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Heather Fraser

The Changemaker



Heather Fraser

Design Works

Author of Design Works: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Value through Business Design" (Revised and Expanded Edition, Rotman-UTP Published, Feb. 16, 2019)

Business Design can help an organization to innovate, improve the odds of success, and nurture an inclusive culture of human-centred innovation. Heather Fraser offers shrewd advice on how to effectively link innovation efforts to enterprise strategy, mindfully engage employees and other stakeholders, and integrate data into building a compelling business case for investment. In Heather’s talks, audiences are inspired by the real life lessons of successful businesses and leaders that have implemented her teachings. Audiences will also leave with her latest book that presents stories, principles and practical tools on how to create and capture new value. A digital do-it-yourself platform to help turn ideas into business is also launching with her new book.

Heather is an expert in the practice of ‘Business Design’ – a powerful approach to innovation that integrates design thinking and business acumen. A seasoned strategist, educator and visionary innovator endowed with a fierce entrepreneurial spirit, Heather’s career has spanned the corporate world, creative services and academia. Whether in her capacity as a business leader at Procter & Gamble, Managing Director at Ogilvy & Mather, Principal & Executive Vice President at TAXI Advertising & Design, or Executive Director of DesignWorks at the Rotman School of Management, Heather has left her mark on many businesses and organizations over her career. Her track record is fuelled by her penchant for challenging conventional thinking and her ambition to help others forge new ways to unlock business success.

With her vast experience and deep insight into business and design, Heather co-founded DesignWorks - the strategy innovation lab at the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto, and served as Executive Director through 2012. While continuing her devotion to teaching and mentoring emerging leaders as Adjunct Professor, she founded Vuka Innovation to advise organizations looking to drive innovation and growth through the practice of Business Design. Heather’s clients have spanned the spectrum from start-ups to global corporations, a diversity of organizations in both B2C and B2B sectors, and both private enterprises to government agencies.

Heather is passionate about turning ideas into business through the integration of design practices and business strategy. She believes that everyone has the capacity to create surprising and seismic new value through the practice of Business Design. Celebrated for her bold thinking that inspires and elevates people’s ambitions, Heather empowers others to create and capture new value through her pragmatic approach to innovation and value-creation, as captured in the enhanced second edition of her book.


Big Ideas Are Not Enough – Let’s Design a Business

The search for big ideas to grow business begins with the discovery of new insights that underpin new opportunities and generate new possibilities. The insights that can result from the practice of ‘design thinking’ can help reveal new opportunities by more deeply understanding people’s needs, encouraging exploration and prototyping to build out new possibilities and experimentation to learn how to create meaningful new value for the market.

But that’s only the beginning, and if not tightly integrated with ‘business thinking’, big ideas can stall and never evolve to something tangible. Successful innovation requires designing the business strategy, systems and operations in order to capture new value and sustain an innovation edge in the market.

The discipline of Business Design Includes 7 basic ways of working, and is centered on the ‘3 Gears of Business Design’: 1- Empathy & Deep Human Understanding, 2 - Concept Visualization and 3 - Strategy & Activation. That third Gear is often missed by not contextualizing the quest and by not seeing through the strategic and operational aspects of turning an idea into a business.

This 60-minute talk captures the learning of those who have created ongoing streams of innovation through the principles and practices of Business Design, and provides helpful tips on how to make the most of your enterprise time, money and energy.

Is Your Enterprise Ready to Innovate?

Innovation is no longer seen as just a stream of activity, but rather it must be integrated into the very nature of business itself. To thrive, an enterprise must continually be searching for new ways to create and sustain value to the market. That takes more than a few boot camps and a few chosen innovators to drum up the ‘next big thing’. It takes an entire enterprise dedicated to deliver an ongoing stream of new value.

While a lot of time and money is going into the search for both incremental improvements and the ‘next big thing’, many leaders often ask: Is our organization fully prepared to create and deliver new value on a sustained basis?

Many enterprises have shown how to build a culture of human-centered innovation that consistently produces ongoing results. Their success lies in a strategic, design-oriented approach to making innovation and value creation an inclusive ongoing quest supported by conditions for success. That’s ‘innovation readiness’.

This 60-90 minute interactive program will share the learning from those who have a sustained track record of success, backed by a deep dive into practical application. This session will bring to light the five critical drivers and of sustained value-creation success and how that is reflected in everyday practices, systems & structures and culture. You will learn what the 5 drivers look like in practice, and have an opportunity to instantly assess your collective picture on where the gaps might be.

Innovation: The EPiC Mindset

Innovation requires so much more than just applying new methods.  It demands the right mindset. Without the right mindset, one risks falling back into the comfort zone of numbers and doable tasks, shutting down the big ideas for fear of failure, and playing it safe when ideas challenge the enterprise status quo. Mindset is intrinsically linked to innovation progress, enterprise productivity and collective performance.

Creating a culture of innovation calls for an EPiC mindset: Empathy, Positivity, and Courage. Empathy allows one to see the world through others’ eyes – the first principle in creating new value for others, nurturing a sense of purpose and meaning in daily activities, and enhancing collaboration. Positivity builds team conviction and resilience in the pursuit of a shared vision. Positivity further bolsters commitment to seeing challenges and problems as opportunities for innovation. Courage is anchored in a commitment to doing the right thing, and puts people’s needs front and center of the problem to be solved. It also gives people the capacity to explore new ways to deliver value, and making bold decisions on how to move ideas forward.

Cultivating this EPiC mindset can be a source of energy, intrinsic motivation and inspiration in the innovation journey. This 60-minute talk shows how these mindsets can accelerate your journey of discovery, creation, and decision-making through the practice of Business Design, and empower the people in your enterprise to exercise creativity along with the boldness required to introduce innovations to the market.

Contact us to learn how Heather Fraser can craft a topic for your audience.

Any business leader who lacks the ideas, frameworks, and tools described in Design Works risks being irrelevant in the ultra-competitive business climate of the future. In this clearly laid out and simple-to-use book, Heather Fraser explains how to apply the methods of Business Design to the most pressing and strategic challenges facing enterprises today
— Tim Brown - CEO, IDEO