Karen VanHouten

Karen VanHouten

Karen VanHouten

A curious enthusiast with a deep love for beautiful messes (fostered over 20 years working in UX for enterprise solutions), Karen currently works as a Principal Consultant for OST (Open Systems Technologies). There she works with organizations to develop holistic digital strategies and build comfort operating in the space between opportunity and risk. She is passionate about intentionally designed work environments, and focuses on inclusion, collaboration, and space for play and experimentation as the most consistent drivers for sustainable success. She also swears a lot, especially on Twitter. And she can show you where she lives on her hand.

For more, keep up with Karen at karenvanhouten.com or on Twitter as @designinginward.


UX Camp Spring 2021

How We Get Wicked Good

Did you ever wonder why so much of our work seems harder than it should be? Does it feel like you are constantly working at altitude, trying to do more work with less oxygen? Well, Karen’s first job in tech was in 1993. You read that right. 1993. That’s almost 30 years across different roles and companies, all in technology and digital products. And no matter how much more skilled we all get, things just seem to be getting harder. How do we move from barely surviving to practically thriving?

In this new talk, we’ll discuss how we get wicked good: moving through competency and mastery to sustainability, even in environments that seem to be set up for failure, disappointment, and eventual burnout. We’ll explore how to make our work spaces kinder, more inclusive, and more supportive of long term engagement and growth while at the same time encouraging us to be more thoughtful and intentional about the design decisions and career choices we make.

Leadership By Design 2019

A Method for the Madness

When confronted with challenges, whether professional or personal, we often ask some variation of this question: “How do I do [this scary, difficult, yet necessary thing] without actually having to experience any discomfort or take any risks?” As a speaker and design leader, I get asked some version of this question every time I give a talk or work with new team struggling to change.

Obviously, the answer is: you can’t. There is plenty of discussion right now of the necessity of getting comfortable with discomfort, but very little actual guidance on how that process works. Instead, we hear tales of transformation that follow a vague formula of initiating events, challenges faced, victories won. These stories can be inspiring, but beyond that, they don’t provide much help for people struggling to take the leap out of their comfort zone. Without any practical guidance, many people hesitate and wait, static and stagnant, choosing to be careful instead curious.

I’ll outline a step-by-step approach for pushing outside our comfort zones and expanding our experiences. I’ll start by contrasting the perception of how our comfort zones serve us with the very different reality of how they work against us. I’ll blast through the most common excuses we have for staying put versus moving forward. We’ll explore simple, tactical ways to push through our resistance, move past our fears, and nurture the courage to design better relationships and make more authentic choices, in our careers, and our lives.

Workshop: Healthier Teams by Design

From the outside, high performing teams, particularly highly collaborative and innovative ones, seem to demonstrate an innate chemistry and the ability to harness the power of serendipity. But the truth is, successful teams are incredibly deliberate and intentional about how they work. Culture, processes and best practices should be designed with as much care as the products and services we build. And, while there are certain essential characteristics common to successful teams, the unique challenges of our work context and our project needs also require a team uniquely optimized for those situations.

Every experience is designed, including our team experience. In this workshop, we’ll explore how we can use design tools to design better ways of working. Based on the challenges of your projects and the skills and traits of your amazing team members, we’ll look at how you’d like the team to evolve and articulate specific goals that can be measured. We’ll define an MVP approach to help you develop small experiments for opportunities and interventions that will help you establish new, more effective patterns of communicating and collaborating.

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