“Evidence is Critical”: Design Thinking with Tracie Wolfmeyer

Integrating Design Thinking into Startup Innovation, with Tracie Wolfmeyer.

“8 out of 10 startups will fail.” With this statement, Tracie Wolfmeyer began her talk on how she, and other successful entrepreneurs, have integrated design thinking into their startups to ensure that they are in the 2 out of 10 startups that succeed.

Tracie Wolfmeyer is currently the Director of Innovation and Human-Centered Design Services at Oracle, the largest business software company in the world. At the Skandalaris Center’s Meet & Eat on March 28, 2019, she shared insights for attendees about how to integrate design thinking concepts into their early-stage startups.

Wolfmeyer’s biggest piece of advice focused on utilizing the evidence, which is crucial for any startup–or established business. Relying on examples of companies such as Best Buy and LEGO that have successfully used design thinking in the past, Tracie explained to attendees that relying on past experiences for current solutions is a crutch. “You have an idea based on your professional history? Great. Put a pin in that,” she encouraged the audience. Instead, “let’s look at the evidence.”

Tracie Wolfmeyer explains to attendees how Best Buy used design thinking to re-imagine their in-store sales experience for customers.

A main aspect of design thinking is leaning on customers for feedback on potential solutions. “Coming up with the right idea takes work,” Wolfmeyer admitted, but the customers who are relying on your ideas are best-suited to help you find the right ones.

Esther Koh, a PhD student in the McKelvey School of Engineering, agreed, and pointed to the concrete resources and practical steps that Wolfmeyer laid out for participants as extremely useful takeaways. Wolfmeyer’s dedication to entrepreneurship shone through, as she arrived early and stayed late to speak with participants individually. “That’s really meaningful,” Esther added.

Byron Porter, a full-time MBA student in the Olin Business School, also learned about some best practices for his own startup. “I wish I’d known this when I was an undergraduate,” he said with a laugh, adding that it would’ve helped him think about how to best organize his own company.

Wolfmeyer’s final take-away? Have fun. “Empathize. Humanize,” she prompted the audience. Having fun with your team and your product are vital, and those good team relationships can go a long way towards ensuring that everybody is on the same page.

In addition to speaking at this week’s Meet & Eat event, Tracie Wolfmeyer also serves as a startup mentor for the Skandalaris Center’s Hatchery course.