The Value of Business Design Thinking

Parker Lee’s blog post, The Value of Business Design Thinking, was recently featured on publishes original content for several business verticals: executive leadership and management, social media marketing, education, food and beverage, and finance.

Here is the beginning of the post:

How thinking better and differently can be taught and learned to maximize and enhance an organization’s performance

Business design thinking can not only transform a business, but also help an organization catapult to greater levels of success. These organic, flexible and inclusive methods are the path to enhanced performance and greater prosperity. Business design thinking draws upon the lessons of design, humanistic management, and system’s theory, effectively integrating complexity into a coherent and elegant experience.

There are a number of key principles for business design thinking, but for this post, we will discuss three of the most important ones:

  • “Discover-Craft-Build” iterative cycles
  • Employ a cross-functional / team-based approach
  • Build a culture of collaboration

The “Discover-Craft-Build” iterative cycles

Iterative cycles based on design thinking have many benefits. Think in terms of cycles, not linear “1,2,3” steps. Problem-solving is better tackled in small bites of exploring, designing, building and testing, then adjusting.


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Imitating Mother Nature: The Four Seasons of Business Growth

Parker Lee’s blog post, Imitating Mother Nature: The Four Seasons of Business Growth, was recently featured on MarketingProfs, a site dedicated to providing real-world education for modern marketers, through training, best practices and research and other content.

Here is the beginning of the post:


Embracing the understanding and use of iterative cycles in growth is one of the principles of business design thinking. Why is

applying the principle of iterative cycles important? Alistair Cockburn describes it as “learning by completing.” An underlying principle of the iterative method is that until you build what you are designing, you will not fully understand it.

Many variants on the iterative process exist. But let’s adopt a four-phase view to best illustrate how this business design thinking principle is an apt analogy of marketing initiatives for business growth to nature’s seasons.

Spring: Explore

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” (Leo Tolstoy)

The Explore phase is analogous to spring time. This is the time of exploring new ideas, discovering what’s possible. Marketers aspire to achieve great things with their initiatives and dream of how to accomplish it. A human-centered process moves you to begin with “Why?”

Spring is the time in nature when you take stock of what you have, where you have been, and then figure out what you will be cultivating in the next “season.”

In this phase, assess your strengths and weaknesses in your team, processes, and systems. Hold planning sessions, and meet with fellow marketers as well as a diverse set of internal and external stakeholders to hear what they feel is attainable and realistic… and what activities should not be undertaken again. A great ideation session involves a cross-functional set of team members where you frame your marketing initiative as the question “How might we…?”

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How to Tackle a Problem with Business Design Thinking

Parker Lee’s blog post, How to Tackle a Problem with Business Design Thinking, was recently featured on PM World Journal.  The PM World Journal is an educational and informative source of P/PM knowledge and information.

Here is the beginning of the post:

Every day, we all have challenges, opportunities and initiatives to tackle. I’ve found it best to approach and manage this work using several Business Design Thinking tools.

Before offering a few examples of these tools, let me explain what I mean by Business Design Thinking. Business Design Thinking is an alternative approach for how a business runs compared to a traditional top-down, silo-like organization that plans and operates with linear processes.

Setting context 

The first step to tackling a problem is setting context. Apply the proverbial, “Know Thyself” axiom before trying to solve your problem. By building a framework for your challenge, you will get yourself off to a good start. Clarity on the task to be done is important for excellence in execution, as well as in gaining alignment and participation in the design of your problem’s solution. Gather your associates and work through the important elements of the initiative.

Another great technique is developing a problem brief. This should be done with a group of all the affected stakeholders. Use a workshop session with your stakeholders to complete your brief. I suggest it is printed out as a large wall canvas, then have each participant put ideas on one sticky note and post it in each brief category. Perform an alignment activity to discuss and vote on the agreed upon response.

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5 Factors to Ensure Successful Business Strategy Implementation

Parker Lee’s blog post, 5 Factors to Ensure Successful Business Strategy Implementation, was recently featured on Rescue A CEO.  Rescue A CEO is a niche blog site that helps entrepreneurs get tasks and projects completed. Rescue A CEO is a member of CEO Blog Nation.

Here is the beginning of the post:

It is now three times in recent memory that I have heard the same lament from clients:

You won’t believe how much we just spent on XYZ consulting.  They made suggestions on what strategy we need to implement and delivered a 350-page PowerPoint presentation.  Some of the thoughts were insightful, but none of the consultants suggested “how” we could accomplish the changes that were recommended.”

Have you had that experience? A high-powered consultancy is brought in but their insights provided no detail on how to solve your organizational issues.

This conundrum is analogous to the fable of “belling the cat.”  A group of mice are in a heated debate about plans to quash the troublesome cat. One mouse proposes the strategy of placing a bell around the cat’s neck, so that they are warned of its approach. The other mice applaud the plan, until one mouse asks who will place the bell on the cat. All of them make excuses.

The tale is used to teach the wisdom of assessing a plan, the fundamental difference between ideas and their feasibility and how this affects the usefulness of a given strategic plan. I have no intent to oversimplify the complex approach to optimal strategy implementation. Each company has a unique culture, capability, history, technology and systems. That said, there are five guiding factors to ensure success in implementing your business strategy:

  1. Active sponsorship

Clear authority and credibility is needed for successful implementation of strategy. Senior leaders must be present to demonstrate their own and the organization’s commitment to the strategy.

There is a large volume of knowledge supporting this idea.  One that comes to mind is from Prosci’s benchmarking study from 2009.   Key findings illustrate the importance of active sponsorship from senior leaders when implementing a new strategy:

  • When asked to identify the top contributor to success of their change, participants identified active and visible executive sponsorship as number one on the list.
  • Ineffective change sponsorship from senior leaders was identified as the biggest obstacle to success.
  • There are two people in the organization employees want to hear from regarding a strategic change: the person they report to and a leader at the top.

Thus, leaders are critical at the macro-level and play a key role in supporting the application of strategy and in communicating directly to employees why the strategy is needed.

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The New World of Brand Marketing: Get Personal, but Importantly…Better Get Real.

We notice the velocity of change in the world around us but nowhere has that change been more profoundly felt than in the world of marketing. Today, brands are struggling with the new realities of trying to connect and develop loyalty with the Millennial and Digital Native generations.

Advertising agencies are seeing their impact and roles eroded and diminished by the realties that today’s tech savvy generation of consumers want the type of relevant connections that are created by Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare and a host of other apps. 30-second TV spots are yesterday’s news.

In the past consumers were demographic groups where you match targets with a few media types–the expression was “birds of a feather flock together.” So if you knew or assumed where the “birds” were, the chances are you were going to be successful with your brand message and product sale.

In his book, Entering the Shift Age, David Houle talks about how in the past brands were institutions and had authority. He says, “And so Ivory soap was pure; Chevy was America; BMW was German precision and engineering; and Tide was the family detergent.” One wanted to be like everyone else and so then we lived in a world of brand authority—in other words brands would give us access to what we aspired to or whatever the brand said as an institution. If I wore a Polo shirt with that logo, I must have money and status.

Today we have moved to a world of personal authority where the mantra is that, “I do not want to be like everyone else and things I want will get validated by my friends and those I trust.” Individuals don’t want authority to come from a brand, they want to connect to it on their own terms. So brands today must be about ‘you’ the person and who ‘you’ are versus status, wealth, image and being part of the “in crowd.”

So, as mentioned and to use a hackneyed phrase—the paradigm has shifted. The old paradigm had the brand as an institution, top-down communications, customers were passive and attitude drove behavior. The new paradigm has the brand defined uniquely and not as an institution with bottom-up communications where the customer controls the relationship and behavior drives attitude.

So what do companies need to do?

Companies need to more fully understand that among today’s consumer the definition of “brand value” has changed from the old days of brand value equaling product features at the lowest price to the new realities that brand value must equal quality; what the company stands for and does it stand behind its products, is the price competitive, does it meet my needs, is information accessible and does the company talk to me on my terms?

Are there companies that get it and those that don’t? Yes.

An interesting dynamic that is happening is the rise of “conscious capitalism” as a strong driver of influence on Millennials and Digital Natives. What that means is that now a product makes much more of a statement by its awareness, commitment and consciousness—actions it does versus the things it says. Perfect examples are TOMS shoes, Warby Parker glasses, the Red campaign and products, Patagonia, Simple Banking, etc.

TOMS shoes’ idea of buying one pair and giving another free pair to a child in need is brilliant. People buy because they feel good about what TOMS does, plus they have cool products and to date they have given away 45 million pairs of shoes. Now that commitment by TOMS as a company has moved into eyewear and coffee. Warby Parker provides eye exams and treatments in Third World countries and the gift of sight to those in need because someone has bought a pair of their cool glasses. Conscious capitalism at its best—one for one.

Those examples are relevant and real to the new generation of consumers. It is not giant retailers making tons of money putting on TV ads at Christmas showing how they built a Little League baseball park in some town. That action is clearly phony and can be seen right through as a pathetic example of trying to get on the cause bandwagon. It is not large companies sending out emails once you bought something or flew on their airline saying “how did we do and we really value your opinion” when nothing is further from the truth and you have already felt ripped off.

So, the net is that it’s not ‘new’ news to say the world has changed. What is ‘new’ news is that companies can’t just say, “Well, we are on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, so what more do you want?” Customers can’t be generalized about and need to be talked to on an individual basis. Brands need to gather as much information as possible from as many sources as possible and use that information to be change agents in their relationships, products and what they stand for.

Today’s digital savvy consumers are “omnichannel” in their approach to buying as they look across brick and mortar, online, mobile, friends, and other multiple sources of information. Companies that don’t change and respond to younger consumer changing purchase patterns won’t keep up. Look at what H&M does, changes all its product line—everything– every 90 days based solely on customer feedback.

So, the future will be to those who understand how to use data better and adapt to the new consumer realities. It is not the “tactic du jour… Oh, we have a million likes on Facebook” as that does not translate into sales. Using data smartly and in an impactful way does as well as creating value in new way by making the company stand for something more that selling something. The future will be for the TOMS and Warby Parkers of the world thanks to the Millennial and Digital Native generations.

Compass52 Principal To Present At Alliance For Nonprofit Management National Conference


Portland thought leaders, innovators and capacity builders join grant makers, nonprofit leaders and academics for the industry’s highly anticipated event of the year


PORTLAND, Oregon (August 26, 2015) – Compass52 announces that principal Parker Lee is a workshop speaker and leader for the Alliance for Nonprofit Management National Conference, taking place in Portland, October 6-8, 2015. The annual conference brings together individuals and organizations whose aim is to help nonprofits achieve positive social change. Conference attendees include consulting firms, grant makers, researchers, students, management support organizations and grassroots organizations, amongst others.

On Tuesday, October 6, Lee will lead a workshop called, “New Ways of Mastering Organizational Growth.” Inspired by Lee’s soon-to-be-released book, “The Art of Opportunity,” Lee will explain how to use design thinking methods and innovative strategy to find opportunities for new growth, while seizing and executing key strategies.

“I’m excited to partner with the Alliance and fellow colleagues to network, educate and share best practices. It’s an honor to work with nonprofit professionals to discuss how to enrich and grow their businesses and communities.”

The Alliance conference will be held at the Smith Memorial Student Union, located on Portland State University’s campus.

To learn more about Compass52’s services, please visit
Download this press release here.

For more information contact:
Lisa Lavora-De Beule


About Compass52

Established in 2015 and headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Compass52 is a business design consultancy firm that provides strategic consulting services to organizations looking to implement a successful strategy for the future. Through the application of modern business design thinking methodologies, Compass52 supports clients in setting and achieving their results-oriented objectives.


Disruption Comes to Consulting

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan

– “Revolution” by The Beatles

Worldwide economic, technology and social change is transforming consulting – an industry that has prospered by teaching others how to manage that change.  The old guard is now under attack from a contemporary set of innovative firms with new business models, technology and democratization of talent services.

Old school consulting is being disrupted for a few of reasons:

  1. The old school consulting business model is inefficient
    Old school consulting has a business model based on billing for endless hours of junior consultant time within a seemingly endless array of process steps.  This model is optimized when employees are fully utilized – in fact the incentives are to outdo each other with tales of high number of billed hours.  Old school consulting methods aim to have many bodies, billing as many hours as possible to a client.
  2. Old school service delivery plans do not fit needs of current business
    Based on specialties of expertise, old school consulting uses teams of consultants to create solutions from a “black box” of knowledge, then offer advice, telling the client what they should do. In fact, consultancies are seeing steady erosion in their traditional bread and butter strategy practice, now about 20%, down from 60%-70% about 30 years ago.  Simply giving advice is no longer satisfactory.  Clients want and need agile response, direct access and collaboration with experts.
  3. Clients are asking for more – and new methods
    Clients are smarter about using consultants; the ranks of former alumni/Big Three consultants now numbers over 50,000.  In fact, many former consultants are now working inside corporations and know the tricks of the trade and can perform much of the old guard’s work on their own. They are now seeking engagements that are solution-based with value-added results.

The Disruptors: several new consulting models and services include:

New school business model
The new wave of disruptive consultancies are delivering solutions with value-added results.  Some are providing access to software platforms, data analytics or even products that are carefully scoped and defined.  Others have consultancies bringing down base fees to reduce the risk to their clients and having an achievement fee for successfully delivering the desired results.

New school delivery model
Some new and agile consultancies have adopted a model offering clients access to an extensive network of senior, experienced consultants that can be tapped to staff projects.  Some clients no longer hire a team of consultants, but rather pay fees for access to the network and the new consultancy structures a team of experts to deliver value.  There are signs that consulting customers want to pay for clear outputs and deliverables, access to top talent and information.

Business Design Thinking approach
Clients now seek more creativity and holistic thinking from consultants.  The rise of design thinking in business has been evident.  With the complexity of products, services and processes companies now face, businesses need problem-solving methods that provide holistic solutions.  This means focusing on customer or user experiences and needs, designing models to gain insights and applying prototyping to explore solutions.

Consulting must now be far more solution-focused; applying an integrated approach and providing value-added results that are measured by, at minimum, an improvement in the client’s bottom line and ideally delivering triple bottom line value.

Compass52 Launches To Help Businesses Innovate And Grow

Business design consultancy infuses new approach to drive strategic change and business profitability

PORTLAND, Oregon, (August 25, 2015) – Compass52 announces the launch of its business design consultancy services, aiming to disrupt the old consultancy model by applying a modern approach, known as business design thinking. At its core, the framework adopts a visual and team-based problem-solving methodology to implement solutions that enable companies to enhance performance.

Compass52 is comprised of a team of business innovators, with over 30 years of experience in leadership and change management. The firm provides consulting services to organizations of various sizes, from medium-sized businesses to Fortune 500 companies, across a range of industries. Compass52’s services benefit organizations seeking clarity with their operational strategy and long-range business planning as well as companies looking to enter new markets or generate additional revenue streams.

Parker Lee, co-founder of Compass52, states, “Today’s leaders need to adopt a new mindset and act nimbly to set their businesses on the proper path to success. The old consultancy methods simply don’t cut it anymore. Our team has the experience to review our clients’ businesses from a unique perspective. As a result of decades of work with many of the world’s leading brands, our team has the experience and wherewithal to provide strategic insight and implement solutions that drive long-term profitability and business results. By applying a non-traditional approach, we are able to create and deliver value.”

To learn more about Compass52’s services, please visit
Download this press release here.

For more information contact:
Lisa Lavora-De Beule

About Compass52

Established in 2015 and headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Compass52 is a business design consultancy firm that provides strategic consulting services to organizations looking to implement a successful strategy for the future. Through the application of modern business design thinking methodologies, Compass52 supports clients in setting and achieving their results-oriented objectives.