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As a part of lean management and risk management, nonprofits and startups are told to know their customers. “Lean” says you begin with the customer and evaluate your value streams to continuously improve the way you provide value to end users. Risk management says you must know your customer needs in order to avoid threats to your business and find opportunities to serve customers more effectively.

But how do you “know your customer”? In this interview, I speak with Banafsheh Ghassemi, founder of Tangerine Lab. She helps organizations understand their customers using design thinking. She talks about what design thinking is and how even smaller organizations can benefit from this revolutionary tool for building products and services that actually meet the needs of different constituents.

During the podcast, Banafsheh suggests the following resources:


Change by Design Tim Brown

The Design of Business by Roger Martin

Creative Confidence by Tom Kelly and David Kelly


Design Thinking by Tim Brown

Service Design Network

Contact Information:

Banafsheh can be reached individually on Twitter as @IAmBanafsheh. Her team provides design thinking tweets and resources as @TangerineLab. Tangerine Lab’s website is www.tangerinelab.com.


About Tangerine Lab: [1:04]

Banafsheh, what is Tangerine Lab?

When did you start Tangerine Lab?

Describe for us an ideal prospect for your business.


About Design Thinking: [3:32]

What are the chief offerings at Tangerine Lab (e.g., service design, persona development, and design thinking)?

Does an organization have to make a substantial commitment of time and resources in order to apply service design principles?

What are the hallmarks of service design?

How do you describe persona development to your business prospects?

Does persona development require a lot of time and money in order to begin using the concept?

Tangerine Lab holds itself out as helping customers apply design thinking concepts. If you were trying to sell the concept of design thinking to someone during an elevator pitch, how would you describe design thinking?

Same question about design thinking as I asked with service design and persona development. Can someone begin using design thinking concepts without a substantial outlay of time and money?

I know that some of your engagements can be five-figure or six-figure engagements. To begin the process of working with Tangerine Lab, does it require that sort of monetary commitment?

So it would be possible to have a relatively small engagement at the outset to see whether an organization could benefit from applying these concepts?

What are the common mistakes that brand makes when they declare customer centricity or design centricity as their strategic goal?


Nonprofits and Design Thinking: [20:44]

Have any nonprofits used Tangerine Lab to modify the way they conduct business?

Why would a nonprofit want to evaluate its customers?

Would you agree that nonprofits have more than one category of potential customer (constituents, donors, volunteers)?

Why do you think it’s hard for nonprofits to think about different categories of customer?

What could be some of the potential benefits of applying design thinking principles to nonprofit thinking?


Start-Up Use of Design Thinking: [24:57]

Have you worked with any startups to use design thinking principles in their strategy and execution?

How would a startup begin using design thinking?

Is the design thinking methodology too expensive for a startup to consider?


Additional Resources: [30:31]

Are there any books that you could recommend for our listeners if they wanted to learn more about service design, design thinking, and persona development?

What about online resources. Are there any blogs or websites that you could recommend?

If one of our listeners wanted to get in touch with you, Banafsheh, what’s the best way to do that?