what we do

Skill Up

(to expand capability and capacity)


Design research and user centered design used to be the exclusive domain of academics and niche consultancies: consultants would take the project and either do it themselves and deliver a finished product or they’d provide a huge strategy deck that pointed to a number of possibilities, but didn’t actually do the work. In both cases, the client team would be left with a result they couldn’t fully own and a process they couldn’t repeat.

To counter this, we’re seeing companies bringing these skills in-house, either by acquisition or education. This approach is great, as in-house teams are much more in tune with the nuances of the organization. Sometimes, though, the challenges of a particular project still require an outside perspective and a bump in team skills. We work to skill up teams so that they can actually do the project work, own it and repeat as necessary.


How We Skill Up Teams

We take two approaches to building capability in your teams and ensuring a higher likelihood of project success. Both blend your in-house subject matter expertise (all the great stuff you know about your company) with our external perspective and design thinking mindset to help instill a new way to approach and solve problems. And the results are something you can own and repeat, setting everyone up for success. We may be working ourselves out of a job, but we figure it’s more important that you own the work and be better prepared for the next project (and we’re always there to help you level up when you need us).


We Teach You To Do It On Your Own


You don’t have a big specific project, but maybe lots of little ones. This is a less resource-intensive way to help your team understand how to approach problems. The main focus is to help instill a design thinking mindset so that you can figure out what to do next on your own. This usually happens through a series of workshops, casual conversations, and working together on a small project to help teams go from: “We have this problem and we don’t know what to do next” to “I see the problem and I’m going to try some things out to solve it.”

With this approach, we’ve helped the faculty at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago to approach their everyday activities in a new way. We’ve taught workshops at Notre Dame, Northwestern, The School of the Art Institute, and 1871 to help undergraduate and graduate students think about how they apply this alternative way of thinking to their expertise to create successful solutions.

Learn more about our Mindsetting approach.

We Do A Project With You


You have a specific project and a team that is ready to tackle it. You’ve heard about the design thinking way of approaching problems and opportunities and want to apply it, but aren’t exactly sure how. We come in and run a project as if we were doing it—except that you are. We show you how to frame the project and you do it. We go out on research with you, model the first few sessions, then we step back and you do the rest. We design together and you present it to leadership. We help you practice, but ultimately it’s your project.

As an example of how this works, we’ve guided the Innovation Lab team at a major protein company to create a range of products and brands, building on the skills they already have and pushing thinking with each successive project. The result is that they have cut the time from idea to product from two years to six months and are in demand across the company to solve other challenges.

Learn more about our Mentoring approach.