In 2014, eBay was looking to transform itself from a engineering and developer driven company to one that was focussed on design. My project was centered on looking at ways in which companies and institutions around the world had utilized design as a practice and not just as a single step in the process.

Changing the organizational practices within a firm requires a shift that is more than skin deep. It requires thinking about the social, political, environmental, and technological aspects of the company and knowing that any sort of change must be informed by these conditions. 


Aaron Wolf

Barry Shimmelfarb




The project was broken down into three main sections. First was the research phase. Research was based on primary research where I held expert interviews with management/design/culture consultants, outside field interviews with employees from different companies, and internal interviews with eBay stakeholders. Additionally, I carried out secondary research through reading books, trend analysis papers, and industry reports. The second phase was to distill the raw data into memorable (and potentially actionable) case studies. The third and final phase was to analyze the data and create a framework for understanding the dynamics of change management. 



I spoke with nearly 40 employees during the research phase and traveled to the headquarters of places such as Airbnb, Google, and Autodesk to conduct interviews. To do this effectively, I created a research protocol which outlined the questions, activities, and probes that I might use to help direct the interview. 



Communication of research

With the research phase over, I wrote fifty case studies which each covered different aspects of the research.

These case studies were designed to act as memorable stories that could help employees generate their own ideas. What began to emerge were a few distinct categories. 


analysis (First pass)

After having written the case studies, I could pick apart each important aspect about the story and begin to cluster them into categories.

These aspects (such as prototyping, visual persistence, or mentorship) seemed to either be mostly about space, culture, organizational structure, or processes and systems.

However, this first pass proved to be overly simplified.


analysis (second pass)

As I continued to analyze the data, I found that there were several more categories: organizational structure, culture, leadership, systems, processes, strategy, and space. 

Distinctions were made that show that certain categories tended to be either transformational, transactional, or individual. 




final deliverable and use

Using the previous analysis, I created cards so that the case studies could exist as a physical reminder of the goal. On one side of the cards, the case studies were printed. On the other side, generative questions (specific to that category and case study) were asked in order to provoke thought. Additionally, potential areas for intervention were printed so as to give the reader a sense of what sorts of opportunity spaces are ripe for innovation. In the end, every design manager would receive one card per month and work with their employees in order to create practices that would activate design within eBay.