My name is Chris Mumford. I am fascinated by creativity and solving complex problems. I look for gaps. I have wandered the world on the edge for 30 years to see if it gets any better than I have. I am a Professor of Practice at the Kenan-Flagler business school at UNC Chapel Hill. I have been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, having raised over $30 million from venture capital and private equity. I have held every C level position except CIO. Check out my Linkedin profile if you want the details.
I suppose I have been doing “design thinking” well before I knew it was called “design thinking”. I called it thinking. I was developing products and was tired of getting chewed out for developing products that were not wanted by people in sales, marketing and, most importantly, customers. I created a system, or process, of prototyping products/services and validating them with stakeholders and users before I spent a lot of time and money in development.
After time living abroad - New York, Taipei, Beijing and Chicago - I moved back to my hometown of Chapel Hill. I fell into teaching entrepreneurship while starting several businesses. I wrote a book called The Joe Startup Plan in an effort to democratize entrepreneurship. I came to the realization that most entrepreneurs fail because they don’t engage users and stakeholders enough. During my time time of co-founding coworking spaces and business accelerators, I learned that startups run out of time and money before they can pivot to the right solution. They didn’t learn how to engage the user and stakeholder first. I wrote another practical guide called the Go Big! Toolkit to explain the process of getting validation before you go for broke: Create. Validate. Break. Recreate. Revalidate. LAUNCH!
I so admire how design thinking has flourished in the bubbles of architecture, product design/development and technology. I listen to the podcasts and read the blogs and always learn something new. I find myself more interested outside the bubbles like education, local governments and public health departments. They find themselves confronted with hugely complicated problems where the scientific method is insufficient. They need help in open systems where design thinking can be a GPS to map reality. I am interested in low resource individuals who are trying to start main street businesses with limited knowledge and capital. I am interested in helping young folks who will be displaced by the the Artificial Intelligence revolution. I am most interested in the gaps and edges, not the bubbles.
I am starting this blog to explore how to use design thinking fixing huge problems in local government, education and public health, as well as low resource problem solvers. I have invited collaborators who are subject matter experts in their area and willing to ask What if? We would like to help democratize design thinking.
I’m certain that I will cover design thinking in the bubbles as well. There is so much cool stuff happening in Silicon Valley and Boston. But, I want to raise a hand to say that there are other folks elsewhere who are trying to make tomorrow better than today in different ways. Hence, the name Design Thinking South.