"Collaborations" Category

Jon Dunning, Business Designer

November 15, 2019 / Collaborations

This month we caught up with the deep-thinking, creative and very personable, Jon Dunning. Two Sparrows gets to enjoy his company, puns and interesting insights most days at the office we co-share, along with others. Jon is a business designer, coach and leadership training facilitator.


Jon, please can you tell us more about what you do?

I facilitate leadership training and work with emerging leaders. I also help businesses design solutions and think differently about how they create and deliver their products and services. It’s hard to give myself a short title, but if I had to, I’d call myself a business designer.


What drives you?

Through my work, I want to help people see a different way of looking at the world and how they contribute to it. I want to open people up and give themselves permission to think about things in a different way.


You work with people who are already in leadership and people who aspire to lead. What makes a good leader?

Someone who manages themselves and their team well and who, not only has the technical abilities to carry out their role, but has the soft skills, like effective communication.

I think there are three key attributes that make a great communicator and leader:

  • someone who listens rather than talks,
  • is empathetic rather than sympathetic, and
  • challenges their team rather than chastising them.


Jon Dunning facilitating a Design Sprint

Can you tell us a bit more about what it means to be a business designer?

A business designer draws on design thinking techniques and tools to help organisations and their teams solve problems, and create and implement better processes, products and services. A business designer will also focus on improving team dynamics. For me, it’s about focusing on helping businesses and people find ways to perform and deliver in a way that is human-centric – which means focusing on improving the outcomes for people (both staff and customers).


How do we achieve people-focused outcomes?

People-focused outcomes explore and understand the impact of a product or service on the end-user. Take, for example, public transport. We don’t really learn much about people’s experiences of a service by just gathering quantitative data and asking questions like, “how often did you use the bus this week? Or, “how long did the journey take you?”

If we’re invested in people-focused outcomes, we have to ask open and deeper questions like: “how’d you find your journey today?” Or, “what does good public transportation help you accomplish?” We have to think more broadly about what a product or service enables people to do. With public transport, it could mean more time with their family or a more relaxing commute, so they are less stressed when they get to work or return home.

Asking questions in this way enables businesses to gain valuable insights, and allows people the opportunity to give feedback, and trust that it is valued and will be actioned. It’s about moving away from assumptions and thinking about doing business differently.


What are design sprints and why are they valuable?

Design sprints are four days of troubleshooting a specific problem or concern in order to develop a prototype solution that can be tested with users. These four-day sprints enable businesses to fail fast. They can explore and learn about solutions, devise prototypes, and gain valuable insights that might otherwise take weeks or months to discover.

Design sprints encourage people to collaborate, experiment and see previously hidden connections. It helps people interpret a problem in a personal and creative way so that they can devise different ways of seeing things and judge the best possible solution. It’s about addressing the biggest issues businesses are facing right now. I’ve discovered that people frequently haven’t really had conversations like this before.


Post it notes from a design sprint


What’s your background and experience?

In the U.K, I was a stage, radio and video performer in the ’80s. I’ve also worked my way up the ranks from temp to the manager in a telecommunications company. In my varied roles, I learnt about office and people management and I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people.

In NZ, I’ve been a part of a business improvement team with local government. Here, I helped design human-centric solutions, in what can be a difficult sector. I’ve also delivered leadership training to NZ’s uniformed services. In these traditionally command and control type organisations, I’ve helped people explore and develop their soft skills, by asking questions like, “What does empathy or intergenerational support look like?” or “How can we embrace diversity and be supportive of all our staff?”


What kind of feedback do you get from participants of your sprints?

Most find design sprints to be energetic and engaging – an interesting way of tackling real problems with creativity and collaboration. They like the volume, tone and spacing of the delivery. They learn that innovation and development is not about hierarchy or a few key specialists, but rather a culture that can be fostered and embedded within an organisation. Innovation is about focusing on the audience and not the performance, and not being afraid to challenge existing processes in a positive manner.


When’s a good time for people to get in touch with you?

Anytime they’re unsure of what to do next or would like to view problems, challenges and opportunities in a new light and through a different lens. Sometimes I’ve been brought in early and others I’ve been brought in late – either way, a sprint has frequently been invaluable in helping teams resolve big issues. It sounds clichéd that a crisis can bring out the best in people. But I’ve witnessed that, when the rubber hits the road, it provides an opportunity for people to perform in an exemplary fashion that the constraints of business won’t normally allow.


What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a visual handbook for leaders, sharing the diagrams and pictures I have found useful in explaining concepts and ideas to leaders and teams over the years.


What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I write short stories and poetry. I enjoy what you can do with words and have fun with wordplay and puns. When I have time, I enjoy writing long-form letters. This is a skill that has many benefits to the writer and the receiver and, these days, we often miss out on.


Who is your ideal client?

I am always keen to work with people and organisations who genuinely want to change. They may have a bunch of problems or challenges that they don’t know how to manage or get past. I also like working with people who are keen to understand how to involve their teams in creating solutions and who want to empower their people to have authorship as well as ownership of their work.

I want to help those who get excited about looking at alternative ways of doing things; people who have the courage and the creativity to experiment, take a punt and not be afraid of making mistakes; people who are honest about what they’re trying to achieve; people who see the value in soft skills like compassion and communication; people who want to demolish barriers, so that everyone is free to engage and contribute.


You can find out more about Jon’s work at jondunning.com and designsprint.nz

Katie Rickson Copywriting and Editing

May 17, 2019 / Collaborations

Katie Rickson Copywriting

We’re doing something a bit different this month and catching up with one of our collaborators, Katie Rickson.

Katie’s a freelance copywriter, editor, public speaker and performer. We had a chat about what she does, what she’s about and her hopes and dreams for her business.


How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing in various shapes and forms all my life. I started as a copywriter in late 2015, and before that I completed an undergrad degree in drama and writing studies, where I developed my writing across an amazing mix of styles and genres, including short stories, essays, plays, blogs and poems. Before that, I was an Investment Paraplanner (a fancy title for someone who writes investment plans for individuals or trusts).


Why writing?

I joke that the only thing I can make is a sandwich. I’ve never been that good at crafts and I’m only getting marginally better at cooking and baking. But words are my craft, my outlet and my vocation.

When I struggle to make sense of what’s going on with me personally, I automatically reach for my journal and pen. I find writing very therapeutic – I often think things through as I write.

Professionally, I write to help people, brands or businesses find their voice. I enjoy shaping words, exploring and explaining concepts, and articulating a message clearly and powerfully.


Do you have a writing process? What inspires you?

It depends on what I’m writing about; if it’s a subject where I feel confident, I’ll write at a café and enjoy the hubbub and a flat white. If I need to do some in-depth research to get my head around things, it’s usually better if I’m working at home with silence.

I find that, when I get stuck, I need to move away from my laptop and actually hand write. The words tend to flow more easily when I go back to pen and paper. That’s why free form writing is a very useful technique, and I recommend it to anyone wanting to give writing a go. With free form writing, you simply write by hand on any subject(s) for about five minutes, or as long as it takes to fill five A4 size pages. It’s a great way to silence that annoying inner critic!

A blank page can be full of promise but also very daunting. Jodi Picoult said: “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” So, the key is to just start and not wait for that elusive inspiration to write. Having said that, I often come up with my best material when I’m not actually sitting down and writing. Going for a walk can help me get out of a rut.

I know a lot of writers have their own rituals, a time of day or night that works for them, and a special writing place. My brain seems to be in writing mode between 10am and 4pm. So, I go with what works for me because otherwise writing can become a painful process!


notebooks and pensPlush Design Studio


As a copywriter and editor, which clients do you have a special affinity with?

I love writing for charities, not-for-profits and social enterprises. I also write for start-ups, SMEs and as a contractor to agencies like Two Sparrows!

I’m a values based business, so I want to write for organisations that align with my values.


Which are?

People before things, kindness, sustainability, innovation, loyalty, compassion, creativity and wellbeing.


Wellbeing. That ties into your “Speaks” side of your business, right?

Yes. (My tag line is: Writes. Edits. Speaks.)

I give talks at churches, community groups and academic settings about my experience with mental distress. Language is so integral and intertwined with our health and wellbeing. What we say to ourselves and what others say about us has the potential to be either uplifting or devastating.

The talks I give relate to: The labels that we attach to ourselves or are attached by others, that is, the words we are given as part of a diagnosis, or the words that we give ourselves; creating our own words to make sense of our experience – for example, I write poetry; and alternative ways to approach recovery – such as how can art, music, poetry, dance and other outlets be used alongside, or instead of, more conventional therapies like drugs or counselling.


Let’s go back to copywriting. What qualities should people look for in a copywriter?

I think the most important trait is curiosity. A copywriter needs to ask big questions and quickly get to the heart of the matter. It’s obvious to a reader when a writer doesn’t care about or doesn’t know enough about the subject.

Empathy is also really important, I think. A copywriter needs to understand the concerns and hopes of prospective clients and be able to convey why a particular service or product will address their concerns and realise their hopes.

Also, a copywriter needs to write persuasively by balancing reason and emotion, as it takes both to convince a reader to take action.

And, of course, being able to write accurately and clearly is essential.


What are your hopes and dreams for your business?

I want to continue building a solid base of regular clients. I like forming long-term relationships and supporting businesses to grow and reach more people with their message.

Ultimately, I want to be the go-to copywriter for New Zealand charities, not-for-profits, social enterprises and businesses that are doing good things in their community.

AND I want to speak at more conferences and events. Mental wellbeing is such a hot topic at the moment, as it should be, and I would love to reach a wider audience by sharing my experience.


Awesome! How can people get in touch with you?

I’d love to hear from you! You can get in touch with me via Facebook: Katie Rickson Copywriting and Editing, call me on 021 1563 669, or email me on katie@katierickson.co.nz

For more information, visit katierickson.co.nz


Two Sparrows uses Katie’s copywriting services and we recently developed a new website for her freelance business.