Wakeman Consulting GroupWakeman Consulting GroupWakeman Consulting Group
+ 1 917-705-6301
Washington, DC 20008
Wakeman Consulting GroupWakeman Consulting GroupWakeman Consulting Group

3 Simple Ways To Introduce Design Thinking Concepts To Your Business


I’ve been asked a lot recently about my knowledge of “design thinking.”

To which I answer, “What’s that?”

But after a little research, I figured out that there is a lot of it that revolves around empathy. Which is a good thing, especially for most of the people that I work with, in industries like sports, entertainment, nonprofits, and professional services.

In fact, I saw an article in passing recently that talked about the next economy being “the empathy economy.”

Which got me to thinking about ways that you can easily add empathy to your business that isn’t touchy feely.

Here’s a few:

Ask Yourself, “Just Because I Can Do It, Does That Mean I Should?” 

This typically has come up for me when I discuss the pricing of food and beverage at sporting events.

At the Super Bowl this year, I saw a sign for a $17 Bud Light.

Which people bought.

Just because they bought doesn’t mean I think that selling it was right.

In America, we often take the stand that the market is whatever someone is willing to pay. Which is true, but it misses a bigger point.

That point is that, you may be able to charge $17 for a Bud Light at a Super Bowl and not have it hurt you at all.

But try selling a $12-13 Bud Light at Yankee Stadium for an April game, and see how quickly your fans start feeling gouged and you start struggling to get people into your stadium.

There was an article in The New York Times last year that talked about despite improved performance on the field, fans weren’t coming back.

It isn’t surprising because I had a colleague describe a visit to Yankee Stadium as being “taken advantage of.”

This, from a die-hard Yankee fan, that is definitely not scraping pennies together.

In too many cases, to quote Mark Ritson, the spreadsheet jockeys are taking over the decision making process.

Charge as much as possible as often as possible.

When the wise marketing decision might be to quote Alan Weiss, “think of the fourth sale first.”

Which leads me to asking yourself if the shoe was on your foot and you weren’t attached to the industry, how would you feel?

Would It Hurt You To Be Nice Or Polite?

Over the past few months, I’ve seen it mentioned that Chick-Fil-A has been winning the fast food awards for the simple reason that their people are nice.

They say, “thank you.”


That’s a pretty novel idea.

Being grateful that someone is spending money with your business.

Yet, it actually is.

If I look at my own buying habits, I visit Chevy Chase Liquor Store in Upper NW DC when I want beer. They are always happy to see me, grateful that I come in, even if I ultimately don’t buy something. Which often I do because they will always seem to have something special that they set aside for their regulars.

Compare that to the situation when I last attended a baseball game in DC where the ushers were indifferent, the ticket takers were actively angry, and the entire experience felt like being ushered into a prison before someone battered me over the head with indifference and viewed me as an ATM to be happy that they allowed into their venue.

As we have more and more entertainment and activity options, being nice or pleasant can make a huge difference.

I take my son regularly to the market at the end of my street, not because it is the cheapest or has the biggest selection, but because the people are nice to us and visiting is pleasant.

We complain about the world feeling indifferent…can we make not feeling that way something we sell as an advantage?

It Takes A Village:

I think the primary customer need that many of us are dealing with today is that people feel lonelier and lonelier, despite the promise of technology saying we should be closer together.

I think one of the biggest ways that we can introduce empathy and design thinking principles to our businesses is through understanding that.

For many of the people I work with and talk with regularly, the challenge they face is that the attention and opportunities that they use to get don’t exist anymore.

Part of the challenge is that they have ceded ground to the commodity mindset that is at play when you manage by spreadsheet.

One of the best ways to introduce design thinking concepts, tackle a need for your customers and prospects that is real, and drive revenue for your business is to revisit the concept of community.

I remember when I was a young guy, living in Seattle, my first real adult thing, and I had Supersonics season tickets 210 Row 5 Seats 3-4.

And, I missed 1 or 2 games a year.


Well, because I came to be close to the people that sat around me.

It was a really great community of people.

When my stepdad was sick, the people that I sat around were there to support me. To check in on me.

When the Sonics made a deep playoff run, we were there to celebrate together.

We would hang out at the practice facility, shooting hoops.

We’d go to have drinks at the half.

It was a great community.

That’s a real need in today’s world.

Some of the most popular places in our sports and entertainment venues are the places with little or no view of the field.

Go to Comerica Park in Detroit, the hottest ticket doesn’t even have a view of the field.

Visit Safeco Field in Seattle and people aren’t hanging out in centerfield because it has a great view.

Go to Phillips Arena in Atlanta. Do you think they added the courtside bar because they thought it would be nice to eliminate a bunch of courtside seats?

No. They all have one thing in common. Community.

The key we can all do to build our business with design thinking principles is to start thinking like humans and not just thinking about technology and numbers.

It feels trite to say, but technology is here to support us…not to replace us.

What say you?