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avatar for Cynthia Sharpe

Cynthia Sharpe

Thinkwell Group
Principal, Cultural Attractions and Research
As Principal of Cultural Attractions and Research for Thinkwell Group, Cynthia is responsible for bringing guest behavior, museum, and education perspectives to Thinkwell projects. Her twenty years of experience spans from permanent and traveling museum shows to multi-use destination resort planning, ranging from creative exhibition and curriculum development 
to experience assessments and strategic planning. Her work combines content, behavioral theory, best practices in pedagogy, and creative direction for a range of clients, including Google, Warner Bros., San Diego Zoo, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and National Museum of Natural History, Universal Studios, and more. Prior to joining Thinkwell, Cynthia worked for the Museum of Science & Industry. She earned her Bachelor of Arts with honors in biology from Williams College, and a Master of Science in Genetics from the University of Chicago. Alongside an extensive list of publications and talks, she has served on a variety of industry boards and is the recipient of the 2018 Roy L. Shafer Leading Edge Award for executive leadership from the Association of Science-Technology Centers.

Q: What area of the health, design, and innovation space are you most passionate about?
A: Using human-centered design to make high-quality healthcare within everyone’s reach.
 
Q: What method, technology, tool, trend, or advancement gets you fired up the most?
A: Big data. Big data lets us understand users in incredible detail, see where common points of failure are, divine unexpected moments of commonality. Merge that with a societal shift to co-creation and not just passive participation, and the implications for design and healthcare are immense.

Q: Why do you do the work you do? What do you enjoy most? What impact are you hoping to achieve?
A: When I was a kid, I loved biology and creative writing. I loved worldbuilding. I pursued human genetics but realized research science wouldn’t help me share my love of science widely. Pursuing this type of design allows me to deeply engage the public in sweeping stories, amazing content, and transformative experiences. Immersive spaces have cracked the nut on good design, operational planning, and guest satisfaction. Transforming healthcare to be better for everyone via design marries my two early loves.

Q: Ideally, what do you think the future of health will hold? How will design help us to get us there?
A: Ideally being the caveat, healthcare becomes seamless and inclusive. The barriers between facilities, the chasm between information and understanding, and the inequity of quality are conquered. Design helps us get there in ways big and small - in cost savings that underpin the ability to invest, in making complex information more gettable, in helping everyone see their role and opportunities within the system.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles you face? How might your organization or the industry help to solve them?
A: It’s far, far easier for an established structure to say ‘no’ to new thinking; healthcare is understandably risk-averse! Understanding the motivations, fears, concerns, and hopes of people as they move through a system has not been a focus for healthcare, and the designs of our spaces and processes reflect that. But when you think of healthcare systems as places that people experience, with predictable paths and points of conflict or failure, we can apply the lessons from other industries to be more person-focused in our design.

Q: What would you tell your younger self?
A: There are big ways to change the world and improve people’s lives that aren’t ‘I’m going to find a cure for cancer.”