Diana Joseph on Design Thinking at Citrix (003)

In this episode, I’m talking to Diana Joseph, former Director, Innovation Enablement at Citrix (San Francisco, USA).  At Citrix Diana and her team  developed an intense, hands-on curriculum that focuses on desirability, viability and feasibility.  To make that happen, they brought together DT, lean startup, customer discovery, value exchange, agile and other toolkits. The framework allowed them to grow culture, mentor teams and run innovation classes, bootcamps, and incubators across the organisation.

Highlights from the interview:

01:30 The importance of an advocate on the leadership level.

02:00 First initiatives that aimed at scaling design thinking at Citrix.

05:10 Diana’s secret sauce to grow innovators and innovation inside the organisation.

11:28 How to create entrepreneurial opportunities for people that are not necessarily working in product development. Citrix 12 week Spark Park program.

14:28 Mindset change and the limits of just focusing on it

16.22 The Citrix Catalyst program

17:12 Transforming the Stanford Design Thinking wallet exercise to fit an engineering audience.

22.48 The value of engaging in design thinking related company networks.

25:47 The impact of design thinking at Citrix.

27:06 The profitability and the challenge to measure the ROI of design thinking.

30:08 The final stage of the design thinking & lean initiative.

32:00 How Diana moved on from Citrix to support others in making design thinking happen inside their organisation.

Interview Nuggets & Insights

  • Two day bootcamps are not enough (6:05). Interviewing employees after taking DT bootcamps, Diana and her team realised that “it was very hard to see impact and that is was very hard to see how their [employees’] work changed even if mindsets changed permanently that did not necessarily lead to work practices changing”. The challenge they identified was that “people were going back to an environment that hadn’t changed”. Going back after a two day workshop “they had the same management, the same colleagues they had the same work assignments and they had the same process they had to follow.”
  • Going beyond the bootcamp (7:17): Diana and her team acted upon this insight, inspired by the lean startup classes they were running. Developing a 12 week program for which teams of employees with an idea can apply.
  • The limits of design thinking (8:37) “Design thinking is great, it is super powerful especially because of the way it addresses the disability component of innovation … [however] it doesn’t say nearly as much about desirability or feasibility.”
  • On changing mindsets (14:43): “It is critical to change mindset, but it is not sufficient … the place I’ve come to is that I want to see a change in behavior, that language isn’t enough for me.”
  • Design Thinking exercises (18.44): “[A] really importantly we dealt with that was that we made the problems which we were solving much closer to the work that people were doing. So instead of having the breakfast exercise or the gift giving exercise we had the ‘idea mobile experience exercise’”
  • The challenge of engaging Design Thinking to an engineering audience (19:37). Adapting the bootcamp “gave us more credibility and we weren’t immediately drummed out the room for talking about Halloween costumes or mother day’s gifts [as a result of a wallet or giving a gift exercise from Stanford University]. But, at the same time, if we allowed people to stay too close to what they were already doing you might not get that epiphany [regarding uncovering insights based on user research].”

The Citrix Design Thinking journey

  • 2009:  Citrix’ SVP, Catherine Courage, attended d-School at Stanford and was inspired!
  • 2010:  Engaged executives and grassroots, developed design principles
  • 2011:  Built creative space and an infrastructure for change
  • 2012:  Global design thinking presence at two of the company’s major internal events — for salespeople, and for engineers.
  • 2013:  Creating catalysts, and engaging in projects with direct business impact.  Investment in education:  That meant hiring me!
  • 2014:  Ran two-day design thinking bootcamps — 30-60 people every other month
  • 2015:  Focus on long-term programming, and expanding the toolkit — 12-week accelerators driven by an integrated Lean/Design thinking foundation.
  • 2016:  End of an era:  Citrix has new leadership with a very strong focus on short-term shareholder value.  Design thinking and innovation carries on in the Go-To-Meeting business.

Top 3 accomplishments

  • Created a Lean/Design thinking curriculum for Citrix’s Startup Accelerator.  The Innovators Program is still going strong in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We also created its sister program,  SparkPark, an innovation incubator for Citrix employees to develop new products and processes.
  • Encouraged the development of hundreds of design catalysts throughout the company.
  • Engaged Citrix deeper into the design thinking ecosystem outside of our company and outside of our industry, via a collaboration with design thinkers at Nordstrom, Jet Blue and Fidelity.  That collaboration continues with the addition of Kaiser, and continues to engage participants even as we move into other companies and spread the practice even farther.

References shared by Diana:

Articles & web resources:



3 Facts from the pre-show interview

Diana’s worst DT Moment

I once ran a bootcamp for 30 engineers and their managers.  The managers were less than impressed with design thinking as a concept, and with the idea of spending two whole days away from production.  The 20 engineers had no idea what they were facing.

Worse, the instructors (uh. me.) … let’s say we failed to make each other look brilliant.  A challenging audience is no excuse for our being visibly in conflict with each other during the workshop!  I still blush to remember the scene.

At the end of the final day, one of the other instructors left me with this thought:  Sometimes you have a bad game.  That’s how it goes.

The weird thing is — one of the engineers in the room remembers it being a great experience! In fact he joined our incubator a few months later.  And we heard that some of the engineers claimed to have learned a lot from the experience, even though we perceived them as totally disengaged.

Diana’s main take-away from that moment

It’s hard to screw this up!

What I mean is this:  Somehow, in spite of everything, the experience was robust enough to make a difference to the attendees.

Why is that?  Because most of the work in any design thinking bootcamp is done by the participants.  No matter what the facilitators may do, what the participants remember is their own experience — how scary it was to approach a stranger for an interview, how interesting it was to hear that stranger’s story, how complicated it was to try to turn that story into a prototype, a business model, and real feedback.  In short, learning-by-doing works!

And I have my own private takeaway–I really love things that are hard to screw up too badly.  That means I’m free to fail, learn, and thereby get much, much better.

Diana’s biggest AH-HA moment (beyond Citrix)

I lead a design thinking “center” at my son’s elementary school.  Every six weeks, my teaching partner and I get a batch of 8 kids between the ages of 8 and 11.  We spend 45 minutes per week with them.  In that time we go through empathy, ideation, prototyping and sharing.

Their ideas range all over the place.  How might we make the nut-free tables support friendships between allergic and non-allergic kids?  How might we have a field that is free of dog poop?  How might we make a whole bunch of money?

My aha moment:  I was on the verge of panic at the end of the most recent week 4.  The team was working in the space of what to do about homework — Chinese school homework is too much, regular school homework is too boring, you can’t focus.  They were supposed to have finished a prototype iteration but they were still fighting about ideas — is it a homework chair that ties you down until your homework is done?  Is it a rabbit-themed desk set?  They’re supposed to be prototyping but they’re still arguing about ideas and we have nothing.

Week 5, I brought in a giant pile of prototyping stuff from the thrift store.  A rabbit-shaped vase, a belt for tying people down with, sheets, tape, cardboard boxes, etc.  And they did it!

They ended up with a do-it-yourself pop-up private homework space that they could put up or take down in 30 seconds flat.

The aha: When in doubt — bias to action.

And maybe the bigger aha for me — trust the process!

Diana’s No.1 thing she would do when she would have to start all over again.

Funny you should ask!  I’m now consulting to a medical device company that is simultaneously striving to become profitable and to grow it’s innovation culture.  A tall order, since there is a tension, if not a conflict, between those two ideas.

Here’s what I’m trying:

  • Get executives to show direct support for innovation culture by voting with their feet — investing their time and attention in innovators and innovations
  • Support grassroots drivers
  • Bias toward action.  Better to try something than wait ‘til we’ve got it perfect.

The key drivers are kicking off a series of brainstorming events.  At the first event, teams will flare out with ideas that align to interests of the business. At the second event, they’ll focus, weeding out ideas until they get to ones with a shot at desirability, viability and feasibility. At the third event, teams will present any ideas they still love to a panel of execs in R & D.  The execs will provide feedback, challenges and recommendations for next steps.  And attention.  Will any innovations make it to the product pipeline? Probably not (yet).  Our hypothesis is that the innovators will grow their own skills, connect more with each other, and become a garden bed for innovation going forward.

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