Welcoming Jason Cha to The Design Gym Team

Our client work doesn’t come up all that often in our communications. Sure, from time to time, we’ll talk about it on the blog, write about it in the newsletter, or casually mention it in a Bootcamp or workshop. But frequently, we hear from community members, “Oh!? I didn’t know you work with organizations.”

The truth of the matter is it’s a significant part of the work we do. And like our community education, it’s growing.

Our work with client organizations is very much rooted in the same belief system as our community education offerings: We’re not just teaching design thinking, but rather working to empower individuals and teams to create culture change within their organizations. And helping us to do that is a new addition to The Design Gym team!

design-gym-photobooth-48We are extremely excited to announce and introduce you to Jason Cha, who is coming on board as our Director of Training and Culture Strategy. Some of you may know Jason from his previous work with us as a Lead Trainer. In this role, Jason will be responsible for working with our client organizations to build internal design thinking capabilities and increase internal creativity and collaboration.

Originally from Chicago, Jason made the long voyage to New York at the turn of the century to be a middle school science teacher (I know, didn’t totally surprise us either!). From there things took a path-altering turn. Jason worked in advertising as a brand strategist and then spent over 10 years as an innovation and strategy consultant—developing new products and business ideas for companies like PepsiCo, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble. In the last 5 years, he’s shifted his focus from products to people, working on training and culture development at ?What If! Innovation Partners for clients such as Google, Disney, Pfizer, and Citi.

Other than the fact that Jason is just an all-around awesome human being, he brings with him a ton of knowledge and passion that we’re super excited to tap into. To introduce you to the design thinker behind the glasses, we played a round of 5 questions.

1. What got you into design thinking, innovation and training work?

I’ve always been very interested in two areas: creativity and human behavior. This has led me to work at the intersection of these two fields, and design thinking happens to live at this intersection as well. More recently, I’ve developed an appreciation for how important it is for people to be creative in other areas of business as well, not just marketing or product development. That’s why I now spend my time and energy helping organizations develop their own creative potential—so, essentially, I’m developing people instead of products.

2. What shaped your perspectives and the way you look at DT and innovation?

I’m not sure where it comes from, but I tend to be a fan of the simpler, less flashy, grittier version of things. To some degree, that’s probably affected the way I look at innovation. While I’m in awe of some the amazing inventions that don the covers of Fast Company, I also love the small, everyday acts of creativity and innovation that happen in our day-to-day lives that say a lot of about an organization’s culture. It could be something that a Customer Service rep does to fix an unexpected problem or an unconventional way of conducting research with limited resources. To me, these applications of design thinking and creative problem solving capture the spirit and mindset of innovation as much as the big, category-disrupting stuff.

3. What’s been one of the best, most fulfilling, perspective-changing things about the work you’ve done?

There’s a psychologist named Robert Waldinger who directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which has been tracking the lives of hundreds of people over a 75-year period. It’s a one-of-a-kind research study, and based on all of their data, they found that ONE thing mattered when it came to living a good life: good relationships.

That jibes with my experience. While I’ve worked on some exciting projects that I’m very proud of, my absolute favorite thing about this work is that it has enabled me to develop meaningful relationships with people (colleagues and clients), whom I find inspiring, thoughtful and smart as hell.

4. Why did you choose to work for The Design Gym?

HUMAN-CENTERED MISSION: I very much believe in The Design Gym’s mission of educating people and guiding teams to make a positive impact in the world by being more creative and collaborative problem-solvers. They are single-minded about this mission and that conviction appeals to me.

COMMUNITY MINDSET: The Design Gym is very active in building and advancing a broader community of creative thinkers and doers (apart from their organizational clients) who are using their creative powers to make a difference in the world. They also have meaningful relationships with diverse clients in the corporate, nonprofit, and startup worlds, which I find inspiring.

ENTREPRENEURIAL CULTURE: It’s easy to talk about the importance of having an entrepreneurial culture, but when you’re a 3 year-old organization, you have to walk the entrepreneurial walk every day. I look forward to the rewards and struggles of being a part of that environment.

5. What are some of the opportunities you are looking forward to in your role?

I thoroughly enjoy being in the “classroom” teaching people about design thinking and innovation. However, this is often only the beginning of the journey. To change group behaviors, it takes a deeper commitment to rethinking and reshaping the broader systems at play in our lives. The opportunity to drive this kind of culture change work for clients is something that I look forward to.

We’re ecstatic to welcome Jason to the team. Want to drop Jason a line? Tweet him @hmm_interesting or [email protected].


Andy Hagerman
[email protected]
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