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Project TBD / Forward Faster

Motivating the Elephant: A Human-Centered Approach to Change

Friday, April 19, 2024

"For anything to change, someone has to start behaving differently."
(Chip Heath and Dan Heath)

When trying to get people to adopt a new product, program, or process, we often focus solely on presenting facts and figures and then act puzzled when an appeal to logic doesn't move them to act. (Spoiler Alert: It's not them, it's us. Or, more specifically, our approach.)

So how should WE start acting differently?

Join us as we continue our Project TBD mini-series about the power of a human-centered approach to organizational change. In this session, we'll examine the second part of the Heath Brothers' Switch framework, "Motivate the Elephant," to understand why it's critical to address the emotional drivers of behavior. We'll also share three techniques we can use to make change easier for others and ourselves.

Don't miss the opportunity to collide and connect with other curious-minded people eager to put Human-Centered Design at the forefront of driving change.

We hope you'll make plans to join us in person or via Zoom.

Flipping the Switch: A Human-Centered Approach to Change

Friday, March 15, 2024

Pop Quiz: Change is ______________.

A) Hard

B) Constant

C) Accelerating rapidly thanks to AI

D) John Waite's contribution to the Vision Quest soundtrack

The answer is, of course, "E) All of the above." Perhaps a better question is, "How might we make change easier and more sustainable?"

Join us as we kick off a three-part Project TBD series about the power of taking a human-centered approach to organizational change. Inspired by the framework from Chip and Dan Heath's acclaimed book, "Switch," we'll explore how leaders and change agents can effectively influence the adoption of new behaviors by understanding the rational, emotional, and environmental forces involved. This approach ensures that change is embraced AND sustained over time, leading to a more adaptable and resilient organization.

The session will feature interactive discussions, real-world case studies, and practical exercises designed to equip participants with the tools and insights necessary to implement the Switch framework within their own contexts. Whether you're looking to inspire a more innovative culture, navigate through disruption, or enhance your team's adaptability, this session promises to provide valuable principles and practices. Don't miss the opportunity to connect with other curious-minded professionals and leaders eager to make a difference by putting Human-Centered Design at the forefront of change management.


We hope you'll plan to join us in person or via Zoom. Otherwise, we'll be "Missing You." :-)

Uncovering AI Opportunities: Value Proposition Design

Friday, December 15, 2023

With Generative AI capabilities evolving at a dizzying pace, it can be challenging to determine where to apply these new tools within an organization. Should you focus internally or externally? On "everyday AI" to increase productivity or "game-changing AI" to develop new products, services, and business models?

In the Dec. 15th session of Project TBD, we'll discuss why GenAI will best be deployed when aligned with an organization's mission, vision, and value propositions for customers and employees. We'll also explore how organizations can use the Value Proposition Design framework to identify not-so-obvious opportunities. Lastly, we'll examine the role of observational research in uncovering innovation opportunities and the truth behind the saying, "If you don't go, you can't know."

We hope you'll make plans to join us, either in person or via Zoom. 

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Uncovering AI Opportunities: Jobs To Be Done

Friday, November 17, 2023

Over the past year, Generative AI has exploded onto the scene and is evolving at warp speed. Individuals, teams, and organizations are at varying stages of wrapping their heads and their arms around how best to make use of these new GenAI-fueled capabilities. Is there a proven set of tools we can use to help us identify not-so-obvious opportunities?

In the Nov. 17th session of Project TBD, which will be part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we’ll have a conversation with Jay Gerhart, Vice President - Innovation at Atrium Health, about the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) framework. He'll provide an overview of the JTBD mindset, language, and methods. Then, we'll explore how a "Jobs" approach can help us uncover how knowledge workers might "hire" a GenAI solution to accomplish objectives and make better progress in their lives.

We hope you'll make plans to join us, either in person or via Zoom. 

“This is an official activity of Global Entrepreneurship Week, an international movement to empower entrepreneurs and make it possible for anyone, anywhere to start and scale. To learn more about GEW and other events in the greater Charlotte area, visit”


A Human-Centered Approach to Generative AI

Friday, October 20, 2023

"We are four to five months into a hurricane of opportunity, and it is very early days, but I do think every software company will need significant expertise in AI and ML to identify the best opportunities specific to every business and to know how to explore and exploit."

Des Trainor, Co-Founder and
Chief Strategy Officer at Intercom

Generative AI is here, and it’s not just for software companies. In fact, it’s already transforming and disrupting industries around the world – and this roller coaster is just getting started. However, the technology itself may not be the biggest barrier to adoption for most organizations. Instead, the most significant obstacle may be human beings. People with families, careers, ambitions, and fears. Some who embrace change and some who abhor it. Some who like to live on the bleeding edge of new technology and some who will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into a new world for which they are currently ill-equipped.

All of this means success requires taking a human-centered approach to identifying where, how, when, and with whom organizations should “explore and exploit” what GenAI can do for them. But how, exactly, do we do that?


In the Oct. 20 session of Project TBD, we’ll look at how we can employ the principles and practices of Human-Centered Design to address the challenges that ride shotgun on our journey to new ways of working. We’ll also discuss lessons learned from earlier technology-fueled disruptions. Lastly, we'll explore how we might frame the relationship with GenAI to lower the resistance to adoption. (Spoiler alert: It involves Iron Man, airline pilots, and amateur gravediggers!) 


We hope you'll make plans to join us. Or just tell Siri to put it on your calendar. She'll take it from there.  :-)

Emergent Thinking + AI: Pathways to Innovation

Friday, September 15, 2023

As individuals and organizations scramble to understand how to make use of generative AI, it could be useful to step back and consider how best to approach this journey. Although the speed at which ChatGPT and other AI tools are evolving is breathtaking, this is not the first time business and society have had to deal with disruptive technology that sparked innovation. (The advent of electricity, air travel, and the Internet are but a few examples.) However, we might benefit from a different approach than those we typically use to drive innovation.


For example, Design Thinking prompts us to start with a defined problem (known as a Design Challenge) and then use divergent and convergent thinking practices to identify, develop, and test potential solutions. In the case of generative AI, emergent thinking may offer a better path. In other words, we can start by exploring the capabilities of these new tools, and then look for problems that can be solved using them. So how might we conduct such an exploration?


The good news is that we don’t have to figure it out by ourselves. In this session of Project TBD, Bill Clerici, CEO of Kingsmen Software will share some lessons learned from their AI discovery process. He will also describe how they’re helping their clients think differently about what they do and how they do it, often in counter-intuitive ways. Regardless of where you are on the adoption curve for generative AI, we think you’ll find this session invaluable. 

Curiosity, Cats, and Decision-Making

Friday, June 16th, 2023

What do Super Bowl coaches, The Princess Bride, and the development of the atomic bomb have in common? And what can we learn from them about decision-making? More importantly, did curiosity REALLY kill the cat? (It is conceivable, but we have our doubts.)

In this session of Project TBD, we’ll explore the role of decision-making at various stages of human-centered innovation efforts. We’ll also highlight the importance of curiosity and process in overcoming some all-too-human barriers to effective decision-making in any context. Lastly, we’ll examine some myths about how to choose between multiple options, including whether you should even make a choice at all. (For you Rush fans, you're invited to insert a “Freewill” reference here.)

Should you sign up to attend? That’s a good question – we trust you’ll make the right decision for you and the people who count on your judgment and continuous development.*

*Was that too much? :-)

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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

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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?

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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.

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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

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Rosalyn Allision-Jacobs
Principal Consultant
ROI Impact Consulting

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Tracey Greene-Washington
Indigo Innovation Group

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Liz Winer
Winer Family Foundation


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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

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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

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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

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Rosalia Torres-Weiner
Red Calaca Studio

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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

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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. 

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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:

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Lindsey Braciale
Founder and CEO

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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

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Vanessa Vaughn Mathews
Asfalis Advisors

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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.

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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

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Asher Haines
Director of Continuing Education
UNC Charlotte

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Crystalle Ramey
Veteran, Instructional Designer, Comedian
The Bulb Effect

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Michael Stallsmith
Account Supervisor / Founder
Theory House / StudeoCo

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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.

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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

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

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Dave Mason
Creative Director, Design + Animation
Wheelhouse Media

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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

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Shannon Houlihan
Co-Founder and President
Para Guide

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Paul Harrold
Co-Founder and Board Member
Para Guide

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The Future of AI is Here - Are We Ready?

Friday, May 10th, 2019

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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

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Elyse Dashew
At-Large Representative
CMS Board of Education

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Ashley Joseph
Director, LeanTaas Labs

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Eric Lewis
Director of Business Services
Charlotte Works

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Jayesh Mori
Chief Product Officer

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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.

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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

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Anna Cork
VP, Employee Experience

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

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Stephen Saucier
Carolinas Aviation Museum

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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!


In this interactive session, we'll look at how teams can use the tools of improv to unlock new ways of solving problems. Our guest presenters will lead several exercises to give participants an opportunity to practice some of these skills. They will also share lessons learned from their experiences in injecting improv into their respective company cultures.

Special Guests

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Tim Edwards
Regional Product Manager (North America)

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Jay Gerhart
Healthcare Strategist / Innovation Sherpa
Atrium Health

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The War on Error

Friday, January 11th, 2019

As much as organizations truly want to innovate, when push comes to shove, operational efficiency often reigns supreme. This mindset brings with it little to no tolerance for mistakes. Such an approach may win the short-term battles, but it's a losing proposition when the long game demands innovation. The good news is these positions don't have to be mutually exclusive. So what can we do differently?


In this session, we'll explore how to overcome the fear of failure that stifles innovation while concurrently maintaining a bias for GSD-ing (getting "stuff" done.) We'll also share ways to "sell" key stakeholders on the value of failing forward.

Can Elephants Learn to Dance?

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Anyone who's ever worked inside a large, bureaucratic organization knows how difficult it can be to spark and sustain a change in "how things are done around here." But it is possible, and there are plenty of local examples of people doing just that.

In this edition of the Forward Faster by Design Breakfast Series, we'll hear from Charlotte-area innovators about how they are disrupting the status quo in organizations and guiding the adoption of new ways of seeing, thinking, and working.



Special Guests

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Daniel Friel
Chief Strategy Officer
Nikia Dx

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John Tuders
Director, Innovation Design
Grant Thornton

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Dr. Jean Wright
Chief Innovation Officer
Atrium Health

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Ideas Without Execution Are Hobbies

Friday, November 9th, 2018

The title of this session comes from a quote by Phil McKinney, formerly the Director of Innovation at HP, and it's a sentiment that anyone who is serious about getting stuff done understands. So what can we do to move from ideas to implementation?


In this session, we'll look at how successful organizations develop, test, and launch new concepts. We'll also share insights on how to effectively seek and respond to feedback on new, fragile ideas when they are still in their early stages of development.


Special Guests

Blair Holt
Customer Experience Design Director

Randy Miller
Experience Activation and Design Operations Manager

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Where Good Ideas Come From

Friday, October 12th, 2018

What sparks great ideas? And can we intentionally adopt practices that foster the generation and development of ideas that lead to innovation?


In this session, we'll explore some of the concepts from Steven Johnson's book, Where Good Ideas Come From, such as "the adjacent possible." We'll also share a few pro tips for facilitating effective brainstorming meetings, such as how to engage introverts, and how to suppress groupthink in order to give fragile ideas space to breathe before evaluating them.

Innovation Is For Quitters

Friday, August 10th, 2018

When developing new programs, products, or processes, we are susceptible to a number of forces that can blind us to red flags and drive us to continue pursuing dead-end ideas. Although tenacity is a necessary trait for innovators, there’s a fine line between determination and stubbornness.


In this hands-on workshop, we will explore how to overcome individual and organizational blind spots so we can pull the plug on ideas and free up resources for more promising concepts. We'll also discuss how changing how we evaluate our options and how we make decisions can lead us to better outcomes.

Space Invaders: Environments That Foster Innovation

Friday, September 28th, 2018

Our physical environment can have an outsized impact on how we work, think, and play. This, in turn, affects how well we innovate.


In this session, our guest host, Lynne Ingersoll, will lead a discussion on ways we can alter our workspace, both a little and a lot, to inspire and facilitate creative collaboration.

We'll also be giving away three copies of Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration



Special Guests


Jeff Grant
Director of Product Innovation

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Sara Konstand

Can Social Innovators Change the World?

Friday, July, 13th, 2018

The Stanford Social Innovation Review defines social innovation as "a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals."


In this session, we'll hear from local leaders who are leveraging the power of innovation and design to address some of our most intractable social challenges, such as economic mobility and early childhood education. And (spoiler alert), they are indeed changing the world, one family, one organization, and one community at a time.

Special Guests

Charlie Elberson
VP Insights Strategist / Primary Trustee & Advisor
Wray Ward / Reemprise Fund

Henry Rock
Founder & Executive Director
City Startup Labs

Designing With, Not For

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

It's easy to think that the best approach to solving complex problems is to get leaders and/or experts in a room together and let them come up with solutions based on their accumulated knowledge and wisdom. But there's a better way.


In this session, we'll explore why going beyond the "usual suspects" and involving employees, customers, partners, and other key stakeholders in a participatory design approach leads to solutions that are truly human-centered. We'll also discuss the benefits of actively seeking out non-experts (we call them "Zero-Gravity Thinkers") and naysayers early in the design process and why giving key stakeholders space to contribute to a solution improves the likelihood of sustainable buy-in.

Our guest panelists will share their insights about the challenges and benefits of "designing with, not for" from their efforts to build a "smarter," more equitable city in very different ways.



Special Guests

Rob Phocas
Director of Sustainability
City of Charlotte

Banu Valladares
Executive Director
Charlotte Bilingual Preschool

Designing Extraordinary Experiences

Friday, May 11th, 2018

Designing extraordinary experiences requires two things at the start: being aware that it's possible, and being intentional about crafting the experience we want people to have. Unfortunately, when it comes to innovation efforts, we often focus on the new product, service, or process we're building and fail to devote enough attention to the associated experience for the people who will be impacted. Luckily, there are some excellent resources and practitioners we can learn from.


In this session, we will share specific principles and practices you can use to intentionally design experiences for customers, employees, and other constituents. We'll hear about the innovative approach Movement Mortgage is taking to create an environment in which their employees (and their families) can thrive. We'll also learn how General Motors and other large organizations have used design principles to create a culture of innovation.


Special Guests

Michael Arena
Chief Talent Officer
General Motors

Aimée Dodson
THRIVE Director
Movement Mortgage

Innovation Begins With An Eye

Friday, Apr. 13th, 2018

Where you look and what you see has a big impact on whether or not you can spot unmet customer needs or opportunities hidden in plain sight. In this session, we'll explore how in-context observation can uncover insights that drive innovation. We'll also examine the concept of the "Beginner's Mind" and the difference between looking for inspiration versus validation. Lastly, we'll share actions anyone can take to become an "Explorer of the World."



Speaking of exploring, you will also have the option of taking part in a 15-20 minute guided tour of the McColl Center's galleries and Artist-in-Residence immediately studios after the program. 


Special Guest

Jeff Grant
Director of Product Innovation

Rethinking How We Innovate

Friday, Mar. 9th, 2018

For far too long, we've accepted the notion that innovation efforts involve a great deal of luck. Sure, we conduct research to better understand WHO our customers are and WHAT they want or need. And we use that information to develop products and services, but it's a roll of dice as to whether or not they'll actually buy our new products. Is there a better way?


Join us as we dig into the theory and application of the Jobs To Be Done approach to innovation. Going beyond WHO and WHAT, Jobs Theory provides a roadmap for uncovering WHY people "hire" certain products and services in specific circumstances.

Special Guests

Ann-Somers Hogg
Innovation Director
Atrium Health

Rahul Mohan

Disruptive Innovation (Or How To Blow Sh*t Up On Purpose)
Feb. 9th, 2018

For this session, we'll explore how organizations can apply the principles of disruptive innovation to intentionally blow up successful processes, products, services, and even business models. Or as former GE CEO Jack Welch put it, "Change before you have to." We'll also discuss how leaders can spot opportunities for disruption, both internally and externally.

Speaking of disruption, we're moving to a new location for 2018. Special thanks to our friends at McColl Center for Art + Innovation for their willingness to host the series!

Special Guests

Jay Gerhart

VP, Consumer Strategy

Innovation Engine at Carolinas HealthCare System

Vanessa Vaughn


Asfalis Consulting

The Big Payoff of Little Bets

Dec. 8th, 2017

It has been said that operational excellence secures a company's present, while innovation excellence secures its future. But with mounting pressures to meet financial expectations, companies and organizations of all stripes find themselves increasingly focused on delivering, not discovering. Might there be a way to lower the time, costs, and risks related to innovation?


In this session, we'll discuss how leaders can develop a culture that embraces "failing fast" so the best ideas and solutions emerge with minimal investment. We'll also have an extended conversation with Jeff Grant, a brilliant inventor, designer, and storyteller, who will share some of the lessons learned from his journey from Stanford to IDEO to Bank of America to his current role as the Director of Product Innovation at InVue. 

Leadership By Design: Next-Gen Skills
Nov. 9th, 2017

Empathy. Imagination. Curiosity. Resilience. These are just some of the attributes leaders will need to be successful in a hyper-changing world that values design-driven innovation. But how do we cultivate these capacities in ourselves, our teams, and our organizations?


In this session we will explore this very question. We'll also share insights and resources you can use to develop next-gen leadership skills in yourself and others. 

Innovation is a Contact Sport
Oct. 13th, 2017

The myth of the lone genius is just that, a myth. To solve truly wicked problems, it's critical to call upon the talents and perspectives of a diverse team. However, like any other team sport, creative collaboration inevitably leads to conflict, which can be constructive or catastrophic.


In this session, we'll explore how the most productive creative teams across a wide range of industries channel internal conflict into an invaluable force for good.

Special Guests

Rob Cannon

Chief of Public Affairs

City of Charlotte Fire Department

Munro Richardson

Executive Director

Read Charlotte

Jean Wright

Chief Innovation Officer

Carolinas HealthCare System

Building a Culture of Innovation
August 11th, 2017

At Faster Glass, we define "innovation" rather simply: People implementing new ideas that create value. We also believe the most important word in that definition is the first one, people. As such, the environment in which people work can have a big impact, positive or negative, on an organization's innovation efforts.


In this session, we'll discuss how leaders can build a culture that enables individuals, teams, and entire organizations to innovate in a sustainable way by addressing three specific subjects: fear, frames, and a focus on efficiency. 

The Art of Visual Thinking

July 14th, 2017

As much as we might agree with the notion that "a picture is worth 1,000 words," most of us default to using words to convey ideas. And when there's a communication breakdown, we wonder why "they" didn't get it.


In this session, we'll share some of the tools and principles of visual thinking that can help us collaborate and communicate more clearly. We'll explore:

  • Dan Roam's work, including his latest book, Draw to Win

  • Mind mapping, both analog and digital

  • Tips and resources for creating and delivering clear, compelling presentations

Strategic Planning By Design

June 9th, 2017

We've all heard the maxim that "failing to plan is planning to fail." However, simply taking time to formulate a plan is no guarantee of future success. Unfortunately, for many organizations, the strategic planning process is too internally focused. (What are OUR goals, what should WE offer, what technology do WE need?) So what can WE do differently?


In this session, we will discuss how the tools of Human-Centered Design can improve strategic planning and enable leaders to make more informed decisions about what actions to take, and just as importantly, what actions NOT to take.

Cultivating Resilience in the Face of Disruption

May 19th, 2017

In an age of constant change and disruption, how might we not just survive, but thrive? One school of thought suggests that we focus on building resilience, but what exactly does that mean? In their new book, Option B, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant define it as "the strength and speed of our response to adversity," and they make the case that resilience is not a fixed personality trait, but a capacity that can be developed over time.

In this installment of the Forward Faster By Design Breakfast Series, we'll talk with leaders who will share their first-hand experiences with cultivating resilience in organizations, communities, and individuals. We'll also discuss the benefits of being the disruptive force that upsets the status quo. 


Special Guests

Paula Broadwell, a graduate of West Point and Harvard, will share her experiences in advocating for women's rights around the globe and in promoting gender equality through the non-profit she co-founded, Think Broader.


Mike McGuire, CEO of Grant Thornton, will discuss his approach to leadership in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, which was put to the test during the downfall of Arthur Andersen as a result of the Enron debacle.


Carlos Salum, international entrepreneur and peak performance coach, will provide insights into how teams and individuals can achieve breakthrough performance by strengthening their capacity to bounce back from defeat.


Charles Thomas, Program Director in Charlotte for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will offer food for thought on how we can build resiliency in our communities by fostering a culture of civic engagement.

Can Design Spark Employee Engagement?

April 6th, 2017

Can Human-Centered Design be used to spark employee engagement? Absolutely, and in more ways than one.


In this session, we'll dig into how the tools of design can be applied to truly engage employees in an accelerated, creative, and collaborative process to solve complex problems. We will also share tips on how to intentionally create meaningful experiences for customers, employees, and other stakeholders.


Special Guest


Tim McCleary

Founder & Managing Director

The Involvement Practice


Nurturing Civic and Social Innovation

March 10th, 2017

When we think about innovation, we often focus on new products, services, or business models that will fuel business growth. However, the tools and techniques that serve for-profit entities can also be applied to civic and social challenges, such as income inequality, affordable housing, and literacy rates in under-resourced communities.


In this session, Amy Chiou, Executive Director of Queen City Forward, will moderate a discussion with people from organizations who are at the forefront of thinking differently about addressing wicked problems in Charlotte and beyond.


Special Guests


Laura Belcher

President & CEO

Habitat for Humanity Charlotte


Eric Gorman

Business Growth Strategist

Social Venture Partners / Faster Glass


Deepti Panjabi

Data & Research Manager

Read Charlotte


Designing for Adoption: Nudging Behavior Change

February 10th, 2017

When creating solutions to complex problems, we often fail to consider what behavior changes will need to be undertaken by key stakeholders (customers, employees, students, etc.) to achieve sustainable success. As Tim Brown and Roger Kelly argued in their September 2015 Harvard Business Review article, design principles can also be employed to help people "engage with and adopt innovative new ideas and experiences." But, like most things, this is easier said than done.

In this session, we'll explore how we can leverage principles from the worlds of design thinking, behavioral economics, and decision science to "nudge" people to make different choices and adopt new products, services, and programs. We'll also discuss the importance of using our "superpowers" for good, not evil. 


Overcoming the Curse of Knowledge: Diversity & Innovation

December 8th, 2016

When faced with big challenges, many times we turn to experts for solutions. If we have a problem in marketing, for example, it seems to make perfect sense to assemble a collection of marketing gurus to help us. However, by simply convening the usual suspects, we may also fall prey to the "Curse of Knowledge." In other words, the very same experience and expertise that we find so valuable can also serve as invisible blinders to other ideas and approaches.


This month we'll experience how Cultural Intelligence helps us to overcome some of our implicit biases and to value diversity as an asset. We'll also discuss how to utilize diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to uncover innovative solutions and approaches to complex problems.  


Our special guests this month are Carrie Wagner and 
Elaine Beattie from Cultural Intelligence Works

The Best Story Wins: Storytelling As A Design Tool

November 10th, 2016

As human beings, we are wired to tell, remember, and react to stories. Yet for some reason, when we're at work, we rely far too often on facts and figures to inform people in hopes that it will influence their decisions and behaviors. (And then we grumble when it doesn't work.) Could there be a better way?


Join us as we explore the use of storytelling as a design tool to both uncover unmet needs and to influence others. We'll also dig into specific techniques to make our messages "stickier."

Special Guest

Nora Orton


Charlotte Storytellers

Equipping Tomorrow's Innovators

October 13th, 2016

It's often said that schools today must prepare students for their future, not our past. Although certainly easier said than done, a number of area institutions are doing just that. But development doesn't end with formal education, so growth-oriented employers also have a role to play in nurturing talent.


This month we'll talk with educators who are leading the charge in equipping students with the skills and mindset to disrupt, innovate, and ultimately succeed in the world they will inherit. We'll also look at what companies can do to attract, develop, and retain the newest generation of innovators entering the workforce.


Special Guests


Chris Elmore
Director of Product Strategy


Hannah Levinson

Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Davidson College


Mike Realon

Career & Community Development Coordinator

Olympic Community of Schools


Terik Tidwell

Director of Innovation

Johnson C. Smith University

Art and Creativity As Catalysts For Innovation

September 8th, 2016

Business leaders are constantly scanning their environment for innovation best practices to bring into their organizations. However, they often fail to consider another rich source of inspiration for how to think, see, and work differently: artists.


Join us as we discuss how the practices of professional artists and other 'creatives' can be applied to individual, team, and company innovation efforts. Understanding artists' tolerance for ambiguity, willingness to explore new methods, and passion for disrupting the status quo can help the rest of us expand our own boundaries. Our guest panelists will share how they develop the creative capacities of their organizations and communities and what they've learned along the way.


Special Guests 

Matt Olin

CreativeMornings Charlotte


Blair Stanford


Charlotte Chamber of Commerce

Can Government Services Be Transformed By Design?

August 11th, 2016

It's clear that brands like Apple, Virgin Airlines, and Disney have mastered the art of designing memorable experiences. But can these same practices be used to improve government services?


This month we'll share how government agencies around the country and around the world are integrating design principles into how they work. We'll also talk with local government leaders to learn more about their efforts to improve services and positively impact the lives of citizens and employees by fostering a culture of human-centered design.​

Special Guests

Pat Mumford


City of Charlotte - Neighborhood and Business Services

Sarah Hazel

Assistant to the City Manager
Special Projects and Strategic Initiatives

Big Game Hunting: Using Design To Sell Your Products, Services, and Ideas

July 14th, 2016

We know that Design Thinking can used to develop new products and services, but can it be applied to sales? And what about "selling" ideas internally?


Join us as we discuss how human-centered design tools, such as ethnography and rapid prototyping, can fuel sales efforts. We'll also talk with business development professionals, entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs, about uncovering the needs and aspirations of prospects, and getting buy-in from key stakeholders, both internal and external, for new ideas.


Special Guests


Sheila Mullen
Former Executive Director of Innovation Institute

McColl Center for Art + Innovation

Former Enterprise Software Sales Executive



Kent Panther
Director of Strategic Planning & Business Development

Wray Ward


Henry Rock
Executive Director and Founder

City Startup Labs

Rapid Prototyping + Feedback: Design's Secret Sauce

June 9th, 2016

An oft repeated mantra for developing a culture of innovation is to "embrace failure." Sounds good on paper, but how do we operationalize that, especially in organizations where there is no time or tolerance for mistakes?


This month we'll discuss how iterative, rapid cycle prototyping enables teams to "fail fast" while also getting critical feedback and sustainable buy-in from teammates, senior leaders, customers, and other stakeholders. And because prototyping is all about making instead of simply talking, this session will include a hands-on exercise to allow participants to experience the art of prototyping for themselves.

Spotting Opportunities Hidden In Plain Sight

May 12th, 2016

What do moonwalking bears and suburban driving habits have to do with innovation? And what can we learn from hot dog eating champions about seeing differently?


This month we'll share how our "frames" (the way we see the world, ourselves, and our challenges & opportunities) all factor into if and how we innovate. We'll look at how companies like Alcoa, SPANX, and Grameen Bank discovered unmet needs and successfully developed new products, business models, and strategies to address them. We'll also chat with Devin Patel, VP of Transit Products at Passport about how they're using ethnographic research to inform the design of their products and solutions.


Lastly, we'll offer up ideas on what we can do differently to overcome the invisible constraints that often limit how we see, think, and work.


Special Guest


Devin Patel

VP of Transit Products

Passport Parking

Designing Experiences For Customers AND Employees

April 14th, 2016

Creating products and services that provide a delightful experience for customers is a goal for most organizations, as great experiences often translate into customer loyalty. But that same focus can be applied to employees, as well, perhaps with even more powerful benefits.


Join us as we share how customer and employee experiences can be intentionally designed. We'll also talk with David Campbell, CEO of Boxman Studios, about his perspectives on creating a culture of innovation and the impact he's seeing on his company's performance.


Special Guest


David Campbell


Boxman Studios

What Is Human-Centered Design And Why Should I Care?

March 17th, 2016

In the kickoff event, we'll share how design has evolved from primarily focusing on products to being applied to services, experiences, and holistic systems. We'll also discuss how intentional design, or the lack thereof, can impact individuals, communities, and organizations.


Special Guests


Nheeda Enriquez

User Experienece Consultant

Ally Financial


Christie Kahil

Program Director

Queen City Forward

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