At this year’s Innov8rs Conference, Robert Berris, VP of Product Design and Innovation at 352 Inc. lead a workshop, challenging corporate innovators to think differently by focusing on co-creating empathy-driven solutions and uncovering well-defined problems. Customer experience should be the key enabler of a corporate innovation strategy, yet many executives and innovators often focus on business goals over customer pain. Design thinking allows intrapreneurs to identify the pain points in their customer journeys and build solutions that bring value to both business and end-user.

In this video, the Design Thinking Master Class Workshop will break down the basics of design thinking, show you how to understand your customers’ needs, and explain how to incorporate design thinking techniques across your entire organization.

Transcript below.

[Robert Berris] We’re going to be talking about how your customers’ problems, are your key enablers to your company’s innovation strategy. And so a lot of this what we will be talking about today, is really Design Thinking. And Design Thinking, is just one method that you can use of course to arrive at interesting ideas and problems. But it is a lot about empathy, right? A lot about understanding whom you are building something for. So, today if I can have you guys walk away with three things; one would be high leverage and empathy for people to really important skills to have. Very important to do, but it is really required.

Second part is how to think about problems, a little bit differently. We all think about problems, sometimes problems really symptoms of bigger problems. It’s not always clear and obviously big organizations are complex in nature, and so how can we think about them in sort of different ways? And then last one is how to design experiments?; and so actually we’ll make one today. And get into what the word design and experiments means, just to make sure we understand the implicit verses the explicit definition of each. Okay, so this is Hank, the Dentist and Hank has a business problem. The business problem is, he wants people to come back every 18 months, excuse me every six months, I’m sorry my brain is not working right now, it’s all good.[audience laughs] So, his issue is every 6 months people should be coming back for checkup, right. But an average people are not coming back once every 18 months.

Obviously, it’s a tooth issue; it’s a mouth health issue. It’s also a probability issue, right. I mean obviously, if people came 3 times as much he would make potentially three times as much money. So, I’m going to ask you guys to take a second and think about what would be a solution you would offer, how he might get people to come back more frequently? Besides not being terrifying. Take a moment, feel free to raise your hands, or just shout out the answer. Yes ma’am in the back, you got one?

Female Speaker: Yes I do! I think that they could run a loyalty program.

[Robert Berris] Okay, what will the loyalty program do? Why would that be important?

Female Speaker: Maybe they would encourage discounts, for coming in more frequently?

[Robert Berris] Cool! Okay, anybody else? It’s going to be an interactive day, ya’ll I need people to volunteer.

Male Speaker: It’s a tough one though!

Female Panel: I will go ahead and schedule the next appointment.

[Robert Berris] Okay, so when you are there about to leave, schedule the next appointment. Cool, I see a head nod over there! Do you guys feel like it’s tough? how about you Hank?

Hank: More Giveaways

[Robert Berris] More Giveaways?!

Hank: And not just like a travel toothpaste, you know? You can do more.

[Robert Berris] So, a full-size toothpaste. Maybe a vacation or something, just give some stuff away, okay.

Female Panel: Free teeth whitening

[Robert Berris] Free teeth whitening. Anything else?

Panel: Free trip to the doctor?

[Robert Berris] Free trip to the Doctor?

Panel: Or a discount if you actually come back in the next six months.

[Robert Berris] Okay, all right that’s good; that’s great. Some good solutions here, the next thing I’m going to ask you. Good we are very interactive today,so we are going to have alot of time to talk. So what kind of car do you think I drive? Tell me why. Take a minute, and think about it. What car I drive, and tell me why I drive it? Yeah.

Female Panel: You drive a car that gives you reliability, style, and space to transport your family.

[Robert Berris] Cool. What type of make and model do you think I drive? That can be any make and model. It’s really a good answer. But what the make and model would be?

Male Panel: Prius

[Robert Berris] Toyota Prius?

[Audience laughing and cross talking]

[Robert Berris] I used to work in a Toyota company called Prius, and you say Prius. It’s called Prius, that’s true look it up. Why do you think I drive a Prius?

Female Panel: I think you live in the city, so you probably focusing on go to new places. You drive something that doesn’t guzzle fuel.

[Robert Berris] Cool.

Female Panel: I don’t know what kind of car, but it is really small?

Male Panel: Smart car

Female Panel: The leaf, you don’t necessarily drive. You’re a city dweller

Male Panel: You probably just doesn’t want a car…

[Robert Berris] I don’t want a car, why wouldn’t I want a car?

Male Panel: Because you are concerned about the environment.

[Robert Berris] Yeah, okay. I think I heard something coming from you guys, more of a hassle?

Male Panel: I think a little more pragmatic. I’d say you’d be in something with four doors, maybe like a mid-size sedan. So, I’m thinking it’s probably not American, so maybe German. Which is… or maybe Japanese. So I’m saying either an Acura or maybe not an Acura. Maybe like the top end Honda Accord? Or maybe like a Volkswagen Jetta?

[Robert Berris] Wow! All right,you put alot of thought into that! Okay so?

Male Panel: I’m guessing maybe a Corvette?

[Robert Berris] Corvette

[Robert Berris] I’m thinking it’s about time for a mid-life crisis!


[Robert Berris] That why Ken’s amazing. So this is great, right. So, here’s the challenge I posed to you this morning, right. Without giving you really any information I asked you about a Dentist. You don’t know much about the business other than having been a patient. You don’t really know his real business challenge. And you haven’t talked to their customers; and yet you were able to come up with solutions. Pretty cool, right? You also don’t know me although clearly Ken knows me. You know you don’t know me but you’re also being able to make assumptions based on maybe my shoes, my hair or my glasses. And maybe what type of environment I’m in. We go through this every day; everyday as professionals we make these assumptions, right.

We are asked in the moment in meetings. What’s the answer to that thing? How do we solve problem X over here. And the challenge I give you all, is that that is why companies fail. They fail because we have these implicit and maybe explicit biases and assumptions about people. But how would we know what they actually mean? So design thinking, part of it is about a technique by which you solve creatively problems. And that’s why for example this chair is sculpted the way it is, right. It started with product design, that’s why that can is a certain height and width.That’s why it doesn’t weigh 50 pounds. Because if the can weigh 50 pounds, you wouldn’t be able to use it.

So, it started with physical product design but the way we define design here, and they way I think I would encourage everyone to think about this, everyone is a designer at heart. Everybody really is, because if you assumed that design is the practice of solving a business challenge. Not making something pretty or something layout driven. That means a solution has to be a well-thought-out response to a well-designed problem. And if you use empathy for the person or persons you’re solving it for, be it an internal to your company. Maybe it’s an associate, maybe it’s someone who’s working inside of an airport. So it’s not the consumer necessarilyy but maybe it’s the customer that you have. If you actually use empathy to figure out what they need and why they need it. You might start building solutions that makes sense.

That really what it’s about. It’s really a pretty simple concept, so truly it’s about understanding exploration and ideas you have been learning, right. Ultimately there’s very basic steps and all, right, you get close to your consumer, you get close to the person you are solving for. So you want to observe them maybe in their natural habitat, maybe at McDonald’s or maybe you should say; “hey! You know what, how can we make our stores more efficient?” Rather than just saying I know I’m going to make a playground. I don’t know, I have no idea if that’s effective but if I talk to your customers I might know. Or hey gosh I wish we could pump out a thousand more burgers an hour. What if we have a burger shooter outer? I don’t know; I don’t know if that’s going to work, maybe we should talk to some employees and find out if that’s really a problem.

So those are the things when it comes to empathy that are really important. The second part is really defining it, right. So how do you define problems? We’ll talk more about that today, but problems aren’t just I feel it and I see it; it has to be something that makes it important, right. Maybe in a company like McDonald’s, scale is important, right. If I solve the problem at one location then that doesn’t really add a lot of value. If like solve a problem at a hundred thousand locations, wow the impact could be massive for a billion dollar company. Maybe capability or feasibility in terms of why it can or why it can’t be is an important part of the defining a problem. Or maybe simply the problem is something that you need to solve.

A lot of the work that we try to do, is try and help people figure out why are problems big? Why are they important? And how are they more important than others problems? Because problems just feel important and you know they aren’t always are. And so then if you actually have a well-defined problem you can ideate against that. You can put some constraints, a lot of people think that process and constraints limit creativity but it’s the opposite. If I ask everybody in the room to write a book and that’s all I gave you,I don’t have alot to go on If I actually said hey I want you to write a book about a child who lives in New York and who loves a good quarter pounder with cheese something starts to kind of form in your minds. You know, maybe he only likes to walk and never uses the subway.

I just put a little bit of constraints on it, and all of a sudden you start to see things a little clearer. So imagine If you’re applied that the problems that you actually knew really well. And then finally about prototyping and testing, really our method as a design thinker, the method is, what’s the least amount I can build in the shortest amount of time to prove that my hypothesis is correct? The problem is really big and we have an idea of who it effects. Can I just spend a couple of hours or maybe a day building a prototype? Putting it in front of someone to get a quantitative and a qualitative response, from a user experience perspective you only need about 5 or 6 people to actually go through an experience to validate that it worked.

But obviously you can see how people are affected by it, you can see if it upset them. You can see if it’s frustrates them, you can design prototype intentionally design to frustrates people. Because you want to see maybe where their breaking point is. So if you use a method like this and you’re open to the concept of learning quickly and maybe we give it the term, fail fast. Oh it’s too negative alright it’s learning quickly, that’s really what you’re doing. That is a great way to get into this. So, in large corporations the thing that I think is most impactful it is very simple graph of knowledge overtime. The concept is that there’s no such thing as negative knowledge, right. We all start at a similar baseline of knowledge and every time you test something your knowledge goes up. That might be a little task and it takes an hour, but you know it goes up.

The challenge is that in most big organization, risk is prioritized above people, process, consumers, customers, like risk is this big thing right. And what I get hung up on is that the opportunity cost of waiting 18 months before you can put something into someone’s hands it’s terrifying, right. If you look at what’s happen in the last 12 months there is a possibility that in the last 3 weeks that Facebook could change how they share data. If I’m a marketer and I’ve been using the Facebook platform I should be a little scared about what could happen, right. Obviously there is a bigger worldwide implications. But as a Marketer I might say is this a viable platform for me? You know I put all my time and energy into this particular thing. I don’t know we build an entire SaaS product that uses Facebook and we invested 6 months into building it.

And all of a sudden it’s going to change. Maybe if we invested 6 weeks in it you might have gotten a different answer or maybe if you spent a little less time building a majorly robust solution you would know how your consumer response to it much faster. So the concept truly is if it takes me just a few weeks to reach this level of knowledge but it takes everyone else 18 months. Because you had to write a functional requirement document, business requirement document, scope of work, went through legal, went through all these other things. I’m going to probably beat you every single time because I’m going to have the knowledge of what doesn’t work.

And I’m going to have the knowledge of what does work, and I’ll probably spend 1/100th of the cost. So that’s the challenge that we’re kind of posing to everyone today. And as you leave today I hope you take this concept back to you and say the opportunity cost of inaction. And I’m going to argue all of that as inaction, even though you are doing stuff. The action needs to be like, put something in front of a real person, really fast. By doing so you’re going to be able to gauge whether or not you’re successful. That’s an awesome opportunity to have, and the fact that you’re not doing it, a little scary for everybody; espescially me. So, this is what happens when you Google, ‘sad giraffe’. So toay, this is going to be our project. Our project today, is that all of you are mid to senior level Executives who work for Toys R Us.  

As most of you know Toys R Us is going under, so we are going to take a little blast from the past we’re going to go 12 months back. And we’re going to say things aren’t looking so good, we might be in trouble. I don’t really know what we’re going to do about it. But we’re probably going to sit on it for 12 months and then go do something. Right and they we’re probably going to go out of business since that’s happening right now. So, I’m going to give you a couple of little business problems and there printed out in both of the rooms you are going to go into, so you will have a copy of this handy. But this is actually real, so there is 20% decline in toy sales for Toys R Us Year over year for the last 3 years.

So toy sales are declining, delays and disruptions are causing product availability issues, so there’s a massive warehouse of toys But they don’t even have the toys that you want when they’re supposed to be there, not good. Amazon Wal-Mart and Target last holiday season basically played the low margin and lost leader game. And so Toys R Us whose only line of revenue is selling toys has justdied last season. They thought the holiday season might bring them out of this; it didn’t bring them out, right. So these are some real problems, so here’s what we’re going to do I’m going to break you guys up into two groups and we’re going to spend about 10 or 15 minutes intereviewing  a couple of people. So one will be a store manager, that Store manager is Audrey.

Audrey so you’re going to go in the Gulch, so you going to be able to talk to her and get some perspective on how does the store run, what’s good bad and the ugly about it. And I’m going to have Rich going to the go into Piedmont Park here. Rich is the father, he is actually a father in real life but I’ve made his children a little younger. So, he’s got I think like an 8 year old and a 13-year old and you are going to interview him, he’s been going to Toys R Us for years. And you are going to interview both of them and you are going to try to see what kind of insights you going to get out of them. You guys have writing materials, there’s papers and pencils and pens in those rooms so if you need any just let me know. But take some notes, these notes you’re going to want to take with you for the rest of the morning. We’re going to use these as the workshop progresses to start figuring out what is the real problem and also how do we start creating some solutions.

[Rich: Role Playing Father of 2] In the beginning we would go to Toys R Us and we would get… I’m really into board games. I’m try to get them to play other games but we used to get them at Toys R Us in the beginning, anyway.

Male: You said in the beginning as in when they were younger?

Male: Yeah like probably not my littlest one but when the older one was little we would probably be there more I think, now we get them from, like online. But a lot of stuff we get online. Although frankly I miss going to the stores it used to be a lot of fun, you know I’m sort of old school, so I like going to the store and playing with things. So we have fun I would say that my older, my daughter experienced that kind of fun alot. I don’t think my younger, my son did and that’s kind of frustrating when he was a kid.

Female: Can you describe a little bit more about what was frustrating about the experience?

[Rich:Role Playing Father of 2] Like I said a lot of times we wound end up buying stuff online and it wasn’t because it was cheaper it was because we knew we wanted to go, and I’d bring them home from school or something and we stop off at Toys R us because we thought we could just run in and get something. And I can say that a lot of the time they just didn’t have what we wanted. Like if we were looking for a game one of those plug-in packs, they would have a lot of the packs but they didn’t have the packs that they want. They were out of inventory. Or during the holiday season it was always some sort of a mad house and I didn’t feel that the staff knew what they were doing and so it was frustrating, definitely frustrating. It was frustrating for me because I liked being there initially.

Female: So what was it that you liked initially, tell me what was good about it?

Male: Well you could kind of play you know, or you can at least go through the aisles and see everything, which is really fun, but it’s not fun when the stuff is missing, it’s not fun when you are trying to find out about something and the staff doesn’t really know about it. And I found that they had a separate area for all the electronics and it was kind of gated you know cause I think they are afraid of people stealing things. So we would go from the Lego section that’s my favorite toy, to the electronic section where they want to get things, and it kind of felt like you have to go to this cornered off area in the airport a little bit. Which it’s not like the Apple Store doesn’t do that, the Apple store is all open you get to use things, you get to play with things. So Toys R Us over time when other stores would do things differently Toys R Us felt like, I don’t know what, maybe old school, and it’s like why am I getting electronics at an old school place, you know what I mean?

Male: So, if you think about like you know,birthdays and holidays, kind of holidays specifically in terms of how you spend your money, how would you say that’s changed over the last, versus buying stuff online versus buying stuff at Toy R US, or another kind of retailer, like that?

Male: Yeah I think that’s a good question. It used to feel like a familish outting you know. We go to the store play a little bit then get things. That used to be fun but, that ceased to be fun. So, around holiday times, for me I’m kind of more like, everyone is busy, we just going to get it online the kids are online anyway, they kind of know what they want and we can just order it. The challenge is I don’t really get to see the stuff and then we get it and maybe a couple of games that we got and I sort of felt like my daughter would be good with them but my son is a little young for it and I didn’t really get to know, until we got them.

[Audrey: Role Playing Store Manager]: No, I think we used to get a much happier, we used to get college kids when they were back home and they were just excited to do something like that and hang around kids, but now I think I get less passionate people, I think like I kind of take what I can get sometimes to be honest.  I have a lot of Part time employees no one is really full time so they are in and out. I would say that no one really have close customer relationships, whereas before I used to know some of the neighborhood families that would come in and they would come every week to get like a surprise and delight, a toy or something like that or a special occasion if something really went well like a dance recital or Ballet, whatever. And now that just doesn’t really happen I think they go get ice cream? But that’s also interesting, maybe if we had some other pairing, maybe that could pull people in. Just going off of that, you think about the Barnes and Nobles or the Starbucks in there.

Male: So I have an interesting question, One of your first statements is that people are in the store for 45 minutes but they walking out and that doesn’t convert your sales.

Female: No, it doesn’t

Male: Then what do you think it is? Are they eventually buying what they are looking at?

Female: No they just wander through the aisles, I don’t know if they maybe they are overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that they are seeing, but I see them go up and down up and down and stay around for 45 minutes and then just walk out empty handed.

Male: Do you think they go buy on Amazon or Wal-Mart?

Female: They might, I sometimes see people with their phones out, like they might be running the UPC, price checking and stuff, that might be happening, I’ve never really thought about it now that you say that I definitely might of noticed that a couple times.

Female: Do you offer price match or anything like that

Female: no, no prices are set by corporate. It’s hard to compete with an online store that can offer any toy under the sun, but I would say we at least excludes some of the crap that you’ll see on Amazon right like, you will see less of the China toys, or like if we do have them it’s like you don’t need necessarily 18 different versions of blocks, like, just the best block. I think that maybe that’s where the online fails and where I think we have a little bit of edge. Though I will say we have quite a bit of products.

[Robert Berris] How did it feel for those who haven’t done either customer discovery regularly or ever, how did it feel to do that, does it feel like an awkward process, easy, what were your thoughts?

Male: I’m sure for the person it, feels like an interrogation

[Robert Berris] So you say you felt like maybe the person feels interrogated a little bit, okay?

Female: Wondering if I was asking the right questions to get to the meat of the problem.

[Robert Berris] What do you think that would have helped you feel more comfortable or confident in doing that?

Male: A discussion guide

[Robert Berris] what’s that? dicussion guide? OK.

Male: A discussion guide, typically with flexible question, list it out, so you make sure you cover your basis, could have started off a little more high-level it was pretty neutral.

[Robert Berris] Anybody else who hasn’t done customer discovery? Any other thoughts?

Male: I’ve done it, I’ve been on both sides, what you realize, is the more you do it, I can tell if I did it more often, I’d be better at it.

[Robert Berris] Yeah, it’s a little bit of a learned skill, it’s a certain way of asking questions, generally you will put some more prep into it obviously. So, for the group who had the Store Manager, what did you guys learn? This will be good information for those of us who didn’t have the Store Manager. What did you guys learn from Audrey?

Male: She feels disconnected from the corporate body.

[Robert Berris] Do you know why she does?

Male: She has given ideas and doesn’t feel like they are being heard. But she is also disconnected from her customers, which is what she used to enjoy about her job.

[Robert Berris] And why is she disconnected from her customers now?

Male: Because they are not as thrilled to be in the store. She was mentioned about the environment within the store doesn’t seem to be quite as appealing anymore.

[Robert Berris] What else did we learn from the managers side of the table?

Female: That customers tend come in the store for 45 minutes but they leave without buying anything.

[Robert Berris] Wow, that’s a lot of time.

Male: That’s a lot of time in the store.

[Robert Berris] Interesting, Anything else?

Male: They could be using it as showroom for purchasing with someone else.

[Robert Berris] How so?

Male: By walking the aisles to get a hands on feel for the toys and then finding them for the cheapest price online.

[Robert Berris] Oh I see. How about the group from the dad group? You guys talked to Rich what did you learn about Rich?

Female: He used to have a more interactive experience. He likes to go places where he can feel and touch things And kind of being occupied with more of an entertaining experience. And then he talked about the Apple Store where he can go and play with things, his kids could go play with things.

Male: So I get the feeling that Rich and his kids have two very different perspectives on a retail experience?

[Robert Berris] Yes

Male: So for Rich he talked alot about, you know, I used to really like building and I kind of like the nostalgia of building a place experience it. So my kids don’t really care they want to get a toy or product or the game or whatever the thing is and then just kind of move on. So it felt to me like underneath some of it, there is really two different almost generational experiences there.

[Robert Berris] So maybe doing some customer discovery with kids could be an important part of the puzzle right? Maybe the child, then it comes back to the parent, because the parents has the buying power so maybe there is a little bit more research to be done there. What else did you guys find for Rich?

Female: Toys R Us lost its fun a little bit because it’s got heightened security and all of the fun stuff is in the cage, you know so, it’s just not as much as a fun experience.

[Robert Berris] Somehow Apple can have dozens of iPads and iMacs out and I got to cage up that Nintendo 64. What else did you guys learn?

Female: He talked a lot about how he wanted his kids to have some independence and some autonomy to sort of play or make decisions and make their own buying decisions. That’s what he kind of wanted for his kids. With a little bit of obviously regulation and being in touch. But he wanted experiences that fostered play, discovery, and independence for his kids that is something that he wanted to provide for his kids. So he referenced things like Amazon lists, where you can buy but the parent has the credit card. So and he referenced Apple a lot, which allows more interactive play. Giving the autonomy you get your children to play, he wants that.

[Robert Berris] Did either group hear anything from the Store Manager or the parents about what they observe children in the store?

Female: Children were coming into the store and sometimes just looking at their iPads, because they were more interesting than all of the toys surrounding them.

[Robert Berris] That’s probably a problem.

Male: They are not excited when they come in the toys at Toys R Us is no longer an excitement for kids coming in the past, It’s more like an adult shopping experience.

Male: Rich describes his older child, his daughter being bored essentially, so 11 year old might be able to find something interesting. His daughter was essentially bored in herself.

[Robert Berris] Interesting Okay. Any other big insights?

Male: One thing that I kind of picked up was that he talked about Apple and Amazon. Probably Amazon more than anything else. And it seems like a lot of the experiences of having a wish list, parental control over purchasing that a lot of those experiences that you get are kind of benefit of hands on retails. Whilst the online retailers have started to plug-in, in a way that is a little different but it serves the same function. So to buy, you can create a wish list that’s available, there are avenues to do all that stuff on online purchasing platform. There is no longer a disadvantage for buying something online.

Male: The biggest thing to me that seems to affect the experience, is the availability of inventory. You know when you leave your home to go somewhere usually with something in mind, and the place doesn’t have what you want. Immediately you start walking all over. And then if the experience of us walking wandering the aisle is also bad then, it really becomes less and less reason to go to the store.

[Robert Berris] Ok Cool, so we learned a good bit. Now I’m going to take that information and what I’m going to do is divide the groups up kind of put half the people what store manager and half the people for Dad in different groups again. We’re going to go through and define the problem the little bit more and start to ideate some solutions and then to make prototype.

So let me give you a little bit more information. So first of all, as I mentioned before it’s great to have some constraints. Not bad, it just kind of helps frame up you know, what you going to do. So one, I mentioned this before concepts must have scalability in mind, so whatever the solution you eventually get to just make sure that it’s something scalable. We don’t want to solve something for 1 Toys R Us you want to solve it for maybe all of them. The second one is that the pilot, so I want you to think a little further ahead so the so the pilot has to be live in 30 days. So again I will make the difference or the nuance, that today we going to build a prototype very light weight, very tiny.

But coming out of that, if your solution was that we have to build a skyscraper Toys R Us. It’s probably not going to be live in 30 days unfortunately. A little modular with building these days but I don’t think we can build a skyscraper that fast. So just think about that when you’re thinking about what solutions could be worth testing and why. And then you know a couple of other brand values, which I think are important to throw in, which is imagination and fun. They may seem generic but these are things that Toys R Us cares about. So just think about that in your solution as well we’re not going to solving business problems, but we are also solving people’s problems and maybe children problems. And finally southeast regions, so think about the southeast as opposed to all of the US or the other 1800 stores that exist across the world, we are just going to focus on one region.

So the things I want to mention that I believe Toys R Us believes or have positive towards selves they have things negatives but, here is king of how they view themselves they have very high brand awareness, they have a really good net promoter score, They have more toy selection than any other retail. They think that’s obviously a bonus for them but as you saw in earlier obviously there is a problem of supplying inventory. They have almost 1,800 locations in 37 countries with a ton of them in the US. So they think that that’s an advantage at the moment. Finally they have 64,000 associates, quite alot employees and the minimum age could be as little as 16 years old.

So just keep that in mind and this could be sort of first time jobs for alot of people. How might that impact some of the things you think about as your trying to change and build the solution, these might be the people that really implement what that is. I just have this up on the board just as a quick reminder. So again, they have a decline towards sales just want to refresh your mind. Product availability issues is still a really big problem. They can’t play the margin game right now and they have a single source of revenue. Just think about that as well, these are all problems that they have. And our position is that problems could become opportunities. So you never know what you could do if maybe you flip those on the head.

We have a couple of how might we’s in each room, you’ll find out which one you have when you get in there. But one, how might we; we want to kind of leverage as a source of inspiration. One group will be “how might we leverage or best asset in a different way”? And you’ll notice I’m not intentionally saying what our best asset is, so that would be a point of discussion for one of the groups. And then the other one is “how might we evolve our business model to include new lines of revenue”? As the single source is a issue that could be a big one as a lever to pull on and it can be something else.

So what we’re going to do? Here it is, so I’m just going to go through this a little bit more in the context of what you’re about to do. Rich and I will facilitate each room. So the first part of our exercise is problem definitions. So we’re going to discuss the how might we statement, we’re going to talk about maybe known’s versus unknowns. We’re going to talk about maybe some of the dimensions that problems have, maybe key questions we want to learn or ask. Again some constraints base ideation which pronounce some of the stuff I had on the presentation here. Think about how we can activate a prototype within a day. Think about that again, as you are ideating this thing will be one of the test that needs to be quick.

We need to be able to be done really quick. And finally what they going to learn from it, there’s no point of doing the test if you don’t have a solid plan to work. So what is it that you think you need to learn from doing this, and hopefully your prototype will answer that question. And then finally Prototyping just want to make sure we have a common definition of everything, really prototype is just something to make sure it feels real. So as long as it kind of feels look and smells real that’s all the consumer really needs to react to.

Imagine creating Kiosk, it looks you know  kind of okay, It’s an iPadd that’s glued on top of the kiosk and it looks really enough and then they realize that it’s not going to be beautiful but it’s not for them to react to or maybe interact with. And then when you’re creating a prototype. If you were idea were software driven, maybe you’re talking about why your frames some sort of mock-ups maybe physical, and then you know it could like an iPad, it could be physical like paper prototype or it could just be a process or service. You know if you guys think that the best thing they could do is make sort of a cool new service don’t know what that would be.

You can explain that as part of your Prototype. So there’s a lot of flexibility in what you can make, it’s really just whatever it is your brain. So before I divide you into groups, I just going to give you an icebreaker, we’re going to use to maybe help inspire some ideas. This terrifying stock photo of someone who looks like they are opening the Ark of the covenant from Indiana Jones, is knowledge of the earth is contained in that red box. I want you guys to think about and share with each other, your first memory of a toy you received, that was maybe your favorite one.

Male: Some of the thinking, was how to take that laboratory experience and monetizing it by basically charging the vendors to get the data. So instead of just using focus groups or maybe testing toys out in the market. This giant experience where everybody plays together would drive more data for toy manufacturers, where they would actually pay for that on an ongoing basis.

Female: Yeah so that was our new line of revenue where the outcome was a charge to the vendors

Male: This is a very challenging question

Male: With that, we had to figure out, also we have two groups that we are inviting into this. The parents that we want to target, but then also making sure our vendors, feel like this is an exclusive thing, that not everybody is going to be at, so they want to jump on it sooner than later. So what we are doing is creating an invite. So we’re creating an invite, very beautiful. Where we will target the parents whether that’s online, paid advertising, because we want to test and figure out if they start getting targeted for this information, this new Toys R Us lab experience, would they sign up for, would they be interesting in, would they want to learn more about it and would they even come to attend?

And then as far as the vendors go we would leverage the Toys R Us database with their relationships to get them to this event. So once we get them through the invite process, and they check it out and they sign up for it at their local area. They would then come to the in-store experience, what’s unique about in-store is there going to be two tracks; there’s going to be a track for when the kids coming to the stores, they get the experience, but then when the adults come they’re also going to be on an experience. So when you come in with your Kid your essentially interact with the Kiosk, you would check in your kid. We have this idea that Disney World has like the magic bands so that you know your kids can do stuff.

We would do this but not for the prototype stage, we want to do this for like a Dave & Buster’s Card. So they come in, the parents can load on money onto that card essentially, but that’s also the card that they have to check-in so there kid’s there and they have to use that to check-out, so you not losing your kid. They go through a  track up where they go this lab experience where there are tables set up with a toy expert, that has all these new products from the vendors, toys of the future, that they can then just play with and they can interact with get feedbacks on. Smiley face, frowny face, they like it, they don’t like it, all of it is being tracked on how they are interacting with that product, what they’re saying about it, how are we going to report back to the vendors everything we’re hearing live from these kids when they’re interacting with these products.

Once they do that, they continue from there hopefully the kids would like some of the things they would see other products and then they’ll be able to shop and buy, with that they get to do the check-out experience. They have their own card; they have their own payment method, they don’t have to go back to their parent. They can buy that toy themselves and check out. When the parent gets in, they are able to go the rest of the store experience for the shopping that they need, look at all of the merchandising and explore products and then buy for what their wanting to get for their kids on their own check-out train. And then the vendors are here, obviously bringing their products in but, they are also watching how these kids are interacting, what’s going on, what are they saying, and then at the end of this they’re going to get an entire KPI analytics package to show what was learned and how that can essentially affects the products that they’re going to bring to the market. And we have like a whole backend of that, of like how we are going to be a toy expert.

Male: Hi guys, I’m Andrew. So the idea with the toy kiosks, is you have a way to sort of interact and record your experience. So the big issue here is we paint ourselves as the experts, so if we are going to paint ourselves as the experts, we got to have ways to gather data about this new service, this new lab. So Parents and kids as they kind of interact through this toy lab and have an opportunity to provide feedback is it good, is it bad, do I like it, what do I not like, is it the best thing I’ve ever seen, or is it just okay kind of good. Right, so we’re trying to find a way to quantify the interaction and record the interaction.

Quick so there’s an online presence that we mentioned around how do we create ourselves, and set ourselves up as the experts in toys. So this is our kind of information about kids lab, what do you do, what do you see, what can parents expect right, so this is or once you’ve been invited here’s the detail. So parents have some degree of comfort that there’s a structure around this. And then also what do you get for doing it, do you get a discount, do you get early access, do you get customized stuff. So there’s going to be an incentive beyond just the fun experience for your kid. And so then we actually have our experts platform, which allows parents to learn more about the toys that are being developed and the toys in the future things that are in the market today.

And we kind of model this after what we think is like the sleepopolis type structure, I don’t know if you guys are familiar with that online mattress reviews, that multimillion-dollar industry that sprung up from like three guys in New York from just making websites. The idea is similar, sourced expert reviews with creative scoring and consistent scoring across a very wide product base creating expert profiles. We do that with a little edge. We connect all that stuff on this handy dandy architectural diagram that connect essentially the lab and connect to the data, the information that they connect to via your portal, right your expert portal and then all of your regular sales, you already have it, it’s Toys R US, you already have a leading source of data, source of truth. And then you take all that stuff and you sell that insight right back out to toy manufacturers. They’re taking part in the front-end right in collecting at least some data, but they don’t have the end-to-end data package of what it means to build new toys and monetize that kind of massive amount of data. So you sell into this new encrypted model and build a new line of revenue. How did we do?

Male 1: That sounds like really big step to do in one day. But our intent is really to mock most of it up, so it feels like what’s an experience could be, but do the one-day experience for everybody to gauge, whether or not people actually care, whether or not there’s enough interest that we think its monetizeable. So that a pilot might be rolled out where potentially we do the real thing at some low enough level to get the real insight and see what the monetize is.  

Male: First of all, we are the premiere toy brand in the world. We should be the Disney world of toys. Experienced based retail, that’s where the future is at and that’s how we’re going to save this company. So I actually wanted to change it to Disney World because that’s what you guys said, We love it, we love it. Here’s the idea, we’ll talk about a one-day prototype. Picture like what Build the Bear does for example, so 10 % of their retail is experienced based. You buy the bear, you experience it there, but then there’s all kinds of things that you can buy in addition, so there’s all types of retail and experiences that you can have. Well imagine an entire store that way. So our idea is to have as much experience base as you can. So picture the square like a 2000 foot square you know, empty space. In one corner, you’d have the video game lounge, so that it’s everything related to gaming.

And it’s not just where you sit around and play games like in a situation like this. You actually are right in there with the retail. So you might be playing games, you might be learning from an expert or influencer, but there is also just retail and you would shop for games and you would talk to other people around you. It’s not the Lego corner, it’s everything make corner, so it’s sort of the maker’s space for kids. So it’s Legos, and build a block or building blacks and those things you had when you were a kid. Just everything where you make things. Then you go over to another corner and it’s the imagination, everything from Cars to dolls to lands all of of that kind of stuff. And you have sort of an interactive area with that world, another one would be the family center where we do things together, everything from board games to group activities to that kind of stuff, even to the adult toys.

Okay so right in the center you have what you might think a lazy example might be a cafe. No; No ;No not ours, we are the Disneyland toys, we’re not just going to throw up a cafe where you can have a cup of coffee while you watch your kids play. We’re going to bring nostalgic toys back together we’re going to have toys that adults like playing. You know there’s Cards Against Humanity sitting right there. It’s not that you sit at a coffee shop and then there is Cards Against Humanity on the table. It’s that you are sort of sitting inside of a top retail experience. That’s what companies are doing now they are actually merging Experience and Retail together. So that’s what that idea is. Hold on by the way I forgot, our fifth corner is, because every box has five corners. Our fifth corner is the toy of the future corner. So it’s this area where toys are non-existent but you got companies that you partner with.

You take your entire idea and the make it part of the experience. It’s not jus seeing, it’s help invent, help learn, help us learn, help us create the toys and the play of the future as part of this experience and its’s tied with technology, and learning and partners and all this kind of stuff. It’s all about together, and what we need to do is first of all, we want to build a concept video. So in one day, a landing page essentially says, ok we are going to have this experience, we are going to build this thing, sort of in a pop-up store fashion. It’s going to open up in 29 days (we gotta get this thing done in a month) so it’s going to open up in 29 days and we are going to bring a couple thousand people to this landing page and see if they will sign up for it. Our goal is to get 2,3 hundred people to sign up to come to this experience and we’re going to build it out. So our first prototype is the landing page and the video, and then in 29 days, we actually think we can build the experience.

[Robert Berris] Yeah, so generally this process is many days long, is starts generally with a 4,5 day process. You spend a full day on doing this with problems. Just a full day of immersing yourself in the journey of what people go through. Who is involved to make this happen obviously store employee’s, parents, and children. There’s a lot of elements to who make all of this possible. So you spend a ton of time there, and then you hone in on one part of that journey to really focus in on. But we look at it in the sense that, if you didn’t fix that part of the journey, does the rest of it just fall apart? We try to prioritize problems in that way. Where it’s like it’s a such a massive unknown, we don’t fix it, we can’t really move forward with anything else.

So, with that every time we’re done, by the time we’re actually prototype and learn something. We’re essentially doing a, I would almost call like a digest of what happened during the week, so what did we observe from the consumer standpoint, as well as from us in the workshop? What are still some key unknowns and what are still some key problems that have not yet been solved? And maybe even more importantly, of what we just learned, what more do we need to learn? So we might learn that our landing page is a total failure. But we might’ve also learned that people really just wanted, like I don’t know, like an iPad experience when they walk in or something. So they just hold an iPad, and they navigate from aisle to aisle, and that’s want they really wanted, so we might you know iterate on that prototype, and build the second one and we build it in just a few days. So we try to really, digest each day and kind of record it in a way so that we can start planning out our next few design sprints. So that we have a running backlog of like hey we have 15 things we still don’t know and we are increasing confidence here or we are still pretty lost over here; so it’s kind of a very manual process, for a lack of a better word. But we are constantly looking back at that to figure out, what do we still not know? All sort of great ideas coming here in the form of solution and problem and we just have to keep track of that and kind of keep kind of a key prioritize. Any other questions, Rich?

Male: Just an observation that we made as well, when we’re going through the work. And Andrew spoke to this, it’s really easy to think that you’re actually following process and then kind of either circle navigate around it or forget that you didn’t actually finish something and move on to the next thing. When half the wall still needs to be filled up with stuff. It’s just our natural tendency to want to solve things quickly because that’s what human beings are all about. If the Lions about to eat you, you have to get away from it, so it’s easy to say, Ah, I got to go. And so that’s part of our job as facilitators is to ensure that that doesn’t happen. So we like to beat people up enough so we know we’ve covered all the grounds so we get all of the answers. We get full context, it’s hard to do that, as human beings it’s hard to do that. Just a thought and observation about it.

Male: Does this process and your experience change from a B2B to a B2C?

[Robert Berris] It may affect how difficult it may be to test the concept, but that’s something we talk about well before we ever get into one. So that we are able to say, how might we get those people engaged and invoved, so you try to work around a little bit. But it should be the same process, ultimately you are creating it for them. And what we hope and what we have found is that our clients, they have really close relationship with some of their B2B customers. And so they try to involve them in the process. What’s actually really kind of neat, and we’ll do this when we can. We’ll involve consumers and customers in the first day. And really get them to make sure, do we really know the problem? Do you have a perspective that maybe we are just not seeing because it’s hard for us to see.



Jen is a bridge between clients and 352 teams—helping to drive client value while ensuring an amazing experience. She meets with clients to deeply understand their overarching challenges and needs and then activates the right 352 team members with the right set of skills, expertise and insights to produce the best results.

A nurturer at heart, she knows how to bring people together to propel innovation, growth and digital development. Recognizing how great 352 does innovation attracted her to the company. She’s worked with several well-known brands to launch and unveil new products. She spent six years working with Coca-Cola on a variety of marketing and branding initiatives and helped Kimberly-Clark reinvent Kleenex tissues by shifting its association with sickness to becoming a symbol of care. She also worked with Verisign to globally reposition four of their top level domains including .com and .net.

She credits her background in theater and English degree from Wofford College for giving her passion and expertise for telling stories that capture humanity—and guiding clients on how to engage an audience through storytelling.

When not working, Jen enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog, Chianti, and attending Atlanta United FC soccer games.