Category Archives: General

The first in the five-part Did You Know? Series.
Thrive in the 21st century: introducing Business 3.0.

By Parker Lee
President, XPLANE

This first post of our blog Series introduces how companies need to embrace a new way of connecting with employees and customers. Its what we call “Business 3.0.”  The Did You Know? Series supports the release of our video, “Did You Know? 6.0: Change to Thrive.”

Change is the norm. Are you adapting?
Technology and behavior megatrends are reshaping business globally. XPLANE lives this reality with clients every day. To advance and grow, organizations need new ways to connect to both employees and customers, because old paradigms are costly. For example, Kodak was #43 on the Fortune 500 list in 1975. It went bankrupt in 2012. Borders was #485 in 2000, yet bankrupt in 2011. But those applying four new success skills in something XPLANE calls the “Business 3.0 era” can avoid similar fates.


Two centuries of acceleration.
First, a quick look back. The Industrial Revolution was the largest disruptive transformation in commerce since the Renaissance. Simply, the nature of production was re-invented. Machines replaced hand-tools. Steam and other energy sources replaced human or animal power. Unskilled workers replaced skilled workers. Work performed in the home by the family was now performed in factories with the help of machines.

Digital reshapes human experience.
Enter silicon. It emerged to further upend norms. As a result, the late 20th-century technology and information revolution—hailed as Business 2.0—drove a socio-economic shift from manufacturing and agriculture to service industries. And it’s continuing. The web, mobile devices, big data and cloud computing are evolving core human experiences, such as how families spend their time, how people work and how societies interact around the globe.

Business 3.0: the landscape in detail.
The accelerated pace of change has caused extraordinary economic, cultural and competitive pressures. From robotics to nanotechnology to renewable energy, hyper-competition is now the standard. In particular, comprehending the rate of change and applying the rules of the game have become so challenging, only the most adaptive and fleet organizations will survive. Fixed, top-down plans are dead. Organic, flexible and inclusive methods are now the path to prosperity.

Examples of forces.
It’s easy to understand why it’s hard to get a footing. Massive external forces affect today’s business environment. For example:

  • The time to start a new business in the last decade has almost halved, from 51 days in the private sector in 2003 to less than 30 in 2012, creating denser categories.
  • The percentage of companies falling from top-three rankings in their industry increased from 2% in 1960 to 14% in 2008. Where success was once assumed, the basics of economics are not always a given now, leading to disparities between industry and profit.
  • Urbanization will be a massive demographic trend over the next decade. World population growth is slowing, but will still peak at approximately nine billion by 2050. Cities will double in size as a three billion people move from rural areas. This will result in economic opportunity, but put pressure on environmental, commercial and social systems.
  • The connected world is growing exponentially:
    • Websites grew from three billion in 2008 to 635 million in 2013.
    • Mobile use is the single biggest driver of Web development and change, with 6.7 billion mobile subscribers currently generating 13% of all Internet traffic. There are already twice as many “connected devices” (including vending machines, electricity meters and refrigerators as well as phones and computers) as human beings.

Learn, adapt, grow.
In this complex, changing and even hostile environment, an organization can be viewed as a living organism. To evolve, it must operate as a complex, dynamic, growing system that can learn and adapt over time. This requires cultivating both a performance strategy and a healthy work environment. Adaptation and evolution to Business 3.0 is key to success in the decades ahead.

The next posts in the Did You Know? Series will focus on each of the four essential, 21st-century “success skills” for staying in step with change.

RBC’s Visual Thinking Workshop in London

By Parker Lee, president, executive vice president business development
Last fall, XPLANE was a sponsor of the ACMP (Association of Change Management Professionals) London conference. As part of the event’s program, we held a drawing for a complimentary Visual Thinking Workshop. RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) was the lucky winner, and XPLANErs Mark Hardaway and Parker Lee, headed over to the firm’s Luxembourg offices to give a 2-hour learning session.


What happened was a rapid-fire interactive learning experience detailing the power of the visual thinking approach. The group eagerly learned how visual thinking is embedded into our culture and hard-wired into our DNA. Participants then discussed visual frameworks and worked in teams, using XPLANE’s “current state” discovery card deck to envision and tell stories about their own organization.

The result? As one participant put it, “I couldn’t believe how much information you got from us in such a short time!”

Instructions Included

2By Christopher Knaus, director of program management
Whether you’re completing a specific task or initiating some serious change, instructions can mean the difference between success and failure. Designing instructions was the theme of a recent Visual Thinking Workshop held at our Portland headquarters and attended by approximately 30 people.

We explored giving and receiving instructions with incomplete information. One experiment had two instructors guiding a blindfolded builder to complete a predetermined toy block structure. Following that experiment, the teams then did some movie scriptwriting, both text only scripts and visual only storyboards. These scripts were used for our third and final experiment. Different groups were given a script or storyboard, and two by two the groups came upfront to act out their script; one group working from the text only script while the other worked from the visual only storyboard.

This revealed the importance of audience, context, and common ground in instruction design, and perhaps more importantly, it revealed that there are a lot of people who hadn’t seen The Breakfast Club.

The session was led by: Cynthia Owens, Marvin Gaviola, Matt Morasky, and Christopher Knaus.

Visual Meetings Workshop at the Oregon Department of Education

By Dave King, vice president of client services
We had the honor of being invited by the Oregon Department of Education to deliver a derivative version of our November 2013 Visual Thinking School topic, “Visual Frameworks for Effective Meetings.” On February 18, XPLANErs Patrick Dodson, senior vice president, business development, and myself spent two hours with 20 remarkable educators in Salem.


The workshop focused on teaching participants how to create custom visual canvases to plan and run more meaningful meetings that make effective use of everyone’s time and deliver better results. The result of meeting canvases is two-fold:

• Maintain meeting focus and overall mental alignment of the group through a discussion
• Instant documentation of the meeting in already-organized template or worksheet

For more information on creating and running visual meetings, see Kathryn Jarrell’s xBlog post,
XPLANE-ify Your Meetings”.

XPLANE at 2014 ACMP Conference

By Traci Jones, senior marketing manager
XPLANE is excited to be sponsoring Change Management 2014, the Association of Change Management Professionals’ Global Conference being held March 30 – April 2 at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, FL.

Drew Mattison and James Macanufo will be hosting a pre-conference workshop, Visualizing Successful Change: An Introduction to Visual Thinking, Sunday, March 31. This workshop is intended not only for change management professionals, but also any business executive who wants to learn how visual thinking can accelerate user understanding and adoption of change.


Workshop attendees will learn about the holistic approach to Change Activation; aligning, engaging, and embedding change and how Visual Thinking will help get them there.

To register for this event please visit,

James will be partnering up with Parker Lee to lead another session later in the week, Change & Interaction, What Might Change Management Learn from Interactive Design? Participants can anticipate exploring techniques from interaction design that will enable them to reframe change challenges, create meaningful communications, and lower barriers to behavior change.

If you plan on attending please come by our booth to talk with an XPLANEr!

XPLANE Helps HP Unlock Their Automotive Solution Story

4By Drew Mattison, vice president of business development
Telling a good story about your solution is important. Telling the right story is critical. Recently HP partnered with XPLANE to craft the new Automotive Solutions Story, creating four engaging, integrated visual sales tools that illustrated HP’s Automotive solution in a clear and concise manner.

As a result of the broad solution story success, HP is working with XPLANE again to begin shaping the narrative and visual story for specific engagements, as well as building the initial training tools to help guide and inform the sales team on the use of the Solution Story materials.

Service Design, in brief

By Sara Mesing, XPLANE business development manager

What is Service Design anyway?
My favorite definition comes from Live Work, a creative agency in the UK that has really furthered the evolution of Service Design as a discipline1.

“Service Design is the design of intangible experiences that reach people through many different touchpoints, and that happen over time.” – Live Work

Service Design is not new. It draws upon all the various design disciplines; graphic, industrial, information, and heavily from interaction.

What is new is that the focus on the intangible experience means that designers must work in new ways to collaborate with organizations. It marries human-centered design with the operational and process capabilities of organizations.


Why should you care?
Our world has changed significantly in the last decade. In the digitized landscape, it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish between products and services. The original iPod and the iTunes service platform are classic examples of how products/services being integrated.

There is business opportunity. 80% of the U.S. GDP is services and poised to grow2.  What’s required to win in this market is a systems view of functionality and an understanding of how that rolls up into what customers or “users” experience emotionally as they interact with your service/product/brand.

There is also social opportunity. Co-creation is at the heart of Service Design. Services are produced in the moment of consumption. Meaning that the “customer” or user is taking an active role in creating the experience they are having. Think of what this could mean for healthcare! What if we could actually influence the system so that the patient takes an active role in creating their experience? Game-changing!

How do you do it?
A few foundational tools help frame the emotional understanding and the process understanding.  Storyboards and personas help capture the context, the “how”, and the “why” of a user’s needs and desires. Service Design blueprints and journey maps capture the “what.” Blueprints are visual representations of each step or each function that happens ‘behind the curtain’ invisible to customers, but required for the organization to offer the service.

More than meets the eye
There is so much more to Service Design that a one-page summary does not begin to do it justice. There are many practitioners and researchers doing important work in this field and it is thanks to their work that Service Design is emerging and finding a much wider audience.

Service Design Resource Links:

Bottom line
Service Design is all about execution. It’s about the organizational discipline required to deliver excellent experiences. It is not one and done. Undertaking Service Design engagements meaningfully builds organizational muscles for resiliency and graceful execution.

1“The Changing Nature of Service & Experience Design – LiveWork.” Livework. N.p.

2“Office of the United States Trade Representative.” N.p.

XPLANE-ify Your Next Meeting

By Kathryn Jarrell, XPLANE vice president of operations
Meetings get a bad rap. Late or inattentive attendees, endless recapping and talking in circles with little or no progress made, a waste of everyone’s time.  It’s enough to make you ask — Should we abandon meetings altogether?

At XPLANE we believe meetings, when done correctly, can be a valuable tool. The key is in how you plan and execute your meetings.  Here’s how XPLANE approaches them.


First, do you even need to have a meeting?  Stop and ask yourself, what am I trying to achieve?  Can it be achieved faster or more effectively without calling the meeting?

If you need a meeting, what kind of meeting do you need to have? This will influence everything from meeting location to duration. Most meetings fall within the following categories:

  • Decision Making / Problem Solving
  • Planning
  • Learning / Sharing
  • Brainstorming / Co-Creation

Meetings are generally won or lost before they even start. It’s essential to think through the details of what, who, when, where, and how. For a bulletproof meeting plan – ask yourself these questions:

  • What result are you trying to achieve?  (This is your goal)
  • What decisions will be required?
  • What information is needed to support or inform this meeting?
  • Who should have input? (These are your attendees)
  • When is the best time (day/month/year) to have this meeting?
  • Where should we have this conversation (boss’ office? a coffee shop? any old meeting room?)
  • How much time is required to do this correctly?
  • How can you engage the attendees in an effective way? (framing questions, post up exercise, visual presentation)?

Those answers will begin to inform an agenda – the key ingredient to a successful meeting. Here are some template agendas based on common meeting types:

Decision Making Planning Brainstorming
  • Purpose / Goal (the Framing Question to answer)
  • Options to Consider
  • Plus / Delta those
  • Discussion
  • Decision
  • Next Steps
  • Align on end state you are trying to achieve
  • Key Milestones to get there
  • Requirements / dependencies
  • Risks / pitfalls
  • Assign owners
  • Next steps
  • Framing Question to answer
  • Independent idea generation
  • Post up all ideas
  • Sort similarities
  • Have each person vote on 2-3 favorite ideas
  • Next Steps


Back to the earlier question, how can you engage the attendees in an effective way? Consider creating a MEETING CANVAS. This is a visual framework based off the meeting agenda which will help anchor and hold the meeting together.



As the meeting transpires, fill out the canvas with key decisions and notes. This will focus the energy of the attendees and keep them engaged. It also creates instant documentation of the meeting so meeting notes are already taken care of.

Follow Through
Without follow through, it’s like the meeting never happened. Don’t forget to provide the meeting notes or canvas to attendees with clear actions items and corresponding deadlines. It’s also a best practice to get feedback from attendees on how effective the meeting was so you can continue to tweak and improve for next time.

Doing all of this for a meeting is a lot of work, we know.  And not every meeting needs this level of effort, but for the meetings critical to your organization, you’ll get better results and a better experience.

Heed Your Call, David Howitt’s Modern Manifesto


In his provocative and life-shifting book, Heed Your Call, Howitt cites countless examples in which empathy and compassion make all the difference in professional and personal endeavors. In an economy in which office workers around the globe bemoan the lack of transparency, Howitt encourages us to bring more authenticity into the boardroom, which we applaud.

David Howitt might call it blazing your own hero’s journey, as a nod to Joseph Campbell. Howitt’s tale is a personal story of disrupting his life and professional career to integrate his heart.  It’s well worth a read.

We are pleased to celebrate the success of a fellow Portland businessman encouraging the value of empathy in traditional business. Three cheers to that!

Preorder your advance copy at