We hear so much interest from organizations in how to build a resilient creative culture, one in which feedback flourishes. People assume that if they just learn how to give feedback well, a culture of feedback will magically flourish. 

But not giving feedback is a symptom of a deeper cultural problem. People already have feedback to give — and everyone likes sharing their opinion — so our ability to give feedback is usually not the barrier, though giving feedback well is a growth area for most of us. If you want a culture of feedback to flourish, put your energy into receiving feedback well.

Receiving feedback graciously is the oil in your well-oiled culture machine. Giving feedback feels risky (“am I going to upset the other person?”) and establishing a history of receiving feedback well lowers the perceived risk. 

Put simply, if people received feedback well, other people would gladly give it. 

So strengthen your ability to receive feedback, especially if you’re in a leadership position.

  • In your 1:1’s with your direct reports, ask for feedback. Don’t give feedback in the same conversation — just ask for it. Ask for feedback in a few meetings in a row to prove that you actually want it. After all, we know that it can feel especially risky to give feedback to your boss.
  • If you manage managers, encourage them to seek feedback from their direct reports. You can model this behavior by implementing the tip above, and ensuring that your managers know this isn’t another performance review...

Dan Makoski is a Silicon Valley executive who leads innovation by design.

He is VP of Design at Walmart, leading an extraordinary team of UX Researchers and Designers to transform the way the world saves money and lives better.

Dan started Project ARA at Google, designed the original Surface at Microsoft, led design research globally at Motorola, and was the first VP of Design at Capital One. Dan began his career at the world’s top design agencies and even started his own at one point (now on pause).

The common thread across his career is the belief that design is most powerful when it’s an expression of humble service, and innovation is most impactful when it fosters openness and inclusion.

Most importantly, Dan knows seven versions of the running man.

Dan is presenting Design For Living Better at Agile India 2018 on March 7th, 2018.  Click here for conference details and tickets.Q: How did you find design?

I was an International Relations major in college when my dad gave me a book called “Information Architects” by Richard Saul Wurman. I was so captivated by the design challenge of “making the complex clear” in an information-dense world, that I never looked back on pursuing a career in Design!

Q: Describe your role.

I lead Design at Walmart, creating the right environment for our global team of Design Researchers, Interaction, Conversation and Visual Designers to translate our company’s deep empathy for customers into experiences that help them save money and live better.

Q: How do you and your colleagues...

Sohan is an Alexa Evangelist at Amazon. His role involves inspiring and helping developers build incredible voice experiences using Alexa. Sohan has earlier worked as a developer evangelist for Gupshup and InMobi and has spoken at conferences around the world. In his spare time, you will find him either consuming pop culture or tossing a frisbee around.

Sohan is presenting Build Voice-Enabled Experiences with Alexa at Agile India 2018 on March 7th, 2018.  Click here for conference details and tickets.

Q: How did you find design?

I started my career as an iOS app developer in the early days of the mobile app ecosystem. Back then, apps were very basic and borrowed their design ideas from web pages. Over time, designers realized that a touchscreen lent itself to a slew of new interactions, such as swiping and pinch zooming. It was pretty amazing to see how mobile apps really transformed into rich experiences. That was my first introduction to design and it has influenced my thinking ever since.

Q: Describe your role.

I work as an Alexa Evangelist at Amazon. My role involves inspiring and helping people build incredible voice experiences using Alexa. We reach out to developers, designers, product managers and entrepreneurs through in-person events like conferences, events, workshops or through educational content online.

Q: How do you and your colleagues generate creative ideas?

A lot of my good ideas come from conversation. Picking apart a topic with different people and enabling an atmosphere where all ideas are accepted without fear of being judged...

Andrew is the Senior Director, Growth and Partnerships for Cooper. Here he creates delightful and meaningful experiences for Cooper’s clients, alumni, friends, and followers, and helps Cooper increase its impact on the world. A skilled strategist and generative mastermind, Andrew identifies, manages and leads engagement campaigns across multiple channels to a wide set of audiences.

Before joining Cooper, Andrew had designed engagement programs for a number of organizations, including UCSF, where he served as Executive Director of Alumni Relations, as well as UC Berkeley, The George Washington University, National Defense University, Gratz College, and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Andrew is an alum of Macalester College and the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Andrew is presenting Intro to Design Thinking at Agile India 2018 on March 7th, 2018.  Click here for conference details and tickets.Q: How did you find design? 

A. Before Cooper, I served as Executive Director of Alumni Relations at UC San Francisco. I wanted to create more innovative marketing, event, and volunteer programs. I started learning about and applying design thinking as a framework for innovation. We ended up winning the CASE Grand Gold Award, the industry’s highest honor, for one of our human-centered alumni relations programs.

Q: Describe your role. 

A. My job is super diverse and stimulating. I manage a team that focuses on marketing, client relationships, and partnership-building. I also work as a service design consultant, teacher, and design evangelist.

Q: How do you and your colleagues generate creative ideas? 

A. Before we ideate, we look at stakeholder...

Ameen Haque is the founder of Storywallahs, a company that helps leaders and organizations leverage the power of stories. Storytelling is an essential skill, no matter what you do. To help you build that capability at your organization, Ameen focuses on fostering a culture of innovation and inclusiveness. A Graduate in Business Administration, Ameen has studied Advertising Media Planning at MICA. Formerly a Vice President at Ogilvy & Mather, Ameen has over 20 years of experience in advertising, theatre and consulting. Aside from his love of stories, human behavior, team dynamics, and strategy, Ameen loves climbing hills and playing table tennis.

Ameen is presenting The Art Of Business Storytelling at Agile India 2018 on March 7th, 2018.  Click here for conference details and tickets.Q: How did you find design? 

A. Find it? It was always there within me. Every child is born a designer, but prescriptive education systems take this instinct away from us. The only thing I did was not allow education to ruin it for me. I did not go to a design school to learn design, I learned by observing good design in the world. My first serious engagement with design was when I joined the advertising industry as a communications strategist. 

Q: Describe your role. 

A. Every day I help people and organisations become better at telling stories about themselves, their products, services and solutions. 

Q: How do you and your colleagues generate creative ideas? 

A. Long walks, long talks, deeply listening to consumers and putting ourselves in the customers’ shoes. 

Q: How...

Nick Cochran, the Design Practices Lead at ExxonMobil, will be a speaker at Agile India 2018, co-hosted by Designit and Cooper in Bangalore India March 7th, 2018. Nick has been designing websites and applications since the early days of the web. After working as a developer for several years at ExxonMobil, he realized his passion for crafting great experiences had a home and a future in the world of design. In 2015, he turned this passion for design into a role as head of the fledgling User Centered Design team. Less than 3 years later, the UCD mindset and practices have permeated the culture of the IT division, and the principles of design thinking and human-centered problem solving are making significant inroads into all major business units. He now has his sights on an even larger goal: teaching people the proper way to pronounce GIF. Nick currently resides in Spring, TX with his incredible wife and their three delightful children.

Nick is presenting Better Experiences & Faster Development with an Enterprise Design System at Agile India 2018 on March 7th, 2018. Click here for conference details and registration.Q: How did you find design?

A. I came to Design in the mid-90s as an early practitioner of web design. I found designing useful and intuitive web applications to be so enjoyable that I began freelancing while still in school.

Q: Describe your role.

A. I just moved into a new role in October that I would describe as leader of design practices for the organization. I lead a small...

We’re Designit, a strategic design firm. We work with ambitious brands to create high-impact products, services, systems and spaces – that people love. Because what matters to people, matters to business. #designwhatmatters

Increases workforce and digital transformation capabilities in North America and paves new future for preeminent design consultancy as part of Wipro Digital.

NEW YORK; October 3, 2017 – WIPRO (NYSE:) has acquired Cooper, an award-winning design and business strategy consultancy. This acquisition strengthens Wipro’s design and innovation capabilities. Cooper will become a part of Designit, Wipro’s design arm, expanding their reach in North America and adding significant capabilities in professional education. 


Increasingly, global enterprise clients recognize that design is a critical part of any digital or business transformation. By adding Cooper’s skills and expertise, Wipro will be even better positioned to support their clients’ digital programs. “Our combined capability across design, strategy and technology gives us a unique platform for working side-by-side with clients on the entirety of their digital initiatives. With Cooper, an acknowledged leader and pioneer in the design community with roots on the East and West coast, we will now be the preeminent firm for world-class UX and interaction design. Combine that with Designit’s global strategic design services and our world-class engineering capability, and we can support the complete digital journey for our clients, helping them transform their businesses for the future” said Rajan Kohli, Global Head and Senior Vice President, Wipro Digital.


Founded by Sue Cooper and Alan Cooper, “The Father of Visual Basic,” Cooper has been a leading brand in interaction design and professional education for more than 25 years. Cooper is credited with inventing many tools and approaches used in design, including the Goal-Directed Design...

Scenarios are the most powerful vehicles I know for challenging our ‘mental models’ about the world, and lifting the ‘blinders’ that limit our creativity and resourcefulness. -Peter Schwartz

Title Photo: See the future. (Fipp News)

Given Silicon Valley’s reputation as a hub of disruption and innovation, the future is often taken for granted, particularly given how central technology is to our digital era. Views on the future tend to alternate between prediction/certainty and the idea that future is largely unknowable. Given the rapidly changing nature of technology, it is important that designers, researchers, and product managers examine an array of potential futures. Focusing on the future can be difficult, but it is worthwhile: companies that manage for the long term outperform their peers with increased revenue, earnings, and market capitalization. 

Image 1: Multiple Futures. (Lloyd Walker). 

Scenario planning offers a way to examine multiple futures. In UX, design narratives (or "scenarios") are used in combination with personas to communicate vision, generate solutions, and drive empathy. In this context, we are using the word “scenarios” slightly differently; scenarios refer to the output of the scenario planning process. Compared to a more focused, design-driven use, scenario planning offers a way to peer into a broader set of futures.  

The Future as Category of Analysis

Scenario planning has a long history. The RAND Corporation employed it in planning for potential U.S. responses to nuclear war, and it was pioneered to great success by Shell....

When you walk around San Francisco and Silicon Valley, MIT, Stanford and Caltech hoodies abound. It sometimes feels like everyone here majored in computer science, or engineering, or completed an intensive coding bootcamp. In light of this, we’ve been hearing a lot of versions of this question: “Are the liberal arts relevant to the new (and future!) economy, tech, and Silicon Valley?” The answer is HECK YES!

A trusted mentor, the CEO of a large enterprise company, recently told me, “automation will eliminate most tactical positions over the next ten years, but there will be a bitter arms race for top talent.” That begged the question, “How do you define top talent?” The CEO went on to describe these factors: the ability to think critically, to exhibit executive presence, and to communicate in a persuasive and diplomatic manner. This is exactly what the liberals arts teach AND what it takes to be an excellent designer. Then it dawned on us... design is the liberal arts of tech!

Design is an approach to invention and creative solutioning. And it’s the *best* path to innovation. We are seeing more and more degree programs in “UX design” at the undergraduate and graduate levels. While design borrows from the liberal arts, including anthropology, and behavioral psychology, it is first and foremost a meta-discipline, a methodology, a practice. 

The most effective designers are passionate empaths, voracious learners, excellent storytellers, and bring something to the table other than solid Dublin process. In other words, design works best when...

We only change the world when we change how businesses are run. Boost your design and strategy skills and help Leading through Connection (LTC) bring genuine connection into the workplace. 

Leading through Connection is an innovative nonprofit born out of the Dalai Lama Fellows, with a simple premise: to lead others, we need to care more about them. Throughout life, most of us are consumed with thinking about our next step: be it the right school, the right job, the right partner, the right title. In that process, we’re often not challenged to think of others. It can be difficult to lead without a firm understanding of how to engage, motivate, and guide others, especially through difficult challenges. In response, LTC trains leaders in a “Connective Mindset” that enables them to deepen their capacity to relate to others: their peers, teams, and communities.

LTC has trained over 100 leaders in 36 countries, including leaders from Facebook, Google, GoPro, and Y Combinator. Participants have developed greater self-awareness and an increased ability to generate genuine caring towards others. And as a result, they have taken meaningful actions to improve how they relate to and connect with others.

Now, LTC faces the challenge of bringing genuine connection to business at scale. Come put your skills to the test and help LTC create a customer engagement journey that will help them embed their training program within large, complex organizations. Through Cooper’s signature 4-day Applied UX Design Intensive, you will learn how to evaluate an end-to-end customer...

As a tool suited to a variety of contexts ranging from open-ended, generative field studies to evaluative inquiries, ethnography can bridge the theoretical and applied domains of UX. A robust understanding of ethnography can offer important insights about data -- what constitutes ethnographic data, how does one collect it and to what ultimate goal -- as well as the ways this data can inform UX design. Ethnography is more than the sum of its parts (interviews, observations, analysis, field study). By examining its impacts, its unique data, and fieldwork, we can see ethnography's usefulness as a tool for UX.

Creating Knowledge & "Moving the Needle"

To be useful, knowledge must have an impact - it must "move the needle." In academic and applied contexts, both ethnography and UX must justify their use relative to other, less expensive methods as well as by their ability to generate insights and be impactful. 

In the academy, funding research requires not only compelling topic, but also a "value-add" to the discipline. The latter is a key evaluation point for funding bodies and entails a mix of intellectual merit and broad impacts. Your research must hold the potential to advance knowledge and benefit society (i.e., "move the needle"). This is not to say that all funded research is transformative. Rather, you must be able to frame your research project in a way that it draws attention to its potential impact and use in other contexts. It is up to you to communicate how your research will do...

A few months ago, Cooper San Francisco moved to a new studio. We love our bright, open, airy digs, as the iconic view of Coit Tower and the Bay.

As with any move or renovation, there were hiccups. For example, we planned to feature strips of color on each project room door to correspond with Cooper’s color pallette. The colors looked good on paper but on the doors, they looked drab and pastel. We initially planned to name our conference rooms after the colors. However, many of the colors looked similar, and it was difficult to find differentiated names that made sense.

Alas, we were faced with the challenge of bringing energy and vibrancy into conference rooms without relying too heavily on the color scheme, and we needed a new concept for naming conference rooms. This created an opportunity for creativity and community-building. 

We conducted two workshops:

1) We wanted to honor the original concept, and leverage the color palette as inspiration for room names. We created an ideation activity, which we turned into a game, which we played at our staff holiday party. We prepared a party favor bag, each with a different color stapled to it, and set them at stations around the room. We divided participants into groups, and had each group stand at a different station. We then yelled out a prompt, e.g. “What does this color make you taste/smell?” We gave the groups two minutes to write words that...

When people think about design research, the first target audience that comes to mind are consumers. However, we often design engagement strategies for audiences inside of organizations, i.e. employees. And politics and hierarchy can make conducting research on employees especially challenging.

Cooper’s Joe Kappes recently designed employee tools for a data analytics company. We set out to understand how he recognized and overcame the challenges of working for an internal audience.

Tell us a little bit about the goal of your project.

Joe - Our goal was to understand the software needs of 18 independent teams, evaluate each team's custom-designed tools, and finally to design standardized software to unite the company.

What stood out in your team member interviews?

Joe - As we began user research, interviewees lamented about a range of issues -- from clunky software to lack of coffee. After a few days, something peculiar happened: interview responses started converging; employees were mentioning a particular software issue over and over again, and discussion about organizational change was squarely avoided.

How did you encourage interviewees to speak to their individual needs?  And what advice can you give other designers in similar situations?

Joe - Those are both great questions. To move forward, we had to make sure our interview methods were conspiracy proof, I can speak to a couple of the tactics we employed.

1) Protect employees

Employees often give canned responses because they fear retaliation. To elicit honest responses, you must build strong rapport and trust with interviewees. This is even more important when someone’s livelihood is on...

With the increase in technical innovations and connected devices, consumers expectations of their shopping experience are higher than ever. Retailers who want to survive will need to move quickly and adopt new strategies designed to deliver a seamless and engaging customer experience. Designers will need to consider simplicity, mobility, technologies, and other influential factors to ensure a best-in-class user experience across digital and physical. Below are trends shaping the future of retail.

From Omni-Channel to Customer as the Channel

The lines between physical and digital shopping have blurred with consumers regularly browsing, comparing, and buying across multiple channels. An omnichannel strategy alone is not enough to solve shopper or retailer needs. Consumers expect an on-demand shopping experience that delivers what they need, when they need it, in a fast and convenient way. For example, a customer might find inspiration on Instagram, research options on Etsy, buy the product in-person at a retail store, and then talk to customer service through a chatbot on Facebook Messenger. The customer is the channel and retailers must provide a seamless and transparent experience that understands and supports them anywhere in their journey from discovering products to buying products.

Smarter Shopping (Data Driven Retail)

Shoppers want tailored experiences that will help to simplify their shopping journey. Think fast, easy, and convenient. They value personalized experiences and will increasingly turn to digital text and voice assistants, for curated recommendations, proximity-based personalized deals and offers and on-demand delivery.

The only way to deliver this smarter shopping experience to shoppers is through...

Complexity is a fact of life these days. This cartoon explains why organizations have to change and how companies can better adapt to an increasingly complex and volatile (VUCA) world. 

This cartoon was created by Virpi Oinonen, a business illustrator specializing in visual change communication. You can check out more of Virpi's work on or download this infographic here

July 2017, Based on a true story

Evening 1

“Well the packaging is very nice. Right, I’ve got the bulb screwed in and it’s turned on. Now what? OK, I’m downloading the app. Oo, pretty! I like the visual design.”

“The light blinked, is that a good sign?”

“I think so! But it says ‘bulb not found.’ Retrying. ‘Bulb not found.’ Retrying. This isn’t working, maybe I should turn the bulb off and on again? That didn’t work either. Restarting the app. There it is! It’s acting like it saw the bulb the whole time.”

“It’s kind of bright.”

“I know, I’m working on it. Here we go! See? Here’s morning, here’s daytime, and here’s nighttime!”

“Very nice.”

“I know, right? Hmm, the bulb has four states but I have five buttons. Interesting.”

“So can I control it, too?”

“Of course! I just have to share it with you. Oh wait a minute, I need to create an account.”

“It won’t let me connect.”

“I know, hold on a minute, I am waiting for the email verification. OK, try it now.”

“It says I have to create an account.”

“I know.”

“I just want to turn it off.”

“I know, just create an account. You may need to verify your email.”

“OK, there it is! ‘Bulb not found.’”

“Never mind, it will turn itself off at midnight.”

“Good night!”

“Good night!”

Evening 2

“Did you try it?”

“Yes! It works now, see?”

“Wait, now it won’t let me control it. ‘Bulb not found.’”

“Huh, works for me.”

“Maybe I will turn the bulb on and off and...

This article was originally published on The Intelligent Content Blog in advance of Michael's keynote at the Intelligent Content Conference, produced by Content Marketing Institute. Michael offers a free course on transformational storytelling - The Red Pill.

The secret to persuasion, influence, and motivation is a formula deeply grounded in storytelling.

It’s not surprising that Michael Margolis begins one of his TEDx talks like this: “I’m a junior in college and I’m walking along…” Stories and storytelling are Michael’s business and his passion.

I was delighted to chat with Michael recently by phone to explore what he has to say about the power of storytelling in the digital age. Here’s what I learned.

A story worth telling

“As human beings, we are experience-seeking, storytelling machines,” Michael says. “We are constantly seeking stories. Think of yourself at the coffee shop with friends. ‘What are you doing? What’s new? What’s going on?’”

What does storytelling have to do with intelligent content and content marketing? A lot.

Michael explains, “The way people respond to any brand is not about the content, but about the story they tell themselves about what that content means to them.”

Trained as an anthropologist, Michael talks a lot about culture and emotions. If we want to create change, whether it’s changing someone’s attitude or understanding or product choice, then we must take the time to understand that person’s existing culture. What’s that person’s story? How does he or she feel about it? Only after we answer these questions can we tell our...

Just because you think you've found the special magic that will change the world doesn't mean your journey is over.

Selling a disrupting concept to the world requires a strategic pitch. The story you tell - the journey you take your audience on - has to leave them with hope that the best is yet to come. You’ve solved a problem they may not even realize they have, and their life will be better because of your idea.

Here, in Silicon Valley, disruption is a glorified term; everybody wants to be a disruptor.  But we forget that, as the messenger of innovation and disruption, you are communicating a sometimes not so subtle “f*ck you” to the world.

You’re basically telling the world - your audience - that they’re wrong, they’re stupid. That’s what you’re telling them. You’re saying, “No. The way we’re doing things is not working and it’s bad… but don’t worry, I’ve got the answer.” Then we wonder why people don’t love us and embrace us as we needed, hoped, or expected them to.

This is the shadow of innovation and disruption. Remember, in order to become an innovator, at some point you had to leave your place of comfort, your home, your culture of origin. There are trials and tribulations; it’s like an initiation. Eventually, it’s a classic Hero's Journey - with all the things that come with that. You woke up one day and thought, “Wait a second, this doesn’t make sense. I’m not going to live under this story, this environment....

The question as old as the design industry - what is the ROI of design? Turns out, we've been asking the wrong question. In this talk at ProductTank SF, Cooper Managing Director Nate Clinton breaks down why attempts to measure the ROI of design have failed, and shares an alternative frameworks for evaluating the future value of software and product design, and making good trade-off decisions.