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 www.heedyourcall.com

Creative Summit kicks off the New Year

021414_5By Matt Morasky, XPLANE associate creative director
January saw designers, copywriters, illustrators, and animators converge on XPLANE’s Portland studio for our first-Annual Creative Summit. The idea was simple: invite our extended creative family (aka our friends) into the workshop and unleash their expertise, experience, and ideas.

The results were fantastic. Tapping into decades of session and project experience, we examined what’s working, what’s not, and where our work is going. We identified opportunities to improve the XPLANE experience for our clients, and ourselves. We even found time for local Weiden + Kennedy art director and illustrator, Lloyd Winter to share his work and offer up a few inspirational, and comical, anecdotes.

Of course, we missed many familiar faces from around the neighborhood and around the globe, (you know who you are). But in XPLANE fashion, for those who couldn’t make it, we’ll soon be sharing the outcomes and seeking input so that we can begin rolling out Summit-inspired initiatives over the course of 2014. So keep your eyes open and your pens at-hand. The first-Annual Creative Summit kicked 2014 into high gear and we can’t wait for 2015.

The XPLANE Graduate Internship in Design Consulting


Do you use design to solve complex problems? Do you communicate your ideas visually? Are you equally comfortable across the table from a CEO as you are collaborating with designers? Are you passionate about organizational dynamics, human behavior and helping people navigate change? If you answered yes, you are a rare bird indeed and we want to meet you!

The XPLANE Graduate Internship in Design Consulting

XPLANE is a design consultancy focused on empowering changemakers. We envision and drive change through visual thinking and people-centered design to clarify complexity and inspire action. We help organizations through vision and strategy planning, visual communications, process improvement and adoption and behavior change.

There are a lot of design consultancies out there, most of them focused on designing for consumers and markets. XPLANE has a 20 year history applying design thinking inside organizations, sparking innovation in the way people work. We design communication and human interactions within organizations with a passion for alignment, clarity, co-creation and innovation.

The XPLANE experience combines:
• Visual Thinking to accelerate understanding and alignment
• Storytelling to power human connections through shared meaning
• People-Centered Design to build on insights and empathy gathered from all audiences
• Co-Creation of solutions, because people support what they help build
• Multidisciplinary Teams to blend different talents, experiences and views, fueling innovative thinking and practical solutions
• Iterative Design so teams build the right solution quickly and efficiently

About the Program
XPLANE is seeking the best and brightest for a 10-week internship (dates TBD based on your academic calendar) in beautiful Portland, Oregon for Summer 2014.
• Complete a challenging 10-week strategy project (custom-designed internal project based on a mutual fit of your expertise and our needs)
• Contribute to multiple client-facing projects
• Get to know the XPLANE team, culture and work so you can figure out if you’re destined to join us
• Enjoy the legendary Portland summertime
• Learn from you and your unique perspective
• Support you with a talented collaborative team
• Expose you to our methods and secret sauce
• Hopefully find our next great talented XPLANEr!

• Currently enrolled in a graduate level program in business, design, organizational behavior, communications or some interdisciplinary combination of those
• ~5 years relevant work experience prior to graduate school
• Passion for a career in design consulting post-school

So you think you want to apply…
Please send the following to internship@xplane.com
• Current resume and cover letter
• 1-page visual resume – what we call an xmap. An xmap is basically you on a page, represented visually. We want to know where you’ve been, where you’re going, and what you’re passionate about. Feel free to structure it however makes sense to you, and don’t let the visual aspect worry you – we believe everyone can draw (even if we’re a bit rusty from kindergarten). It’s not about making beautiful art, it’s about communicating clearly and simply!
• Oh, and if you maintain an online portfolio, we’d love to see a link to that too.

Questions? Send those to internship@xplane.com too. Looking forward to hearing from you!






Sample XMAP.

Change Can Be Easier

By Cynthia Owens, XPLANE senior consultant
Companies invest millions of dollars and thousands of hours on complex change initiatives to make AdoptionCurvethem more competitive and more efficient. But the challenge isn’t what’s changing, it’s getting people to accept and embrace a new way of doing things.

As humans, we are hardwired to hate change. Employees are working harder than ever, so changing how people get their work done can make even loyal employees grumble. Now, executives not only want to move the goal posts, they want employees to play on another field and learn a new set of rules.

At XPLANE, we know change can be easier because we’ve seen it happen.

Get input to co-create the process and build support
Employees are much more likely to buy into and support a change program if you asked for their input into the solution.

A large client is streamlining and integrating all of its systems. The plan was completed by a small group of IT managers. While executives are convinced that the plan is vital to the future growth of the company, with only weeks before the program was announced, they realized they needed to get buy-in from different departments across the organization or the change might fail or drag on for much longer than planned.

So, they reached out to stakeholders across the company seeking input. Even though the big decisions about the change initiative had already been made, they asked questions and listened to people. This engaged key employees in helping to co-create a rollout process. They asked employees: What are your current challenges? Do you have other objectives? Is there anything else you think we should add? What are the benefits of change? Are there other opportunities?

Any time you get input from employees you give them a stake in the outcome and you move up the change Adoption Curve.

Align around your corporate values to build a case for change
If your change program aligns with your genuine organizational values, employees are much more likely to accept and promote it.

One of our clients was about to launch a change in systems and processes that would touch every employee. The company had a strong corporate culture and loyal employees. So the leadership tied the initiatives to the core corporate values.

For example, creating an exceptional customer experience was core to what the company believed and the new systems did that much better. Employees could see that the company was doing the right thing, even though integrating systems globally would create short-term challenges for them.

Make it clear so everyone understands
The first gut reaction to hearing about a new change initiative is usually: “How will this impact me?”

A lot of clients come to XPLANE (and come back to XPLANE) because we help clarify complex change issues. For example, several of our clients are instituting big IT change programs. These are so complicated that sometimes, no one on the team actually knows the whole story.

That team also is so deeply involved in the project that it’s difficult for that team to see the challenges or the benefits as the program is rolled out across the organization.

Visualizing the process makes the key decision points and handoffs clear, it helps change leaders understand where the biggest hurdles are located and it highlights gaps and overlaps in the plan.

Importantly, for the rest of the organization visualizing the change creates clarity and helps drive understanding and adoption of change.

Clarity, Co-creation, and visuals make change easier.

Note:  We want to acknowledge that there are many variants of the adoption curve.  Others have called this representation of employees’ change journey as the change commitment curve, the adoption curve or the change management continuum.  However, it appears the earliest instance we could find was developed by change pioneers, Daryl Conner and Robert Patterson and referenced in “Building commitment to organizational change” (Training & Development Journal, Vol 36(4), Apr 1982, 18-30).

Design for America Creators Exchange

Design for America (DFA) is a national nonprofit organization that grew out of Northwestern University in 2009. The mission of DFA is to educate students about the design process, and apply design problem-solving to social change initiatives.  During her MBA program at Case Western, Sara Mesing, business development manager at XPLANE, launched a DFA Studio, and as a result was invited back to speak at the annual DFA Summer Leadership Conference. While there, she was tapped for imagining what a DFA Alumni Network might look like.


Sharpies in hand, she put on her designer’s hat and sketched out a few ideas.

The first step toward realizing a DFA Alumni Network took place in November at an event in San Francisco. Sara served as the co-producer of the event, working in tandem with Amy Choi, a DFA Alum from UC Berkeley. Together, they planned the agenda of the conference, generated marketing materials, reached out to potential attendees/panelists/mentors/sponsors, handled the event logistics, and solidified a partnership with Parisoma, which hosted the event in its incubator space.

The one-day conference was dubbed the, ‘DFA Creators’ Exchange’ because of its ability to bring together current DFA students, DFA alumni and industry professionals to share ideas about applying Design Thinking and about how to find meaningful work in the areas of design and innovation. This was the first DFA Alumni event in the four-year history of Design for America.

In total, 45 people attended, including current DFA students from UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, University of Oregon and UCLA.  Industry panelists included:

Click here for more info about this event..

Twitter hashtag #DFACreators for more photos from the event.

Shifting the Way CEMEX Works

Earlier this year XPLANE came together with CEMEX, a global leader in the building materials industry, to create an infographic to demonstrate the global impact its internal social collaboration platform, called “Shift”, has had in literally shifting the way CEMEX operates on a daily basis.

The infographic details use cases of the platform from across the organization.  In the United Kingdom, a vice president blogs and comments daily on matters related to his division to generate top-to-bottom awareness and dialogue.  In Mexico, a plant foreman created an online group to share knowledge with other plants on creating the perfect palette stack of cement bags – driving efficiency and productivity.  And in Germany, a single plant manager shared globally how he was able to reduce his plant’s fossil fuels consumption by 80 percent by using alternative fuels.


The success of Shift has launched CEMEX as a leader in social business innovation and led the organization to win several industry recognitions such as the Forrester Groundswell Award in 2010; the Harvard Business Review/McKinsey M Prize for Management Innovation in 2011; the Supernova Award in 2012; and the Manufacturing Leadership Award in 2013.  Of course any road to behavior change encounters obstacles, and Shift is no exception.  During the discovery process XPLANE and CEMEX reviewed reasons some employees have been hesitant to adopt Shift, and incorporated messages geared toward that audience in the final deliverable.

The final Shift infographic created by XPLANE is a visually compelling communication tool that is being shared across the global organization to foster greater understanding and adoption of Shift for both seasoned and new employees.

“We had a good experience working with XPLANE and its methodology. It was great to live the process of ideas growing into a full picture. Overall, we are very pleased with the outcome and can’t wait to share it with our audiences.” -Gilberto García, Head of Innovation, CEMEX

2014 – Ring It In

calendarWe recently put a challenge to our talented team of designers: find an entertaining, multi-national and visual way to give our clients, friends and associates a gift they can enjoy and use in 2014.  The result?  Your very own XPLANEd 2014 calendar! The calendar is designed to chronicle your time while learning about how others commemorate and celebrate holidays and events throughout the world. You can see, share and print the calendar here.  No instructions needed! Our warmest wishes for a healthy, inspired and prosperous 2014.

XPLANE’s 2014 Calendar

We put a challenge to our talented team of designers; find a creative, entertaining, multi-national, and visual way to give our clients, friends, and associates a gift they could enjoy and use in 2014.

The result? Your own XPLANEd 2014 calendar to enjoy! We’ve designed it so you can share it, print it, and chronicle your time while learning about how others commemorate and celebrate holidays and events throughout the world.

XPLANE's 2014 CalendarDownload a PDF of the calendar.

Our warmest wishes for a healthy, inspired and prosperous 2014 from the entire XPLANE team.

Changing the State of Education

On October 26, an esteemed group of leaders from urban education, industry, universities, government, foundations and trade associations gathered at West Point to discuss the future of education. Organized by the non-profit Schools That Can, the group came together with a common goal: to seek clarity around the issue of “Accelerating Teaching of 21st Century Skills for Jobs of the Future.” XPLANE Senior Consultant Roel Uleners facilitated portions of the day’s meeting.  Using his visual thinking consultative skills, Roel leveraged the varying personal expertise and experiences in the room to discover different perspectives on the issues; identify factors in play; and seek clear steps to realize measurable change.


And change is much needed. Recent data offers a stark picture on the current state of education and employment. Did you know that:

•  41% of all college graduates in 2012 were either underemployed or unemployed?
•  3 million well-paid skilled jobs went unfilled in 2012 because of lack of qualified people to fill them?
•  Only 8.2% of low-income students graduate college?
•  23% of U.S. children live in poverty?

Up until now, the lack of communication and consensus amongst key stakeholders has led to a significant misalignment issue. Bringing the different parties together, listening to all sides, identifying the challenges and co-creating solutions was a great first step toward building a brighter future. The hope is that by finding common ground and discussing immediate next steps the stage has now been set for a nationwide change in education.

A Picture of Change Management

Designer Rob Dersley did an amazing job of visually capturing sessions and speeches at the recent Association of Change Management Professionals conference in Europe.  Below is a recap of the information covered during the second day of the conference.