A Sticky Idea

Brainstorming Processes

My largest take away was the process of design thinking bootcamp. My natural tendency is to jump quickly to solutions and action, try them, and see how it goes. By forcing myself to slow down, discover, and if possible, experience the problems firsthand, then collaborate with others

I look forward to applying this in the work setting. Where I work, we have brainstorming sessions regularly. I remember one meeting that we spent at least 30 minutes coming up with a process for the meeting. Now, I will have something I am familiar with to suggest, which is good, but really, the best part is how design thinking bootcamp goes about designing solutions to problems. In fact, there is a sales brainstorming meeting just next week and if the situation is appropriate, I will not hesitate to suggest the design thinking bootcamp brainstorming method.

The individual/together nature of brainstorming was what set this apart as a superior method of brainstorming than I am familiar with. This may not be ideal for everyone, but it worked well for me, and for the other members of my team. It allowed me to pour out ideas, while also feeding off the ideas of others, enabling me to go onto idea tangents that I may never have if I was working completely on my own. When I come up with ideas, my mind runs very fast, and if it can’t produce ideas fast, it doesn’t produce ideas. I don’t know if that makes a ton of sense in words, but the slow, raise-your-hands-and-share-ideas is not a good environment for ideation for me, which likely means it is poor for others. However, when I look at a list of other people’s ideas, I inspired to jump off of their ideas into new ones. It is only from a collective gathering and analysis of ideas that the best ideas can be discovered. The together/separate nature of the sticky note brainstorming allowed my team to work together to form ideas we never would have if working entirely on our own or entirely separately.



Another big takeaway I plan to apply was how to communicate sustainability. As an environmental science major, sustainability is very important to me, and I want to do everything I can to encourage sustainability in all aspects of my life. I see such an opportunity for sustainability in the business world but came to more fully understand the complexity of unique challenges faced by different businesses regarding sustainability.

Not only is it challenging to pull together factual information, it is challenging to present customers the sustainability of your business in a comprehensible fashion which drives business, rather than inciting scrutiny. I really appreciated learning about NIKE as it surprised me that for NIKE, the best thing for them to do was simply be sustainable but not broadcast it, as there are other selling points which drive the business. I think this is a fine way to be a sustainable business in the world today, but I do hope that one day more people will be concerned with sustainability that if NIKE were to broadcast there sustainability, it would be a significant business driver. Hopeful the number of individuals  eager to giver preference to sustainable businesses both as consumers and in the workforce will continue to grow in number and knowledge.

Sustainability, Brands and Promotion

Communicating sustainability in a method which customers receptively and positively support is a challenge all businesses embracing sustainability face. Different tactics are more effective for different businesses, as it is important the message regarding sustainability compliments the businesses overall brand. I will explore how two vastly different businesses are currently promoting sustainable branding, J.Crew and Relay Foods, and address several things I think each business could do differently to promote their overall success by communicating sustainability


Sustainability is not incredibly important to J.Crew. They have a spoken statement claiming they  are making efforts for environmental sustainability, however, the typically J.Crew customer has little to no awareness of this. People are buying J.Crew clothes tied to other brand associations, such as quality and class. Upon examination, I think the best thing for J.Crew to do would be to make huge advancements in sustainability on every front (Supply chain would be a high-visibility, high-impact place to begin) but in a manner similar to Nike. Like Nike, J.Crew should brand their company as they are currently doing until they make a substantial amount of pro-sustainability changes. Then, they should address sustainability as a given, as a thing that of course J.Crew is sustainable. From my research of and experience regarding J.Crew, J.Crew customers think sustainability is a good thing, but only if it’s easy and meets their demands of convenience and quality.

Relay Foods

Relay Foods is a very sustainable company. About 40% of items sold are grown/produced within 200 miles and our distribution method has a very small carbon footprint compared to other grocery stores in the United States. Of course, Relay expects this to increase as we scale up, but I don’t know the numbers behind this, and if I don’t, I wonder who does and where they come from. This should not be. Like J.Crew, Relay Foods customers value quality food and convenience over sustainability, but I believe that if communicated efficiently, strengthening the over sustainability of Relay could be a hook to create brand loyalty among customers. The most important thing would be to minimize the amount of info communicated regarding sustainability, but choose the most impactful points. I would suggest both companies provide all information available for those who really search.

The Future of Sustainable Branding

Sustainability is not mainstream. Despite that most people recognize sustainability as something worth striving for, it usually takes a back seat to other demands such as quality, status, function and convenience. Companies who act now to create sustainable measures, whether overtly or silently, are still first-movers. I predict these companies will be the most finacially successful companies and the most competitive within their sector. These companies to push the business sector forwards in the near future.

Prototyping Mode

The objective of our last class period was to develop a final prototype and pitch to present to class for feedback by Thursday. We began this process by laying out how we got to the point we were at in the process. Then, we summarized the steps. Next, we voted for our favorite prototype. We selected a one-for-one quilting program. We then brainstormed what exactly we thought this should entail. We settled on calling the quilting studio the J.Crew Quiltery.

We determined we would create a recycling program in which customers were incentivized to return used J.Crew clothes, then clothes would be turned into quilts and sold in a one-for-one program-locally based giving program. For every quilt purchased, one quilt would be given to a person in need by partnering with local giving programs. We expect the quilts to sales as high-priced, exclusive items, but should we have extra quilted material, we intend to use i. We got a bit hung up on the practicalities such as if we should use different materials for the quilts to sale and the quilts to give, lining types and where cost lies, where to locate quilting centers, for example. In the end we decided to let the practicalities iron themselves out in practice.

After much debate over where the J.Crew Quiltery should be located, we determined that we would beta-test a location directly adjacent to our central Eastern distribution center in Lynchburg, VA and one adjacent to the most visited J.Crew store in NYC. The Lynchburg location was appealing because it would but down on material distribution. The NYC location was promising due to the potential marketing benefits; having the J.Crew Quiltery as a showroom would make customers ore likely to participate in the program and ensure that fair labor standards were transparent. The corporate team could then make a decision about what to roll out based on finances, marketing impact and non-data customer feedback.

For me, this class was a turnaround in two ways. 1) As the process manager, I found my groove, and started to feel quite invested in the project because I loved being able to steer the thinking of the group to cohesion. 2) I made the decision to separate school and work, as I decided the split attention goes against my personal ethics, so I left all technology behind and delved headfirst into the prototyping process with my group.

The most valuable thing to me about prototyping was the way creating the prototype synthesized all our best ideas coming together as one unit. Building a prototype made us aware of practical issues we would likely face when putting this idea into practice. I became aware of how beneficial it is that the design thinking process allows for, and even encourages, beta-testing at all levels. Our prototype is a tiny beta-test, which allowed us to workout small issues in our idea, with surely more to come based on the class feedback. The Lynchburg/NYC experiment is even encouraged in design thinking. I suspect this is much different from the traditional business’s strategy. I look forward to incorporating the classes feedback into our prototype.


Ideation: the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas, where an idea is understood as a basic element of thought that can be either visual, concrete, or abstract


The definition above, from Wikipedia, accurately describes the process of ideation, which is my team’s current undertaking. This process is where my mind always jumped, as it is only natural to think of solutions when defining the problem, as we did with the HMW statements. Although it is not a thought process I would predict, it seemed as though some of my HMW statements resulted from a solutions I had. I think this sort of jumping around in one’s thoughts could potentially cause me to miss out on ideas that I came up with utilizing the Living Principals process-based analysis.

At the beginning of class, we posted our selected HWM statement, “HMW change J.Crew’s offering to include better quality, more sustainable products,” and then began the brainstorming process. I had never before done brainstorming that sufficiently captured the highlights of individual and group brainstorming as effectively as the process we used. We individually came up with solution statements, but said them out loud while posting them for all to see. Questions and comments were permitted, but the individual part of this process was dominant.

Next, we were encouraged to come up with ideas that were absurd, ideas which could even get us fired by the company. We’d already created a few of these, such as the minimalist clothing idea and encouraging consumers to forget fashion and buy just the clothes they needed for basic utility. Admittedly, I was the one guilty of putting the most ‘bad’ ideas in with the good. We also came up with a few analogous product ideas. Next, we thought of a way to flip our off the wall ideas into something that would potentially work for the company and solve the HMW statement. This pushed my team to come up with ideas we would not have otherwise, like the rental program. Then, we sorted the ideas we came up with on a spectrum of weak to strong. Our process manager orchestrated voting, until we narrowed it down to one idea.

By first encouraging quantity of ideas and them evaluating for quality, we broadened the scope of our ides significantly. This stage was a perfect example of the value of holding judgement when presented with an idea that is initially unappealing. I learned this lesson the hard way time after time, but something new I should incorporate in ideation processes is flipping the idea to what I would consider a positive. Even if dissent still existed, this would be a way for me to open my mind and encourage an environment of building onto ideas to discover the best of ideas.

Defining: How Might We…

Putting myself in the shoes of a J.Crew shopper was more difficult than I imagined. It was certainly more difficult than my peers might have imagined it would be for me, as few people would expect me to dislike shopping as much as I do. Going into clothing stores overwhelms me, so I must step out of myself, and into the mindset of a person who would willingly go into J.Crew, as most J.Crew customers are surely willing, not dragged along as I happen to be found in there store. This mindset-adjustment step was necessary for me to be able to define the problems at J.Crew, and phrase “How Might We,” (HMW) statements.

I think that mindset is a problem for many companies, as the people creating the product and the end-user typically have very different mindsets regarding the product. For example, the person who designed the computer on which I type is surely more interested in and competent with computers than me, just as the person selecting the cut of a J.Crew dress cares a whole lot more about design proportions and style than me, who, despite my current distaste of shopping, did by a few J.Crew pieces several years ago which are still a part of my wardrobe.

I found the HMW statements very useful to define issues surrounding sustainable design at J.Crew. Our team went over the example Professor Luchs provided, then worked individually to come up with HMW statements. This was a great brainstorming tactic, as it brought ideas from each individual that others of us may not have thought of. Some of our ideas were the same, but the wording always differed at the least. When voting to decide on ideas, we always seemed to significantly prefer the wording of one idea over the others even if the meeting was the same, which I found quite interesting.

The HMW ideas we came up with were the highlight of this process for our team. When it came to figuring out which ideas to focus in on, things got a bit hectic. There were so many steps to narrowing the ideas down, I found the process overly long and hard to follow. I think this could have been easily simplified by the process champion. There were some moments of healthy disagreement that led us to consider and verbalize why we thought particular ideas had more merit than others.

The real point of these HMW statements is to focus our need on the needs of the user, in this case, most often emerging, young, professional women, to understand what could be done to make their experience with J.Crew better. I feel confident that the HMW statements we selected have created a solid platform for the upcoming steps of the Living Principle Analysis.

Design is the Problem

“Design is the Problem” discusses nine widely used paradigms of sustainability.  Each implements a different definition of sustainability, and some seem to have more value than others. The best frameworks incorporates environmental, social and fiscal sustainability in an applicable and measurable fashion, in a way that gives a clear course of action. The Cradle to Cradle framework focused predominantly on environmental sustainability, where as the Social Return on Investment framework weighted social sustainability as most important. Only the Sustainability Helix gave the financial sustainability due importance.

Financial sustainability is vital to consider, because without it, the business promoting environmental sustainability and social good will be unable to achieve any lasting impact as it will not have what is necessary to fund it. Also, all businesses are began with an initial investment, and have a duty to make a return on their initial investment.  The best framework for understanding sustainability and its impact on the design and development of products must acknowledge the importance for a sustainable market in order to stay around long enough to do significant environmental or social good. It is also good for the framework to provide a course of action to achieve sustainability according to the parameters it creates, to provide direction to less-than, or even highly unsustainable businesses.

The only framework that significantly incorporates the financial aspects of sustainability is the Sustainability Helix. The Sustainability Helix is business-centric, and evaluates organizations for their commitment to and progress in sustainability. It is also highly unique in that it provides a procedure to achieving sustainability in all three areas: environmental, social and financial. Some strengths of this lens include that it is not moralizing, it’s assessment of sustainability is neutral, it encourages restoration efforts and it integrates sustainable functions throughout an organization. This framework does not provide quantitative ways to measure sustainability, but rather uses subjective descriptors to determine where a business fits into the helix.

This framework is best-suited to be rolled out at the corporate level, but really can only be used if rolled out to all levels of the business. This requires an integration between all categories of the business which is quite unique. The Sustainability Helix incorporates several other design paradigms discussed in this chapter, including the principles of Natural Capitalism and some other ethos of the other frameworks, seeing as the hoped for ends to each framework addressed are similar. However, the Sustainability Helix framework is the most integrative of the frameworks described, and hence, is the best framework to apply.

Understanding Emerging Consumer Needs

I personally relate quite well to the integral values framework, studied in the article about emerging consumer needs by Andy Hines. I would consider myself to hold integral values, but I meet many people who align with the traditional, modern and postmodern values as well. The author of this article speculates that businesses will be working so hard to innovate, to get ahead of the game, that people with older value sets than integral may get lost in the innovation race. I do no think this will be the case. There is so much infrastructure laid, so many traditional products owned and so many people practicing traditional, modern and postmodern value frameworks, that there will continue to be industries supporting their needs as long as the people are around. Habits die hard for businesses and people, so if there are existing relationships between people and businesses that are functioning well for both parties, I predict many of these will be maintained with minimal disruptive innovation.

So much of this article focused on peoples desire for an authentic experience and getting highly individualized products/services that meet their needs, and nothing more. This is going to be a very challenging thing for businesses. Cookie cutter practices of the past aren’t going to cut it, and this will drive innovation that I am honestly quite excited about. Meeting the needs of the individual well is going to be quite tough given the array of individual needs to be met, but can be done.

I wonder if we will see a surge in growth of small businesses. I don’t mean just the lcal clothing store and farm stand, but local tech/transportation companies. I see many businesses, such as Lyft, that are currently localized, albeit in several localities. If Lyft continues to be a success, will they attempt to roll out their business model nationwide? Or will we see so many innovators in so many places that there will be hyper-locally owned and operated forms of each business thriving. I predict it will be the former. It is still difficult for many local businesses to handle the tech side of their ideas which is nearly a necessity in today’s world. Once a business has a tech platform that works well for consumers, if they have the ability to be local wherever they are, I think they will attempt to grow, nationally, internationally. This is nothing crazy, as you can find local produce at the Williamsburg Wal-Mart nowadays and the internet has made it easy for things to spread. What’s different, is that I predict we’ll see some businesses playing to the integral value consumer, that start to compete with the mega-coporations of today such as Wal-Mart.

The biggest take away I got from this article, was that need for constant innovation within businesses in order to guide consumer towards products that are good for them, which is a demanding order with much potential for innovative design thinking.

Design Thinking

Design thinking makes intuitive sense, but has it’s own set of unique challenges. The challenge is the constant change and innovation that is the foundation of design thinking. Successful design thinking necessitates constant awareness of problems that need solved, something traditional corporations are not always aware of. Many businesses focus on problem solving, but the room for growth today seems to lie largely in searching out unsolved problems and creating business around the problems found.

Sinking into a set mindset and developing habits is a great setback to design thinking. You can begin by seeking out a problem, but if you are not constantly innovating, you loose your growth mindset, and loose potential, even at a already successful business. Listening with empathy is at the root of successful design thinking. It’s easy to type, but a difficult skill to foster, and difficult to continually practice.

The cell phone d.School bootcamp project was a perfect example of the design thinking process. It was difficult for me to drop my personal experience and preferences when interviewing and designing a cell phone for my partner.

Design thinking begins with searching out the problems that can be solved by design. Then creating the best solution possible to address this problem. Therein lies the success. An ongoing challenge to design thinking is the variety of problems different people experience relating to their products.

The prototyping part of the design thinking was very important to me in designing my partners cell phone. I created a couple ideas that had little pieces of good in them, but were rather disjointed and not solving all the problems my partner had with her phone. Then, after three drawings, a lightbulb went off in my mind, and I created an innovative device my partner was very happy with. She didn’t love my first three disjointed attempts. Fail fast and early, then move on to the testing stage. A little more risk and investment is associated with this pseudo-final phase of design thinking. (I say pseudo-final, because design thinking is dead if the process of empathy and innovation finishes.) By always being attuned to the problems people experience, and listening to what they need, businesses can find markets unbeknownst to the general business trying to problem solve without problem finding, while meeting real needs.

The Business Perspective

Businesses around the globe are adopting more sustainable practices. Their are a myriad of motivating factors for becoming sustainable, including the lure of increased profits due to increased efficiency, minimized waste or due to the possibility of developing customer loyalty of the increasing sustainability aware masses. So long as it is agreed upon that sustainable businesses are preferential to un-sustainable businesses, the reason for adopting sustainable business practices does not matter. There is a lot of confusion around which businesses/products are truly sustainable. Clarity and truthfulness of information had approved, particularly since the turn of the millennium and the increasing regulations on marketing sustainability.

Businesses have transitioned from chartered corporations to industrial corporations to sustainable corporations in a very short timeframe. Granted, across the globe, there remain businesses in all three categories. The sustainable corporation is still quite new to the game, it’s taking advantage of diseconomies of scale, and exhibiting rapid growth. I see a market for sustainable corporations that is still largely untapped.

According to The Third Generation Corporation, one characteristic of sustainable corporations is that they are not profit driven. Businesses can not exist unless they eventually turn a profit. I see economically, socially and environmentally friendly businesses to be a more hopeful solution to our environmental woes than government intervention of any form. When money is a driver, action happens quickly. Government action is tied down by so much bureaucracy, societal and personal pressures that action tends to be very slow and changes incremental.

I find the sustainable corporations tendency to embed itself into a society to have so much potential, both for businesses’ financial success and for strengthening communities. Relay Foods is a great example of this for several reasons. Being an online store, we need a team on the ground, in the community, to acquire and keep customers. At this time, this is necessary for our customer acquisition strategy. The other side to being embedded in the community is using business to support area businesses, which Relay Foods also does. Our localized distribution system enables us to incorporate local food products in each community we operate within.

One question that remains for me regarding business sustainability is the extent of the power in this realm to make significant, globe-altering changes. Could the motive for profit be enough to drive our culture to sustainability, or, will the accompanying new products add more unnecessary things just be included into the non-sustainable elements of existing culture? Also, I wonder if there is an entirely new form of business, beyond the sustainable corporation, that will come to be a completely new category.