7min Product Master Series

Raven L. Veal, PhD, Senior Strategic Designer 🎯 BCG X

March 22, 2023 Raven L. Veal, PhD Season 3 Episode 1
7min Product Master Series
Raven L. Veal, PhD, Senior Strategic Designer 🎯 BCG X
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Raven L. Veal, PhD is a Senior Strategic Designer at BCG X. Prior to joining BCG, Raven led innovation strategy at Citi Ventures and design research at IBM. Overall, Veal is passionate about advancing health equity and financial inclusion through the design of new ventures.


  • Quote: "We have a world to conquer...one person at a time...starting with ourselves." ~ Nikki Giovanni

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[00:00:00] Dr.Raven: We talk about using Strategic Design to address social innovation or these large systemic issues. I think it's important to not only understand the problem enough to have a point of view, but then also understand yourself and how those values shape your approach to problem solving. 

[00:00:17] Lewis: Welcome to the 7 Minute Product Master Series podcast. I'm Lewis Kang'ethe, and today I'm joined by Dr. Raven, Senior Strategic Designer of BCG X. Welcome, Dr. Raven. 

[00:00:28] Dr.Raven: Thank you for having me.

[00:00:29] Lewis: To start the show, give me a brief definition of Strategic Design 

[00:00:33] Dr.Raven: For me, Strategic Design is the practice of aligning the needs of a business, consumers, and the market, in developing new ventures, it also involves the use of systems thinking and futures thinking to kind of improve the competitive advantage and also the resilience of an organization.

[00:00:52] Dr.Raven: In addition to that, it helps some of our most pressing challenges today and tomorrow, like healthcare, education and climate change. So in a nutshell, that's how I would describe Strategic Design. 

[00:01:01] Lewis: And I'm curious to know what's the biggest Strategic Design mistake you've ever made, and what did you learn?

[00:01:06] Dr.Raven: Making mistakes is a part of the process. You learn, you iterate, but I think for me, one of the biggest ones is producing very research heavy deliverables. So one of my current mentors is Ron Clark, so he's a Partner and Vice President of Strategic Design and BCG. And he always emphasizes the need to be very actionable, especially when delivering research or data-driven insights.

[00:01:27] Dr.Raven: So for example, when you're communicating with these cross-disciplinary teams that include UX designers or venture architects or product managers, They don't necessarily want or need to know upfront all the ins and outs of your research, but effectively, what did we learn? How does that help us build a better product, a better business model, a better customer experience?

[00:01:45] Dr.Raven: That can be hard to learn initially, especially if you're like me, coming from an academic background where you're used to those research heavy deliverables. But it's really important to align your team around actionable insights and to frame it into the context of a story so it resonates in a more compelling way.

[00:02:00] Lewis: Thanks for sharing that. What's the one piece of common wisdom you disagree with and why? 

[00:02:05] Dr.Raven: I think one of the main ones that comes to mind right now is prioritization and sometimes obsession with being human center. And what I mean by that is, while I think it's really important to understand the needs of people, of course, it may not always be in their best interest to give them everything they want, especially because we're flawed.

[00:02:27] Dr.Raven: We don't always know what we want, and there are even implications to our desires, even our greed, that can ripple out to affect other parts of the world as we've seen, including our wildlife and our environment. So one of the things that I've been trying to lean more into is, Love- centered design. What might it look like to make design decisions that are rooted and grounded in love?

[00:02:48] Dr.Raven: I'm a woman of faith and I'll, I'll often lean into two of the greatest commandments being love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. And then the scriptures also described love as being patient and kind and rejoicing with truth. So what if we centered our design principles around that? What would this world look like then? 

[00:03:07] Lewis: This is really brilliant. Thanks for sharing that. And what's the best Strategic Design advice you've ever received and why? 

[00:03:13] Dr.Raven: Yeah. So on that same note, one of the best pieces of advice I've received is using this provocation of what if, especially a lot more than how might we, so I know how might Wes is very common in our industry, but what if I think brings in an element of futures thinking and wonder into the design process.

[00:03:31] Dr.Raven: So instead of solely designing from a position, The pains or frictions that you're trying to solve. You're also designing from a state of hope and imagination, which is really exciting to me and arguably more powerful. For example, in a recent Strategic Design cohort that I helped lead, some of the questions that we asked were, what if women expected mothers around the world could be more readily involved in the design of their own maternal care journeys?

[00:03:56] Dr.Raven: What if instead of designers advocating for these users, they actually activate these mother's desires to advocate for themselves. And so overall, I think what if is a very strong imaginative design tool to use. 

[00:04:11] Lewis: Thank you for that. So what's working best in your Strategic Design process right now? 

[00:04:15] Dr.Raven: When starting or kicking off of a project, strengthening the overall kind of creative leadership of the team and understanding where everyone is coming from before kind of diving in, we talk about using Strategic Design to address social innovation or these large systemic issues. I think it's important to not only understand the problem enough to have a point of view, but then also understand yourself and how those values shape your approach.

[00:04:39] Dr.Raven: Problem solving. And so one of my favorite quotes is by Nikki Giovanni, and she says, we have a world to conquer one person at a time, starting with ourselves. And that's really important because we tend to create and recreate who we are. . That's all we're seeing in the world, is the imaginations of people manifested in physical products and things and services. 

[00:04:59] Lewis: Thank you. What's the one thing every Strategic Designer should learn? 

[00:05:03] Dr.Raven: Yeah, all these questions are great. I think this one, especially I, I love because there's a lot of things to learn. One that I would really prioritize is understanding that any type of heavy emotional lift requires care.

[00:05:16] Dr.Raven: And as Strategic Designers, it blends with a discipline of user research. And when you're engaging in that, especially if you come from the communities that you're researching and that you're aiming to. You experience a different type of burden and burnout, and so because of that, I typically try to introduce a unique form of a retro in one of my projects, I call it the Village, and essentially it's where at the end of each week we come together and we self-reflect on what's ailing us, how to impart self-care and community care in support of each other just to stay healthy.

[00:05:50] Dr.Raven: Fired throughout the process because again, it's a lot of story gathering. It's a lot of analysis of people's pains, people's frictions, and that can be burdensome. So just making sure that the team itself, as a Strategic Designer and as someone who's a liaison between other people, you're. Being mindful of the health of yourself and your team.

[00:06:08] Lewis: On to the last question, what's the one thing you learned about yourself recently that changed the way you want?

[00:06:13] Dr.Raven: Yeah. I'm so excited about this one because one of the biggest transformations I'm experiencing right now is becoming a mom. I'm currently in the final stages of pregnancy with my first child.

[00:06:26] Lewis: Congratulations. 

[00:06:27] Dr.Raven: A little girl, and it's completely changing the way that I view life and work. And I think the biggest change for me. Leaning more into work life prioritization. So for example, there are gonna be seasons where traditional work, of course, is just gonna have to take a backseat. My primary duty is making sure my daughter's well loved and poured into and taken care of.

[00:06:48] Dr.Raven: And then there are seasons where I'll have to dive back into traditional work, but more efficiently. Whereas it may have taken me eight hours to get something done. I'll have to figure out how to do it in three. I think to summarize, motherhood is an amazing journey so far, even though she's not here yet.

[00:07:04] Dr.Raven: Shout out to all the moms listening, by the way, but I think it'll give me a few more superpowers and really enable me to be more effective with my time overall, which I'm really excited about it. 

[00:07:12] Lewis: So thank you, Dr. Raven, for joining us today and sharing all those insights with our audience. 

[00:07:17] Dr.Raven: No problem. My pleasure.

[00:07:19] Lewis: Well, that's the end of the episode. Thank you so much for listening, and see you next time.

Definition of Strategic Design
Biggest Strategic Design Mistake
Disagree with "common wisdom"
Best Strategic Design advice
Strategic Design process
Every Strategic Designer should learn