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Ben Cheatham, C’95

Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company, Inc.

Philadelphia, PA

Design of the Environment Major

So design thinking, it’s not actually learning architecture. You’re learning how to think about design and applying design. I find applies to everything. The way we engage with our clients, the way we take them through a process, is about designing an experience. It could be about designing an application. It could be building a piece of code or software. It could be designing a system.

The way we engage with our clients, the way we take them through a process, is about designing an experience.

We were working in a corrections institution, which is a very difficult, dark, and sad place. But we were working fundamentally to improve the lives of both the inmates and the corrections officers, and we had done a lot of conceptual thinking about, well, what would it take to make the operation both more humane and more safe and more rehabilitative. And we took a number of housing areas, cells, and we emptied them out, and we went through a process of refurbishing them, retraining the staff, putting in some new incentives, applying a whole bunch of very complex analytics to who the inmates that were going to be in there were.

We had training for the inmates about what the expectations were, what the incentives were. And then we sort of held our breath to see what was going to happen … we were hoping to create a new normal. One of my best moments was two or three months into the pilot, when we realized it was going to work, and we were interviewing the client team. So these are corrections officers and professionals, and they were telling us how much better their lives were. And then we looked around, and you could see how relaxed the inmates were, and suddenly I just had this moment where I was like, “I think we’ve just figured out something very profound.” — August 31, 2018 • Photo by Brooke Sietinsons