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April Bell

Essential Oils for Everything


Essential Oils for Everything


I have become a little obsessed with essential oils starting a few years ago, increasingly so in the last few months.  I’ll be honest, the whole essential oil thing was all a little overwhelming and confusing at first.  Some oils could be used topically, some should be diffused, still others should be taken internally.  There were so many oils and so little time to understand what, when and how to use them.  Little by little, I have found some routines that have stuck and am now officially on the bandwagon.

Here are a few of my favorites and how I use them:  

  1. Serenity – my daughter uses this as a part of her nighttime ritual, rubbing it on her neck, chest and feet to help her relax (we put about 10 drops of it with fractionated coconut oil. I also put ~5 drops directly into my bathwater along 4 cups of Epsom salt.

  2. Frankincense – People claim this to be “the king of oils” because of its long history of healing properties but it’s expensive so I typically use this more sparingly but often by mixing a few drops in both my face and body lotions.

  3. Past Tense – one of our team members, Shelley Miller, first introduced this to me a few years ago and I swear by it. Rubbing this on the back of my neck can reduce tension and give a refreshed feeling for hours. I love this!

  4. Lemon, Slim & Sassy and Peppermint blend – Recently, I got creative and decided to create a mix of the best tasting oils. I used a partially empty bottle of Lemon and eye-balled it, putting equal parts of all 3 in the bottle. I use it daily, all day, dropping a few drops in every bottle of water. It’s refreshing, helps me get my water intake daily, and I notice feeling better. Tip: use a klean kanteen, swell or other bottle - not a plastic one.

  5. OnGuard Beadlets– we have made it through the seasonal season with only 2 days of a high temperature (crossing my fingers as I write) and I believe one of the reasons is because of our preventative daily dose of 5 beadlets. It’s anti-bacterial and germ-destroying properties are keeping our bodies from full on attack thus far.

  6. Emotional blends (Motivate, Peace, Cheer & Forgive) – these are a few of the ones I use. I love having them with me so that when I’m going into a high-pressure meeting, all day research, or just need to get myself in gear to focus, I use these to trigger the mood I want to move me forward. We love them so much, we gave these out as our Christmas gifts this year and they were a hit. Here are the cards we made along with them!

Motivate is an encouraging blend with elements of peppermint, citrus, and spices which help with feeling confident and courageous. 

Peace is a reassuring blend, which uses floral and mint scents to help cultivate feelings of tranquility and comfort. 

Cheer is an uplifting blend with a bright, fresh aroma that lifts spirits and creates positivity. 

Forgive is a rejuvenating blend that brings about relief and patience. The woodsy scent sooths strained nerves, helping heal through contentment. 


How to Build Data That's Useful


How to Build Data That's Useful

Analytics and Stroller Pushing

One of the best analytical lessons I ever learned was nowhere near my computer. My wife and I were gearing up to have our first child. We were shopping for a baby stroller. If you have done this, you know the choices are paralyzing. There are at least 20 options that are rated on multiple qualities. After hours of debating what should have been painless choice, we stopped ourselves and asked, “what is the most important feature here”. After thinking about it, my wife said, “I want to be able to reach down with one hand (because the other will be holding the baby) and pick it up so it collapses, then toss it in the back of the RAV4 in one motion.” Suddenly, 20 options went down to 2 or 3, and we made a decision a minute after that.


Good data insight development follows this approach. It is not an attempt to build the Encyclopedia Britannica, it’s an agreement on what piece of currently unavailable information would make the most difference to the people who actually run the business. Here is a fun little video of me talking about this.

Back in 2011 I took a leap of faith. I left the stability of Pepsico to lead an analytics group in a much smaller Energy company. At that time, I was introduced to a new software called Tableau. It seemed pretty cool, and was easy to learn if you were a strong excel user. So off I went with my team to build reports from the database of company information we had put together.

One of the first and certainly most notorious reports we developed was for a “very eager” and attention-challenged marketing manager. The good news is that he loved data and believed in not making decisions without it. The bad news is that there was no end to the data that he felt he needed to look at.

My team went on to develop the report exactly the way that he wanted it, with all the different possible views and filters he could think of.  With this one report, he would be able to see everything, and answer every question that his directors could pose.

This is an example of what it looked like. My team gave it a name: “Filters Gone Wild.” No one else in the company could stand to use this report for more than two minutes without needing a glass of scotch.


So why to people do this? Isn’t it a noble intention, after all, to want to see more data? The reason is because complexity creates its own burden, As it turns out, consuming data is a lot like purchasing jam - more isn’t always better.  Not only is there a point of diminishing returns in how satisfied we are, but our ability to act is reduced significantly as well.

That was a really interesting role for me, and I’m glad I took it. Not only did I learn a lot of new, useful skills, but more importantly I got to see the gamut of “clients” and how they wanted data. The better ones understood this concept of simplification.

Around the same time, there was an article released by MIT, which put some science to what I was learning. They surveyed a few thousand people at multiple companies and determined that top performers were five times more likely to use analytics than lower performers. No surprise there, but what was more interesting was how the top companies approached data.  It wasn’t about budgets or sophistication of software; the lower performers cited development process and managerial issues as a major contributor to blocking progress. What - people are getting in the way?!?

A recent client experience motivated me to write this blog. The team had purchased all the software it needed to bang out good reporting. They had a small army of internal folks and contractors who could wrangle and structure the data as good as anyone. But when the six-month check-in time on a nine-month project came, they discovered that only rudimentary reporting had been developed, and that the internal clients were disappointed to the point of considering pulling the funding for the expensive software they purchased.

Why? Because the IT developers who were in charge of it had treated it as a requirements fulfillment exercise.

One of the key points of the MIT article was a concept they called “start in the middle”. In their findings, they saw a trend in the approach of effective teams where they would simplify the issue to discover the most relevant information to move the needle the most, and then iterate against that until they honed it to a useful state.

It’s a conversation between business people, that happens to use technology as a tool to make it come to life. There is no requirement to gather, because it’s never really known completely what is needed until the discovery begins. It’s not a conversation with executives, it’s with the frontline managers and directors who make the business happen. Once they start becoming successful, peers start taking notice and the path to a data-driven culture organically grows.


How to Love Spring Cleaning


How to Love Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again. There’s something primitive in the sense we get come springtime. Maybe we’re just wired this way. Spring brings with it a desire to clean house, to get rid of the stuff. The stuff that has magically survived the selection process and found what seems to be a permanent home in our garage, closet or pantry. We used it before, a long time ago, and it would really come in handy if that time ever came again. Yet it hasn’t, so it just sits and waits another day.

Here at ABRG, there are two things that describe us well: we love research, and we love learning about how to be more efficient (try running a thriving boutique research firm with four people and you’ll understand why). Recently, we had the opportunity to do both. While in an ideation workshop with a client, we conducted a practice brainstorming exercise on the topic of spring cleaning. To get people geared up and in the mode of ideation, we typically have them practice on an off-topic, non-business subject that’s ripe for multiple ideas.

The topic of spring cleaning fits well, so we asked them to come up with as many ideas they could on “what’s a creative way you could attack a spring cleaning exercise”? To set the stage we give them some guidance on how to keep coming up with ideas:

  1. Land on something, and think of other solutions
  2. Wish list it – what could I do if….
  3. If you feel that you can’t relate, think of who you could ask
  4. Work individually first, then as a group
  5. When you’re stuck, move around or talk to someone

The answers were creative, practical, and fun!

A good ideation generates multiple ideas without judging them on whether they are good or bad, because sometimes the crazy ideas lead to break-throughs of innovation.

  • Live in a hotel.
  • Open a bottle of wine.
  • Make the kids do it.
  • Buy stock in cleaning companies.
  • Ask Alexa.

Some responses had themes of minimalism, which ironically asserts that happiness is achieved in life by having less, not more. The less stuff we fill our space and lives with, the more we are open to things that really matter – time with family, focused effort on our passions, appreciation of our surroundings. One blog we follow at ABRG is Becoming Minimalist. If you follow the thread of minimalism you’ll recognize these suggestions to overcome decluttering:

  1. If you haven’t used it in three months/one year, throw it out.
  2. Does it bring you joy?
  3. Don’t start reminiscing.
  4. Would it be that hard to replace?
  5. Have I worn it in 2 months?

Some ideas had efficiency in mind, how to get through the emotionally tough nature of the process in a way that works. At ABRG, we follow Asian Efficiency and have gotten a ton of great advice through their resources over the past few years. There were some good ideas on how to best go about it:

  • Go room by room.
  • Clean as you go.
  • Hire people and give them each a room.
  • Go through the out-of-site, out-of-mind places.
  • Make someone else go through your stuff and throw out anything that doesn’t look good.
  • Buy storage bins with labels – prioritize what you store, and once the bin is full throw out the rest.

This year, we’re going to make this painful process more fun and efficient by tossing in a few of these ideas. We hope you pick up a few tips that help you, too!



Art of Data Simplicity


Art of Data Simplicity

I recently made the leap from the corporate side. After 15 years of helping people understand and solve problems with their data, I decided that my profession would be more enjoyable as a consultant, where I would be able to see a wider variety of challenging work. That’s certainly been the case!


Like a lot of people, I’m amazed at how the data world has grown. The amount of data and the tools available are impressive. I wish that I had some of these tools available to me when I started my journey, but then again, I wonder how much of that would have mattered. Like a photographer who gets better through the process of just shooting more pictures, a data person gets better by just analyzing data – whether it’s on a spreadsheet or a sophisticated analytical platform.

Which brings to another theme I’ve seen in my 15 years, and has recently gotten worse: people forget the power of simple data. It’s a syndrome that’s common and has blown up with the increase in data and tools. Many organizations rush to gather as much as they can and purchase tools to understand it - afraid they will not be competitive without it.  What’s more likely than not, though, is that they wind up with mismatched pieces or tools that don’t play well with each other.

I’m reminded of the book Data Smart, that walks the reader through the basics of data science through follow-along exercises in Excel. By doing that, you understand the data at it’s lowest level, and get what the statistical method is doing far better than if you had used a sophisticated drag-and-drop software. Great read.

Another great read on that topic is Data Science for Business, which does an excellent job of explaining the “so what” and “why does it matter” behind different statistical methodologies. What you method you choose to follow shapes whether or not you’re going to get a result that means anything.

In thinking back on it, my whole data career has been around getting people past this, creating things that are simple and actionable and move them forward quickly. It’s not just a technical exercise. Like qualitative marketing research, the approach that’s used makes all the difference. “Garbage in, garbage out” is often what got people to that place to start with, so empathizing and getting to the right question is a necessary first step.



Ladybug in Hand


Take customer experience for example. There are a lot of great tools out there, from Qualtrics to Medallia, and more and more companies have staff dedicated to CX. However, what most of them can’t answer is “what effect will this campaign have’, or “what is the value of converting a passive to a promoter’? They are not getting at the “so what” behind the data, because they are relying on the system-fed metrics that their platform provides.

Getting past that involves the right mix of business and technical know-how. One without the other produces limited results. 

Would you like to know more about what ABRG can do to help? Read this paper on our capabilities and case studies.


No Nonsense Essential Oils


No Nonsense Essential Oils


Over the years, we’ve learned the hard way how important it is to take care of ourselves, especially when we need to travel for a project and during seasons of long research days. April introduced us to using health-promoting botanicals in the form of essential oils as a more natural approach to enhancing our general wellness by:

  • Inspiring a positive emotional state

  • Enhancing physical wellness

  • Enhancing spiritual awareness

  • Purifying the air



Since then, we’ve read more about how we can better use essential oils at work. In our continuous quest to lead a healthy life and create better moods during projects with clients, we’ve listed our favorite oils/blends brands and their uses:

essential oils
  • Peppermint by doTerra – to remove headaches, revive energy, freshens breath

  • InTune by doTerra – to enhance the senses and sustain focus

  • Digestzen by doTerra – for indigestion

  • Stress Away by Young Living – to combat stress

  • Thieves by Young Living – to purify

  • Lavender by doTerra – for relaxation (and sleep)

  • Lemon by doTerra – to cleanse

  • Frankincense by doTerra – helps boost immunity

  • Melaleuca by doTerra – fights bacteria and fungus

  • Oregano by doTerra – helps relieve common seasonal threats

We keep a stash of these oils in the office and our travel bag together with a diffuser so we can diffuse away (e.g. Peppermint during intense research days) or apply topically (e.g. Stress Away during concept work sessions) when we most need them.

Recently, April shared with us an article that talks about becoming aware of our basic tendencies so we can make better choices to support the harmony in body and mind.  And this article which tells the story about how choosing nourishing smells will awaken the mind’s innate healing powers and experience a natural vitality and wholeness based on our dosha. What is dosha, you ask?  Dosha is a person’s “mind-body” type and there are 3 primary types: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Are you curious what your dosha is?  Well, you can take a quiz here to find out! Briefly, these are what the doshas mean:

  • Vata: Movement and Change

    • Tends to be always on the go with an energetic and creative mind

  • Pitta: Transformation and Metabolism

    • Enjoy a strong appetite and ability to digest food, information, and experiences

  • Kapha: Structure and Fluidity

    • Solid, reliable, contented souls

Based on your mind-body type (dosha), there are certain aromas (essential oils) that can help evoke states of well-being:

  • Vata: floral, fruity, warm, sweet, and sour smells

    • Basil, Orange, Geranium, Clove, Vanilla, Patchouli

  • Pitta: cooling and sweet smells

    • Sandalwood, Mint, Rose, Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang, Lavender

  • Kapha: stimulating and spicy smells

    • Eucalyptus, Camphor, Juniper, Clove, Marjoram, Rosemary

We’re looking forward to taking the dosha quiz to understand which essential oils can support our goal of leading healthier lives!


Are you KIDding me: Designing a Kids Sensory Project


Are you KIDding me: Designing a Kids Sensory Project

Last summer, one of our favorite clients commissioned us for a project where they needed reactions from both kids AND parents!

The problem we’ve found in the past is that kid’s reactions are somewhat biased by their parents (and sometimes, although not always), some parents want to influence their child’s reactions.  However, we needed to have parents’ perspective to get a holistic view.

Our goal is to design research as “efficiently” as possible so we worked side by side with our client partner to create research that would allow reactions from BOTH parents & children separately in the same group.

So we designed a process that will ensure the project will be a success: 

  • The Problem: How do you design a kid’s research where you are able to get uninfluenced responses from both the kids AND their parents? Did I forget to mention that apart from talking to kids, we also wanted to get their parents’ reactions and inputs?
  • The Solution: Create an environment where both the kids and parents would feel comfortable being separated in some parts of the research. Trust me, it’s not a logistical nightmare!
    • Set-up a movie room for kids
    • Explain logistics and timing to parents
    • Coordinate amongst ourselves when kids would be in and out of the focus group discussion

As soon as we figured out the rhythm to the process after the first group, everything was smooth sailing and we were able to implement our research design:

  • Get kids’ taste preference while parents watched in the back room.
  • Get parents’ interpretation of their kids’ food ratings.
  • Understand how both the parent and kid come to an agreement and decide what to order.
  • How to effectively get learnings/reactions/inputs with just 8 focus groups.

In the end, we were able to successfully conduct the research. And the bonus was we all had fun with the kids!


4 Montessori Principles to Help Guide Client Work

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4 Montessori Principles to Help Guide Client Work


Until a couple of years ago, I knew very little about Montessori schools – something about kids having freedom of choice in the work they do.  But I was a bit skeptical about whether that would be a good environment for my child. I felt if given too much “free reign”, my daughter would be the type to run with it.  (I think she gets that from her Dad! :) But an event in her first preschool left me feeling different.  I walked in one day to pick her up, and the teacher pulled me into the classroom.  With every 4-year old eye on me (including my daughter’s), the teacher pointed up to a wall of kid’s work – all of the letter “u’s”.  My daughter’s work was hanging up – completely blank.  Then, the teacher proceeded to tell me about how my daughter wouldn’t listen in class, showing me the blank piece of paper she had posted up for everyone to see.  My face reddened, and so did my daughter’s.  When we left the class, I began questioning her to understand what was going on, and she broke into tears and said “mommy, I don’t know how to draw a ‘U’ – I don’t know how to do it right.”  And that experience is what led me to rethink putting her in a Montessori classroom - how that environment would be interesting to learn more about…

Fast forward 2+ years, and I am thrilled that we found White Rock Montessori. Not only has our daughter thrived in this environment but we have as well, as parents.  

After seeing the impact Montessori had on her love of learning, I was curious to understand more about “why” this was effective for her, as well as “how” the classroom works.  What I discovered was that some Montessori principles were applicable to the work we conduct with our clients

When conducting marketing research, my teams are very involved in “learning” – learning what people think about products, how consumers react to new ideas, etc.  And my job is not only to learn new insights through my interviews but also keep my clients engaged in the learning.

Here are the Montessori principles that directly link to the work I do -

1.     Pull, Don’t Push - Montessori teachers refer to this as “The Art of Drawing Out.” Instead of pushing information in, they use acknowledgement and questioning to get children to think about what they are doing.  This helps children learn to be accountable for their learning.  Similarly, when in research, questioning the listening team to help “draw out” learnings creates ownership in the learning process. 

Montessori Principles

2. Concrete Before Abstract - The Montessori belief is that students learn best from something they already know, so teachers use physical objects to begin each lesson, and present new concepts through storytelling. This builds connection with students’ emotions and gives them greater interest in the concept. In my practice, especially when conducting ideation sessions, I find this principle helpful to ignite creativity with clients. When brainstorming, it is actually easier to create new ideas by starting with “constrained” stimulus because participants start with something they can visualize, making it easier to alter/change/adapt to new ideas. Learn more about this topic from Chip & Dan Heath’s Myth of the Garage eBook (see “Get Back in the Box” page 31). This helps spark their imagination and allows them to think about “abstract” concepts.

3.     Structure That’s Flexible - The beauty of this principle is that children believe they have freedom of choice but their choices are orchestrated around what the teacher plans for them to learn.  Providing a flexible structure for learning with client teams is just as important because clients appreciate getting to make choices – and it allows them to “own” the process.

4.     Observe Before Acting - Teachers in a Montessori classroom don’t take on the traditional role – you won’t see them in front of the room, chalk in hand, writing out a math problem step-by-step. They see themselves as guides, not teachers. They ask questions, then sit back and let students take their own path to figure out a solution - make their own decisions.  As a facilitator of client’s learning, my role of guide is similar. Sometimes this means facilitating a highly involved team debating a controversial learning.  Other times, creating activities to encourage a distracted team to actively work together is necessary.

Check out this video to see all 4 of these principles in action in a Montessori classroom environment. 


I will be speaking more on this subject, specifically how I use these principles alongside a Design Thinking at the 2017 QRCA Annual conference in LA on January 19. Click here for the schedule conference and other presentations. 

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A Facility’s Art of “Hosting” Marketing Research


A Facility’s Art of “Hosting” Marketing Research


Yikes! Me welcoming people at a place I’m visiting for the first time too? “Oh, my. Please, no.”   Those were my exact thoughts when I first learned we would not only conduct research but also “host” the groups at our clients’ test kitchen some months ago.  

Fast forward to today, five months after my first panic attack - things aren’t only more comfortable – they can also be fun. 


One time, I had a respondent arrive 2 hours before the group and went to the bathroom at least 3 times???? Another time, a respondent literally asked me 1,000 questions about the “early bird drawing”. And the most interesting of all, I had a respondent who, after not being chosen for a group, stayed in the waiting room to catch some “ZZZzzzsss.”  I was thankful she left before the group discussion finished! Whew!!!

So many other respondent-related things can go wrong when you’re in charge of managing groups of respondents starting on time.  My pet peeves are: respondents not showing up on time and worse, not showing up at all. 

I noticed that in a 6 focus group study, you’ll have at least 1-2 groups that gives anxiety attacks because respondents aren’t picking up their phones when you try to reach them to check if they’re on their way while some just don’t show. And then you can only hope you have enough respondents who can clearly articulate their thinking in every group. 

And then, when you have to choose who will be selected and who will be paid and sent home - I always ask: “How can I turn these people away without them thinking something’s wrong with them?  I realized that being extra polite yet unruffled, and explaining each specific situation clearly helps when it’s time to send them off. 

We are so lucky to have long-term relationships with some of the best research facilities.  More than anything, this new experience of “hosting” respondents allowed our team to have a better appreciation for the facilities we hire!  It is definitely an “art” to recruit and host consistently great research projects, and to create a comfortable environment for our clients and respondents!


The Productivity Blueprint by Asian Efficiency: Their Secret to Success


The Productivity Blueprint by Asian Efficiency: Their Secret to Success

Working in Market Research means living a fast-paced work environment but also doing really focused work. It is easy to get sucked into a vortex, lose focus, and get bogged down. In our attempts to figure out “stress-coping” (productivity!) mechanisms for our “heaviest” days, April introduced us to Asian Efficiency.

Asian Efficiency is a team that has one specific goal – make the world a more efficient place – to go about doing things with the least amount of effort, delivering the maximum output.

During office training and staff development sessions, we have discussed their Productivity Blueprint and Rituals, mainly:


They have loads of great, free content, and I have purchased quite a few of their programs, and would highly recommend their Productivity course as well as their Rituals Course. They also have loads of good free content on their site. Two of the most helpful rituals we have been working on as a team are – Structural Productivity and Breaks & Downtime.

Structural Productivity is about maximizing your days by planning them in advance. In a way, this is deemed as the master ritual of the 10 listed above because it strings together all your other rituals. If you are able to plan your day ahead, there is less stress and less chance of beating yourself up thinking the day could have gone better. It also allows you to track progress day to day and monitor accomplishments. More importantly, you can iterate and correct problems with the day gone by and get to a point where your days are always productive – both at work and after work. This ritual, based on the premise of planning, also lessens decision fatigue, prioritization of important vs. urgent tasks, and respects time boundaries you have set.


Breaks & Downtime is all about consistently getting the breaks and downtime you need to remain alert and productive. To be honest, taking breaks is a personal challenge owing to the personal belief that taking a break = wasting time. Asian Efficiency tells us that taking breaks or short rests leads to:

  • Increased productivity
  • Controlled and consistent energy levels throughout the day
  • Effective stress management
  • Increased motivation 

April gave us timers for time intervals/timeboxes to structure our breaks. I haven’t used mine for fear of disturbing colleagues when it sounds off so I use my phone’s timer to signal if it’s time to break. This is still a challenge for me because I’ve been so used to just churning output however long it took without breaks to ensure I meet deadlines but when I do use “time boxing” or the Pomodoro Technique, I felt re-energized after the quick break and ready to tackle the beast again. You can time box in 2 ways – depending on what works for you:

  • 25/5 – work 25 minutes and take a 5 minute break
  • 50/10 – work 50 minutes and take a 10 minute break

If you’re interested in learning more about this concept, I recommend reading “The Pomodoro Technique” book by Francesco Cirillo.

Either way, the important thing is to take that quick break and by taking a quick break, it means that you physically have to stop what you are doing and do something else – walk away from your work location! And remember to go all-out on your break, go outside and get some air, get your favorite beverage, or even play your favorite game.

Note the importance of writing down what you’re currently thinking if your break comes up. It will help you to get back on track much faster after your 5 or 10 minute break. It’s just a matter of looking back at what you wrote and picking up that train of thought!


Using Design Thinking for a Family Glamping Trip


Using Design Thinking for a Family Glamping Trip

How can we make our marketing research projects even better?” is a question we often ask ourselves here at April Bell Research Group.  So, it’s awesome when you find a framework to do just that! I first learned about Design Thinking from Lisa Helminiak, founder of a human-centered design firm, Azul 7.   We met at a women-owned business training event, where she turned me on to some great resources from Stanford’s Institute of Design:

Since then, we have used this thinking in many of our research projects.  When I heard about Azul 7’s Design Thinking Workshop/Bootcamp, I decided to trek up to Minneapolis to attend.  I wanted to deepen my understanding and find new ways to implement it into our research practice.  What I discovered is that Design-Thinking is more than a “process”, it’s a way of life.

This mindset includes:

  • Focusing on what others need

  • Feeling free to experiment while working through a process

  • Getting really clear about what you’re trying to solve.

  • Having a “bias toward action”

  • Radial collaboration

It’s a simple process to reshape thinking. You state the challenge, and then follow 5 steps – Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test – to elevate creative thinking.

Creativity is an essential skill for leaders trying to make a difference. Yet developing the ability to think and act creatively remains a thorny challenge. While there's a hunger for skill development, elevating creative confidence doesn't happen via traditional modes of executive education.Tim Brown, IDEO’s President and CEO

Here’s how I incorporated Design Thinking as I planned my trip to the Boot Camp!

State the Challenge:  How can I take 3+ days away for training when I have so many obligations with work and family?

The Steps:


1. Empathize – immerse yourself, observe what people are doing, how they’re doing it and why. Discover other’s views.  Sidenote: this is MUCH easier to do professionally as a moderator than it is with your immediate family!!!  But here’s what I got from the “empathy gathering” stage:

  • My husband and daughter didn’t want me to drag them along on a trip where I was unavailable for most of the day.

  • They also didn’t want me to go on a trip unless it was a “real vacation.”

  • They wanted to go “camping” – I did not.

  • I didn’t want to feel guilty about going.

  • I wanted to create a great experience for everyone.


2. Define – this is tricky because you’re still not solving – you’re just unpacking what you learned, and getting clarity on WHAT needs to be solved. “Unpack” all of your learnings, then translate these into a Point of View statement – (User) “needs” (Need) “because” (Insight)

  • My definition:

    • The Family (User) needs…

    • …to find individual activities while vacationing together (Need) because…

    • …we want to be together yet have our own idea of what “fun” looks like! (Insight)

3. Ideate – our “family” brainstorm looked a little different than the typical innovation ideation sessions we facilitate with our clients but let’s just say our little familia “tried” to build on each other’s ideas.  And we “tried” not to judge each other’s opinions (some of us were better than others but I'm not pointing any fingers!)  And, my 5 year old is DEFINITELY the most creative and best “ideator” of the family!

4. Prototype – You stop talking (and thinking) in this step - and start building.  It’s a challenge because our nature – at least mine – is to get it right, get it perfect before showing others. This step forces the reverse thinking.  To get better, you must build/create something to test SO THAT IT CAN get better for the user!

5. Test – Then, we tested our first ever 10-day Family Glamping + Training trip!  Our user testing was “doing it.”  Would we do it differently next time?  Yes, we would tweak a few things like making sure our A/C in the camper was working properly before departing.  And allowing 2 weeks for the trip, not 10 days…but we learned a lot.  This was our “prototype”:

  1. Pull camper from Dallas to Oklahoma, spent our first night in Sequoyah State Park in Hulbert, OK

  2. Migrated to Des Moines, IA where we played with our friends, then left our daughter + camper to play longer.

  3. Husband and I drove on to Minneapolis where I attended Azul’s Design-Thinking Boot Camp and hubby happily biked in a city with some of the best biking trails in the US.

  4. Then, we made our way back home, picking up our daughter and camper in Iowa

  5. Spent 2 more nights in Kansas before heading back to Dallas.

Here’s a visual map we made with Fotor, another fun tool we’ve added to our tool kit. That and PicMonkey are both greatat quickly helping you bring ideas to life visually for “quick DIY design needs.”

Loved the Boot Camp. And Design Thinking has not only enhanced our innovation projects but also helped us create a mindset for innovation in our boutique business and even personally!