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Connected By Design
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Kevin Bethune

VP Strategic Design, BCG Digital Ventures








Connected By Design




Session Description:

We’ve seen the appetite in Silicon Valley to invest in next-gen digital platforms, with the usual claims that these platforms will "improve our lives” and “change the world.” Surely we’re all using Uber, Facebook, AirBnb, Snapchat and we benefit from the conveniences … but do we feel more connected as human beings? Why does it also seem that the value propositions seem to only help the affluent and/or niche groups versus the larger swaths of people so desperately in need of connectivity, equal-footing and platforms to extend their voice?

If we’re honest about it, “digital” has a tendency to isolate us further, as much as it claims to connect us. It forces us to wade through a sea of prescriptive and distracting content versus feeding us the relevant nutrients we need to amplify human bonds with the people most important in our lives, our professions and those who are undeserved who need our help the most.

I believe there’s an opportunity to take our collective design thinking efforts to the next level … and evoke “empathic design” where we wrestle with desirability, feasibility and viability to deliver the most authentic and helpful solutions to the human experience.

With the increasing advent of digital, it’s important to get back to the basics on our approach … as well as deepen the well of our subject matter expertise relating to the people we claim to study (and proclaim to know) before we design the next “thing."

We can do this by:

  • Deepening our study of the human-centered value criteria that drive our behavior
  • Creating speculative design experiments (generative exercises) using technology to uncover new learnings
  • Introducing deeper frameworks for empathetic understanding into our creative processes
  • Sifting the various parts of our lives that amplify or impede the focused mental state that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”
  • Resurfacing human-factors science as interactions and interface dissolve the boundaries of conventional digital viewport

Ultimately, we can’t claim to deliver authentic experiences without employing a deeper level of empathy. I will show some of my favorite exemplars that are exploring deeper, more satisfying, more fulfilling solutions to prove that we can bridge the corporate or VC appetite for value –by elevating “emotion” as a critical variable to the value equation.



Kevin Bethune’s talent for strategic design brings together his analytical strengths in technology and business with his creative foundation in human-centered design. Kevin believes in the power of storytelling and a systems-approach to design to catalyze the creativity within multidisciplinary teams. He’s motivated by the study of human behavior in context, and the design of holistic solutions that will lead to disruptive ventures.

Kevin presently leads the Strategic Design Team in North America from the Manhattan Beach, CA headquarters of BCG  Digital Ventures. His team delivers future visioning, ethnographic research, concept development, industrial design and human-centered problem-solving across all ventures.

Kevin came to BCGDV with 15 years of cumulative professional experiences building and delivering great product for large global organizations (Nike and Westinghouse Nuclear).  Aside from facilitating improvements in corporate planning and footwear product processes, Kevin designed 2 top-selling lifestyle-performance sneakers for Nike’s Jordan Brand in addition to 3 Nike milestone awards during his tenure.  While at Westinghouse, he delivered 14 nuclear power plant reactor upgrades end-to-end (R&D + hardware + services) serving as an Engineering Leader on more than half of those campaigns.  Kevin was awarded a patent for helping to create a new product line aimed at extending the life of operating reactors, as well as 3 Westinghouse milestone awards during his tenure.

Kevin is an active participant in conferences, speaking opportunities and blogging with significant audience traction on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram from design-savvy followers and luminaries.

More information:
Twitter:  @bcgdv @kevinbethune

BCG Digital Ventures (BCGDV, a subsidiary of The Boston Consulting Group) is a corporate investment and incubation firm dedicated to inventing, building, investing in and launching category-changing businesses at start-up speed for the world’s most influential companies, ensuring they are fit for the future. BCGDV shares risk and invests alongside corporate and start-up partners via a range of collaborative options. Founded in 2014, the firm has major innovation centers in Manhattan Beach, Berlin, London and Sydney, as well as a host of labs across the globe, home to a diverse range of entrepreneurs, investors, technologists, strategic thinkers, designers and engineers, who are building businesses, creating and expanding markets and developing new technologies that benefit millions of lives.


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