top of page

Project TBD / Forward Faster

Data Delusions: How Math, Metrics, and Analytics Can Mislead Us

Friday, May 19th, 2023

Measuring the wrong things is a form of asking the wrong questions - and both can have a negative impact on innovation and organizational performance. Yet in the age of Big Data, too often our over-reliance on metrics and analytics leads to unintended, sometimes tragic, consequences.


In this session of Project TBD, we’ll explore how "metric fixation" and the "Flaw of Averages" can mislead us. We'll also share recommendations on what we can do differently to find the balance between the "numbers" and Human-Centered Design.

This month, we're happy to announce Kingsmen Software will host our tribe of innovators and change-makers at the event space in their new office at Camp North End. Plus, this month's event is part of Charlotte Innovation Week, a multi-day celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Queen City. The week features various events held throughout the City and hosted by different organizations such as ours. Check out the entire calendar at

data metrics graph pie chart (shutterstock_1026482995 Eventbrite).jpg

The Case for Curiosity: How Scout Mindset Fuels Innovation

Friday, March 24th, 2023

How do Soldiers and Scouts see the world differently? What can author Michael Lewis teach us about the connection between curiosity and innovation? And how in the heck are we going to work a Ted Lasso reference into this event?


Join us on March 24th at the new Caldwell Hope Hall in Elizabeth for the kickoff of Project TBD (Transformation By Design). Formerly known as Forward Faster, this is a monthly event series in which we explore how the principles and practices of Human-Centered Design can drive business, civic, and social innovation.


In this session, we'll unpack how motivated reasoning can influence how we react to information that contradicts what we believe is true. This, in turn, impacts if and how we innovate. We'll also look at techniques we can use to help ourselves (and others) overcome this cognitive bias to unleash our curiosity on our biggest challenges and opportunities.


As Mark Twain wrote*, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

*Or did he?

Collage for FG website - Soldier-Scout-Lewis-Lasso v5.jpg

Rethinking the Road Ahead: Influencing Others

Friday, October 15th, 2021

As challenging as it might be for us to rethink our own assumptions, beliefs, and operating models, it pales in comparison to getting others to do so. In part, this is because we often choose tactics that are far less effective than they seem. The current debates around public health measures serve as prime examples. Yet, to nimbly navigate the ever-changing road ahead, we must be able to influence others to reexamine their old beliefs and explore new ones.


So what can we do differently?


At the next Forward Faster by Design virtual event, we’ll explore techniques we can use to persuade others to rethink their opinions and positions. For example, helping people "stumble over the truth" can be a powerful nudge toward change. By taking a collaborative, sometimes counterintuitive approach, we increase our odds of influencing others to change their minds and their behaviors. If we can do that, then we can smooth the path to innovation within our teams, organizations, and communities.

people orbit circle influence (shutterstock_458121454 1200 x 900).png

Rethinking the Road Ahead: Drop Your Tools

Friday, September 24th, 2021

In 1949, fifteen elite wildland firefighters deployed to battle a wildfire in Montana. Also known as Smoke Jumpers, they parachuted in with their axes, saws, and shovels while also wearing 20-pound packs. Unfortunately, the fire exploded out of control, forcing them to run for their lives. Twelve of the men perished before they could reach safety at the top of a steep hill, in large part because they were either unable or unwilling to drop their tools. 


As we continue to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must navigate a landscape that has changed in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. As tempting as it might be to try to resume "business as usual," that world has passed. As such, we should re-examine the assumptions and beliefs that drive what we do and how we do it.  Easy to say, harder to do. But first, we have to be willing to unlearn behaviors and update mental models that served us well in the past. In other words, we have to be willing to drop our tools.


In this session, we’ll look at some of the invisible forces and cognitive biases that can keep us locked on our current path, even if it's a road to ruin. We’ll also share specific actions we can take to battle these forces and rethink the road ahead. 

Designing for Adoption: Nudging Behavior Change

Friday, April 16th, 2021

What do Public Health and innovation have in common? Success often requires people to adopt new behaviors - to start doing something new or stop doing something familiar. Or, in some cases, both. Easy to say, much harder to do. The good news is there a number of proven techniques that can be deployed to reduce the barriers to behavior change. And as we start to enter a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, we most likely will need lots of people to act differently if we are to return to some semblance of normalcy.


In this session, we’ll explore how leaders and organizations can use simple design tools to influence the adoption of new behaviors in customers, employees, and entire communities. We'll also hear from Kerry Burch, Director of the Office of Innovation & Strategy for Mecklenburg County Public Health, and Tracy Russ, Managing Director at SOLID, who will share insights about their experiences in driving change and innovation.

Driving Innovation Through Diversity

Friday, February 19th, 2021

The term "diversity" often brings to mind human attributes that we can see, such as ethnicity, gender, and age. As we continue to wrestle with challenges related to equity and inclusion in our companies, communities, and country, these attributes are understandably in the spotlight.


But when it comes to innovation, we should look at diversity much more broadly. Why? Because diversity of perspective influences what we see and how we respond. Someone who regularly interacts with customers in a Call Center has different insights about a company's products than someone in the C-suite. Left-handed people have a point of view about usability that righties might never consider. And women have endless stories about experiences with products and services that clearly were designed by men, for men. Not with malicious intent, mind you, but no less frustrating.


So what can we do differently?


In this session of Forward Faster by Design, we'll share simple tools, such as "Exclusion Lens" and "Diversity Grid", that organizations can use to intentionally seek out diverse perspectives to guide the development of innovative and inclusive solutions.. We'll also look at the immediate and long-term benefits of "designing with, not for" key stakeholders. We hope you'll be able to join us!

How Might We Solve 'Unsolvable' Problems?

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Our world is riddled with big, hairy, complex issues that make it hard to fathom any solutions being enough to address and sustain. The vastness of social dynamics such as homelessness, equity in education and healthcare, and food insecurity can create a Chicken Little scenario where people scream, “the sky is falling!” The initial frenzy of activity initiates an assortment of quick fixes that end up fizzling out over time and only kicking the can inches down the resolution pathway. What if there were a way to solve what we deem as unsolvable problems?

In our last Forward Faster by Design event for the year, we will finish our series of The Year of Seeing Differently and dive into this question of, How Might We Solve 'Unsolvable' Problems? As a warning, solutions to complex issues are, well, complicated – but yes, they are achievable. To do this, we will take a ride upstream and create a better understanding of systems thinking, finding points of leverage, and shifting mental models. We will also hear from three experts approaching systems change in innovative ways resulting in getting ‘stuff’ done and making broad-reaching impacts.

Special Guests

Rosalyn Allison-Jacobs.jpeg

Rosalyn Allision-Jacobs
Principal Consultant
ROI Impact Consulting

Tracey Greene-Washington.jpeg

Tracey Greene-Washington
Indigo Innovation Group

Liz Winer.jpeg

Liz Winer
Winer Family Foundation


KTeskey_Color_Headshot (square).jpg

Kristy Teskey
Innovation Catalyst
Faster Glass

Are We Solving the Right Problems?

Friday, November 13th, 2020

How much time, money, and energy do we waste solving the wrong problems? As if that weren't bad enough, it's incredibly demoralizing for everyone involved to build a great bridge only to discover it's over the wrong river. But what if we could get better at identifying the right problems to solve?

We'll explore these questions and more at our next Forward Faster by Design event on Nov. 13th. We'll dig into some of the factors, like problem blindness, prior knowledge, and anchoring bias, that influence how we define the challenges we face. We'll also share specific techniques for framing (or reframing) problems more effectively so we can better invest our most precious resources in service of the people, organizations, and communities we care about.

Learning from the Future: Using Strategic Foresight to Plan for Tomorrow

Friday, October 9th, 2020

For most organizations, strategic planning has always been about charting a course for the future with imperfect information. But in the face of extraordinary upheaval and uncertainty due to impacts of the pandemic, our traditional planning tools seem insufficient. In addition, due in part to our automatic ‘fight or flight’ response to threats, it’s easy to rationalize focusing solely on short-term survival at the expense of long-term planning. And if that weren’t enough, working remotely makes it even harder to do the sort of collaborative critical thinking necessary for effective strategic planning. So what can we do?

In our next Forward Faster by Design session, we’ll explore how we can make use of tools from the discipline of strategic foresight. As J. Peter Scoblic describes in his HBR article, Learning from the Future, the objective of strategic foresight is “not to predict the future but rather to make it possible to imagine multiple futures in creative ways” to guide our decision making in the present. With help from our friend and Crisis Management expert, Vanessa Mathews, we’ll discuss how we can combine tools, such as Scenario Planning, with virtual collaboration techniques to develop flexible strategic plans in the age of COVID-19. 


As we discussed in our September Forward Faster session, to better prepare ourselves for the threats and opportunities that lie ahead, we need to institutionalize imagination. Embracing the tools of strategic foresight can help us do just that. 

Special Guest

Vanessa Vaughn (250 x 250).jpg

Vanessa Mathews

Founder and Chief Resilience Officer

Asfalis Advisors

Imagine Better: Igniting Business, Civic, and Social Innovation

Friday, September 11, 2020

A failure of imagination. That was one of the most damning findings in the 9/11 Commission Report: that the government had not conceived of such a stunning, disproportionate attack and consequently had not prepared for it. The report's authors recommended that going forward, U.S. intelligence agencies should learn how to 'routinize imagination.'


As we approach Sept. 11th, we're facing multiple concurrent crises in our country and our communities that require massive doses of imagination, creativity, and innovation. In this session, we'll share some of the specific practices for cultivating individual and collective imagination as outlined in the book, Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility. We'll also examine how we can overcome the stifling effects of 'path dependence' and the 'Tyranny of Now' to ignite the forces of innovation.

In addition, we'll have a conversation with Mark Peres, an educator and social-good entrepreneur. Mark teaches moral philosophy courses at Johnson & Wales University and recently hosted a podcast called 'On Life and Meaning' in which he talked with local innovators and civic leaders about their work, lives, and higher purpose. His community work focuses on nurturing creative capital, elevating civic discourse, and promoting intellectual and artistic excellence in the Charlotte region.

Our goal with this session is to remind ourselves that before it can be built, it has to be imagined. Let's learn to imagine better.

Special Guest

Mark Peres (square).jpg

Mark Peres

Professor, College of Arts & Sciences

Johnson & Wales University

How Our Biases Shape the World We See

Friday, June 19, 2020

In our next session on June 19th*, we will explore how our brains make use of cognitive shortcuts and how those shortcuts contribute to implicit bias. As Stanford social psychologist and author Jennifer Eberhardt puts it, “We see the world that we come prepared to see, even though those preparations are taking place unconsciously.” 


We’ll also examine a form of bias known as motivated reasoning, or what Julia Galef, co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality, calls ‘Soldier mindset.’ We’ll dig into how it affects how we interpret what we see and how adopting a ‘Scout mindset’ can counteract these tendencies.


We can’t change what we can’t see. We hope you’ll join us as we share some of the ways we can sharpen our vision. 

*The date for this topic is symbolic as Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the U.S. The fact that there is a need for the Black Lives Matter movement highlights just how much implicit and explicit racial bias continues to affect modern society. 

Intentional Serendipity

Friday, May 8, 2020

When we hear the word innovation, we often think of products or services that seem to be completely brand new to the world. However, the vast majority of innovations are actually the result of people building upon the ideas of others and connecting existing dots in new ways. As such, one of the precursors to being a skilled dot CONNECTOR is to be a perpetual dot COLLECTOR.

In this session, we'll share proven practices for how to be intentional about "dot collecting" and how those practices can lead to "happy accidents," whether for yourself, your team, or your organization. We'll also hear from local innovation practitioners and artists about how they feed their curiosity, explore the world, and strengthen their creative muscles.

Special Guests

Rosalia Torres-Weiner.jpeg

Rosalia Torres-Weiner
Red Calaca Studio

Elizabeth Watson.jpeg

Elizabeth Watson
Innovation Manager
Atrium Health Innovation Engine

Adapting to Disruption: A Human-Centered Approach

Thursday, April 9th

If there were ever a time to explore how we might deal with disruption, it's now. With upheavals taking place across multiple sectors simultaneously, we are tasked with dealing with massive changes in real-time. And if that weren't enough, many organizations are also having to solve new problems while their people are working remotely. So how might we respond?

In this virtual session of Forward Faster by Design, we're going to explore how taking a Human-Centered approach to disruption can help our companies, our families, and our communities adapt to our current environment. We'll discuss specific tools we can use to lead with empathy and to reframe the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Special Guest

Becky Loranger.jpeg

Becky Loranger
Lakeside Project Solutions

Inclusive Design: Moving from Awareness to Action

Friday, February 14th, 2020

In this session, we'll continue our mini-series on Inclusive Design. Previously we focused on the importance of recognizing exclusion, particularly unintentional exclusion. Now we'll highlight specific tools and practices that can be used to design more inclusive products, services, and experiences. To do so, we will explore how:

  • the concept of "normal" was invented,

  • the tyranny of averages can mislead us,

  • to learn from diversity, both externally and internally,

  • to broaden our thinking by using what Microsoft's Inclusive Design Team calls "Persona Spectrums", and

  • to actively foster an environment that values and celebrates inclusion.


Invisible Women: Who Do We Miss When We Fail to See?

Friday, January 10th, 2020

"What you see shapes how you change.

Where you look shapes what you see."

- William Taylor

It seems appropriate that we kick off the 2020 edition of the Forward Faster by Design Breakfast Series by talking about vision, particularly how our sight lines impact our ability to innovate. But in this case, we're going to focus on what happens when we fail to recognize what we DON'T see.

More specifically, we're going to explore the consequences of designing products and services that fail to involve or take into account the actual needs of half the population - women. Inspired by Caroline Criado Perez's groundbreaking book, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, we'll also examine how the absence of sex-disaggregated data can lead to designs that treat male as the default and female as atypical. This, in turn, impacts women's lives in shocking and sometimes life-threatening ways. Lastly, we'll discuss how applying the second rule of Inclusive Design ("Learn from diversity") can help address these issues and bring under-represented perspectives out of the shadows. 

Invisible Women (Eventbrite).png

Thinking Left-Handed: The Case for Inclusive Design

Friday, December 13th, 2019

The holiday season prompts us to think more about the people around us. If we find ourselves buying gifts, especially for folks we don't interact with on a daily basis, it can be a struggle. What do they like? What do they want or need? Would this (fill in the blank) be too big? Too small? Too much? Not enough?

In a way, we face the same challenge when designing new products, services, and programs. Unfortunately, far too often we tend to build solutions that work for us, and by extension, people like us. But what about the rest? What about people who AREN'T like us?

In this session, we'll explore the principles of Inclusive Design. We'll look at how we can reframe our thinking about disabilities and we'll examine habits and practices that unintentionally exclude some people. We'll also discuss how learning to "think left-handed" can inspire us to design solutions that are better for everyone.

Special Guest:

Lindsey Braciale.jpeg

Lindsey Braciale
Founder and CEO

Forward Faster by Design Poster (2160 x

We Failed . . . Now What?

Friday, November 8th, 2019

A lot has been said over the last few years about the value of failure. About how we should fail early, fail often, and fail forward. But what should we do after we actually DO fail? When we roll the dice and get snake eyes? When we put something out into the world and it's an utter flop?​

In this edition of the Forward Faster by Design Breakfast Series, we'll explore various reactions to failure and how we can create the conditions for "productive failure." We'll also examine stories that demonstrate how rethinking how we respond to mistakes can provide unexpected value to our organizations and the people we serve.

Special Guest

Vanessa Vaughn (250 x 250).jpg

Vanessa Vaughn Mathews
Asfalis Advisors

failure rocket (shutterstock_755616235 2

Selling Your Ideas

Friday, August 9th, 2019

Coming up with a great solution to a challenging problem is rewarding in itself, but it's not enough if you truly want to have an impact. You have to be able to influence decision-makers to "buy" your idea for it to move forward. Which means if you want to be a successful innovator, you have to also be a capable salesperson. So how might we develop or strengthen our sales skills?


In this session, Dan Black and David Phillips will lead a hands-on workshop focused on providing specific tips and techniques for gaining critical buy-in from others, regardless of whether they're internal or external to your organization. We'll also discuss the value of storytelling, identifying influencers within networks, and designing with, not for, key stakeholders.

idea selling (shutterstock_1107948629 Ev

The Art of Reinvention and the 60-Year Curriculum

Friday, September 13th, 2019

The days of people working at the same company on a steady and predictable career path for 30 years are long gone. We are now in an age where organizations and individuals alike are challenged to develop skills for jobs that simply didn't exist five years ago. Marry that with the need to attract, develop, and retain talent in the face of changing career expectations, the rise of the "gig" economy, and disruption in the education sector, and a fascinating picture starts to emerge - those who can continuously learn and adapt in a state of constant change will thrive.


In this session, we will examine the value of being willing and able to reinvent yourself to have multiple careers. We'll also explore how education options for individuals and organizations are growing to support the "60-year" curriculum required to be adaptive and resilient in the face of accelerating change.

Special Guests

Asher Haines.jpeg

Asher Haines
Director of Continuing Education
UNC Charlotte

Crystalle Ramey.jpeg

Crystalle Ramey
Veteran, Instructional Designer, Comedian
The Bulb Effect

Michael Stallsmith.jpeg

Michael Stallsmith
Account Supervisor / Founder
Theory House / StudeoCo

path face (shutterstock_191785520 Eventb

Tools for Change

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Inertia - a tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged.

If one were to rank the forces of nature, inertia would have to be high on the list. And when applied to people, especially in situations where things seem to be working well, the power of inertia is amplified and difficult to overcome. Yet, as novelist Ellen Glasgow so eloquently put it, "the only difference between a rut and a grave are dimensions." Meaning adherence to the status quo could serve as a comfortable path to failure. All of this represents a barrier for would-be innovators because sustainable adoption of new ideas often requires a change in behavior by one or more constituencies. What to do?

In this session, we'll examine how we can use principles from the fields of Design Thinking and Behavioral Economics to influence individual and organizational behavior change in a variety of settings. We'll also provide an opportunity for hands-on practice with some proven tools of change.

Forward Faster by Design Poster (1200 x

Exploring the World Through Immersive Technology
Friday, July 12th, 2019

Can technology be used to educate and inspire us to change how we see others and ourselves? And would this help us better understand how our actions impact the world around us?

In this edition of the Forward Faster by Design Breakfast Series, Paula Kranz and Dave Mason from Wheelhouse Media will share how they are using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to combine physical and virtual space to create immersive viewing experiences. They'll also talk about some of their recent projects, including one in which they were asked to create virtual reality training scenarios for a medical enterprise partner to help law enforcement, EMT professionals, and Emergency Departments address challenging situations.

Special Guests

Paula Kranz b&w.png

Paula Kranz
Immersive Content Producer / Executive Director
Wheelhouse Media / Wheelhouse Foundation

Dave Mason.jpeg

Dave Mason
Creative Director, Design + Animation
Wheelhouse Media

Immersive VR glasses (shutterstock_14233

Learning To See With Fresh Eyes

Friday, June 14th, 2019

Where we look and how we see has a big impact on how we innovate. In fact, neuroscientist Gregory Berns makes the case in his book, Iconoclast, that one of the traits that help innovators stand apart is their ability to see the world differently from most people. As the French novelist, Marcel Proust, so eloquently wrote, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes." 


But what happens when your vision is constrained?


We'll cover these topics and more in this interactive session where our special guests from Para Guide will lead us through some of the exercises they use to train ordinary people to be "sighted guides" for vision-impaired athletes. Bring your curiosity and some comfortable shoes as we explore how we can teach ourselves to see in new ways.

Special Guests

Shannon Houlihan.jpeg

Shannon Houlihan
Co-Founder and President
Para Guide

Paul Harrold.jpeg

Paul Harrold
Co-Founder and Board Member
Para Guide

Seeing children looking (shutterstock_40

The Future of AI is Here - Are We Ready?

Friday, May 10th, 2019

Charlotte Shout.png

Thanks to Charlotte Center City Partners for including this month's event in the Charlotte SHOUT! festival.

Self-driving vehicles? Check. Voice-activated smart assistants? Check. Online chatbots? Check. For those keeping score at home, the results are clear - the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here and progressing in leaps and bounds. But there are some critical issues we need to explore, particularly when it comes to AI's impact on the workforce, education, and civil society.

  • What skills, talents, and human capabilities will best complement machine capabilities?

  • How might we prepare the current and future members of our workforce to thrive in this new world?

  • How might we address the risks associated with AI, such as unintentional bias being baked into algorithms that screen candidates for job interviews?

In this installment of the Forward Faster by Design Breakfast Series, we'll explore these questions and more, with local leaders sharing their insights on some of the near-term impacts of AI and machine learning. We'll also discuss how individuals, organizations, and communities can adapt to a world that is being disrupted in all sectors by rapidly advancing technologies.


Special Guests

Elyse Dashew 2 (square b&w).jpg

Elyse Dashew
At-Large Representative
CMS Board of Education

ashley_joseph b&w.jpg

Ashley Joseph
Director, LeanTaas Labs

Eric Lewis square.jpg

Eric Lewis
Director of Business Services
Charlotte Works

Jayesh Mori square b&w.jpg

Jayesh Mori
Chief Product Officer

ai robot interview (shutterstock_7193765

Creativity Loves Constraints

Friday, March 8th, 2019

It's easy to think of constraints as barriers to getting things done. "If we only had more money, or time, or people, we could . . . ." But when it comes to solving wicked problems, we should embrace constraints because they serve both as guide rails and stimuli for designing creative solutions.


In this hands-on session, we'll explore how to use constraints to fuel creative problem-solving. We'll also discuss the importance of assessing whether the constraints we face are real or perceived so as not to unnecessarily force ourselves into a box of our own making.

box creativity (shutterstock_94299103 21

Designing Moments That Matter

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Across the arc of any journey, there are certain moments that matter more than others. Whether we're talking about customers or employees, educators or students, volunteers or donors, the experiences people have at critical touchpoints can have an outsized impact on engagement, loyalty, and retention. If any of these things matter to your organization, then you should be asking yourself two questions:

  • "What experience do we want people to have?"

  • "How might we deliver that experience?"


In this session, we'll explore how organizations can identify the moments that matter most and then intentionally design those experiences to delight employees, customers, and other constituents. 


Special Guests

Anna Cork.jpeg

Anna Cork
VP, Employee Experience

LIsa Morris v2_0,33x.jpg

Lisa G. Morris
Global Practice Head, Employee Experience Design
Sparks Grove

Stephen Saucier_0,3x.jpg

Stephen Saucier
Carolinas Aviation Museum

Happy people jumping (2160 x 1080).jpg

Unlocking Innovation Through Improv

Friday, February 8th, 2019

Deferring judgment, reframing, and listening - really listening - are critical skills for successful innovators, as these behaviors fuel creative collaboration. Do you know who else embodies these skills - improv ensembles!