Genia Stevens is a marketing strategist, strategic planner, and business coach. For almost 20 years, Genia has supported nonprofit and for-profit clients with strategic planning, business plan development, marketing strategy development, and community engagement. Her company Belwah Media has been named LGBT Business of the Year by the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber. Genia is also a member of the Forbes Agency Council, an invite-only organization for successful and diverse executives in marketing, PR, media, and advertising.
In 2016, Genia was introduced to design thinking during a business trip in San Francisco. She didn’t fully grasp the concept then, but she learned enough to know she wanted to make some changes in the way she worked with her clients.
What exactly is design thinking?
Design thinking is a collaborative and creative problem-solving process that helps companies and organizations remove the bottleneck that keeps them from meeting their goals. This process helps teams find solutions that address the various challenges they might be having in their organization.
What does the design thinking process look like?
There are five basic phases in the design thinking process. Empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Working through these phases allows a team to take that deep dive necessary to refocus on their staff, community, and key stakeholders.
You’re a marketing strategist. What would this process look like from a marketing perspective?
So people get a good idea of how the design thinking process works, I will usually run a marketing workshop like a design thinking exercise. I ask participants to first think about their users’ needs and desires. From there, we define the problem that might address the issues users are having and then we brainstorm various marketing ideas on how to address these challenges. These might be community outreach issues, branding issues, messaging issues, or simply issues around the user experience. We then move into prototyping some of those ideas.
You mentioned before the interview that your business model has changed because of design thinking. How so?
Before I started implementing the design thinking process into my work, clients would hire me to develop a marketing strategy and they remained fairly hands-off during the process. Now, I insist on clients being very involved in the process. I consider it a disservice to my client to create a strategy that doesn’t involve full participation with their team. In addition, I now ask that clients involve their stakeholders in this process as well. I decline work if potential clients state they are unable to agree to these terms.
Why is it important to you that your clients involve their stakeholders in their strategy development?
It’s important to have diverse voices at the table when brainstorming solutions for the problems you have at your organization. If a client chooses to live in an echo chamber, it’s a waste of money when they spend it on me – especially when you’re implementing the design thinking process.
Where would our readers go if they wanted to learn more about design thinking?
I’m obsessed with IDEO and their classes. That’s my go-to resource for everything design thinking. The content they have on their website is very informative and their instructors are great. Also, I’m a member of Interaction Design Foundation. They have great information as well.