Artful Problem Solving Through the Eyes of an Educator

Musings & Advice
Brand lessons we learned from design thinking teacher, Rhiannon Boyd
By 
Emily Valentine
July 1, 2024
Musings & Advice
Brand lessons we learned from design thinking teacher, Rhiannon Boyd
By 
Emily Valentine
July 1, 2024

At Joe Smith, there's nothing we find more energizing than the opportunity to talk Artful Problem Solving with changemakers in our community. So, when we met Rhiannon Boyd — a philosopher-by-training now teaching K-12 students to think critically on real-world problems — we knew we had to bring her in for a chat with our team.

And she did not disappoint! We vibed on design thinking, interactive learning and radical empathy — trading tips and insights till we almost forgot to eat our boxed lunch.

Most fortuitously of all, at the end of our long talk, we realized we had together shed new light on the tenets of Artful Problem Solving — our brand-focused, people-first way of working with businesses to solve their hairiest brand challenges.

Here’s how we connected the dots between our work and Rhiannon's.  

STRATEGIC RIGOR

This tenet is all about taking aim at the heart of a problem, and — as Rhiannon sees it — the only way to improve your aim is through deep listening.

In her capstone programs, she encourages students to use rigorous listening techniques to get to the root of the problem they want to address. This involves asking good questions, listening to the needs of the community, observing what works and doesn't work and understanding the system you’re trying to change well enough to pinpoint the challenges at hand.

Whether you're a student working on a capstone project or a consultant trying to untangle a knotted brand, creating a culture of listening is the key to making sense of existing problems and devising better solutions.

BEAUTIFUL UTILITY

With this one, our focus is on marrying form and function to move hearts, move minds, and move the needle.

One thing marketers and students seem to share is a tendency to want to create something wholly new in order to solve a problem or achieve a goal. And that’s fair — creating something new is invigorating!  

But history is proof that breakthrough solutions come from rounds and rounds of human-centered iteration. And, as we've said before, a solution may start as a conceptual ideal, but once it confronts the reality of human behavior, it evolves through adaptation and iteration.

From students to strategists to systems engineers, the best problem solvers use learnings from the current state to devise solutions that bring as much practical utility as they do conceptual beauty.

HUMAN TOUCH

Human touch is all about forging more meaningful connections with the people you need to engage. And, if you can think of a more difficult group to engage than a room full of skeptical teenagers, please do tell.  Hence, we were especially eager to hear Rhiannon's take on this one.  

“I think of it as auditioning for attention,” she said, smiling.

This starts on day one in the classroom, and it means a few things: no reviewing the syllabus, no sharing “fun facts about the teacher,” yes, jumping right in with provocative questions and thought experiments for the students.

To parlay that into the world of brand management — goodbye PowerPoint slides, hello workshops!  

Human Touch is exactly why we at Joe Smith include BrandLab workshops in the development of every brand we advise. To make the brand meaningful to those who ultimately live it, we have to let them think and talk about it together, as humans — not just listen from the back of the room with glazed over eyes.  

RIPPLE EFFECTS

This last tenet of Artful Problem Solving is about solutions that transcend and transform communities for the better.  

With Rhiannon, we discussed that what's easy to overlook about this one is how transformation starts on a person-to-person level. If we set out to “transcend and transform” from the start, we miss the critical step where we connect with a person… and, if we’re lucky, squeeze out a tiny drip of passion that will one day create a wave.  

Any given day in the classroom, Rhiannon isn't focused on “transforming a community.” She’s focused on connecting with a kid who today thinks they’re an island, and, bit by bit, helping them realize they care about and want to put effort into something bigger than themselves.  

Call us zealots, but at Joe Smith, we believe a strong brand can play the same role — helping individuals connect the dots between the actions they take every day and a larger purpose they care about.

DROP US A LINE

If anything about this sit-down left you feeling intrigued or inspired, we want to hear it.

So, drop us an email, find us on LinkedIn, and whenever you're ready to talk Artful Problem Solving, give Joe a shout.

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Got a brand problem?
Got a customer problem?
Got a culture problem?
Got an identity problem?
Got a recruiting problem?
Got a messaging problem?
Got an all-of-the-above problem?

Put Artful Problem Solving to work for you.