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Ep. 25 | Olivia Wong – Women In Leadership: Prototype Thinking and How It Can Increase Decision...

Ep. 25 | Olivia Wong – Women In Leadership: Prototype Thinking and How It Can Increase Decision Making by 10x


November 16, 2021

1:11 pm

On this episode of the Rich Equation Podcast, Ashish is joined by guest Olivia Wong. Ashish and Olivia discuss the prototype thinking strategy. Ashish and Olivia dig deep into the process, what it’s all about and how it can help you make decisions 10 times faster. They also discuss how to relearn to say I don’t know, the power this sentence has and how it can help open up ideation within a team. Olivia also shares with us her routine and mindset and how she maintains a high level of performance while keeping harmony in her life.


0:00 – Intro 0:05 – Ashish shares a brief introduction to his guest Olivia Wong 0:40 – Ashish states that this episode covers the topic of prototype thinking, learning how to say I don’t know and the power of saying it and how it can open up ideation within a team. Ashish and Olivia also speaks about her routine and mindset and how she maintains a high level of performance while keeping harmony in her life 3:18 – Olivia speaks about where her passion and drive comes from 3:55 – Olivia shares how her dad once said to her that

The way she lives her life and being so young is really fascinating and how it’s almost like she has experienced a near death experience because she understands the meaning of life and she values the time that she has 7:11 – Olivia explains what prototype thinking is and the formula to using it 7:42 – Olivia states that it was originated at Google X 8:42 – Olivia speaks about how prototype thinking gives us a very step by step linear process that is repeated in a circular way 8:50 – Olivia states that prototype thinking gives us a tested and validated framework for solving any problem 10:34 – Olivia shares an example of a problem and how using the prototype can solve the problem 17:12 – Olivia talks about the process of using the prototype thinking and creating an experiment/creating a test 21:03 – Ashish asks Olivia to explain how to create the right team to do this work 25:06 – Olivia speaks about the energetic wave of innovation and how to navigate when it’s time for democratic decisions and when it’s time to just go for it with executive decisions 27:49 – Olivia describes one of their core concepts: the 3 point offset and how all companies can use the prototype thinking formula within their business 30:50 – Ashish asks Olivia about how she removes bias from the processes within the prototype thinking strategy 33:25 – Olivia talks about her routine 36:27 – Ashish speaks about meditation and all the benefits meditating can have on your day and your life 38:06 – Olivia states that if we are afraid of routine it’s because were afraid of letting ourselves down so just simplify your routine and make it realistic and manageable 39:20 – Olivia talks about her experience working as a humanitarian worker 40:47 – Olivia speaks about how being Ms ASIA Global has allowed her to create the conversation and help make important change around the world 44:00 – Olivia states that if she could have any superpower it would be being able to sing 44:51 – Ashish asks Olivia what she wish she knew 20 years ago 45:51 – Olivia states that true richness to her is having the right attitude to create internal wealth 46:03 – You can contact Olivia through Instagram and Facebook @prototypethinkinglabs or through her website


Hey, welcome back to the rich equation podcast. Today I have a really special guest for you. Olivia Wong. Olivia is a senior partner of prototype thinking labs and was voted miss Asia global. She has trained thousands of companies to innovate with confidence and using unique concept called prototype thinking a method originally developed at Google X, teaching people how to learn and make decisions 10 times faster. She’s also on a personal mission to teach and lead with empathy through human centered design. She is an award-winning humanitarian and has won several awards from the United nations, the US state department, and the Clinton foundation. On this episode, we get into prototype thinking and the process of what it’s all about, how it can help you make decisions 10 times faster, and how we learned the power of saying, I don’t know, and how that can help open up ideation in a team.

We also get into Olivia’s routine and mindset and how she maintains a performance at a high level while maintaining harmony in her life. This episode is so great, I know you’re going to enjoy it here. She is. Olivia Wong. If you enjoy this episode, be sure to share it with someone that would be inspired by this or this information could be helpful and subscribe right now to the podcast and leave a review so we can continue to bring value to you.

Welcome to the Rich Equation podcast. Are you ready to discover how to live rich today and not wait for retirement? If you’re tired of struggling and want to live your best life now, you are in the right place.

Outdated principles will no longer work in today’s environment. It’s time for a new approach. Your host Ashish Nathu will help you discover methods to live the new American dream. It’s time to start living the good life on your own terms and experience a new way to live rich. Now here’s your host Ashish Nathu.

Ashish Nathu: Welcome to the show, Olivia Wong. It is my absolute pleasure to have you on the show.

Olivia Wong: Thank you so much Ashish. I’m delighted to be here.

Ashish Nathu: I’m really excited to be having a conversation with you because I think that you embody so many of the rich equation pillars. So much of the framework and the philosophy about how you look at the world, how you look at life. How you look at business, how you look at family and at such a young age, you’ve been able to solve a lot of these formulas. So I’m really excited to get into all these different topics that we’re going to talk about today. You have this beautiful energy about you, and I’ve known you for many, many years. So I can say that, but you have this beautiful energy about you in the way that you show up and the way you are trying to serve the world. And you’ve really applied that to business and innovation and what you call prototype thinking. And we’re going to get into that. Today, I really want to get into prototype thinking what the philosophy of that is, but let’s start with you and let’s start with the foundation of who you are. And where does that sort of passion that drive that purpose led thinking come from for you?

Olivia Wong: Well, I think it starts with my parents. I was raised in San Francisco. By the time I was five, I was having an existential crisis. I remember thinking this was in the early nineties. I only have one life, so we have to live it really well. So I’d have to do everything the best that I could possibly do. Out of that team, A very strong perfectionist tendency, but also gave me this desire and motivation to really just maximize my life. I remember when I was in my early twenties, my dad said to me, and he is originally from a small village in China where there’s still no running water or electricity. So I’m the child of immigrants. And he said to me, Olivia it’s really fascinating that you live the way that you do because you’re so young. It’s almost as if you had a near death experience. It is Like you understand the meaning of life because you value the time that you have. And I always thought that was an interesting comment that my dad and said, because I hadn’t had a near death experience and I know many people around me had, but I always had this inclination to learn from other people’s mistakes mostly. And to use that wisdom to sort of drive me forward. So I try not to make a lot of mistakes. I do, I’m very open and I’m resilient to failure, but if I can learn from someone who’s already done it, I much rather sit down with them and interview them for 10 minutes, than try to figure it out the hard way. So from a young age, I was asking questions like, what is the meaning of life. Like who’s asking that question when they’re young? I don’t know, some might freak. I’m not sure, someone who loves philosophy. But I would ask these questions. I would go on YouTube. I’d watch people in their eighties and their fifties and their forties. I’m the kind of person who in the middle of the night, if I can’t sleep, I go on the internet and I read about life advice for people who have already done it. Like that’s the thing that I do. I think it’s inherently part of my personality. And I think it also comes from my culture. I’m Chinese American and being an Asian-American woman means that I was always raised with this mentality of service to be of help and service to others, to make people feel comfortable. That’s very much a part of who I am and I pride myself on. And it’s not something that I think, oh, you know, it’s a bad stereotype. I think it’s an amazing one because it means that I’ve learned to be user centered in all of my actions, right? When I go into a conversation, how can I make sure the person feels heard and understood and met? How can I, you know, be user centered in the products that I build or the companies that I consult for? How can I teach people to be less attached to their way of life or their thinking so that they can put their biases down for a moment and just be with another person, be curious and open. So I feel like all of those characteristics really stemmed from being Chinese, because there’s a lot of Confucius and [06:08 inaudible] and sort of Buddhist principles that are about being considerate and open-minded, and being of service to mostly your family. So that’s really where it comes from is wanting to be like a good person for my family, but then by extension a good person for the world.

Ashish Nathu: That’s so good. I respect so much of that. And I think that it’s, I feel like I also have this existential, like near death experience that is driving me, even though I’ve never had one either. And I love how you framed that because I think people find that you know, what are you really chasing? Why are you always looking for more? You’re operating from a position of lack, but it’s actually not that, it’s more of a pull than it is a push. And I love how you frame that. Tell us a little bit about what is prototype thinking labs. Talk to us about how all that manifested, what is prototype thinking, let’s get into the framework of what that means.

Olivia Wong: Absolutely. So prototype thinking is a methodology for rapid learning and iteration. Really what it is it helps you take a big, messy problem that you’ve been stuck on and solve it in the fastest, cheapest, and most efficient way possible. That also makes you feel really relaxed. So it’s about solving problems, but doing it in a way where the user experience benefits the customer, but also the person solving the problem. And I think it came out of a couple of things. First of all, it originated at Google X, one of the semisecret research and development arm of Google. But it was also, it originated from this perspective that so much of what we do in business and in user testing and innovation is really done in this very like quantitative masculine way, right? If we want a constant concept. We put up a landing page and we throw it to a thousand people and see what they click on. But do we really fundamentally understand people’s realities? Why do they click yes or no? Why do they like this design or the other design what’s going on beneath the surface? So prototype thinking is a methodology to essentially unlock the meaning and the significance and the answers of any question that you have about how things work in the world. So if you’re wondering, do people understand the core concept of my business? Do they understand the value that I’m trying to share? Do they want it, do they desire it, do they want to purchase it? All of these questions you have to solve when you’re starting a new business or even just a new product line or, you know, a new feature. And so prototype thinking gives us a very step-by-step linear process that is repeated in a circular way. And essentially what it’s giving us is a tested and validated framework for solving any problem. And the reason why I love this so much is that it takes so much of what we know from things like human centered design or lean startup or Google sprints, but it also combines it with many techniques that my co-founder has pooled from her lived experience, being someone who is disabled, being someone who is autistic, being someone who is from the LGBTQ community and constantly having to navigate the world in a way where the world was never made for her. And so it definitely comes from this landscape of accessibility design. How do we design and build things for people that work for everyone, not just the 1% or the 2% or 3%. And we don’t often think about that because if you live in the majority and you have the privilege like I do of having a lot of things work for me, it doesn’t really cross your mind. But how many times do you have to walk across the street and think is the ramp low enough for my wheelchair to get across? When I put on a band aid, does it match my skin color? These are things that we don’t have to consider. The prototype thinking is a way for us to really build things that work for other people in their realities, so that they get excited about it and they adopt it and they put it into their pocket and it becomes as valuable to them as you know, phone keys, wallet, when they walk out the door. That’s essentially what it is. It’s a framework for really fast learning and iteration and helps us unlock the answers to any given situation in life.

Ashish Nathu: So let’s go down a path of an example for everybody so that they can really understand the concept. So can we pick a problem or pick an example and then let’s run through the framework?

Olivia Wong: Absolutely. Yeah, Let’s try would you like me to pick the problem?

Ashish Nathu: Sure go ahead.

Olivia Wong: Okay. So let me, I’ve been trying to write a book for a very long time. We hired a writing coach. He’s awesome. We love him. He’s written books that we want to write books just like, and for about a year we sat down, we did this process. We are smart, competent people who dedicate our time towards things that we care about. It’s not that we’re lazy. It’s not that we’re incompetent. It’s literally something else, right? Because after a whole year of spending like thousands of dollars trying to get this coaching, we just couldn’t do it. We made excuses, you know, we didn’t finish our homework. We’re not sure what the next step is. How do we reach out to the publisher? What do we write in the proposal? It’s this whole big, juicy challenge that we haven’t solved before. Other people have solved this. But they haven’t solved this exact problem. How do we write a prototype thinking book it’s never been done? So using prototype thinking, the first thing that we try to acknowledge is one, we’re all very smart people here, right? So it’s not that we’re stupid. We’re not lazy. We’re not incompetent. It’s something about the nature of the problem, It’s just more difficult than we imagined. Can we can’t use the same kind of thinking that we use to solve other problems before, right? Like I know how to pay my taxes. I know how to, you know, put aside a little bit of money, like at the end of the day, like those are problems I already understand. So the first thing that we have to do with prototype thinking is one, We have to say, I don’t know.

Ashish Nathu: Got it.

Olivia Wong: That in itself is actually profound because most of us have been framed in organizations to talk about what we do know. That’s essentially what happens in a meeting, right? Everyone gets around a room in a board room and it’s a guessathon. And usually it’s dictated by who has the highest status or pay, who has the loudest voice, who’s the most, extroverted. Those people have the opinions that sort of win the room. But what we’re doing with prototype thinking is first we say, Hey, I don’t know. We’ve been working on this problem for a year. We don’t know the answer we need to literally say, we don’t know first. And then once we do that, then we can articulate what we do know, what we don’t know, which is a process called separating your conjectures from your actuals. And that’s really important because a conjecture is a guess. It’s an educated guess and an actual something that you learned from directly observing people in the real world. It’s real data. And so our data is we think we can write this book, but we don’t know how. And so we define the question there and then what we do from there is we list out every single thing that we don’t know, which might be, I don’t know how to write well. I don’t know how to articulate my founder story. I don’t know how to look for the right publisher. Like who do I sell this to? Who’s the agent that I work with? I don’t know how to actually design the books so that it’s really juicy. And that reflects our values as being a new age business book. So we make this large laundry list of all of the questions that we have, and then we rank them in order of priority. So we rank the questions in order of importance, which one is the most important, the riskiest question, the one that we have the least amount of confidence about. And from there we design an experiment to solve each question. Now we don’t really worry about the whole list because that could be like 50 questions. We just focus on the top one to three. And usually that’s where we have the least confidence. So I would tell you my biggest question was I don’t feel confident about my writing style. I just don’t. I wrote when I was young, I didn’t for a long time, I have to write business emails. All of a sudden I’m forced to write a nonfiction novel. So that for me, had a very low confidence. I felt I was 10% confident that I knew the right answer of how to write the book. For my customers and for my own proudness. So from there, what we’ll do is we’ll build an experiment. And that might mean why didn’t I write a couple of different styles? Why don’t I hire a writing coach? Why don’t I learn from someone who’s already done it? Why don’t I go to Barnes noble or indigo, wherever that is, and go read a bunch of books in my genre and see what really lands. So the whole process that I’m just sort of explaining is identifying what you don’t know, having the, also the humility to admit when you’re stuck. Because so much of us, we don’t admit when we’re stuck and then we just keep trying the same thing and it doesn’t work. We do what historically we found as a company, right?

Ashish Nathu: So actually I’m going to slow you down. Cause I think that was really profound. I think what I’m taking away. So step one, So the problem is, I don’t know how to write my book. Let’s make that the problem. Step two is identifying that, I don’t know how to solve the problem. And what I like about that is it actually disconnects the ego from trying to solve the problem. It creates this open framework, open space of like whatever happens next is going to be creative and fun and iterative. And we don’t have to walk in thinking that I already know the answer. Like that was really such a simple shift of mindset. Almost intercepts the mind thinking, like I call it yeah, it really just interrupts the thinking. Does that make sense?

Olivia Wong: It does and I’ve never heard of that or thought of it that way.

Ashish Nathu: Like it interrupts the pattern of, of course I know how to solve this. We should have a meeting about it.

Olivia Wong: Great. I think that to go even deeper here, we should not assume that we know the answer or have the tools to solve the answer because fundamentally, if you’re in innovation, which is where I’m in, we never had the answers. That’s why it’s so innovative. We’re disrupting problems that haven’t been solved before. So if you go into any situation already assuming I don’t know the answer, but I have a framework that will get me there and I just need to be open and curious and go along the journey and do the steps one through five. You’ll arrive at the answer and it will be more accurate and natural and authentic, and actually the right answer for your problem, rather than just kind of pulling something from your, you know, your past experiences. And then just trying to scale the wrong solution.

Ashish Nathu: So then we list out what we know, what we don’t know. That could be a list of 50 questions of the things we don’t know, but we select the top one to three, most be hag, most complicated, maybe most largest issues. And then what do we do next?

Olivia Wong: And then we design an experiment. So as soon as possible, what we want to do is stop talking about it because we’ve already learned that we’ve talked a lot about it and it didn’t give us the answer. So if you, something that we say is, if your team has been talking about a problem for 10 minutes and they haven’t gotten the answer, there’s no amount of talking about it. They can’t spend 10 hours of talking to get a better answer. You just need to pause, stop, and then go experiment. So we would then design a test you run. And a lot of the times it’s just begins with asking your question yourself, well, where does the answer live? Where does the answer live?

Ashish Nathu: What does that mean?

Olivia Wong: Yeah. That’s a good question. So here’s some examples. So the answer could be an executive decision. I decide that I am going to write this book in this way and I don’t care what anyone else says. Like this is my decision. It could be, let me think and solve this. I can sit down for 30 minutes and just give myself the space to think about the problem. How should I go about this? What’s the strategy I want to use here? What are the values that I want to communicate? How do I want to be perceived? That’s just me sitting down and thinking about it. Or you could do research. You could go look at what are the most popular books in my genre? How are they written? There’s kind of a formula. You know, the guys from sprint wrote this book this way, you know, this other person wrote it this way. And then kind of research what has been done well, that’s one version. The best version is actually just user tests. So that means I would write one paragraph of my book and then I would present it to you. She should be like, Hey, you’re a person who I think could possibly like my book. Can you read this? And just give me your complete, authentic, unfiltered reaction? Like, what do you think of this? And let me just hear you speak out loud, everything that you’re seeing and feeling whatever’s coming up for you. And you can totally say this is total shit. And it won’t hurt my feelings. And that’s exactly what you do in a user test is you present the prototype, you stop talking and you let the person speak and sort of share their authentic reactions or their authentic stream of consciousness. So that’s essentially the testing portion of this framework.

Ashish Nathu: What happens after that?

Olivia Wong: So then you do that with five people because we found that you only really need to talk to five people to figure out whether, basically to do an early validation. It’s really cool that you only need you to talk to five people. There’s a lot of research. It comes from Nielsen and Norman, but essentially it yields 85% confidence in whether people understand the concept, whether it’s there’s something called a magic moment, which means it makes people eyes light up. It gives them this moment of like deliciousness or delight or impact. And then whether it’s something that’s viable, that more people are going to want to use it and you can, you know, send it off to a bigger study of more people. So talk to five people, that’s it. You use your test with five people, and then after that you get a bunch of really cool insights. You get a lot of information about what people liked. Some people may say, oh, I really loved that story that you told Olivia in the very beginning with your dad, oh, I didn’t really care for this. It sounded like you were being a little bombastic here. It seems like in the very beginning, you seemed a little bit like, I don’t know, insecure about your writing skills, but then you came back and told us all these companies that you worked with. So that sounded kind of weird. They just give you the raw unfiltered data. And from there, when you test with five people, you’re going to start to see patterns emerge. And that’s what happens is people like the same things and you take those patterns and you run with it, and then you redesign or redevelop the thing that you built.

Ashish Nathu: And it just is a big circle.

Olivia Wong: Exactly. And then you build the next version of it. So let’s say I have books paragraph one, version two, and then I go find another few people to test with. But at that time I’ve probably written more than one paragraph, but like maybe it’s a chapter I go test with.

Ashish Nathu: Let me ask you some more peripheral questions. How, tell me a little bit about how to create the team to do this work. I think that team dynamic is really important for you to ask a question, for something you’ve never solved before. You need to have the right team dynamics. You got to have the right space to not have ego or not feel judged or not be criticized to look at a question and say, I don’t know the answer, and let’s go down this journey of curiosity. Tell us a little bit about how that framework should look. How companies should think about creating that space with the right team.

Olivia Wong: I love this question because it’s what keeps me up at night. I’m currently working with a company called Autodesk and one of their big questions is who do we invest the resources into training in this methodology? Because we can’t train everyone and have all of our consultants, Who’s really going to be adept and early adopters of this way of thinking. And I went through about a hundred different people and trained them in this methodology. And then we looked at the results and we looked at the different personality traits of the different consultants that came through our process, our training. And what we found and this is by far, one of my favorite learnings of this entire year is that we found that people who were economists meaning they were self-driven. For example, you could say, here, go own this problem. And they would take the problem and run with it. Those are the people that work really well with crochet thinking, in addition to people who are open-minded, they’re not close-minded so they don’t have a fixed mindset. They have a growth mindset. They’re willing to say I don’t have all of the information or I don’t have all of the answers. So my best solution is to go listen. So they’re willing to go out and like listen to a lot of people, interview a lot of people, get a lot of feedback before making a decision. They’re also incredibly courageous. These are people who dive into the unknown and they’re willing to swim in a lot of risk. Even when the path forward is not very clear. And most of all, they’re inspiring because they can do all of that stuff. So it really takes a certain kind of person to be open to this. I think that’s the profile of the person, but of the team there also has to be a couple of things. The first thing is psychological safety. You can’t really be safe to come out in a team if you feel like you’re going to be judged. So we really try to create an environment where it’s not us against each other. So we’ll say something like, it’s not about being right or wrong. It’s not about you having the right idea and he doesn’t have the right idea. They have the ready idea. It’s actually about all of us working on the same side of the table against risk. So we say writing a book is really hard. The three of us are trying to work on it. How many ideas can we generate? How many insights can we learn as a team? You know, can our confidence level go from 10 to 40% in two weeks? Like that’s a really good measure of progress. So I think when it comes down to it is having the right mindset, which you talk so much about in this podcast. And then also having psychological safety.

Ashish Nathu: I guess when I think about that, you know, I guess there are times where decisions need to be democratic and there are probably times, and you just mentioned it that like executive decision thank you very much for all your feedback. This is the color of our brand, like blah, blah, blah, right? Tell me a little bit about where you see that in this process. And is there a time to have democratic solution-driven prototype thinking versus this process is so that it just ultimately gets to a place of whoever the decision maker has all of the information so they can make the right decision based on all of the opportunities or questions at hand. Like walk us through that. Because I think there are certain times where you can have, you know, team buy-in and everyone can have input. And there’s times where somebody just needs to make a decision. And when you just stop wasting time, when you stop asking all these questions, like let’s just try this and go, tell me a little bit about that.

Olivia Wong: Oh, I love this question. I think it comes back to the energetic wave of innovation, which is you go wide, right? You expand ideas and then once you’ve gone enough wide, you go narrow. So that’s converging. So it’s that kind of process of going outward and at the very beginning, when you’re starting a project, you may want everyone’s fingerprints to be on the project because you want everyone to feel like they have a stake, they had buy-in. But there’s a point where you ask too many people their opinions and you get nowhere because you have not merged or synthesized those ideas. So I think the question really is, what’s the nature of the problem that we’re trying to solve next. Is it, I need more people to agree on this direction. Okay, Let’s use the democratic process. Is it, I need to move forward. We already went through 10 different versions of this. Everyone voted, we got their feedback, we know their opinions, but we need to make a final decision because we just have to and it’s either going to be red or blue, which one do we choose? At that point, the best tool is executive decisions. So I think you have to ask, what question am I trying to solve? Where does the answer live? And then what is the best tool to use to get to the next answer?

Ashish Nathu: So good. Let me ask you, in terms of, I look at the world in different segments from a business perspective. And so I think you mentioned this can be very effective in innovation and that’s a space you work in. So when we talk about innovation, we’re talking about technology or maybe new products or new services whether that is business or a division of a company, or what have you, then there’s businesses that kind of like everyday businesses. And we talk about like restaurants and manufacturing and distribution, and like there’s a lot of companies that people would not consider to be innovative. However, they are running big businesses and have been around for a while. How can all types of companies use prototype thinking and how does it apply to companies, Like for example, we’re in the furniture business, not a lot of innovation is coming into the furniture business, which is why I love it. It’s a great space for us to be super innovative, but our industry as a whole is not a quote unquote innovative industry. So how can people think about that in terms of their own individual businesses or industries that perhaps would not get claimed as we’re a hyper innovative industry, and there are space for these types of thinking’s to come into our company.

Olivia Wong: That’s a great question. The first thing that I’d like to introduce is this concept called a three-point offset, which is a core concept of ours, which is if you build something that is three points better than anything else that exists in your space, it’s naturally going to get people to talk about it and spread it word of mouth. So you get rapid awareness and adoption. So if you’re in, whatever industry you’re in, let’s say you’re in, I don’t know, airport security or furniture or ceiling manufacturing. The first question to ask is what is the current ranking of my industry or my company in this industry? Are we a three out of 10? And this is usually like one to 10, 10 is the best. One’s the worst five so-so. So you could say something like, okay, we are in airport security. My job is to make the user experience of airports better. What’s the current ranking worldwide for airports. It sucks, right? It’s like a two or three, like LAX is awful. And then you go to Singapore and you’re like, oh my God, the butterfly [28:39 inaudible]. It goes like up to a seven or eight. But if you first start by asking yourself, where are we on the spectrum of great user experience or great value, that’s your baseline. And then what you want to do is ask yourself, how do we build an experience that’s three points better than that. And if you can do that, then you can build things that will be very, very popular. Like Uber has a three to a seven point offset depending on the city that you’re in. And I can prove this to you right now by just asking you a simple question, like Ashish, when you first rode an Uber, how valuable was it for you on a scale of 1 to 10?

Ashish Nathu: Incredibly valuable.

Olivia Wong: Yeah. Like what number would you assign it?

Ashish Nathu: Well, in comparison to the past, probably like a seven or an eight.

Olivia Wong: And then what about a cab? Like on a scale of one to 10?

Ashish Nathu: Yeah, probably like a three, you’re right.

Olivia Wong: Yeah. So that’s a four point offset or higher. So when we look at opportunities in the market, no matter what business we’re in, we can always try to shoot for a three point offset, which means if I am LAX and I’ve actually had conversations with these people at lax, and they want to make a world-class experience for travelers all around the world to come through LAX and be wowed and wooed and, you know, love the experience, what would they have to do? Well, they could do something really simple as just take the aspect of standing in line for security. You know, you go in, you see the TSA agent, there’s airports in the world that have sort of turnstiles for seven, five people at a time can put their things in and they don’t have to wait. And that in itself is a three-point offset because now people talk about it all the time. Like I’m talking to you about it right now. So no matter where you are, it’s about figuring out what the baseline is and trying to shoot three points higher or more by creating new products or services or experiences or improving the existing sort of business offerings you already have.

Ashish Nathu: How do you, this may be an obvious leading question, but how do you remove bias? How do you take out the bias? Because you’re telling me that my airport experiences of three Olivia, but I’m the director of airport experience. And I think it’s a seven and a half. How do you remove bias from this process?

Olivia Wong: That is a really good question. Because it’s essentially what we’re trying to do as a consultancy. We have to prove to a lot of C level executives that, you know, this is the reality of their users. This is what they believe, not necessarily what you believe. So how do we bring in that empathy? How do we help these people suspend their judgements? The easiest way to do this is for that person who thinks airport security is a seven who works there as the director to literally see passengers talk about their experience. It could be like, I have the family and we were trying to travel for the first time after COVID. And this is the one time I’ve ever seen my, our grandparents, We want our younger kids to meet them. And then we stood in line for two hours and then we were sent back to this other line that was so confusing and blah, blah, blah. And you just hear this person talk about their experience. You can’t refute that. It’s irrefutable. You can’t say no, you didn’t experience that. No, you can’t feel that way. No, like it should be seven. It’s a, really a three. So I think it requires listening to other people share feedback on their experience, which is basically what we do in user testing. So the best way to do that, if you don’t have the time to get these two people together is you run a user test, you record it and then you show your director. I believe it’s at seven. And they watch a lot of videos, like five videos that all say the same thing.

Ashish Nathu: I love that. Thank you for sharing that. I really liked that prototype thinking framework. I mean, I was taking notes. I’m definitely going to apply this. Let’s take a 90 degree turn into you, because one of the things I like to talk about on the podcast are the five pillars. And you mentioned this earlier is, you know, you’re always interested in learning what makes other people tick and what makes them successful and how can you know, take hacks from other people in their experience. So, you know, you are a successful entrepreneur, you’re a successful Asian American woman. You’re miss Asia or miss America or something. Even happy to talk about that. Miss Asia global you know, you’re running your own business, you know, you’re in a committed relationship and you’re balancing all of these things. So I think what I’d like to talk about is, you know, what is, how do you balance it all? What is your routine look like for you to get the results you want?

Olivia Wong: Well, my routine, I would say a third of it is making sure that I feel good every day. That’s like really at the core, what does it take for me to feel good? Because if I’m feeling good, my energy is solid. My aura is intact. You know, I’m not worrying about the violence that I watched last night in a Netflix series. Like if I’m good to go mentally, emotionally, spiritually, then I’m doing the best I can every day. And that to me is like the best day of my life. So my routine includes in no specific order meditation, my hobbies are really important to me. So I’m currently learning how to play the ukulele. I’m a confident beginner.

Ashish Nathu: I love that confident beginner. I love that.

Olivia Wong: Lower intermediate, I try to exercise as much as I can. I also really practice conscious choice making, where I braid my time for things I care about. And I’m always trying to be as conscious as possible. So sometimes I don’t get to do that, right? Like my partner right now just went through a minor surgery. And so for the last two days, I haven’t worked out because I’ve been trying to make some extra food at home that is more palatable because he can’t eat solid food for a bit. So that’s okay. I’m not working out. I’m not doing my hardcore routine where I wake up and have my miracle morning thing. And, you know, I do the meditation and play my ukulele and then journal and then read and do only things and meal prep. And that’s fine. And I’m okay with training two hours of my day because the thing that I value is service to my partner and helping him and expressing love in that way. So that’s cool. But I think routine for me is morning routine, night routine. And in the middle of the day, making sure that I don’t overwork myself or do mental gymnastics, like taking appropriate breaks and really tuning in and listening to my body’s wisdom. So some days I’m like I could not be bothered to do anything else because I have worked on very difficult problems the last three days. And then I’ll text my team. I’ll be like, I need to take half of the day off. And they’re like, okay, see you tomorrow. So I just do that. And I have the flexibility and luxury to do that, but not everyone does. So it would be managing my personal energy and resources is literally my full routine. I never stopped working on this.

Ashish Nathu: I think that’s so good. I want to highlight what you just said in two specific things, starting today with feeling good and doing whatever it takes to feel good, I think is something that people underestimate. And I want to talk about this subject because I’ve done a lot of work on this, you know, and I’m deep into meditation and really focusing on priming ourselves. And a lot of people are in their own program. And one of the things I love about the routine is it, it almost reprograms any bad behavioral programs, right? So most people wake up, they grab their cell phone, they go to the bathroom, they read their emails. They just get into the momentum of the day without, like you said, you know, consciously choosing what happens next. And what I love about meditation is allows you to slow down and really watch what’s going on, and then program yourself the way you want, which is, you know, how do I feel good? I have a mentor of mine that says I’m not allowed to leave my bedroom until I feel good. So you may wake up. You may deal like you, even if you get caught up in an email and it’s triggering to you or something that’s stressful, he doesn’t allow himself to leave the room or leave his space without feeling good, which I think is really great framework. And then the other thing you said that I thought was incredibly powerful and worth repeating is that you have to give yourself grace and that sometimes days are more intense than others. Sometimes things throw you off your schedule. And I think people are often, one of the reasons why I have this as a pillar is because I’ve found so much value in it, in routine, in that I think people stay away from routine or these types of consistent behaviors because of what we’re talking about is like, well, you know, Olivia working out six days a week is impossible. I have my husband and I have this and I have to wake up early and I have kids and I have this and I have that. And it prevents all these limiting thoughts, prevent people from actually finding the routine that allows them to live life, Let’s say 80% of the time in a level of consistency and emotional consciousness that they want. But they don’t because they create all these other stories. So it’s such an important topic for me.

Olivia Wong: Well said, very well said. And I love the examples that you gave too, because if we are afraid of routine, it’s because we’re afraid of letting ourselves down because we think we won’t do the routine. But I think the next question is why are you choosing a routine that doesn’t work for? You choose the routine that works, even if it’s one minute of meditation or one minute of sitting in silence before you jump on your phone or do whatever you need to do in the morning.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah. And it can happen in steps, right? This is why I love asking this question because I think everyone should get a little bit of benefit to their own routine and may get iterations to their routine based on other people’s routines. Like, oh, wow! Olivia, I really liked the way that you frame that in your routine. And I’m going to take that. Or I don’t like, I don’t want to work out. So I’m going to dig that out of my routine or whatever. So I think it’s important to continue to ask that. You’ve spent a lot of time as a humanitarian. You’ve worked for nonprofits. You’ve served the world in so many different ways. You’re miss Asia global. Tell us a little bit about that journey for you. What does it mean to you to be part of all those organizations and programs? What is the impact that you’ve been able to do as miss Asia global? Talk us about that.

Olivia Wong: Well, I’ve had a lot of fortunate experiences. I got to work as a humanitarian worker and a first responder in places like Fukushima, Japan, and in Jordan at the border of Syria during the peak of the Syrian crisis in 2013. I also had the life-changing experience of being able to work in philanthropy with this amazing organization that you might know of called Tarceva foundation. And through those experiences, I realized that there is no life that I could live that would be meaningful without an element of service. I just can’t, I can’t just wake up every day and try to make a bunch of money and buy designer bags. And I don’t know, go to restaurants, and have nice clothes. Like that doesn’t fulfill me and it will never fulfill me. And I think I was fortunate to learn that at a young age, because I hear that sometimes it takes people a little bit longer to find the joy in helping and serving others. So you may work previously in the nonprofit world, I got to work with a lot of organizations that were at the forefront of alleviating poverty and serving a homeless populations, as well as [40:24 inaudible] refugee and asylum seeking youth. So that was sort of my forte when I was in my early twenties. And then now as this international beauty pageant holder title person.

Ashish Nathu: I love that.

Olivia Wong: I get to create the conversation. I get to say, Hey, this is what I think we should be talking about as a society, as a person who has some kind of community status or public status, I guess to say, these are the things that I think are important to focus on. And I think these are the types of things we should be talking about as people who are in the public eye, I get to create the narrative. And I think that for me has been really important because in the past year, for example, just in our community, we faced a lot of racism and violence as Asians worldwide. And we didn’t see that picked up in mainstream media. And I remember having this conversation with folks and posting on my Instagram about this in the very, very early days before stop Asian hate even became a movement. And because I was part of that, my community followed [41:29 inaudible] too, and we became very engaged and we had to be engaged because no one else was really talking about it. So I think I have this rare opportunity to set what is the precedent for future women who come after me as Miss Asian global. And I do think that my intention is to make the position more about service and more about social justice than it has previously. I’ve actually competed in other pageants and they’re not always service-minded. You win, you have the title, it’s great. You put it up on your LinkedIn or your Instagram, and then you kind of forget about it and you maybe do a food photo shoot. But for me, it was interviewing people in the 10 different areas that I felt were very important. Mental health, homelessness, LGBTQ ,disability rights, black lives matter, stop Asian hate, women’s rights, climate change, Refugees, immigrants’ rights. So these are all of the topics that fell under my umbrella of human rights and equality. And so that’s really what my platform is about. It’s about having these conversations and then taking that empathy that we gather from the conversations, and then combining it with action. Because I always want people to remember that it was person who can just talk about these concepts. I was someone who did things about them, and I want people to see that as a model, because a lot of young girls are looking at this title, thinking I want to be the next Miss Asian global. What does it require? Well, that’s what it requires is to care about things and to do things about them.

Ashish Nathu: It’s so beautiful. You know, I’ve known you for so long and it’s been really a blessing and a pleasure to watch you in your own journey. And you’ve done so much for, you know, yourself and your family and your small little circle, but also you really have this beautiful, compassionate, empathetic way of looking at the world and serving and doing such great things. So I just want to honor you for all the work that you put in. I know it sometimes can look easy from the outside, but I know how much effort and energy you put into doing all the things you do. So I just want to honor you.

Olivia Wong: Thank you. That was so sweet. And I receive all of that and I’m going to lock away your words in a box and open it later on a rainy day when I need it.

Ashish Nathu: If you were to ever have a superpower, any superpower, what would it be?

Olivia Wong: It would be to sing. Previously it was to have a lot of empathy. Like that would be my way to heal the world. It would be my wonder woman trait, but I feel like I got that through prototype thinking, because I now have this framework to, you know, develop empathy for any person, regardless of how they look or who they are. But singing would be my next super skill because I could fully express the feelings I have inside for others and communicate that in a different medium.

Ashish Nathu: I don’t know if I’d want, I’d pick that as my superpower, but I definitely would wish I knew how to sing, but for the sake of the audience and my wife and everybody else in my life, it probably better that I don’t. But I love to sing at least when no one’s listening.

Olivia Wong: That’s fair. There’s no Marvel movie that’s made. Maybe I should have rechose my skill.

Ashish Nathu: I know. What do you wish you knew 20 years ago?

Olivia Wong: Wow! No one has ever asked me that question. I’m stopped dead in my tracks. 20 years ago. I would’ve been 10.

Ashish Nathu: So how about 10 years ago?

Olivia Wong: Okay. 10 years ago. That it’s really okay to let certain people out of your life. You’re not going to be friends with everyone for all of your years. And you’ll go through cycles of life where some people are just more important than others, but if you try to hold onto everything and everyone, it will make you very unhappy. So I’m trying to find a way to bless and release people in my past and to keep the door open, obviously. But like again, you know, I’m moving into a stage where family is really important and that sometimes means I can’t have a hundred best friends like I used to, when I was in college.

Ashish Nathu: Last question for you, what does it mean to be rich?

Olivia Wong: You have the right attitude to create internal wealth.

Ashish Nathu: I’m so honored that you join me today. How do people find you if they want to get and connected with you?

Olivia Wong: Yeah. You can find me at prototype thinking labs on Instagram and Facebook. We’re not really that big on Twitter, but Instagram is a great way. And you can also reach us at

Ashish Nathu: I really sincerely appreciate your time. Sharing all this knowledge. Prototype thinking is a really great framework for looking at the world and solving really complicated problems. I love the ability to step away emotionally from the, you know, thinking like I can solve this problem myself and I have all the answers. So I just want to encourage the audience to reach out to Olivia if you have any more questions. Use this framework in your everyday life and or your business. Thank you so much Olivia for your time and, you know, blessings to you, your loved ones and continuously, you know, serving the world you do. And I know that you set such a great example and role for women, you know, Asians, businesspeople, leaders all around the world. So just really, sincerely appreciate you being here.

Ashish Nathu: Thank you so much. It was a huge pleasure.

Thank you for listening to the Rich Equation podcast with Ashish Nathu. Do you want more ideas on how to live rich? Go to for show notes and resources. Then take one minute to leave Ashish, a five-star review on apple podcasts, and we’ll see you on the next episode

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You can have results or you can have excuses but not both.

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