#HCD at EndWell 2018


Each December, the EndWell Foundation’s conference in San Francisco brings curiosity, understanding, and empathy to reexamine the end-of-life journey. Following the speaker-led sessions, spirited participants practice, “learning by doing,” and apply design thinking to this vital human need. Let me share today’s experience with you.


We began with Discovery, seeking new and unusual information through desk research, observations, and interviews. In a one-day workshop, we rely heavily upon discussions to learn from our colleagues’ experiences.

For example, I spoke with a fellow participant, Emily, who shared her mother’s physical and emotional pains as she transitioned from chemotherapy to hospice care. After describing her mother’s journey, Emily turned inward and reflected on her journey.


“I knew I'd get my mother’s ashes in an urn, but from her diagnosis until the end, I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions.”


Aggregating our Discoveries leads to Insights, which are the “ah-ha” moments where seemingly invisible connections emerge between disparate pieces of data.

My conversation with Emily about both her and her mother’s journey, along with the previous day’s speakers, uncovered many Insights, including just as patients can feel useless and a burden to their caretakers, caretakers experience feelings of fear and exhaustion.

The key to finding innovative solutions is expressing the Insight as a question that will elicit a variety of possible solutions. In this case,


“How might we expand our emotional support of patients through the end of life journey to their caregivers?”


Ideation is not brainstorming; instead, as Arthur Schopenhauer said, “the task is not so much to see what no one else has seen, but to think what no one else has thought, about what everyone sees.” Good teams come up with targeted product or service ideas; great teams develop business models built upon empathy for their customers.

For example, in our workshop, a good idea was “Jailbreak,” riffing off caretaker’s feelings of confinement and isolation by creating an out-of-home experience to relieve their stress.

However, a deeper exploration uncovered a human-centered need through analogy, “like a new parent, [caretakers] want the choice to sit at home and decompress!” We quickly drew up a list of solutions including doing laundry, cooking meals, and cleaning caretaker’s house.


Constraints are vital to an Experiment, including the $100 budget and the one-week time frame. Anything more substantial gets bogged down in complexity, and team members become dispirited. For our experiment, we chose to reach out to palliative care and hospice nurses to poll caretakers and to inform our original hypothesis. Only with this feedback will we decide on our next experiment.

Leading organizations view “design as strategy,” infusing the scalable, repeatable process and universal language of design thinking throughout their organization. Let’s connect and re-imagine the definition of strategy in your organization.

Jeff Eyet