Summary

Seasoned innovation leader with diverse background of product and experience design, user research and strategy. Passionate about helping companies think about the future of their customer experiences and businesses.

Strengths:

  • Synthesizing insights from strategy, user research, design and technology to identify business opportunities and develop product plans and roadmaps.
  • Leading multi-disciplinary teams (often spread across offices and continents) on fast-paced, complex development projects that involve hardware, software and services.
  • Confident and dynamic speaker in front of C-level and large audiences, with extensive facilitation experience. Quickly build trust and collaborative working methods.
  • Articulate writer, currently writing for Harvard Business Review Online, and author of the book Innovation X: Why a Company’s Toughest Problems are its Greatest Advantage, published by Jossey-Bass. Book received endorsements from Dan Pink, Don Norman, and the CMO of HP. Details at innovationxbook.com.
  • Keeping a calm head when the going gets tough.

Jump to: Education, Experience, Awards & Patents, Activities, Writing, Speaking, Personal

Experience

Group Product Manager, Financial Engines: 12.2013 - Present
Principal Product Marketer, Financial Engines: 07.2012 - 11.2013

Financial Engines is America’s largest independent financial advisor, and helps everyday people who wouldn’t normally get the time of day from an advisor. FE provides retirement planning services through employers, and manages $100 billion in 401(k) assets with a reach of ~7 million people. I was attracted to work at FE by its mission, and tackling tremendously complex business, product, technology and experience ecosystems.

At FE I help lead the conception and development of new products and services. I oversee two Agile teams, work with the executive team on product planning and roadmap; develop business and resourcing plans; collaborate intensively with the development, user experience, sales, advisor call center, legal and analytics teams. I’ve been responsible for leading the top priority new product/service initiatives at FE in the last two years.

Assistant Vice President Marketing, frog design / Aricent Group: 04.2011 - Present
Marketing Strategy Director, frog design / Aricent Group: 09.2010 - 03.2011

Was responsible for corporate marketing and marketing strategy globally for frog (13 offices, 1,600 staff) and its parent company, the Aricent Group (33 offices, 10,000 staff). This was a newly-created role reporting to CMO, recognizing that Aricent lacked a global view of market intelligence and strategy. Worked closely with sales and other marketing functions: product marketing, corporate marketing, PR and regional marketing in Europe and Asia. Managed staff in US and India. Key responsibilities included:

  • Marketing and offering strategy: Conducted market intelligence, formulated offerings for diverse range of customers. Led simplification of overly complex go-to-market message across BUs. Assisted with integration of American, European, Chinese and Indian marketing teams.
  • Brand: Architected new brand positioning and identity for Aricent and frog, leading $2.5m+ effort involving research, strategy, identity across numerous touchpoints, managing brand agency, and internal and external rollout campaigns. Crafted new company-wide mission, vision and values.
  • Thought leadership: Responsible for developing content to demonstrate Aricent and frog’s innovation approaches and expertise, especially targeted to VP- and C-level, including whitepapers, conferences, blogs, webinars. Developed relationships with business schools, including Haas (UC Berkeley) and IESE (Barcelona); ran several executive education/MBA workshops a year.
  • Workshops: Ran over 50 collaborative ideation workshops while at frog for a wide variety of participants, ranging from 1/2 to 3 days. Clients included Microsoft, Intel, NASA, P&G, Nike, Honda, EADS, World Economic Forum.

    Creative Director, frog design: 04.2009 - 09.2010

    Transitioned from Strategy to Creative Director, taking on broader project oversight responsibility, and integrating strategy in the research phases. Managed several high-profile, complex projects, directed work of senior and junior designers, researchers and engineers. Managed and mentored designers and researchers reporting to me. Key engagements included:

    • Autoinjector: Led 1.5 year, $1m+ project for a major bio-med company making their first product, a motorized injector for weekly injections for patients with highly compromised mobility. Extensive qualitative and quantitative user research, tight integration with third-party contract manufacturer based in Italy, and navigating regulatory-driven, process-minded client with no experience doing sophisticated devices.
    • Electric Vehicle Concept: Led a short, intense future vision project for a major Japanese manufacturing to examine the possibilities for a luxury EV. Competitive and trends analysis, secondary user research, led workshop to bring multiple client stakeholders together for first time, and concept visualizations to explain what luxury could mean in an EV context to an engineering-oriented audience.

    Director of Product Strategy, frog design: 03.2007 - 03.2009
    Strategy Director, frog design: 05.2004 - 02.2007
    Senior Strategist, frog design: 06.2003 - 04.2004

    Was one of frog’s first strategists. Built foundations of frog’s (previously non-existent) user and competitive research capabilities, establishing critical early cases and credibility. Managed much of strategy team in California and Texas, during which time team grew from 3 to 15 in multiple offices. Responsible for bringing in new work, scoping, budget, resourcing and leading projects, in both hands-on and oversight roles. Clients included Clorox, DaimlerChrysler, Logitech, Microsoft, Nike, Samsung, Sandisk, Yahoo. Key engagements included:

    • Hewlett Packard: Was part of core team within frog for this major account ($35m+ total revenue), which included working with HP teams developing digital entertainment, imaging, computing, and design standards. Pitched and led many of the 220+ projects. Selected by HP corporate design as one of two coaches from all of HP’s design vendors to work with internal teams on design process and methodologies.
    • Humana: Led strategic engagement working with Humana’s Medicare group (largest and most profitable BU), using consumer insights to inform development of new service experiences for retirees transitioning into Medicare. Worked with multiple stakeholders to define requirements, facilitated focus group sessions, helped sell in results and service concepts to organization under pressure from regulatory change.
    • Vodafone: Played major role in establishing a multi-year relationship with Vodafone, identifying new opportunities for multimedia services and conducting in-depth competitive analysis/benchmarking, and became a trusted advisor for key executives.
    • South Korea Telecom: Led engagement focused on social e-commerce with the leading Korean wireless telecommunications provider, who was seeking ways to enter US market with online services.
    • NASA: Led an exciting and intensive engagement examining new ways to reduce start-up and ongoing costs by 90% for a planned moon mission system.

    Founder and Principal, Carbon Collective: 01.2002 - 05.2003 

    Ran own company providing a range of design services, including ethnographic research, user needs-finding, trend analysis, competitor analysis, usability testing, and conceptual design through to engineering. Clients included Microsoft, Sonic Blue and Sun Microsystems. This was an early experiment in the now-common approach of lean and decentralized staffing, using the web to project a unified identity.

    Senior Analyst, Bizwerk/frog design: 10.2000 - 11.2001

    frog design created a software startup, Bizwerk, to develop a software application aimed at product development organizations. As member of Innovation Process Group, played a key role in formulating feature-set and use-models to guide software design, working closely with the UI and engineering teams to define specs and deploy.

    Senior Designer, Praxis Product Design: 06.1997 - 10.2000

    Responsible for the conceptualization and development of products in the consumer electronics, computer and consumer goods fields. Brought user research capabilities to the firm, led all ethnographic research, and defined conceptual and aesthetic visions for products and carried them through to production. Led research and design on line of children’s toothbrushes for Oral-B, which became the top seller worldwide and are still available today, a decade later. Additional clients included NetApp, Casio, Oceanic Dive Gear.

    Lead Industrial Designer, Sun Microsystems: 06.1992 - 07.1996 

    After a year as staff designer, was promoted to industrial design lead for Sun’s large servers. Worked closely with marketing and engineering to define architectures and features of new products, which led to over $500m of revenue. Developed an evolution of Sun’s corporate design language for servers. Mended the strained relationship between engineering and design. Participated in global user research and usability studies.

    Education

    • MA in Humanities from University of Chicago. Interdisciplinary degree with emphasis in design studies/sociology, created an individualized program for studying design research (before such a term existed). 1997.

    Awards

    • 2014: Certified Scrum Product Owner (from Agile Learning Labs)
    • 2008: BusinessWeek/IDSA Award, Turbochef Speedcook Oven
    • 2003: Good Design Award, Oral-B children’s toothbrushes
    • 2003: Honorable Mention, ID Magazine Design Competition, Dickies dotRobe concept
    • 2000: CES Innovation Best of Show award for Infogear iPhone
    • 1996: Scholarship awarded by University of Chicago
    • 1992: Award of Excellence, Sony Design Vision International Student Design Competition

    Patents: Functional patents for Microsoft Tablet PC navigation control and frog collaboration software. Multiple design patents for Sun computer enclosures, Oral-B toothbrushes.

    Activities

    Guest lecturer at several institutions: Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, IESE Business School in Barcelona, and the École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle, Paris

    • 2006: Juror, Bottom Line Design Awards (Business 2.0 Magazine and frog design collaboration)
    • 1999: Juror, IDSA IDEA annual design competition
    • 1998 - 2005: Adjunct Professor in industrial design at California College of the Arts, San Francisco

    Writing

    • Have written frequently for Harvard Business Review Online. Also blog for frog (www.frogdesign.com/amphibious) and have a personal blog (www.richardsona.com)
    • 2010: Author of book, Innovation X: Why a Company’s Toughest Problems are its Greatest Advantage, published by Jossey-Bass (a division of Wiley), Feb 2010. See www.innovationxbook.com
    • 2011: “Creating User Experience,” Economic Observer (the Financial Times equivalent in China, print edition, in Chinese)
    • 2007-2010: Co-author Matter/Anti-Matter blog on Cnet
    • 2006-2007: Regular contributor to Car Design News, the premier website for professional car designers
    • 2007: Initiated and edited special “green” issue of frog’s online Design Mind newsletter. This was turned into a printed edition as a promotional piece.
    • 2007: Conducted interview with Gary Erikson, CEO of Clif Bar, for Design Mind
    • 2006: Wicked Problems, article for Design Mind
    • 2005: From the Information Age to the Recommendation Age, for Design Mind (cited in Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail
    • 2005: Design for the Bottom Line, interviewed for this article for Microsoft’s OEM Connect newsletter
    • 2004: Design: Strategic Partnerwith a Point of View. Primary author on article about design consultancies as strategic partners, highlighting frog’s approach, for Design Management Journal
    • 2003: Article for Readymade magazine about wheelchair designer Ralf Hotchkiss
    • 2001: “Design Shape-Shifts Again,” article on the increasing complexity of design for Innovation magazine
    • 2000: “Clairvoyance: The Gold at the End of the Rainbow,” article on trend analysis for Innovation
    • 1999: “Mountain Meets the Road”, article on bicycle design for Graphis magazine
    • 1994: Design work featured in Axis magazine, in article entitled “The New Corporate Design”
    • 1993: “Death of the Designer”, paper published in Design Issues

    Speaking

    I have been active in speaking about design, business and technology since the beginning of my career, and was one of the most prolific speakers and authors on behalf of frog. See the Speaking page for a list of workshops, keynotes and other talks. 

    Personal

    • Citizenship: British and American dual citizenship.
    • Languages: English (native), French (basic).
    • Interests: Photography (online portfolio), cooking, collective vintage Olivetti products, cycling.