Innovative strategies took center stage at Circle of Creation event


The link in Nocatee hosted the second event of its Circle of Creation The Expansion Project initiative on May 8.

The initiative is designed to create a networking and educational opportunity for women entrepreneurs or those looking to improve their business standing within the community.

The theme for the gathering on May 14 was “Innovative Strategies: The Power of Design Thinking,” and the night included St. Johns County Administrator Joy Andrews and Emily Connor, a design thinking lead with Unlockt, as the guest speakers.

Andrews shared what it was like to be the county administrator and also a female and talked about how women have done a great job of “disrupting” the norms that were accepted for some time and the opportunities to do whatever one wants is now endless.

However, there is also a balance that is needed in order to accomplish and enjoy one’s dreams and Andrews stressed that as well.

“We all have so much going on and we all want to do the very best that we can, and that will always be the case,” Andrews said. “We want to be the best in everything that we do, but sometimes that’s just not possible, which means understanding your limit is so important. Having empathy for yourself and for those you work with can be such a foundation for all that we achieve.”

A major aspect of finding this balance in the workplace can come down to problem solving, because the one thing about owning a business is that there are always going to be problems that come up that need to be handled in an efficient and effective manner.

Andrews addressed her daily problem with her role as county administrator which usually pertains to finding ways to maintain the quality-of-life people in the county have come to expect while also balancing the influx of people moving into the county.

“The constant question you have to ask is how do you take action that is a risk, but a calculated risk,” Andrews said.

However, there are many ways to go about solving a problem, but Connor spoke about using a method known as design thinking, which is an approach that that differs from the traditional way of business thinking but can be a pivotal tool in all variations of problem solving.

What makes design thinking different is that it requires stepping back from the problem and gathering more information before coming up with solutions.

“It’s known as adaptive thinking, which is basically admitting that you don’t know everything about the problem by taking a step back and really open up your own understanding of the problem at hand before moving forward,” Connor said.

Although this approach may seem less direct and a little more time-consuming, taking the extra steps prior to the problem-solving process can make the final solution more effective and longer lasting.

One of the main goals is also to find human-centered solutions and help define a service or product’s desirability, feasibility and sustainability within a certain marketplace.

“You may even discover new or more problems than you expected,” Connor said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about creating a lot of options and then choosing one of those options. It is a very fluid process.”

The night also included attendees being put into groups and faced with a made-up scenario where they had to come up with ideas for how to enhance the retail experience for female customers at a home improvement store.

Some of the ideas thrown around included improving technology, customer service, and adapting store layout and flow.