Design thinking is a social technology that has the potential to unleash people’s creative energies, secure buy-in, and help radically improve marketing and business development processes.

Design thinking’s purpose is to inspire innovation through a process-driven approach that focuses on solutions that people will actually embrace and use to solve key problems and needs. Design thinking also tends to unlock creativity and possibility in teams by helping them fine-tune their focus on the issues that truly lead to value creation. 

In a workshop presented by Alycia Sutor and James Cornell at the LMA Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference on November 1 in Washington, D.C., each stage of the design thinking process will be presented in context of marketing and business development. 

As a primer for the collaborative workshop, the five stages of design thinking below can be used to guide problem-solving process in your own departments and firms:

1. Empathize 

Empathy is the foundation of human-centered design, and likely the problems you are trying to solve are not your own. To better understand the value drivers of the users you are working with, design thinking reorients problem solving around the actual end user and their needs, motivations and challenges. The workshop will introduce you to a tool and exercises to help you immerse yourself in the perspective of your end users to better align with their actual needs and interests.

2. Define 

The second stage of the process focuses on unpacking empathy findings into the root problem or opportunity that drives the greatest value outcome. Often the problems we initially start out trying to solve are only symptomatic of bigger needs. Refining and defining the core problems helps a team solve for what matters most and this workshop will introduce participants to a helpful exercise in drilling down to the core issues and why they matter.

3. Ideate 

The third stage of design thinking focuses on generating connections and possibilities that ultimately can be used to distill potential solutions. The goal of ideation is to explore a wide variety of solutions, both in quantity and diversity of perspective. Participants in this workshop will be able to learn about three ideating techniques that can be matched to the needs of a team or desired outcomes. From this broad set of ideas, teams are equipped to move into the fourth design thinking phase.

4. Prototype 

The prototyping phase begins to focus potential solution sets by getting ideas out of people’s heads and into the real world. A prototype can be anything that takes a physical form so people (designers, users, others) can experience and interact with it.

Prototyping enables design teams to test functionality, allow for exploration of multiple concepts, and identify quick opportunities for improvement in a practical, quick, and nimble format that enables fast, iterative learning. This workshop will help participants explore the wide breadth of prototyping options available to garner quick feedback and insight.

5. Test

Testing is the phase of design thinking that enables teams to gather insightful feedback, refine solutions, and create visibility to deeper insight that influences adoption and use of a particular idea or solution. Identifying what worked, what can be improved, new questions that need to be addressed, and deepening understanding of user value are at the heart of testing. This workshop will give participants a framework to guide their idea testing for future design thinking initiatives. 

C.S. Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Join Alycia Sutor and James Cornell at the 2018 LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Conference as they facilitate an introduction to Design Thinking in order for you and your teams to broaden your toolkit and drive to better outcomes!


Alycia Sutor has more than twenty years’ experience helping lawyers, executives and managers rethink how they approach business development, leadership, culture development, and teaming challenges. As a Managing Director at GrowthPlay, she is particularly passionate about helping individuals leverage their strengths and interests to improve how they work, lead and sell. Alycia works one-on-one and in groups to help people get clear on their purpose, passion and participation to achieve work results that matter.

James Cornell leverages twenty years of management and leadership experience in law firms, along with service as a member of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) to bring together the holistic perspective of today's legal management professional. James focuses on communication, collaboration, education, leadership, vision, and creative solution-generation to address the administrative and operational challenges of modern legal organizations. As President-Elect of ALA, his focus has been on opportunities to partner with alliance associations and their members for the purpose of achieving optimal education, skill development, and strategic leadership throughout all areas of the business of law. James is a recent transplant from Austin, Texas to the Mid-Atlantic region as the Office Administrator for Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP in their Washington, D.C. office.