INTERVIEW: Niall White

INTERVIEW: Niall White

Earlier this month I sat down with Niall White for an interview, the latest in our ongoing Meet Team Toolkit blog series. Well, I’m using the word “with” loosely, because I was in Massachusetts and he lives in Utah. We talked about music, art, cake, stinky cheese, and – of course – innovation. Niall is smart, analytical, funny, and a genuinely nice guy. Hope you enjoy the interview!

Dan: Let’s start with a get-to-know-you question: Say one word that describes you… and then say some more words about it.

Niall: One word is probably optimizer. I’m very analytical and like to be sure about things. So I’m always considering my options to make sure I’ve picked the best one. I love doing a lot of research but I also try to avoid overthinking things or spending too much time on research. Sometimes I succeed in that…

D: How did you end up at MITRE?

N: I first heard about MITRE from my dad when I was a kid. He was an Air Traffic Controller who worked with MITRE and always had good things to say about the people. Then in grad school, I interviewed with the company and got a great offer. Two years later, I’m still here!

D: What did you study in grad school?

N: I got an MS in Information Security Policy and Management, at Carnegie-Mellon, which is a fancy way of saying I studied cybersecurity. While I was there I also took a few courses in design thinking, and that’s a big part of how I got involved with the Innovation Toolkit.

D: Aside from working on ITK, what else do you do at MITRE?

N: I mostly support Public-Private Partnership and Acquisition projects, helping to translate technology into requirements and building strategies.  But the ITK work overlaps a lot with my day job – it’s fun to pull design thinking and ITK into the cyber-type work, whether it’s cyber testing or program protection.

D: What’s it like to be part of Team Toolkit?

N: It’s great! We all have so many diverse skills and backgrounds, which is really cool. As someone whose primary expertise is in the cyber realm, I can definitely empathize with people who don’t automatically feel like they are part of the design thinking crowd, or maybe feel like these methods aren’t really for them. Because of my background, I can help show that ITK is really for everyone.

D: How might you explain ITK to someone who’s not really familiar with things like design thinking or innovation?

N: I’d say these are tools that help adults be kids again. They help us tap into a more creative mental mode. These tools change our speed, exercise a different part of our brain, and ultimately make us better problem solvers.

D: Do you have a favorite tool?

N: Yeah, I really like the Premortem. And Mind Mapping. And Problem Framing. So I guess I have three favorites, but they’re all sort of related. Too often teams jump right to a solution or end up being busy for the sake of being busy. These tools help make sure we know what the problem really is, and they give us permission to have really important conversations we might not otherwise have. Conversations like “What problem are we really trying to solve?”

D: One of the things Team Toolkit does is celebrate failure with cake. Do you have a favorite flavor of Failure Cake?

N: I like failure cake that tastes OK. All too often failure does not feel OK, so I’d love it if failure cake was an OK flavor. Maybe vanilla? And let me add that if Team Toolkit was a cake, it would definitely be my favorite kind of cake: Funfetti, with all the colors and flavors together. Confetti is my favorite thing.

D: I borrowed that last question from when your wife Kaylee interviewed me, and this next question is from her too. If ITK were on the cover of a major business / innovation magazine, what would you want the cover to look like?

N: I’d want it to be an art montage by Lane Smith. He’s the illustrator who did Stinky Cheese Man, and I really like his visual style. It would be so cool to see how he would represent Team Toolkit.

D: Final question – is there anything else you want to tell the world about ITK?

N: It’s such an amazing team, and I hope more people can find themselves on teams like this. Everyone deserves this at least once in their lives!











I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Ward, an outstanding member of the Innovation Toolkit (ITK) team and MITRE Innovation Catalyst. (Yes, that is his actual title. Fitting, right?) Dan describes himself as a positive, energetic person and I think it is safe to say that anyone who meets him would agree. Dan brings oodles of fun, positive energy to every ITK function— enough to fill the room and even take home leftovers. We are pretty lucky to have him on the team!

 Dan has an impressive professional bio. He spent 20 years with the Air Force on active duty, retired, started an innovation consultancy, and came to MITRE to get the best of all those worlds. He’s an author, researcher, professional speaker, engineer— and let’s not forget, a fire eater! —you know, the people who stick flaming torches down their throats and blow giant fireballs from their mouths. (That tidbit doesn’t always make it to the professional bio.) He started doing magic shows when he was 10, then advanced to juggling, and then progressed fire eating. Naturally. (Yes, he likes spicy food. More about that later.) Now also seems to be a good time to put a plug in for his book: F.I.R.E: How Fast, Inexpensive, Restrained, and Elegant Methods Ignite Innovation. If you haven’t yet already, check it out. It’s one of his many claims to flame—uh, I mean fame.

After retiring from the military, Dan enjoyed the freedoms that came with independent consulting, but missed being part of the long-term goals and objectives that come with working on a larger team. A longtime friend who worked for MITRE and is also named Dan Ward (What are the chances?), invited our Dan Ward to apply for a new innovation and experimentation job opening at the company. Dan gave it a whirl and was struck by MITRE’s hiring practices. At his job interview, he found that MITRE wasn’t trying to fit him to a specific role, but rather change the role to fit him and his strengths and interests, making for an overwhelmingly positive experience that ended in an offer he couldn’t refuse.

At MITRE, Dan’s day job is working on defense acquisition policy. The Pentagon recently rolled out a middle-tier pathway of acquisition to speed up the process and reduce management overhead and oversight. Dan helps shape and craft that policy. He trains program offices and MITRE folks on what it means, how to use it, and how to implement acquisition authority. This work mainly consists of training, writing, consulting, and research.

 Dan’s passion project at MITRE is ITK. When asked to describe the ITK team he said, “A lot of what this team does is help groups work together on difficult technical and organizational challenges. We help with planning, communication, problem-solving and decision making. That’s what a lot of these tools come down to, helping human beings talk to each other in productive ways and solve problems as quickly and effectively as we can.”

 Dan’s role on the ITK team includes helping develop tools, facilitate innovation sessions, help MITRE teams understand what innovation is and how to use the tools, use the tools with them, and train people on how to use the tools on their own. As he explains, one of the ITK team’s core goals is to democratize innovation and make sure people understand innovation, know how to do it, and have access to the necessary tools.

The ITK team is unique in that it has a shared leadership structure. It is egalitarian. Dan pointed out, “I’m often described as the leader just because I am the oldest, but I try to correct that perception whenever it comes up.”

 The ITK team is also bound by strong ties of friendship. Throughout the interview, Dan often returned to how he values the team. When asked what the cover should look like if ITK were featured on a major magazine, Dan said, “I hope it would have a picture of all of our faces. As cool as the toolkit is, the most important thing we have built is the team.” When asked what the worst-case failure scenario looked like for ITK, Dan said, “A future where we aren’t even friends anymore. That feels like the most dystopian scenario. Or there is another failure where people point to ITK as the main reason for the failure. Of those two, not being friends anymore would be the worst.”

 The ITK team has a tradition of celebrating failure with failure cake(which we’ve blogged about previously). Since learning from failure is an important part of innovation culture, and we have had several occasions to literally eat failure cake, I asked Dan what his favorite failure cake flavor is. Next to chocolate, he said, “I like failure cake that tastes like learning.” When pressed for a flavor that most closely resembles the taste of learning, Dan replied with, “Tabasco. Hot and spicy with a little bit of pain but in a good way, and I kinda love it.” (Note to team: find a recipe for Tabasco cake.)

All in all, the one message that Dan hopes people really take away from ITK is, “You can do this. These tools are accessible. They are playful. They are usable. Innovation doesn’t need to be intimidating. It doesn’t need to cost so much or take so long. We can all do something that makes a difference. And I think we all have an obligation to be innovators—question the status quo, question our assumptions, and work well with the people we work with.”  




INTERVIEW: Kaylee White

INTERVIEW: Kaylee White

Recently I had the honor of sitting down with a wonderful member of team Toolkit, Kaylee White! Kaylee, a Senior Agile Design Engineer in MITRE’s Agile Systems Design and Enginnering Department, is one half of Toolkit West, calling Hill Air Force Base home along with another member of team Toolkit, her husband Niall White. Kaylee has been a rockstar member of MITRE’s culture since 2017, and I couldn’t wait to hear more about her Toolkit journey!

Melanie: Kaylee, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today about your Toolkit experiences! I am curious about how your MITRE journey began- how did you come to work here, and what has your experience been like so far?

Kaylee: Initially, MITRE was not on my radar, and I was looking at design agencies and commercial technology companies— very non-governmental work; but my now Group Leader received my resume, probably through a university career fair, and asked if I had ever considered MITRE. I began the interview process and was excited about MITRE as I began to hear about the mission and opportunities. Through this experience I have had a lot of opportunities to pave my own way. I have learned about a lot of different perspectives and have met many people with totally different experiences than me—there are always new challenges as well, which is exciting.

Melanie: How did you come to join the Innovation Toolkit Team?

Kaylee: Niall gave a talk about design in cyber security, which was also his thesis topic, and because of my design background he invited me to present with him. It caught the attention of the ITK team, and they reached out to us afterwards. We learned about what they were doing, and they asked if we would like to contribute to the tools and methodologies for MITRE. It took off from there.

Melanie: How has it been being a distance member of team Toolkit at a MITRE site?

Kaylee: It can be hard, when you have a mainly in person group, and then people who are distant, it can feel like you’re missing content, body language or chatter that may go on in person; but this team has been so considerate of that. When we have suggestions, and let them know there are challenges with distance, I see them making the effort to address those challenges. We try to use video chat more often for meetings.  Additionally, the people in person pause in conversations to allow the distance members to jump in during meetings. We are included on opportunities to participate in work, regardless of our location. We have been able to do a lot of collaboration from East Coast to West Coast.

 Melanie: Tell me what problem this service solves?

Kaylee: ITK gives people who are excited about innovation a way to communicate it, rearticulate it and practice it with other people. Yes, they are innovation tools, but they are also communication tools. Sometimes someone needs that. They need to know there is someone else out there on the same team, who may feel the same way as them, pushing for innovation.

 Melanie: What has been a standout experience for you in your toolkit journey? Or a great learning example for others? What inspires you?

 Kaylee: Seeing this entrepreneurship model has been really exciting; to see how motivated people can be to start a movement; or make an impact on a corporate level.

I’ve learned a lot from this team about creative optimism; enthusiasm around making these processes available to other people and to see how our team and members of our team really put in that passion and elbow grease and effort to make it happen because they care. I am learning from my teammates about that and I appreciate that.

 Melanie: What was the last new ITK skill you learned, and how has that helped contribute to your delivery services to our customers?

Kaylee: I am learning a lot about storytelling, how to convey innovation on a personal level and how it can apply to humans that are in a technical world. Communicating the value and application of innovation using stories has helped a lot.

Melanie: With so many great services, why should people choose ITK?

Kaylee: They are lightweight, cheap and easy to use. They always leave you with an artifact that can be referenced later and get you on the path to action.

Melanie: Do you have a favorite ITK tool? If so, why?

Kaylee: I like the problem framing tool, because it’s satisfying to articulate the root problem that we are trying to solve and brings focus to our work creating solutions.

Melanie: How has ITK contributed to your MITRE experience? Has it changed the way you approach your own projects outside ITK?

Kaylee: Yes, sometimes I am able facilitate workshops on my own projects and when people see it in action, they are excited to use it more. When the opportunity arises, I try to use those tools on my own projects. Sometimes it’s hard because I am not necessarily the decision maker on a project, but when the opportunity arises its always nice to bring people into conversations using the tools.

 Melanie: If you were to make three promises to someone who wanted to use ITK, what would they be?

Kaylee: We can help drive novelty, impact and experimentation.

 Melanie: What are your hobbies outside of ITK and MITRE?

Kaylee: My husband and I have been remodeling our house since the fall, but when we had a kitchen (it’s under construction at the moment) I like to make bread, including grinding the wheat myself, etc. I really appreciate the science behind tweaking recipes. I also like being outside— my husband and I do a lot of mountain biking and cycling.

Melanie: Any advice for someone new to ITK?

 Kaylee: “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” -John D. Cook (and also said by, the ever-fabulous Ms. Frizzle)

Melanie: Anything else you would like to share?

Kaylee: Reach out to us! We’re all available at ITK@MITRE.ORG

INTERVIEW: Melanie Shere

INTERVIEW: Melanie Shere

As part of our ongoing effort to democratize innovation across the company, Team Toolkit has picked up a couple of new members and branched out to new locations. One of our new members is Melanie Shere, based in MITRE’s McLean office. I sat down with Melanie to learn a little more about her and formally introduce her to the community!

Jen: Welcome to Team Toolkit, Melanie! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Melanie: I’m a Human Factors Engineer, in the User Experience, Visualization and Decision Support Department of the Software Engineering Tech Center. I focus primarily on human behavior, usability/accessibility and how interpersonal relationships are affected by different cultural factors and environmental influencers. Basically, I focus on why people make certain decisions and how we can incorporate different experiences more holistically, which is why design thinking is so appealing to me.

I began my career at MITRE Quantico 6 years ago and made my way to the McLean campus about 4 years ago. I have enjoyed furthering my education, as well as seeing the breadth of opportunity MITRE has to offer from different community and sponsor perspectives.

J: How did you first get involved with Innovation Toolkit?

M: I was invited to join through my Technical Director and Group Lead, who know that I enjoy interacting with others to help solve problems- whether that be complicated, large scale initiatives, or small short-term wins. They felt my personality and genuine knowledge would lend itself well to ITK’s mission. I also have a background in teaching, which I think makes me stronger in this space as well.

J: What’s your favorite part of ITK?

M: I like hearing about all the problems and seeing all the personalities in the room and trying to understand why people feel the way they feel. Usually, our ITK sessions involve people who are working on the same project, so they already know each other and have established dynamics. This is where ITK brings a cool perspective because we’re not emotionally invested as deeply “in the relationship” with the topic and can give advice objectively. We see a very high level snippet of the problem space,  so we’re an unbiased opinion and just want to see them succeed; or take some strong steps forward to establishing what their overarching goals should/could be, which can include a plan forward on how to tackle them.

I also like working with challenging problems and people.

J: What do you like about working with challenging types of personalities?

M: My entire basis in education has been analyzing and understanding the way people think. When I’m facilitating an ITK session, I strongly believe in seeing diverse perspectives (regardless of whether I agree with them or not). When I hear other people’s thoughts on a problem or idea, it also helps me to re-evaluate my own line of thinking, making me a stronger, more well-rounded person, and better equipped to deal with other persons and problem spaces in the future. Even if I only take a small piece of a conversation away with me, and that causes me to change just a small subset of my thinking- that to me, has made me better. This is part of the type of service I hope others receive from ITK and what we provide. These diverse perspectives are important because they create a more well-rounded discussion, and in the end, a more complete answer to a tough challenge. The point of ITK is providing a more well-rounded, inclusive solution to our peers, and this type of embracement of diversity in thought is necessary for that.

J: What helps when working with these challenging personalities? Do you have an example?

M: One example was when I was facilitating an ITK session where the leader changed the goal of the session multiple times, which meant that I’d have to re-plan the ITK session multiple times because the different goals required different types of ITK tools. This made it “difficult” because this session required at least double the prep work of a regular session since I had to rework it- which also led me to be more nervous of whether I had suggested the right solution for the final work session.

I went into the session anxious, hoping that we would get the results from it that would provide some tangible actions for the group. What made a difference was continuing to have touchpoint meetings before the actual session, where we walked through the tools and expected flow. We agreed that the lead would help cover subject matter expertise in that vocation, and I would provide design thinking examples and explanations to the group, working together to make sure we were providing clear, and strong direction for the expectation of the session.

It was important to make sure we were on the same page before stepping in the room, and we worked together very well to deliver strong results from the ITK sessions we held- resulting in not only tangible, actionable outcomes, but strong conversation artifacts as well.

J: What is the most challenging part of working with people and ITK?

M: From an internal perspective, Bedford and McLean are different animals – we have different sponsors, different environments, and a different culture. ITK began in Bedford and has more presence there, whereas ITK is still gaining traction in McLean. Especially since I was the only McLean member until now, I’ve been willing to put in more time and effort because we’re still gaining ground here, and I see so much value in what ITK has to offer, so I am always looking for more opportunities to grow our work.

From an external perspective, the most challenging part is gaining sponsor buy-in early in the process. Internally, a lot of people are familiar with what ITK is. But as we work more with external sponsors, ITK and the design thinking process is new to them and they need more guidance on how we can help them, and that we can assist no matter where they are with their processes. Innovative thinking is beneficial no matter where you are in a project lifecycle and is not limited to a topic you are working on but can encompass things you may be curious about as well.

J: How would you describe your style of innovation?

M: No limits. Be creative. I look at the personalities in the room and try to play to their strengths and help them recognize and strengthen other people’s offerings to the conversation in the room as well. For example, when facilitating, I’ll mix a group of personalities and backgrounds to make sure the playing field is even, and they are gaining and understanding perspectives and concerns of others. The most holistic perspectives produce the most educated solutions.

J: Everyone has a favorite tool. Name yours and why?

M: I wouldn’t say I have a favorite tool per se… One of my favorite things to do with the tools is occasionally creating hybrid tools when we don’t already have a tool that fits the group’s needs. I like to research for other solutions and marry it with what tools we already have. ITK isn’t one size fits all, and I think customizing tools shows that I truly understand how those tools should be used [in the ITK session] and that I really understand the group’s problem space.

Customizing demonstrates this, and that we are truly providing them with a unique service. Sometimes, some groups just need a tool [and they can use it as-is], which is also just as effective depending on their problem space. But I like when I get the opportunity to give them a custom experience. And they definitely appreciate it.

J: What role does culture play in adoption of ITK methods?

M: In my experience so far and from what I’ve seen in McLean, the McLean culture is very business-process driven. People definitely expect tangible, actionable results after an ITK session and have to see the practical application of what we did to their overall mission.  Sometimes though, just using the service to create a safe environment for difficult pivot project conversations or checking the pulse on an aspect you aren’t quite sure is still verging on goodness of work- is something I would love to see us do more of here.

J: What do you do when you aren’t working on ITK?

M: I’m currently working on a few internal projects and I also support a couple DoD efforts, and an IRS project.

Outside of work, I spend a lot of time with my husband and family, whether it’s going out to dinner, traveling, going out to a baseball game, or a show. I also enjoy baking, gardening, painting and my two cats, Maggie and Waffles. I spend a lot of time between Virginia and my family in Vermont as well. I also over the past 6-7 years have been very involved in historic preservation work, teach ethnographic perspectives in history education and have led a committee of 40 women, assisting in recruiting and training volunteers for 5 different historic properties.

J: If someone was interested in using the Innovation Toolkit, how would you suggest they get started?

M: First, figure out how they want to use ITK. If you don’t have anything particular in mind, (or if you do) check out the ITK website, check out some of the tool options, and see if any speak to them.

Second, I’d suggest setting up a meeting with someone on Team Toolkit (or reaching out to us via email) to learn more about how we can help and figure out what they need in their situation, or even if they just want to know more in general.

J: Any closing thoughts or do you have a favorite quote to share?

M: “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” – Fred Rogers



As part of our ongoing effort to democratize innovation across the company, Team Toolkit has picked up a couple of new members since we started. One of them is Jen Choi, a Senior Multi-disciplinary Systems Engineer at MITRE. Rachel sat down with Jen recently to learn a little more about her and formally introduce her to the community!

Rachel: Welcome to Team Toolkit, Jen! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Jen: Hi Rachel! I’m stoked to be here with you and Team Toolkit. I joined MITRE last June and have had a pretty interesting path before arriving here… I have close to a decade of experience in engineering, but I also spent a few years as an entrepreneur, an executive coach, and a surfer: I had my own coaching business, and I also worked with a non-profit, Surfrider Spirit Sessions, where we “catch waves and change lives” by teaching at-risk youth how to surf and how to change their lives using lessons drawn from the ocean. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled the world for a year, and I also used to live and work abroad in the Netherlands. Before moving to Massachusetts, I was living in Hawai’i and began learning how to navigate using the stars and I’m currently a voyager with the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

R: How did you first get involved with Innovation Toolkit?

J: I worked with Dan on a sponsor project and the ITK team was brought on to support a workshop in the Pentagon. The team banded together to build the problem framing canvas and the Opportunity Capture canvas in a weekend. I had never heard the word ‘charter’ or ‘canvas’ before in this context and seeing the rapid tool-building was really cool – one person started it and then others contributed their ideas.

R: What’s your favorite part of being on Team Toolkit?

J: I love the energy of possibility – the openness, creativity, and willingness to think different and be different. And, that it’s encouraged and supported. In an engineering company, I think remembering the human aspects of design, rather than only thinking of systems, can help lead to innovation. Having a collection of these tools that are available to everyone and applying them in traditionally systems-oriented environments (military especially) feels really creative.

I like seeing the confidence boost when people realize they have something valuable to contribute. Using these tools becomes inclusive because everyone is invited to participate. You never know what cool idea is going to come from whomever.

Also, I like introducing people to a new idea and seeing how their perspectives and mindsets shift. That, to me, is really exciting; that’s the most powerful thing we can give to an individual. I’m all about the power of choice. Mindset is a big part of what Toolkit is about, both to help you shift your mindset and to help you articulate that.

R: Do you have an example of that?

J: When we used the problem framing tool with one of my sponsors who is very traditional, reserved, and likes to plan ahead, they were surprised by how much they could get done in an hour. They were beginning in a totally new domain and didn’t know where to start. We uncovered not just one problem, but many problems, and so

mething “fuzzy” started to clarify. They continue to be appreciative and champion this type of problem solving; they want to bring this to their leadership and other organizations!

R: What is the most challenging part of working with people and ITK?

J: Some people have a natural aversion or resistance to the tools. I’m starting to build my barometer of when a group is “ready” for toolkit or not. That can only be done by trial and error, which makes it the challenging part. Sometimes it will be a “hard no” and always be a no. Some are a “not yet” and you have to take that temperature pulse. When there’s trial and error, there will inevitably be errors. You need to figure out what went wrong…and be willing to try again.

On a more logistical note, the tools are the best when you have diversity of people in the room. Being able to get on people’s calendars can be a challenge. People are busy and have competing priorities, so it can be tough to even find time to use the tools.

R: Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working in ITK.

J: Without Toolkit, I never would have gone into the Pentagon to facilitate a lot of senior leadership in the government! Using ITK was really cool because unlike traditional engagements where one is typically looking for a decision or guidance, the roles were reversed and we were guiding the senior leaders by drawing out their individual inputs and helping piece these  together as a group.

R: How would you describe your style of innovation?

J: I encourage people to see the bigger picture and set goals based on their vision. When I was coaching, I helped people get unstuck and get clear on what they’re really trying to do. That’s how I use Toolkit now, which is probably why I like using the Problem Framing canvas.

R: What role does culture play in adoption of ITK methods?

J: Culture is huge. It’s great if you can find one person who is open, buys in, or who can be an ally/champion for the tools. We need to understand the culture of an organization or group to figure out who is receptive to ITK methods.

Internally on Team Toolkit, our culture is very diverse, which I think truly helps us create better tools and products. We represent different MITRE locations, remote vs. in-person, different types of engineering, and work with different sponsors.

R: Everyone has a favorite tool. Name yours and why?

J: The problem framing canvas is definitely my favorite; I use it so often. It’s so helpful for getting people on the same page about the problem we’re trying to solve. I reference the double diamond ALL the time! I also use the Lotus Blossom and Trimming a lot. Oftentimes, Lotus Blossom is helpful for getting ideas out. When I feel stuck, seeing the colors of the lotus blossom and putting thoughts on paper helps me to organize my thoughts. I truly do think I like it because it’s colorful. J

R: What do you do when you aren’t working on ITK?

J: I was living in Hawai’i right before joining MITRE, so I’m always on the lookout for good surf (even in freezing temperatures!). I’ve also continued my volunteer work with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and since now I’m on the mainland, I primarily focus on sharing about my experiences and lessons from voyaging and wayfinding. I’m super passionate about the ocean and navigating using the stars, so it was really cool to speak at this year’s MITRE’s TEDx event. When I’m going through life, I’m always thinking, “How can I relate this to the ocean or another experience?”

R: Do you see any connection between voyaging and ITK?

J: When you’re on a voyage and out in the ocean, all you have is your crew, the canoe, and whatever you’ve brought with you. You have to be resourceful and use what you have. As crew, we recognize that we all have different strengths, and we work together to help each other. We think ahead to make things easier for each other. When conditions become dangerous, it’s all hands on deck and everyone is helping, no matter who you are. There’s such strong mutual respect and aloha for each other; we really come together as a wa’a ohana (voyaging family).

This resonates with ITK too. Team Toolkit is a solid group of individuals that all contribute and have unique strengths. When a major task comes along, we all rally together to meet deadlines. I feel like we all have each other’s back, and similar to voyaging, I feel the tightness of this crew.

In voyaging, we’re going out to explore the oceans and faraway lands. With ITK, we’re going out to explore different hard problems and help people find solutions. In both groups, we take what we know and go beyond our “island” to spread this knowledge with others.

R: If someone was interested in using the Innovation Toolkit, how would you suggest they get started?

J: Reach out to Team Toolkit! It’s more fun to talk to a real person, and having someone really listen and being an outside listener can really help with giving perspective. We can suggest tools or toolchains that might help in your unique situation. If that’s not possible, then I would suggest looking at the categories of tools to help you identify where in the double diamond you are. Then, try using the tools on your own. See if it helps, and then try using the tools with your team. Team Toolkit can also help facilitate your session or share tips on how to effectively use the tools for the first time with your team.

R: Do you have a favorite quote to share?

J: The Maya Angelou quote, “If you don’t like it, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” To me, this quote reminds me of the power of choice: Things in our environment are out of our control, but you can always choose how you respond. Your attitude is completely up to you. This power of choice is accessible to everyone, like the Toolkit!

ITK truly is for everyone. ITK methods are different from traditional analytical or engineering approaches, and Toolkit can disrupt people’s perceptions of themselves: That yes, they are innovative, and that yes, they are the right user for these tools. I’ve struggled with this self-perception disruption, too! It took me a long time to recognize that I’m creative. ITK really is for everyone, and anyone can use it.