Design Thinking – Melody Song

Melody Song Design Thinking

Design thinking helps you to understand people’s needs to look holistically at interactions and constantly iterate the way forward. Focusing your efforts on the most impactful design moments  creates new and sticky experiences.   Imagine meeting and exceeding your customers’ needs and expectations.  Imagine what  you can achieve by understanding  the interactions people have,  surfacing problem areas,  exploring opportunities through designing a more  accurate, updated and relevant customer journey map.

You can make happy people even happier.  Their joy can lead them to become  advocates.   Design thinking can  remove  frustrating barriers.  By visualising and isolating negative moments,  brainstorming  and ideating ways to improve the experience, there can be increased positivity experience.

  A governance lens can identify  who the organisation is serving, their experiences , emotions, how happy or sad they are. Design experiences can lead to better outcomes and increased satisfaction levels.  Fear  of the unknown and the accompanying feelings can be met by  design thinking that  increases the ability to navigate,  embrace ambiguity, solve problems  and adopt a   learning mindset  while Journeying “Every time I do a workshop, we absolutely have no idea what’s going to come out of that. We would just ask people to ideate, we ask  them to do things, to draw sometimes. But something comes out in the end” says Melody.


Usefully Melody Song  clarifies the difference between design thinking and systems thinking. Design thinking clarifies how you are  going to do somethingSystem thinking on the other hand, recognises that everything’s connected. System-wide change impacts on  decision-making. Both design thinking and systems thinking   are required to have a more holistic and sustainable approach to problem solving. Conditions for co-creation and collaboration requires psychological safety and connection.

Practically this means acknowledging each other, undertaking  activities together, learning  about colleagues, understanding stakeholders  and the partners we are going to work with.

We build and find ways to  sustain  trust, transparency and accountability – which is even more  crucial when working remotely.  Twinned with care, kindness and compassion  design thinking is a winning combination” says Melody.



00:00:00 Paula: Welcome to “TesseTalks” with your host Tesse Akpeki and co-host Paula. Okonneh. Where we share with you top leadership and management strategies. This is a journey of discovery. We are learning that leadership is personal and professional and we hope that you walk with us through this journey. Our guest today is a Melody Song and we will be talking about the importance of design work. But before we go into that, let me tell you a bit about Melody. Melody is the founder of do good here,org. A network of professionals delivering design labs to foster collaboration and connectivity in the social sector. Combined in data science and design thinking, Melody uses data-driven empathy based methodology to help build capacity for nonprofits to be versatile, for nonprofits also to be diverse and sustainable. As a certified fundraising executive or a CFRE her fundraising career spans over 15 years and several sectors, which include art, education, health, animal welfare and wildlife conservation. My gosh, I am so impressed already. Should I continue? Her area of expertise includes major gift funding, prospect managing sponsorship and international fundraising. I’m going to stop here just so that we can welcome Melody, because I know she’s going to touch on some of these things. So welcome, welcome, welcome to “TesseTalks” Melody it’s wonderful to have you here. 

00:01:52 Melody: Thank you Paula and thank you Tesse as well for inviting me. And I’m very excited to be talking with you today.

00:02:00 Tesse: Brilliant. Paula I’m excited to have Melody on. The first thing I’d say, I love Melody’s name it’s so musical Melody Song. I’m feeling like dancing already. Today Melody is going to touch on how we can change the world through design thinking and collaboration. And I’m impressed and interested in stuff. So I’m curious to know more about “”, the design agency based in Berlin that provides design thinking workshops to cause based organizations. Can you say a little bit more about that? 

00:02:32 Melody: Definitely. So I have a long career in fundraising and nonprofit sector. However, I feel that the sector consists of really hardworking people who are trying to make an impact in the world. But as a whole, we’re very capacity poor, which means that a lot of the money that we raise go directly into the programs, not into ourselves, into organizational building. Therefore the sector basically a really lacking in innovation. We’re not looking at them best practice in management or the most innovative management practices at all. And when I started learning about design thinking, that’s about two years ago. It’s like a light bulb button up in my head. I was thinking if we could have brought this to the sector, we would have done more good. The commercial world already using design thinking for many things like experience design. When we buy things on Amazon, they analyze the process of your buying and make sure that that process as smooth as possible so that you could make your purchase. But thinking about how to use this in real work, like climate change in works like helping people, in works like medicine. That kind of work is, I think it’s more critical that we need to bring that innovation into the sector. Therefore that’s where the idea comes from is that we want to help organizations with new management method with design thinking approach so that we can be more human centered and we can bring more innovation and do our job better. Therefore it’s good for the world. So that was totally the idea behind it. So currently my self and my co-founder Nicolina, we’re both based in Berlin and we have helped. For example, a nonprofit organization called “rock your lives” in Germany. They are actually a big organization that worked in mentoring youth. They pair up university students with youth who are underprivileged and they give you some idea where they could work later on by providing them with workshops and mentorships. And what we have done is use design thinking to design a online donation experience for them. And they were able to actually completely revitalize their digital online donation experience, especially in the pandemic it’s very important. They were able to actually increase their donations by 60% and it was a really amazing experience for me. So that’s just one example of how we help nonprofits on the pro bono basis for now. Our company is still very new and we rely on a network of designers. We have designers from India, we have designers in the US who volunteer their time and come to help. So we’re really also a kind of a platform or network of people who just want to do some really interesting things. Like design creative things together, but we want to do it with purpose and we want to help others. So that’s how we get together with “do good here”. 

00:05:58 Tesse: Fabulous. Knowing more about what you do and it sounds very inspirational. Paula I see your eyes, we are recording this and we can see each other. You have a question for Melody don’t you? 

00:06:11 Paula: I do, and listening to what she was saying and it’s a new company, but you’re doing a lot. And I still need to, I still want some more clarity sounds so almost like a brand new concept. So tell me a little bit more about it. Like what are the benefits? You’ve told me some, but can I hear more? 

00:06:30 Melody: Yeah, definitely. You mentioned like I do design work. Whenever you say design work, people think about graphic design. 

00:06:36 Paula: Yes

00:06:37 Melody: And that’s definitely not what we do. I love graphic design. That was my dream to be a graphic designer. But I always think that I’m not creative enough and that is obviously wrong. Like you grew up thinking that you can’t do something, but then later on in life, you just need to start doing it. Like being creative, for example you just need to start practicing things. However that aside, design thinking has nothing to do with graphic design. It is a methodology to problem solve. So when you talk about management practices, this is one of those methodology that incorporate certain set of process and certain set of tools where you’ve actually problem solve in anything. For example, like I just give you an example of the “rock your life” for this German nonprofits. They need a donation online donation, and we created the donation experience for them. And how we did that is that we used some visualization tools and we asked the team to brainstorm, how are the donors going through that donation process? What were they thinking beforehand? What are they doing and thinking during the donation process? And what will they be doing after the donation process? And we isolate those moments and think about how we can improve those moments, because sometimes those moments can be a barrier. Sometimes those moments are thinking about also bringing in the emotion as well. Design thinking is all about the connecting with humans. Not thinking about, oh it’s just the process. It’s all about, what’s the emotion when the person’s going through that donation process? Is the person frustrated? Is the person happy? And if that person’s happy, how can we make him even happier and advocate for the organization? That even if the person’s frustrated, how can we remove some barriers? So it’s really about visualizing that experience, isolating those moment and brainstorm and ideate on ways to improve the experience. And in the end really come up with a new experience for the user, which in this case is a donor. So that is in the nut shell what it can do. I used an analogy with Tesse before of designing a chair. So design thinking really coming from design. Despite that it has nothing to do with graphic design. It did come from industrial design. For example, basically when you design a thing, a product like a chair, you need to research the users first. You need to know what they like about the chair or the height of the chair or the comfort of the chair, the material of the chair. What kind of benefits is this bringing to the user? And then you start designing some kind of prototype and then you test it with the user and then come back and iterate with the prototype. And then you put in the final design product. So the design thinking founders who are brothers Dave Kelly, I think is one of them. He’s the founder of the Stanford B school. And also the founder of the company called IDEO. They have decided 30 years ago to bring this process into problem-solving with management problems, like anything, any management problems. So when we solve any problem, we go through this process, we research who’s benefiting, who’s our user, what are they thinking? What kind of things and experience they’re going through. And then they create some prototype experiments. And then they test going through kind of a process and ideating new ideas, that’s very important actually. And that process actually created a lot of new products, which related to innovation. So design thinking now probably is the most popular approach for innovation. So if we want to create a new product or we want to create a new experience, or we want to do something new. We can use design thinking as a tool to go through that. Just like designing a chair we need to go through that process. So pretty much that’s in a nutshell, does that clarify things a little bit more. 

00:10:57 Paula: Yes a lot. But I’m sitting here and I’m bowled over with all the moving parts and all the things that going to create in a product. You think about the users, the material, the comfort, the advantages, big emotions they experience. That’s awesome, awesome, awesome. No wonder sometimes I look at things and I’m like, wow, somebody really thought through this. And I guess that’s the way you guys come into play. 

00:11:23 Melody: Exactly. And I really like to think about this. I don’t know if maybe the audience would have heard of Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect. I really love his work. He’s falling waters is like the most famous home that he designed. And he’s the first one who actually said in the twenties or something. “We need to use the human scale, the human scale is the one real scale”. Which in his world it means that when you design a house, you’re not only looking at the house, you’re really looking at the people who lived in the house. So when you design it, you can look outside the window. You can think about when the person sit by the window what view is the person looking at? Look into that detail. That’s how he designed everything in his house. So it’s a holistic approach. But what I really love about design thinking is it’s putting human in the center and that is what’s missing in many organizational approach. Before, like in the management practices is always putting organization in the center. Looking at things like Target’s branding, KPI, all of these things. And then all of us are just working towards those goals, but not thinking about humans. Like design thinking is the approach where you really start with the human, using the human scale. What does the user need? What are we building for? It’s for the human. So it’s also called human centered design. Yeah. So that’s another clarification. 

00:13:01 Tesse: I totally love it. Thank you Melody. I said, I love the phraseology of that, what are we building for? Who are we building it for? What’s the experience we’re wanting to create? If say an organization looking at integrating design thinking into the way the organization does things. What would be the first steps? What would people be thinking about? I’m noticing that you have have served as a board member of association for professionals, researchers in advancement. And so you have the experience of a board. For instance, let’s say a board wants to have more effective governance. How could they integrate design thinking into that kind of setting?

00:13:43 Melody: It’s more about the first obvious thing we identify, the users or the humans in this problem who are the humans in this problem? And what kind of experience we want the humans to have? So to give you an example, in the pandemic, like I think a lot of the pandemic response are very organizational centric, not thinking too much about the experience of humans. We’re very focused on how to prevent the disease sometimes and not thinking other things. Like for example, the school, right? Like the school closing down or the school lockdown, what does that affect? What does that affect children? Government was not thinking about that until there are problems, right? They often start thinking about things from their point of view first and then until problem comes and they’re all. Oh my God, their mental health issues with children because they can’t meet their friends. That kind of thing. So really it’s identifying who you’re serving with that board governance who you’re serving? And then what are their experiences? Identify those experiences and we like to say moments. And also to put emotions in those experiences. Are they happy? Are they sad? What are they experiencing on the emotional level? Not just on the other level of using the product and whatnot, but also on the emotional level. And then go from there and design this product for experience the best way that we can.

00:15:23 Tesse: Paula I see you smiling again.

00:15:26 Paula: My mantra, something I say daily is I learn something new every day. And this is something new. You are really explaining it in a way and seeing how it’s helping organizations and helping businesses. And I love the example you just use about COVID. The government didn’t think through how it would affect the children like locking down schools, et cetera. And so that’s where design thinking would have been very well appreciated if they have come to you guys, I was going to ask about what organizations have benefited from design thinking, but you touched on that. And so I will instead ask, do you have any resistance from any organizations in embracing this way of doing things?

00:16:13 Melody: Yes. That’s a very good question because I don’t think there are lots of resistance, but I think there are lots of hesitation. And the hesitation comes from where people tend to not wanting to try new things. But once they try it, they’re like wow, this is actually not new. I don’t know if you have experiences, but I facilitate a lot of like workshops or sessions where I ask people to draw. For example, I would just pull up a piece of paper and then doodle something on it. And I have people who are quitting my workshop because of that request. Because they don’t want to draw. They think that, I can’t draw, why am I drawing? Like I can’t draw. But that’s not true, you can. Everybody can draw, you can just pick up a pen and just do anything and it’s not hard at all. But the funny thing is that the resistance come from those who are unwilling to try. Even like a simple thing, like drawing or they feel intimidated. I see this a lot as well by technology because we’re all remote. So we’re with design thinking we advocate co-creation and we advocate diversity. So we work usually on a board together in writing. Because, you know, while you work on sticky notes, there’s some benefits of working together on the board, than talking with each other. But first of all, you can visualize the data and you can move the data around. Second of all, you can encourage those people who don’t speak up. They don’t have to sum up the courage. They just need to write and then brainstorm there sometimes. And you can see other people’s ideas and build on them. So there are many benefits to that. Some people are actually intimidated by that, which I was very surprised off. So I wouldn’t say that’s a huge resistance, I think people have hesitations when there’s something new that they have never done before they would hesitate.

00:18:19 Paula: I can see how that can be because change is hard. I mean, we like to stay with what we used to. We’re more comfortable with it, I see it everyday. I see it in my life, I see it in like my. Now we do podcasting and zoom, which used to be the thing. And now there’s so many other tools having sometimes, oh my gosh. And we’re so used to Zoom, let’s just stay there. 

00:18:40 Melody: Yeah, exactly. And also a lot of people are afraid of the unknown, or the. We don’t know what’s going to happen, they’re afraid of that feeling. But that’s part of the abilities that in design thinking that we try to train. That’s actually the number one ability is the ability to navigate and embrace that ambiguity. Thinking about don’t be afraid of not knowing, but embracing that and thinking, can we learn together? And thinking about us together with a learning mindset instead of a knowing mindset. Instead of, oh, I need to know everything into, yes let’s learn together and explore this together and go on the journey together to solve a problem. That is amazing. Every time I do a workshop, we absolutely have no idea what’s going to come out of that. We would just ask people to ideate, we ask people to do things, to draw sometimes. But something comes out in the end and everyone’s made out of what they can do. It’s really that ability within you that this approach really brings. Yeah, so that’s another thing I love about it, is the ability to navigate ambiguity. And I think there’s no more time than now that we need this because we don’t know what’s going to happen. 

00:19:59 Tesse: Yeah, that’s excellent. And there’s something that you might be able to clarify for me because the way you describe design thinking, and I’m familiar with systems thinking. And it’d be lovely to hear from your perspective, the similarities are different between both concepts. Is that something that you can help me with?

00:20:20 Melody: Of course, yeah. I think I just used that example of designing a chair. So with design thinking is a process of designing a chair. I already explained where we explore what the users want and then create prototype and then put it to test and then, you know, iterate and that kind of thing. But system thinking is more about thinking more than beyond the chair, thinking about how is the chair going to impact our lives? Is the chair sustainable? It’s the material of the chair bio-degradable? Is the chair going to last forever? Or is it chair going to end up in the dump? When we start thinking about those questions. Where’s the chair come from? How is it made? And where it was made? That all have an impact on our lives that we need to think about. Like when we buy products, we’ll think about Palm oil products with Palm oil. That would actually affect climate because it’s taking the habitat away from wildlife. So thinking beyond that one thing and thinking beyond ourselves is the system think. Where everything’s connected and how are we going to holistically think about where everything’s coming from and how do we make everything sustainable together. I think that is the difference for me about system thinking. And design thinking is more practical. It’s more about, this is how we’re going to do it. We’re going to first empathize with users then we’re going to ideate about ideas, how can we make it better? And then we’re going to create a prototype and then we’re going to iterate. So that’s the process very clear. But system thinking is more about if we want to change something we need to change system-wide and thinking about all these other things that impact our decisions in our lives. 

00:22:18 Tesse: Oh, that’s so clear. I’m going to hand back to Paula. Because Paula the thing for me is Melody has really cleared this up because from what Melody is saying, you need design thinking and systems thinking in order to have a more holistic and sustainable approach to problem solving. I love it, really. Yeah, totally. 

00:22:39 Paula: As I said, I learned something new everyday. This has been fascinating. Well we about to wrap up, but are there any questions, any thoughts or pearls of wisdom? As I know my dear friend Tesse would like to describe it as, do you have any pearls of wisdom that you’d like to share? Anything that we didn’t ask you that you will be like, oh, if they heard this, then it will really blow their mind.

00:23:07 Melody: Yeah. I think the topic of design thinking also it’s not just a message where. I mentioned a little bit about workshops how we do things, right? We’re not just talking together we’re co-creating and collaborating together in the way where we feel safe with each other and we feel connected with each other. And that is another thing that attracts me to this methodology. For example, I feel like in the design thinking workshop we will always do a warmup. Like we will always know each other first be really present and then connect with all the participants first and understand where they come from before we launch into anything business related or here’s our objective now. I really love that and I think it’s really something you don’t have to adopt design thinking. But if all of us can actually make that a goal in our next zoom meeting, or even the in-person meeting to learn a little bit more about each other, that would really be helpful for us to empathize and start that collaboration and use that in our work to make our life our team more efficient. That would be something that I want to  leave the audience with. 

00:24:28 Paula: Awesome, I love that. Collaboration, finding out who the person is, it’s not all business but it’s okay. Who are you? What makes you tick? 

00:24:38 Melody: Exactly. But just maybe ask each other, how are you doing today? Instead of okay today, we’re going to talk about this. 

00:24:47 Paula: Yeah.

00:24:48 Melody: Instead of that, let’s just look at each other and acknowledge everyone. It’s amazing how people still don’t acknowledge other people, especially in zoom. You have 20 people, that’s a lot, but if you have 10, I think everybody needs to be acknowledged. And maybe we do a little activity together. What is your favorite cocktail? Maybe learn a little bit more about your colleagues or people who you are going to work with. To do build trust. That’s something I learned that’s really useful when working remotely. 

00:25:23 Tesse: Yeah, Paula and I are laughing because of a guests we had on the show called David Taylor Klaus. (DTK) And that’s his favorite question on a club house, is what cocktail are you drinking on Monday night? So we just smiled because it just shows how interconnected the world is. 

00:25:39 Melody: Oh yeah? That’s great. You know what my favorite, right now my favorite question is what’s the food from your hometown that nobody knows of? That’s my favorite question now, because people start really thinking and connecting. And that there are colleagues who work together for years, but they didn’t know that they’re all from the same place. And then they start talking about the food and everybody’s excited about the food. I learned so much about food in different places.

00:26:07 Paula: I like that question, really like that question. I’m probably gonna use it when next time I’m on one of the zoom meetings, breakout room. Yeah what food? That’s so great question. See, I learned something. So today I didn’t learn one thing, I learned like five things and it’s only 1:30 where I am. So I’ve got about seven more hours to learn more stuff.

00:26:28 Tesse: Everybody loves food Paula. 

00:26:30 Melody: Yes.

00:26:31 Paula: Oh yeah. Good food.

00:26:32 Melody: Food is such a essential thing for every culture. 

00:26:37 Tesse: Yeah. 

00:26:38 Paula: That’s really good. Before we wrap up, we need to tell the world where they can find you. Are you online? I said that to somebody once and they said, I’m in my house. Can we find you on line Melody? 

00:26:57 Melody: You can find me online So just basically do good here as one So that’s probably the best way to find me online. And to know more about design thinking and how we can help non profit organizations or cause based organizations. And if you’re interested to do that, you can contact me as well.

00:27:21 Paula: Lovely, lovely. So I’m going to wrap up here. So to our wonderful listeners, make sure you head over to Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere else, where you listen to podcasts and please click subscribe. If you like what you’re hearing, please write us a raving review. And if you have questions or topics that you’d like us to cover related to leadership or governance, send us a note. Remember it can be personal as well as professional. And last but not least if you want to be a guest on the show, please head over to “” to apply. Thank you, Melody, this was really amazing Tesse. 

00:28:08 Tesse: I just think it’s the best. Absolutely. 

00:28:11 Melody: Thank you guys for inviting me.

00:28:13 Tesse: I’m stunned

00:28:14 Melody: I’m very happy to talk with you guys.