By: Executive Education

It was April 2014, a month after Shane Greenwood finished Bootcamp at the Stanford Shane, the digital design director at The Clorox Company, was sitting down for coffee with the project manager for Clorox’s Soy Vay product line, a marinade undergoing a marketing re-design.

The moment they walked in the room they were caught off guard and I knew I had them right there.

In the weeks following Bootcamp, Shane began implementing his new-found design thinking knowledge in small ways on big projects such as Soy Vay. The coffee meeting was an opportunity for Shane to see if the project lead would be open to trying a new approach to Soy Vay’s marketing plan. The project lead jumped on board, and a week later Shane had the entire Soy Vay team in a room. Everyone, from the project lead on down, attended.

“I wanted it to be a bit of an ambush,” said Shane looking back on the experience. He picked a lovely conference room and dragged all of the furniture out of it, creating a wide, open space.

"The moment they walked in the room they were caught off guard, and I knew I had them right there."

The workshop lasted half a day. Nearly half of the team members assembled had some exposure to design thinking or The Clorox Company’s design thinking-inspired method called “connective thinking," which was developed years ago, in part at Stanford.

“Like a lot of big marketing organizations, we talk about our end user in broad marketing terms,” said Shane, “When we’re designing we have to go to the edge cases and the stuff that doesn’t really make sense in pure marketing terms.”

The team, to that end, engaged in a number of empathy and brainstorming techniques to explore existing personas. They identified their original challenge, which was to build a website with recipes featuring Soy Vay. The team had also identified their design subject as a tech-savvy “hipster mom." While exploring her needs, wants and contradictions, the team hit on a key insight.

“It clicked that we’re using our technology in the kitchen; she’s tech savvy and our product is this gloppy, sticky gooey brown sauce,” said Shane. “That resonated in the room with everybody with equal force. That was a lightbulb. Somebody called her 'chicken fingers' and in that moment, we thought, ‘That’s it.’ We’re designing this website for ‘chickens fingers'. She wasn’t 'hipster mom' any more, she was 'chicken fingers'.”

Then the challenge became how to create recipes someone could use while their hands were drenched in raw chicken and marinade. Rather than merely an audio recipe or video, the team collaborated with Google to develop the first consumer-level, voice-to-browser feature, which allows someone to speak to their browser as they would to a Google Home device, Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Echo. This was years before Home or Echo, and well before Siri’s current, more sophisticated form. Voice recognition through a website was, at the time, breakthrough technology.

“If the business manager hadn’t been in the room,” said Shane, “I don’t think this would have gone anywhere.”

Therein lies the big takeaway. When Shane ran the design thinking workshop with the Soy Vay team, he made sure everyone was in the room. He also worked with the team to turn their perceived roadblocks into design constraints. He then helped them use those constraints to generate new ideas and imagine new and completely different solutions. Then, with everyone in the room, the path from an idea worth testing to action was radically shortened. The team was able to keep momentum.

“This project is part of a pattern of the work that I’ve done here and that my team has done that has embraced this open collaborate spirit and this way of working together,” said Shane. “I think Soy Vay is one of the best examples we have of it. We do this stuff every week now. It’s not just a special occasion. It’s kind of how we roll.”

Going forward, Shane hopes that design leaders recognize that while design thinking may seem like a recipe at first, it’s much more. It’s about bringing together diverse teams and sharing the knowledge of creative problem-solving with others. That, more than following a recipe on your own, is the prerequisite to success.

Written by Emi Kolawole

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