We went everywhere. We talked to everyone. Here’s what we heard.

Like you, we felt we needed more candy. Done.

Like you, we felt we needed more candy. Done.

October was crazy. Everywhere we went, we connected with incredibly creative, open people who shared their challenges and opportunities. We talked about design thinking, mindful exploration, curiosity, resourcefulness, the goodness in people and the importance of doing important work.

Here’s a sampling:

A Patient Experience Officer from an urban healthcare system who told us that she is motivated by the numbers, but inspired by the emotion she encounters every day. She sees the next level of Patient Experience as a design challenge: building on her team’s expertise, co-creating with others to turn the emotions behind the metrics into tangible, human-centered, common-sense design interventions. 

A UX Designer from a major retailer who is pushing his colleagues to look beyond the artifact and consider the ecosystems that surround his discipline: to help individuals take control of their own health journey with innovative services and products. Yet another disruptor working to improve healthcare experiences.

Our Airbnb host, a math teacher, who invited us into a conversation about the nature of consciousness, our obligation to each other as humans and our shared search for truth, both in this life and the hereafter (and he mixed an inspirational White Russian!).

Architects that only do architecture as a last resort. Instead, they use rigorous research to go far upstream with their healthcare clients, understanding the systems that impact their ability and capacity to deliver healthcare experiences: culture, population health, finances, competitors, brand, infrastructure (we added communications as a critical element, and are planning to publish an article with them). Clients come to them saying “we need a new patient tower;” this group helps determine whether those assumptions are valid before spending millions. Seem like a good idea?

CEO of a Housing Nonprofit that dedicates her time and talent to keeping the mentally ill stably housed: their staff, volunteers and board need to codify a complex, multi-faceted process. They told their story to a LEAN consultant, who sought our help to distill a 32-page book into a single service graphic.

Asked to bring another storytelling workshop to nonprofit leaders, we heard the story of a young woman whose life was literally saved by volunteering at a local food & clothing pantry: intending to harm herself, she decided at the last minute to respond to a friend’s invitation. When she saw the impact of her contribution on the lives of others, she changed her mind!

The Northern Michigan University wildcat was hungry.

The Northern Michigan University wildcat was hungry.

An Innovation Incubator presentation to students and professionals who engaged in a wide-ranging discussion about entrepreneurship, the challenges of moving from academic to professional life and the value of storytelling.

A philanthropic fund development officer who told us that the work we’d done together resulted in a handwritten thank-you note from her Executive Director and a generous gift certificate for dinner out. Nice!

An expert on experience design for waiting rooms who moderated a lively discussion via the Beryl Institute: we explored how the time spent waiting can be healing, supportive and productive for guests and caregivers alike.

The CEO of a data visualization software company asking our opinion on how well his tools support our efforts to describe complex systems (aka wicked problems) by creating interactive relationship maps. We’ve been learning to use this tool for almost 2 years, and tutoring others as well.

A team of service line Patient Experience leaders who described a cultural and administrative disconnect between front-line clerical and specialized clinical staff: they operate under different management, with different scheduling software. Aside from their frustration with each other and with the system, who is most impacted? Patients and families. Gotta fix that.

Leaders from government, science, business and communications rolling up their sleeves to get some deep thinking done.

Leaders from government, science, business and communications rolling up their sleeves to get some deep thinking done.

A team of Waste Stream specialists who have enlisted us to help visualize the systems (geographic, governmental, cultural, market-based, educational) that enhance or inhibit our ability to recognize that, as consumers, our individual material choices impact our air, land, water and climate.

The Chief Experience Officer of an academic medical center who asked us to describe our experience in finding her office through the labyrinth of city streets, parking, modern-day and nineteenth-century buildings. We used words like “high-stakes” and “adrenalized” — and we weren’t even sick. We saw first hand how bewildered their guests were having run that gauntlet, and discussed how design can make a difference for them.

The 2nd Annual Society for Participatory Medicine Conference, which included presentations from patients, experts, practitioners, technologists, innovators, heros and entrepreneurs; networking; tango dancers (seriously!) and a workshop to develop a Participatory Medicine Manifesto. We’d compare this day to sipping from a fire hose.

Professionals at a Child Abuse and Prevention Conference who generously shared their expertise in a research-gathering workshop. Together, we identified the barriers, opportunities, values and mindsets that underlie our society’s struggles with this fundamental reality, and discussed how they — and we as members of society — can work every day to help change it.

An Architect/Interior Designer who faces the challenge of renovating a portion of a building on a strict budget, while seeing the larger informational and brand integration opportunity that a comprehensive wayfinding program can bring to her client’s sprawling healthcare campus: all to improve caregiver and patient experiences, and her client’s competitive offer as well.

A Leadership Roundtable including individuals from across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) representing healthcare, insurance, education, government, philanthropy, social services, innovation centers and practitioners. This group has been meeting for three years — working together across geographic, competitive and disciplinary lines — to improve health outcomes in the U.P.; an excellent example of Collective Impact in action.

A Pediatric Maxillofacial Surgeon on his program to teach design thinking principles to surgical fellows before they become practicing surgeons, so they learn to think both entrepreneurially and in human-centered terms. Working with engineers and product designers, the students develop, prototype and test surgical innovations both in product and digital spaces.

Our little Einstein and his pumpkin-headed brother, ca 2001.

Our little Einstein and his pumpkin-headed brother, ca 2001.

And finally, my now 25-year-old son who told us that his memories of Halloween with his little brother are some of the best of his life.

To those of you who recognize yourselves in this list, thank you for enriching our lives and our practice with your insights and challenges. And for those of you who’ve finished this article, please reach out to us so we can begin a conversation. 

And of course, if you’d like introductions to any of these good folks, we’re happy to facilitate that as well.