Episode 5: Solving Better Problems with Mona Patel

by Michael Keeler

What if you were friends with a bunch badass business leaders and entrepreneurs and could ask them about their successes, challenges, and most valuable advice? That’s exactly what Business for Unicorns delivers. Join business coach and entrepreneur Michael Keeler as he speaks with inspiring leaders and entrepreneurs who believe that a business can make money while improving the lives of their employees and customers.

? New Episodes posted every Monday. Start listening at businessforunicorns.com/podcast.

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Mona is the CEO of Motivate design, UX expert, professor, speaker and author.

“I work to make technology approachable. At first, I got to think about keeping shuttles in space and medical equipment operating smoothly. It was groundbreaking and heavy, and I thrived. It gave me a distinct POV: there is no problem too big to solve for, and no design too small to make a big impact.”

In 2009, Mona started Motivate Design, a UX/UI research and design agency. They are based in NYC and their clients Fortune 500 companies from all over the world. Our UX staffing agency UX Hires (2010) was born soon after to support a need Mona saw in the community. Motivate has been on the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing companies list three years in a row.

Mona’s latest project is a new proprietary method of customer investigation, Insider Insights. It uses the best practices of investigators to get to the truth about what customer’s think about your company. We talk about this exciting new project in the podcast – it’s brilliant.

In this podcast Michael and Mona discuss:

  • Mona’s amazing book Reframe: Shift the Way you Work, Innovate and Think.
  • Why business leaders are crummy at defining our actual problems.
  • Mona’s 8 BS Excuse Personas.
  • The power of “what if” questions.
  • The importance of design in the customer’s experience.
  • Common design pitfalls most companies make.
  • The key signs that your company should consider doing market research.
  • Mona’s advice on personal branding, speaking, and becoming an author.

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  1. Jeff Blair

    Great one Michael.

    Highlights for me:

    1. The storyboarding/charting of the client experience-“what they think, feel and do” during every step of the customer experience. And the discussion about how to fill in the blanks. Enjoyed your input there.

    2. Design:”how do we move people from one behavior to another?” And how design is a way to show respect for the customer. Loved it.

    3. Asking one question that’s worth the money in client research. Powerful idea

    4. The excuse personas. Great discussion. I kept thinking how meditation helps me so much in seeing reality vs being self-deceived by these excuses.

    5. I really liked your comment about your authenticity in the podcast. I could relate to not being the “sound effects guy” and needing to speak with my authentic voice.

    This was gold Michael. Thank you!!

    • Michael Keeler

      Awesome highlights Jeff! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

      If you liked this conversation you should totally consider reading Mona’s book. I learned so much from it. 🙂

  2. jeff Blair

    I am definitely going to read it, Michael.

    Here is one question I always have about these issues:

    Henry Ford supposedly said, “If I would have given people what they wanted, I would have given them a faster horse.”

    There is a lot written on the elephant and rider metaphor on human decision making. The elephant is the unconscious combination of genetics, cultural programming, societal influences, etc. The rider is the logical mind. We think the rider is making the decisions but the elephant usually is. This is the criticism I have seen of consumer surveys and it seems intuitively correct.

    Given this situation, how do we get valid data on what people actually value and what moves behavior? Is the answer we are grabbing the low-hanging fruit first?

    As a practical matter, most businesses are probably not even thinking this way so that puts those of us thinking about it ahead of the curve.

    But in the search for valid data, how do we get reliable information from people if they don’t necessarily understand it themselves? Thanks!!!

    • Michael Keeler

      Hey Jeff – Sorry, I didn’t see this comment until now.

      Great point! And Mona would agree, humans don’t really know why we make decisions. Most market research is often about getting as close as possible to consumer’s thinking based on their known (stated) desires and reasoning, but it’s important to know that it’s only scratching the surface.

      In fact, that’s part of the problem Mona’s InsiderInsights program is attempting to solve. They are working to create a network of connected “brand investigators” (my words, not hers) to see if they can dig beneath this surface level to reveal deeper (maybe even unconscious) levels of desire, thoughts, and reason around consumer behavior.

      I can’t wait to see what Mona and her team uncover. 🙂


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