The Design Thinker: Turning Childhood Dreams Into Business Success

“People come to me realizing that something’s not working, or, that they have an aspiration of what they want. At the end of the day, they want to make a pivot to something else. In order to get down there and make that pivot they need a strategy. And what I tell people is that it may take multiple strategies for you to get where you want to be. And we will get there. The question is, are you ready for a marathon? Because, it’s not a sprint.”

Carla A. Fleming, CEO and Founder of Pivoting Strategies, LLC

Carla Fleming’s gloriously happy childhood dreams of doing meaningful work included being a teacher, a doctor, and a journalist. To the casual observer, work dreams such as these seem disconnected, but not to Fleming, who says that, together, they pointed her to a career that’s all about solving difficult business problems: “A teacher helps you learn to be better, a doctor makes diagnoses to make you better, and the journalist figures out what’s going on.” These, Fleming recalls, “laid the groundwork for consulting.”

And now, Fleming, uses design thinking in her consultancy to help business clients to thrive, scale revenues, and most important, connect with their consumers in what she calls “wearing the customer’s badge.”

In this episode of The Tightrope with Dan Smolen podcast, Carla the design thinker:

  • Recalls her early childhood dreams and the profound influence of loving parents and grandparents on her life and career as a problem-solver [starts at 2:00]
  • Describes in detail the process she has used to repurpose and reposition one of her clients [starts at 16:13]
  • Defines her concept of “wearing the customer’s badge” and why it is important for today’s businesses to embrace in our digitally connected economy [starts at 22:43]

the design thinkerAbout our guest: Carla A. Fleming received a Bachelor of Science in Management, with coursework concentration in Journalism and Mass Media, from Rutgers University. She also earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration from The George Washington University. A successful marketing and management executive who held multiple executive roles at IBM, Fleming founded and is the CEO of business consultancy Pivoting Strategies, LLC. She lives and works in the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia.

EPISODE DATE: October 26, 2018

Social media:

Pivoting Strategies, LLC – Website

LinkedIn Profile



Photo credits: Design Thinkers, Getty Images; Portrait, Carla A. Fleming