Innovation Expert Karen Hold’s Telcom Bubble Burst — How Did She Diversify?

Innovation Expert Karen Hold’s Telcom Bubble Burst — How Did She Diversify?


Check out all episodes on the My Favorite Mistake main page.

My guest for Episode #158 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is Karen Hold. She is the Founder of Experience Labs and her work is grounded in a core belief that design thinking provides an enabling social technology that facilitates adaptation and effective problem-solving in complex social systems. 

Karen began her career in business and strategy on the Folgers Coffee brand team in the early 90s (part of Proctor & Gamble) — influenced by the work of Tom Peters, who was my guest in Episode 58.

One of the authors of the Book: Experiencing Design: The Innovator's Journey from Columbia Business School Publishing.

In today's episode, Karen shares her “favorite mistake” story about having all of her professional eggs in the telecom industry basket. What did she learn about the need to diversify when all of her customers went bankrupt? What actions did she take to move forward in a better way?

We also talk about questions and topics including:

  • Being more intentional about diversifying in what to do next?
  • Folgers experience? Lessons from learning brand management?
  • The influence of Tom Peters? In Search of Excellence
  • A family of designers Who were some of your key mentors? Grandfather Leroy Grumman

“A rough answer to the right question is better than a detailed answer to the wrong question.”

Leroy Grumman
  • How does that idea connect to entrepreneurship, innovation?
  • “Effective problem solving in complex social systems?”
  • What is a complex social system?
  • How does Design thinking help with customer understanding and problem solving?
  • “From ego centricity to empathy”
  • Why is “the discovery process” so important, something to dive deeply into, before we start testing products or services?
  • Can you apply the lessons from the book to the writing of the book?
  • “Test your way to success” — peer review for an academic book

Scroll down to find:

  • Video of the episode
  • Quotes
  • How to subscribe
  • Full transcript

Find Karen on social media:

Watch the Episode:


"I think so often we think of prototypes as dress rehearsals for the real thing. And we don't spend the time trying to figure out if we even are asking the right questions and it is so important to make sure you're answering the right question."
"Instead of waiting and placing big bets infrequently, you can test your way to success and ensure that you are answering the right question and you're solving the right problem."
"I think what's important for people to recognize is that you can't prove a new idea. You can prove the assumption and you can disprove the assumptions behind a new idea, but you can't prove a new idea until you put it out into the market."

Subscribe, Follow, Support, Rate, and Review!

Please follow, rate, and review via Apple Podcasts or Podchaser or your favorite app — that helps others find this content and you'll be sure to get future episodes as they are released weekly. You can also become a financial supporter of the show through

You can now sign up to get new episodes via email, to make sure you don't miss an episode.

This podcast is part of the Lean Communicators network.

Other Ways to Subscribe or Follow — Apps & Email

Automated Transcript (Likely Contains Mistakes)

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus. He is also a Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Marketing with the healthcare advisory firm, Value Capture.