Every year, the marketing and production team has an offsite meeting to plan a tactical path to our goals. We spend a couple of months surveying internally to determine what our challenges and opportunities are, develop case studies to encapsulate them and split into working groups to come at it from different perspectives. The outcomes of this event are often the nexus for our continuous process development and communications strategies.

This year, we analyzed expectations, silos, collaboration, communication, training, streamlining, new products and smooth delivery. Our day began with squad panels and asking ourselves questions about the current and future states of digital marketing as a whole. The discussion took some interesting turns. For instance, voice search will impact blog content, social advertising and SEO; we examined how keywords require longer strings and sentence construction, no longer limited to near-me and longtail structure.

As a method of unpacking the challenges, we employed design thinking. This is a process that asks us to use solutions-based thinking instead of problem-based thinking. How is it different? Simply, solution-based thinking focuses on finding solutions and coming up with ways to effectively tackle the problem. Rather than looking at this as an obstacle, we examine the ways around them.

There are four rules in design thinking:

  1. The human rule: Within every interaction, there is a human connection. This needs to be the centre of the solution.
  2. The ambiguity rule: Ambiguity happens. Plan for how the solution can reach the limits of our ability and encompasses the complete scope of our intellectual grasp. See things differently.
  3. The redesign rule: Technology changes, social circumstances change. The human rule remains unchanged. As we design and redesign, we think of user goals and outcomes.
  4. The tangibility rule: Tangible ideas created in the form of prototypes enable us to communicate them more effectively.

Next, the five phases of design thinking:

Using these four rules above, the design thinking process can be broken down into five phases: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

  1. Create an empathy map to put our users at the centre of the problem. What do they say, think, feel and do?
  2. Based on the user’s context of the problem, define a problem statement that focuses on what we need to solve.
  3. Start thinking of creative ways to solve the defined problem. Here, we challenge our assumptions and use lateral-thinking to come up with options and explore alternatives. We create a user journey map to understand how people navigate the problem and recreate their experience to better understand it.
  4. Develop tangible plans to address the problem. The solutions need to address and incorporate everything that you’ve identified in the previous steps. Our solutions will need to be tested for limitations, flaws, and the need for iterative redesign.
  5. This is the process of the real-world application of our ideas. We anticipate that at this stage there will be some bouncing back to Prototyping until we perfect the ideas, and that’s okay.


Ultimately, one of the outcomes was that our breakout groups came up with small pivots to process that can be implemented fairly easily. Although many of the case study problems were different in the prototype solution phase, there were striking similarities in the potential solutions to address the different problems. This was very encouraging and suggests that we have a group consensus on what we need to do to level up and assimilate for growth in 2020.