early reading and learning that she did?

[09:27] — Karen talks about what Design Thinking DC is, and what she’s doing there.

[12:42] — Dawan takes a moment to unpack some of what Karen has been saying about design leadership. Karen then talks more about leading people and teams through their first encounter with design thinking.

[16:36] — We hear about warning signs for team dysfunctions, and ways that Karen has helped teams to get back on track.

[20:39] — Karen talks about virtual collaboration, and what you lose when you sacrifice the face-to-face experience.

[23:37] — We hear about how Karen has evolved her practice of aligning people’s expectations with what’s possible in Summer of Design.

[26:26] — What are some of the things that Karen has done to keep the relationship with community partners healthy?

[31:34] — Karen goes into more depth about what’s attractive about Summer of Design to sponsors and partners.

[34:56] — We learn more about Karen’s work for her own clients, which she explains is the same as what she offers through DT:DC.

[38:04] — What are some simplifications that Karen has done to ease the introduction to design thinking?

[41:21] — Karen talks about her workarounds when she encounters resistance with students or clients.

[45:20] — How can peers become peer coaches?

[46:29] — We hear about patterns that Karen has seen across her work that give insights into where design thinking is headed.

[50:36] — Are there any big questions that Karen is wrestling with, or challenges or ideas she wants to share with the community of listeners?

[53:18] — Karen recommends that people follow her on Twitter, or email her at


Links and Resources (Dawan Stanford)

Karen Hold at the Design Gym
Karen Hold on LinkedIn

@KarenHold on Twitter

Summer of Design

Design Thinking DC

Designing for Growth by Jeanne Liedtka

The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore

The Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland