Lower Risks Better Choices Webinar | HRDQ-U

Lower Risks, Better Choices and Greater Adaptability: Activating the 5 Practices for Building a More Innovative, Change-Ready Team

This On-Demand event was originally presented on June 1, 2022 (60 min)


Between 2005-2015, Design-led, publicly traded companies outperformed the S&P Index by 211%. Why?

  1. More than ever, customers and employees are rewarding organizations who take the time to understand and address their desires with thoughtful products, services, and experiences. Designers naturally begin any problem-solving process by understanding the observed desires of the end user before exploring feasibility and viability constraints.
  2. Customer and employee expectations are changing faster than ever. Design-led organizations develop the required agility by testing behavioral assumptions quickly and cheaply before committing to larger development.


These compelling fiscal reasons have elevated design thinking to the top of executive priorities and to the wings of many organizations; however, human-centricity and agility have not traditionally been innate qualities of most organizations. In recent years, we’ve seen strategic investments made by blue chip organizations (headcount, workspaces, training, events, software, acquisitions) to engage customers and peers with more empathy, curiosity, desire to meet needs, speed to concept and courage to adapt; however, results have been mixed.

In this insightful and engaging presentation, Adam Billing and Dan Parkinson will introduce you to the strategies used by Treehouse Innovation’s clients and others to successfully generate ROI from investments in becoming a Design-led organization.

Attendees will learn

  • The common strategies business leaders use to become more Design-led so you can benchmark against your own experiences.
  • The connection between the five most impactful design thinking practices and their correlated business outcomes so you can reflect upon these practices in your own team(s).
  • To identify common barriers to the adoption of these practices within an organizational culture so you can anticipate and avoid them.
  • How others are addressing these barriers so you can understand the tools and strategies that are available.
  • The six measurable, developmental behaviors among participants in design thinking projects so you can reflect upon your own competencies and implement strategies to close gaps.
  • The minimum viable levels of competency required to effectively apply design thinking practices in a corporate environment so you can develop some targeted strategies.


Adam Billing is the founder of Treehouse Innovation. He has spent most of his career working with companies to design new products, services, and strategies to develop their own internal innovation capability. Formerly with Ernst & Young Consulting, Adam has led numerous innovation projects and design events for all types of organizations. Recent clients include Amazon, NBCUniversal, eBay, Sony PlayStation, DuPont, Microsoft, and many others.

He is a frequent lecturer on Cambridge University’s executive education and leadership development programs. He has additionally designed and delivered learning and leadership programs with top business schools, including Imperial College London, The Judge Business School in Cambridge, Rice University, Georgia Tech, and others.

Dan Parkinson is a relationship lead and consultant at Treehouse Innovation, specializing in capability development. For the last 10 years, he has worked with global organizations and premier business schools to build and sustain human-centered innovation and change capabilities.

Connect on Twitter and at www.treehouseinnovation.com.


Lower Risks, Better Choices and Greater Adaptability: Activating the 5 Practices for Building a More Innovative, Change-Ready Team
Treehouse Innovation

Established in 2010, Treehouse Innovation is a band of entrepreneurs, designers, educationists, and technologists. We partner with our clients to produce creative solutions and learning outcomes that have a resounding impact on organizational culture. In addition to consulting services, Treehouse offers an end-end stack to help teams independently apply human-centered design practices.

Learn more about Treehouse Innovation

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4 Responses

  1. Question: Adam, what inspired you to create the treehouse innovation business?

    Answer: Oh, it’s a great question. Well, I’ll tell you, it’s It might sound a little bit cheesy. But as I’ve been doing innovation work for for pretty much my whole career. And it was always sort of project so going in working with organizations over multiple months coming up with solutions, product services, whatever would be but we were always kind of coming in and being that kind of outside expert that came in and did that work, which was fun. rewarding and great. But one of the things that was consistently the most rewarding for me is when we would come in, there would always be those folks inside our client organization that, that was kind of excited about this and wanted to learn, and we would always invite, you know, the clients come in and collaborate as part of our project team. And, and the kind of reactions that we would hear from people who are kind of learning about this stuff with us, you know, it’s kind of not part of their day job, but we’re hearing things like, you know, I didn’t know this existed, like, this is kind of what I’ve been looking for my whole life, like this way of working.

  2. Question: How do we help prepare people who are set in their ways or don’t want to change?

    Answer: So it’s a really good question. So, I mean, you can’t you can’t make people change. I think we all know that. I think the the first rule that we have, because we’ll come into organizations where sometimes, you know, we’ll be seen as bringing in a new, a new set of tools and a new set of norms, that might be a bit threatening to the way things are done business as usual. So we’ll we’ll end up working with some stakeholders that that, you know, aren’t that enthusiastic or don’t understand what’s what’s, what’s going to change, and therefore, kind of resisting it. I think the first rule that we take in is to never make a person wrong, right, we’re never there to make them. To say that their way is not as good as ours are to say that are, you know, we’re coming in with it with the new solution. It’s never that posture at all, it’s really kind of practicing a lot of what we preach in the methodology itself, it’s seeking to meet those folks where they are, to try to really understand sort of, you know, where they’re coming from what their world looks like. And in spending some special time not to necessarily kind of convinced them, but to kind of identify the best way through understanding where they’re at and what matters to them, for them to start to come in, and have some experiences with this way of working. And now, I can’t say it’s with 100% success. But I will say that we do find that if you’ve got a resistor, who is or is someone who doesn’t want to engage with with with some of these methods, then, by giving them some safe opportunities that you understand, you know, about their world are meaningful. They can sometimes Believe it or not become some of your loudest proponents. You know, they’re often very passionate about their role. And if they’re able to try things out, get some different kinds of outcomes, then you can end up with vocal supporters. But so I guess the answer, never make them wrong. Give them you know, understand where they’re coming from, and craft opportunities for them to try things out in a safe way to get some of their own successes.

  3. Question: Once we’ve established a point of view on how design thinking addresses those threats or opportunities, it then becomes a question of, what are we going to do about that?

    Answer: So a great question there from Alex, I can share a quick story. There’s a large media organization that we’ve worked with for many years. And they are like many in that sector. It’s a pretty high pressure business, it’s about timelines, it’s about, you know, it’s about getting the news out quickly, you know, before your competitors. And these tend to be very, very kind of intense environments. But they’re also very creative environments and energizing for the right kind of folks to work in. But one of the one of the issues were that, that sort of big personalities, were winning out. And not always the best decisions were being made, because they were being driven kind of this kind of hierarchy of, kind of what’s the word and were they the biggest extroverts were making the biggest bang and leading the direction a bit, a bit more, and it wasn’t always pleasant for everybody else. And when we introduced design thinking in that one of the practices is, is about inclusivity and it’s about bringing in lots of different voices, and very purposely stepping back from one’s own ideas and within there’s lots of methods that and frameworks that really just kind of kind of cement that in to a way of working so you know, there were certain things where if an eye if the solution needed to be found quickly for a problem, it was replacing the reflex with let’s go to the loudest person you know who we always go to and have them decide or that that senior person and then decide to let’s quickly convene a small group some folks from you know, from editorial some from advertising, some from you know, print media, some from radio and And, and sort of work it out that way. So this much more kind of collective mindset started to sink in. And again, it only really took root. After people were able to observe that the outcomes of that kind of collective process was better than it was by just letting the kind of loudest voices and biggest personalities take the take the take the decision. So again, kind of comes back to that point of capturing those stories, sharing them allows you to have the impact allows you to really see these things take root.

  4. Question: Well, Judy asked the question, what is the best approach to rolling this concept across a large public agency that has always done it that way? 50 departments and 2000 employees? So that’s a great question.

    Answer: In terms of the best approach to overcoming that, I will just say that there are three components that we always look to make sure moving in harmony, to get a transformation like this across the line. First and foremost, is making sure we have engaged leaders. And in the case of this law firm, we had CEOs sponsorship, and top team sponsorship, their job not necessarily doing all of these things, as part of you know, you know, they’re not the frontline innovators necessarily, but they knew how to recognize these new behaviors, these things that might be, you know, very uncomfortable for people, and they need to visibly show that these are a value, these are important and need to model those as much as they can. So engaged leadership is a big piece of it, making sure you’ve got broad awareness throughout the organization. So when people start trying these different ways of working, these new mindsets start seeping in. They don’t act as sort of the white blood cells that will attack the thing that is different. And you know, developing some capability within the firms will get some champions from ambassadors to go out. Very important. And the last piece is just to start capturing some evidence of a real impact to real work, real stories that come from your organization.


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