I am Carola Verschoor,  founder and chief creative at

Transformational Studio.

Originally from Argentina, I have been living and working in Europe for more than twenty years now. Mainly in the Netherlands, which is where my ancestral roots are and which I have come to embrace as my home.

 

You have had quite a journey, as a business woman, author, leader and now entrepreneur. Can you tell us what has gotten you to where you are today?

In one word: curiosity! Frankly, I love to discover and learn new things and I am always looking for ways to contribute to make meaningful change. As a designer I work every day to (r)evolutionize change in a complex world and help embody the transformation we wish to see in business today. I think it is important, in a world in transition that we help each other transform and bring about the best and most meaningful aspects of our selves.

 

I loved being close to real people and the real world again

 

And it has always been that way for me, ever since I was a small girl. Which also probably explains why it is not a linear journey, it has been magical and serendipitous in many ways! While I was still in Argentina, the country was opening up to its new, young democracy and there were many opportunities as foreign companies were arriving in the late eighties and early nineties. I graduated from university at 21, having chosen business administration because it felt as a very broad field that would bring me into the world of business as I continued to learn. I joined the food industry because I felt it was such an important sector of the economy, very relatable and really close to people and their daily habits. All in all, I worked in that industry for 18 years and got to join amazing companies and teams at companies like Kraft Foods, The Coca-Cola Company and Danone.

I did quite well in corporate life, but as I was getting close to becoming 40 and got promoted to very high organisational levels I felt more and more distanced from the real world and decided it was time to do something different. I switched “sides” moving from the client side to the agency side. I was invited to join a pioneering market research agency called BrainJuicer as the managing director of their Dutch office. I loved being close to real people and the real world again.

About that time, I started getting more and more into strategic design. Then into design thinking and service design. I enjoyed it so much, I actually wrote a book about that later on in 2015: it was all about connecting the dots between business strategy, research and design. That book, called Change Ahead {link} was super successful and also became the bridge that connected met to Kaospilot.

From BrainJuicer, I went on to start a consultancy company. Market research typically ends at reporting and as a designer, strategising, making things concrete and mobilising teams into action is really my thing. I started a company called Groh! Innovation: which when you say it out loud sounds like “grow” which is what most of the clients contacted us for and also it is a sound… showing the actual experience we underwent with our clients and our teams: moving from “grrr…” to “ooohhhh!”, that is from frustration to delight.

Five years into building an amazing ecosystem of innovators, one of our potential clients invited me to join their ranks. I worked for almost three years in civil engineering as a chief innovation and digital services officer. It was great, and I really enjoyed working with incredible topics such as the future of mobility or the future of cities. But I am not one for “business as usual” and though I love the client side, I decided it was time to return tot he agency side. Simply because of the variety and level of the challenges.

Nowadays I run a transformation design agency called Transformational Studio. There, much of my passion and all of my experience come together, as we work with our clients to ignite transformation through design.

 

That is a memory I also hold dearly as I got to meet some lovely people who eventually became good friends. If that is not experience design at its best, then I don’t know what is

 

In you attended one of the Kaospilot Experience Design trainings, and have engaged with us around the topic of experiences design. What is experience design to you?

I have had the privilege of being connected to this programme since before it started. I have fond memories of conversations with Andy Sontag, who had found my book Change Ahead and contacted me to share and exchange ideas. As he was shaping the programme, I had the wonderful opportunity to act as a sparring partner, critic and cheerleader all in one. Which is why later I became one of the mentors of the programme in Aarhus. That is a memory I also hold dearly as I got to meet some lovely people who eventually became good friends. If that is not experience design at its best, then I don’t know what is!

But to answer your question, I will refer back to what I said in an interview with Andy back in 2018 [link] ” experience design brings together the pieces of an organization’s value proposition into a coherent narrative. Many aspects of businesses today are siloed, and thus the customer experience becomes siloed as well. Experience designers help organizations put their customer’s experience first, and organize around that, not the other way around. Once the customer experience is put at the center, we are putting the pieces of the business in the right relationship to each other.”

 

Interesting, and why is experience design important?

Perhaps you are familiar with the progression of economic value as defined by Pine & Gilmore in “The Experience Economy”? This model shows that through time, economic offerings suffer a value erosion towards commoditisation. Said more plainly: the initial spark and allure of new experiences (and their related product and services) loses its power as it becomes less surprising. There are exceptions of course, for example for experiences that are super comforting. Like if you have a favourite cafe where you like to go and you always go there because the atmosphere is very relaxing and meaningful to you.

But for most experiences, over time the polish becomes less bright. And here’s the reason why experience design is important in my view: because people want meaningful experiences. And as the name suggests… the ‘progression’ of economic value is so, that it progresses from experience into transformation. What that is saying is that when experiences are embodied, and meaningful, and life changing: they are transformative. So, the logic that follows form that is that it is not ‘just’ an experience, but it is a relationship. In which we choose to engage because of what it does to us, what it does for us and by extension, what it does for the world.

I guess I am trying to say is that experience design is important because it shows us that relationship and continuity are critical, helping us transcend beyond a transaction-based model.

 

 

 

I know you have been moving from Experience Design to Transformation through Design to describe your work. Now you have opened Transformational Studio, can you speak about how you see and design evolving?

What a great question. I could talk about it for hours but I will try to be brief. Traditionally, design has been about making things. It is a creative discipline that necessitates that we understand who we are designing for. This is perhaps the biggest paradox of design: by definition, designers design for someone who is not themselves. We see this in Experience Design too, this is why I defined experience designers as “producers”. We aim to delight others and give them the best experience for them. Which is excellent as it helps evolve design to a whole new level, because it opens up multiple possibilities which you might not see if you are only thinking as a “designer” in the traditional sense.

 

Transformation design is a way of doing, it focuses on the “how” of transformation.

 

Transformation design brings a new element into the realm of design. Namely, that of “transformation”. That is going beyond, as the first part of the word ”trans” suggests. Beyond what, you might wonder? Well, the second part of the word gives you a clue: “Formation”, that is, the systems and structures of how we currently organise ourselves. Whether it is individuals, systems or organizations.

There has never been such a time as this. These are transformational times. Indeed, times that call for transformation. Transformation design is a way of doing, it focuses on the “how” of transformation. And it addresses challenges holistically, from the point of view of the interrelations of the different aspects of the challenge at hand, reframing it in such a way as to become the conductor of a desirable change. For me personally, I think this is the closest to my favourite definition of design, by the late Herbert Simon. He said: “to design is to transform existing conditions into preferred ones”. Preferred in the sense that they are better for all: inclusive, fair, sustainable, beautiful and positively impactful. That is what we need.

 

Why is design for transformation something that is relevant for leaders and entrepreneurs today?

I have possibly already given you a clue to that! It is massively relevant. And also very difficult to do. Which is why I am a strong believer in democratising design, making its tools and mindset available to all. This is why we created a toolkit for infinite ways of combining design tools {https://www.bispublishers.com/infinite-double-diamond-cards.html}. So that people can be the agents of positive change. Look at the state of the world. There is so much work to be done!! The clock is ticking, things have to change for the better. And we need to learn to look at things differently, ask new questions, open new paradigms and start a (r)evolution.

As a big fan of Bruce Mau’s work, I like the way he frames design and teams. In one of his 24 principles for designing massive change, he says “Wicked problems demand wicked teams”. These challenges need multiple perspectives, multiple domains and a conscious, true effort to make change happen. This is why I think design for transformation is relevant to leaders and entrepreneurs (and everyone else) these days. The time of the lone leader, the king on the mountain, is long gone. Now is the time for transformation that we co-create and realize together.

Related articles

Think less and do more!

The Art Of Imperfect Action

Since graduating

Meet Dennis Dybdal Founder of WAKA Global

Since graduating

Meet Anne Kjaer Bathel Founder of ReDI School

Since graduating

Meet Jesper Kjeldsen Founder of Postevand

Since graduating

Meet Ida Tin Founder of Clue

WORKING WITH THE MUNICIPALITY

Solving COVID Problems

Since Graduating

The Netflix of Online Courses on Sustainable Development

BOOK RELEASE

The future looks bright, go out there and create it.

Interview with Henrik Køhler Simonsen

The Future of Online Learning

SINCE GRADUATING

Meet Andreas Broman

SINCE GRADUATING

Meet Hans Ohlsson

INNOVATION STUDIES

Busy Dying, anyone?

Innovation studies

The Innovation Imperative

SINCE GRADUATING

Meet Amalie Harris Barfod

SINCE GRADUATING

Meet Britt Barfeldt

GUEST LECTURERS

Meet Tony Quinn

Working with Vestas

Meet Magnus Alexander Haals

SINCE GRADUATING

Meet Tue Krabbe-Juelsbo

Innovation studies

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money

SINCE GRADUATING

Meet Kathrine Overgaard Warberg

Innovation studies

Cowboy Number One and His Problems

Since GRADUATING

Meet Andreas Lange

Meet Dinant Roode

Professional Rebel Facilitating Learning Spaces

Design for Sustainability

Meet Frank O´Connor

Innovation Studies

Gazza at the Controls

Extended network of lecturers

Meet Cesar Alves Ferragi

Community Building

Meet Current Student Anthon Khorami

Innovation Studies

Why Do We Fail?

Since Graduating

Meet Rasmus Stride

Since Graduating

Meet Haotian Cheng

Innovation Studies

How to Avoid Failure

Since Graduating

Meet Nkuli Mlangeni-Berg

Educator | Learning Experience Designer | Facilitator

Meet Boris Kelly

Extended network of lecturers

Meet Nathan Shedroff

Since Graduating

Meet Nikolaj Køster

Mindsets that will support you and your organization

Designing for a Transformation Economy

Since Graduating

Meet Anders Sjöstedt

Obituary for Pete Sims

Since Graduating

Meet Marte Sootholtet

Since Graduating

Meet Chamilla Natasha

Extended network of lecturers

This is Chené Swart – A Narrative Therapist

Since Graduating

Meet Guga Korte

Since Graduating

Meet Patrik Gustavsson

Founder and chief creative

Meet Carola Verschoor

The role of an Experience Designer

Including and Unleashing Everyone

Meet Keith & Fisher from Liberating Structures

Since Graduating

Meet Moa Vallgård