SFR 211: Design Thinking 101 – Stephen Larsen

SFR 211: Design Thinking 101

Jan 25th, 2019 anchorwave

This is one of the greatest skills I’ve ever learned. An incredible teacher taught this to me in college, and I taught everyone else at OfferMind…

One of the Secret Weapons I have in my marketing arsenal (and life in general) is design thinking

Design thinking is one of the reasons why I’m able to step into the darkness without seeing the whole path in front of me.

I was taught design thinking when I was in college, and it’s one of the MOST valuable things I’ve ever learned in my life.

When I shared the design thinking process at OfferMind I got some amazing responses.

Steven Larsen OfferMind how to think

You can watch the whole process here, but if you’d rather keep reading, then carry on…


The design thinking process was invented by a company called IDEO. If you don’t know who IDEO are, they’re the company who invented the mouse for Steve Jobs’ first version of the personal computer.

IDEO is the reason why your toothbrush is shaped the way it is. In fact, many of the things we use daily have actually been designed by IDEO.

IDEO be creative

IDEO has mastered the process of creativity. They’ve manufactured process that produces innovation almost on demand.

You’re gonna have to get your playful zone on to make the most of what I’m about to share with you, but just know that if you’re boring as a person, your offers will be too.

I’m straight up telling you. If you suck to be around, no one’s gonna wanna be in your tribe. If you have a Debbie Downer kind of mentality, you’re gonna be terrible at this process.

Those who are creative are typically more playful individuals.

How to think in the fun zone

It’s time to get back into your kindergarten brain and enter the fun zone of your noggin if you want to get the MOST out of this process…

Almost everything I’ve created has been produced following this design thinking process.

When I was in college, I had a FANTASTIC professor who became one of my first ‘one on one’ mentors. He was the CMO of Denny’s and Pizza Hut. He invented stuffed crust pizza. Yep, he’s the man.

I used to hang out in his office after classes and just fire questions at him.

Professor innovative leadership


There was one semester where our entire focus was to launch a business from scratch and make as much money as we could on our own.

Instead of being like, “Hey, do this and this and this and this…” they literally just threw us out the back door and said, “Build the parachute!” We were like, “Oh, Crap!”

We were together in different teams of about 15 and took us on a retreat to bond and brainstorm.

I got put in the food business. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I hate cooking.”

Each team spent several days up in the mountains talking about ideas, and trying to decide:

  • What should we sell?
  • Who do we need to serve?
  • What should we put together?
  • What would they want?

I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m a little bit loud, and so I got voted CEO of the company. I was like, “Great…”

Ideo I hate cooking - Steven Larsen

We decided to sell empanadas (I didn’t even know what they were at the time)

We had one class each day, and the rest of the time we were just supposed to make money.


One day we walked into class to find all the tables piled with toys. There were Lincoln Logs, Lego, bouncy balls, and Play Dough all over the place. I mean literally, just tons of toys all over the table…

We just stood there just looking the teacher standing there with a whiteboard, a squirt gun, and all this random crap all over the room, and thought, “What the heck is going on? He’s lost his marbles, right?”

Then the teacher looks at us and says: “I’m gonna teach you how to think.”

Teacher - I'm going to teach you how to think

He said, “I want you to brainstorm different ideas. Let’s talk about what you’re gonna call your company?” Then he sat down, and kinda hid away at the back of the room.

One by one each of us got up and started writing down our ideas on the whiteboard…

We came up with all these crazy names, it was really funny. Someone would stand up and write something on the board, and we’d be like, “Oh yeah, that’s a good idea.”

Then one time, after someone had written an idea on the board, a student in the corner of the room made a kinda disapproving sigh…

Quick as a flash, the teacher jumps up takes out a squirt bottle, shouts, “BAD KITTY!”

…and started shooting the student in the face with water.

Teacher innovative leadership

We were like, “Who is this guy? Are you serious?” We were all afraid to move, “He’s become unhinged, man!”

But we kept going, and eventually, we noticed that every time someone had any negative reaction to an idea, he would shoot them in the face with water, and yell: “BAD KITTY!”

Ideo bad kitty


RULE #1: You cannot be creative and serious at the same time. Half the reason I mess about is that I’m trying to stay in the creative zone.

If you’re playful it’s way easier to be more creative. Most ideas aren’t gonna come to somebody who’s NOT playful.

If you’re kind of a stiff, this is not gonna be that effective. I’m just telling you, straight up. Some Papa Larsen love coming out here..

If you’re boring your offer will be too

Just telling you… Okay?

Papa Larsen design thinking

Being an attractive character is a learnable trait, so that’s the saving grace.

RULE #2: Get moving – I have a freaking trampoline and a balance board, and I try to stay physically moving and active.

I guarantee that your change the world ideas are NOT gonna happen while you’re sitting behind a desk. Get up!

When I need some sweet ideas. I put headphones on and jump on my the trampoline. Or use my balance board with some Vitamin C in my veins. Then it’s like, *DING* “That would be sick. Yeah, that would be cool.” And then I go and test it.

RULE #3: You don’t have a lot of creative power on your own. It’s always amplified by doing it with one other person at least.

Design process with Crayola

Another time we walked into class, and there was construction paper, scissors, pens, Crayola crayons, popsicle sticks, and glue all over the place…

We had to come up with an idea and then make a prototype of it. Then we had to walk to another human being and hand it to them… and if we looked at the prototype instead of the other person: “BAD KITTY!”

Design process bad kitty


When you hand off your prototype to somebody you need to look into their eyes, so whatever reaction they have you can ask:

  • Why did you do that?
  • You think it’s crappy! Tell me why?”

Then you go back to the drawing board and make another prototype and based on that feedback, and rinse and repeat!go put it in front of more people.

Stop falling in love with your product. Hand it off to somebody and just get a reaction.

Design thinking product

In only three weeks, our Empanada business ended up doing $3000 a week selling to poor college students. They created the entire business with us.

We’d go in with an idea, watch the reaction and say, “Why’d you do that?” Give me a reason.” We’d deep dive until we started getting good at asking questions that caused amazing feedback.

Then we’d go back to the drawing board, and go through the same cycle again and again…

My offer creation is the exact same process. If you think I’ve developed these cool formulas that make my products great from the get-go. *WRONG*

I plan on failing at the gates. My product is gonna suck.


Get your prototype out of the gate as fast as you can, show it to people and watch there response. ASK QUESTIONS. Stop harboring your product like it’s your baby.

Design process baby

It was the exact same with the Secrets Masterclass. When Secrets Masterclass was created, I went through and created different pieces and put it out base on my perceptions. Then I start getting in the weeds with the customer.

Everything in the bonus section in the bottom bonus section in Secrets Masterclass was created post-launch to fill the holes.

I call this Iteration Station, baby, woo!

Innovative leadership iteration station

When I enter Iteration Station it means that I’m in a test phase; it’s a no judgment phase.

Stephen R Covey says:

Stephen R Covey innovative leadership

This is huge! It’s a big piece of the puzzle.


When it comes to your core offer and offer creation itself, you’ve got to be willing to fail a ton of times as the market guides you, it’s NOT gonna happen otherwise.

I’ve noticed that people’s identity gets hung up with:

  • What happens if I launch and I fail?
  • What happens here…?

It’s all based on fears that are completely made up and haven’t even happened yet.

You need to keep Iterating. Iteration is part of the process of innovation.

Design Thinking 101

This is the design thinking process as systematized by IDEO:

Welcome to design thinking 101

STEP #1: Empathize.

“What are the things that you need to understand about the red ocean before you can actually make it blue?”

You’re looking for signs to make sure that it’s even a good ocean to go into? Should you run? Should you go the other way?

You’re trying to empathize with the customer. You need to feel what they feel.

“Oh man, you’re using that red ocean vehicle, I’m so sorry for you. That ocean sucks.”

They’re like, “I know, I’ve been using this product, and it’s garbage.” Then you ask: “Why?”

Steven Larsen IDEO

Once you have the answers, you can go in and start to design something awesome.

STEP #2: Define.

Next, you need to take all that data to fill in the gaps and design the framework. Once the framework is filled out, this next piece is super fun…


STEP #3: Ideate

STEP #4: Prototype

STEP #5: Test

These three are stages that you cycle through forever. Don’t fall in love with the product.

Ideate = You have an idea of what offer you’re gonna produce.

Prototype = You get ready for a test launch.

Their opinion doesn’t matter, their wallet’s does.

Test = You actually try to sell your prototype to a potential customer. You don’t ask, “Hey, do you like it?” Then you ask, “Oh, what didn’t you like about that?”

I’ve noticed that after three or four iterations… if you really do the process, you’ll have an offer that out values everything.

This is the BIG process laid out:

Steven Larsen design thinking 101

  1. Empathize – First understand.
  2. Data – Gather and start plugging it in.
  3. Ideate – Come up with ideas
  4. Prototype – Make a beta version… it’s cool to call it beta, that’s a good way to save pride if you want: “Oh yeah, it’s in beta. I hate it too” You’re like, “Crap, it’s supposed to be my thing.”
  5. Test – Put it in front of customers; that’s the last part.

You’re going: Ideate, prototype, test, over and over again.

Remember it’s NOT about being a creative genius, it’s about being a detective.

If can walk in front of somebody and ask, “Tell me what you like or don’t like? If it sucks or if it’s amazing?” If you look in their eyes… Man, you guys are gonna be great funnel builders. You’re gonna make a lot of money.

Too many of you are like, “Oh it’s my baby, I don’t wanna put my product out there.” Yeah, that’s why you’re making money. You have to be prepared to fail.

Eventually, the market will guide you into discovering the core offer.


When I built funnels with Russell, we fully expected that it wasn’t gonna be that amazing during round one.

Russell Brunson innovative leadership

Lots of funnels failed straight out of the gate.

If you saw the Experts Secrets book launch, we started that funnel two days before the launch. Woo! That was extremely stressful. I don’t think I’ve had that much caffeine in such a short amount of time.

The Harmon brothers had this cabin where Russell, John, I and a few others went to help write the first script for the viral video. We were hanging out with these writers, and they’re using this exact same process.

They’d come up to us and say, “We’ve got a script for you.” They’d read it out to us, and we’d give feedback about any holes, and then they’d leave for four hours. Then they’d come back and read it again. Back forth, back forth, back forth, back forth.

This is the process of innovation.

During the Expert Secrets launch, we were still in the cabin. The writers were iterating, and so were we.

We looked at the stats for Expert Secrets Launch and saw that, for some reason, upsell number two, OT02 wasn’t working well.

Steven Larsen innovative leadership

So in the middle of the launch, at 1 AM (we tried to wait until there weren’t many people awake) …Jamie Smith and I were busy changing the live funnel with all this traffic hitting it.

Then BOOM! One iteration hit, and it brought the average cart value up a whole bunch.

You gotta understand that this is what Russell’s doing with his team at ClickFunnels. We create all our stuff with the total expectation of failure.

You use the customer to help you innovate.


How to think

During OfferMind, I used the same process I learned at college to teach design thinking.

STAGE #1: I split people into teams and gave them twenty minutes to design a prototype. These are some of the responses I got:

– Teamwork work helps.

– Craziness is creativity.

– Ask questions, lots of them.

It’s about asking tons of questions back and forth, but using the market to do to help frees the Entrepreneur’s mental shelf space and give you room to think.

This is the process that actually causes creativity.

STAGE #2: Hand the prototype to a person in another team while looking into their eyes to gauge feedback. DO NOT, for the love of it, fall in love with your prototype.

Ask questions, and have someone write down everything. If they…

  • Hate this
  • Love that

…write those things down.

This is the best market research you’ll ever do in your life, it’s amazing.

Did anyone feel how easy that was to gather information that way?

Innovative leadership

Audience Member: It’s amazing how people see something completely opposite of what we thought. Like, “Whoa, we saw this as good. No that’s bad cause of this.”

Steve: Isn’t that crazy? It speeds up how cool something is, like how fast you can actually make it. Cool, thanks so much.

Audience Member: One thing that I thought was really great was when we showed our prototype to people, they’d say something different about it because they thought it was something else and really that helped us improve it more.

Steve: And you only did this for freaking 20 minutes, can you imagine if you actually did it? You know what I’m saying? With the actual product? It’s very fast to make cool stuff.

Audience Member – Huge lesson for me. Our group flew right to prototype and test. We spent zero time getting data. So when we went to different people, there were questions we didn’t know. “Well, are you gonna do this? are you gonna provide this for me?

I was like I don’t know, we didn’t, we talked about where the steps should go. We didn’t talk about the actual meat of what we’re gonna do… we just talked about how pretty the cover was.

Stephen – Which is what happens for most entrepreneurs. They are like, “Hey I’m gonna go make this sweet thing, it’s gonna be really awesome, it’s amazing, why is it awesome? Because it’s mine.” I don’t know, right? You just gotta get it out the door. Launch.

Getting feedback innovative leadership

Audience Member – Share all your craziest ideas with people because you might not be that crazy.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely.

Audience Member – We sold multiple products.

Audience innovative leadership

Audience Member – A lot of overwhelm at first. And then presenting it, in even more overwhelm and fear. Because I don’t think we did a very good job honestly, but then getting feedback I was surprised at how much feedback people are willing to give us openly.

They’d be like “Hey, this is kind of like, this is what I see, and this is good, and this is bad.”

The one thing that Alex talks about is, clarity getting you out of overwhelm.

And so as soon as we got some feedback from some people, I was like “Oh.” And then we wondered, “Is there gonna be a round two? Do we get to go play with Play Dough again and redo it? Cause we could totally nail it next time.”

Design thinking

Steve: Isn’t that the fun part–

Audience Member – So having multiple people give us feedback, the creativity took a minute, it didn’t feel like we had to spark it at first, but when we brought in people, that’s when the spark happened. I don’t have any doubt that we would light a fire and then take off, after multiple revisions.


Can you see how this game starts to get played? So, just to recap real fast. What we’re doing is :

  1. Gathering data from the red ocean, getting kind of an idea of something that would be awesome.
  2. Empathizing, understanding the who and who we want to be selling to. Who we want our customer to be.
  3. Prototype, coming up with ideas, grabbing all that data.
  4. Launching, the expectation to fail takes all the pressure off the mind for the entrepreneur. You actually can go back to the creative zone when you use this process.

When people try to be the only creative one: “I’m gonna be making it out of my own mind.” Funny enough, they’re the ones that get landlocked. Ain’t that funny? It’s like totally opposite of what you expect.

This was one of my offers in January when I launched it, by April it had changed dramatically because of this exact process.

Design process

I make sure that I’m not falling in love with my offer. It’s broken. It will always be broken. There will always be improvements. It will never be perfect and that’s good.

…because it means that I DON’T emotionally attach to my product, so then it’s easy to hand it off to other people and ask: “What would you change?”

I would launch back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in the middle of the value ladder.


Do you see the star right there in that value ladder? I ALWAYS launch in the middle of the value ladder. At the mid-price points… that’s how I get it off the ground.

Boom! If you’re just starting out you’re probably studying a lot. That’s good. You’re probably geeking out on all the strategies also, right? That’s also good.

But the hardest part is figuring out what the market wants to buy and how you should sell it to them, right? That’s what I struggled with for a while until I learned the formula.

So I created a special Mastermind called an OfferMind to get you on track with the right offer, and more importantly the right sales script to get it off the ground and sell it.


Wanna come?

There are small groups on purpose, so I can answer your direct questions in person for two straight days. You can hold your spot by going to Again, that’s

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