Dianne Wilkins is the CEO of Critical Mass - a global digital experience design agency. She is also a talent magnet, drawing people to her with her openness and her commitment to their success. She is also a survivor. We talked about her willingness to jump in, the tragedy that changed her life, and the role that ice cream played in shaping her remarkable career.
The Lookinglass, 02/23/2018
Digital experience design agency Critical Mass announced Pedro Laboy as its first-ever chief data innovation officer and Sara Anhorn as its first senior vice president of talent.
The Drum, 02/01/2018
CEO of Critical Mass with a passion for doing extraordinary work that transforms clients' businesses by improving customers' lives.
By Grant Owens, Chief Strategy Officer at Critical Mass Inspired by: Companies that apply their unique assets to big problems Last week, Bill Gates tweeted that his next big mission is to explore the enigma of Alzheimer’s disease. I got ridiculously excited. Not having a cure for Alzheimer’s is terrifying, but when Bill and Melinda Gates put the power of the Gates Foundation against a challenge, you can be sure they are going to move mountains. They are hell-bent on making the world a better place, and they have the power to do it. Everyday companies large and small are taking their special skills, assets, and work force and improving a corner of the world. Now, of course, not every company, let alone individual executives, has amassed the fortune of Gates and can apply that wealth to nearly any cause, but there is so much more the industrial complex can offer that doesn’t need to wait until retirement or billionaire-level wealth. Everyday companies large and small are taking their special skills, assets, and work force and improving a corner of the world. Earlier this year, social media personality Jerome Jarre recognized that the famine in Somalia had reached extreme proportions and surprisingly little support and attention was being paid to the crisis. He made a plea for netizens to join him in helping the dire situation. His biggest ask was for a plane to distribute supplies directly to the region. After a little homework, he found that Turkish Airlines was the only commercial airline provider that offered flights in and out of Somalia. So, he asked them directly if they could lend a plane with the sole purpose of carrying supplies to the area. And you know what? They gave him a plane! Not because they could make a profit, but because it was the right thing to do and Turkish Airlines was uniquely capable of making it happen. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Anheuser-Busch shifted some of their facilities from packaging beer and delivered over 400,000 cans of emergency drinking water to aid the response efforts. Another example of specialized assets being applied to a problem came when Coca-Cola and inventor Dean Kamen crossed paths. In 2004 Kamen had created a single device that could purify water from any possible water source — be it salt water, sewage, and even water contaminated with chemical waste. The problem Kamen had was that he lacked the ability to deliver and maintain the devices in the far corners of the world. Running out of ideas, he thought about how you can buy a Coke in nearly every part of the world — even remote places where affordable clean drinking water isn’t widely available. In other words, Coke has bottling and distribution partners across the globe. In a brilliant industrial quid pro quo, Coke agreed to help Kamen if Kamen, in turn, would help Coke develop their now ubiquitous cartridge-based dispensing machine called the Freestyle. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Anheuser-Busch shifted some of their facilities from packaging beer and delivered over 400,000 cans of emergency drinking water to aid the response efforts. Since 1988, the St. Louis-based brewer has provided over 76 million cans of drinking water to aid disaster-stricken areas. Opportunities to do good come in many forms — from AirBnB rallying it’s homeowner network to offer free places to stay for displaced residents in disaster areas — to a taxi app in the UK that recently gave its drivers medical equipment and training in CPR and first aid after they realized that 7 out of 10 drivers had experienced an emergency situation (e.g. picking up passengers headed to the hospital). Each company is sitting on something that could bring immeasurable value to people in need. To explore these big opportunities, begin with these questions: What specialized assets or skills have you created that could be applied to people with specialized needs? What does your brand care most about and for what would your workforce be willing to donate effort, time and money to help solve? What can your company do that communities wouldn’t otherwise be able to achieve on their own? You don’t need a reason to do good, but it doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that the good vibes will resonate across everyone who touches your brand. The customer that supports you. The investor with a stake in you. The employees who find meaning in the work they do with you. Everyone.
POST WRITTEN BY Dianne Wilkins CEO of Critical Mass with a passion for doing extraordinary work that transforms clients' businesses by improving customers' lives. “Human design” is one of those phrases that seems to crop up everywhere these days. I often get the sense that the rise of the term mirrors the accelerating pace at which technology evolves and enters our lives. With more tech, we need to be more human. Technology should connect us, rather than divide or devalue us. But the more I work in this field, the more I see humans as the true connector — even among technological devices. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. Think of a bank customer who opens a checking account on their laptop, pays a bill on their iPhone and gets a balance notification on their Apple Watch — that person is the focal point of a personal digital ecosystem. As a result, that ecosystem is totally unique — the customer’s preferences, goals, habits and unique story define it. If the designers who create this customer’s overall banking experience focus too much on the Phone, the Watch or the Laptop, then they need to stop and reorient their focus to where it belongs: the customer. Don’t get me wrong; due diligence is necessary (data-driven research, heuristic analysis, journey maps, design stories, gap analyses, etc.). But there’s something more — a human element that separates “okay” from “fantastic.” When you push a little harder, care a little more and design for humans, not for devices, you simply get a better result. The customer wins and the brand wins. That's why, at our agency, we’ve surrounded ourselves with tech-savvy people who believe that humans give purpose to technology, and not the other way around. It’s easy to forget how when computers first made their way on to the market, they were pretty useless for most people. They were the domain of a small number of technologically-inclined folks until companies like Microsoft came along and designed user interfaces that made it possible for everyday people to get involved. Overnight, the technology had a new purpose — making the lives of everyday people easier or more entertaining. It’s an old example of a persistent truth: Technology can do impressive things, but world-changing things can happen when humans create valuable user experiences for other humans. We’ve come a long way since that time. Today, we have AR/VR, AI, voice and facial recognition — mind-blowing advances. My eyes still pop when I see a next-generation VR experience or when my phone correctly picks out all the pictures I’ve taken of my daughter. As the head of a digital experience design agency, however, I believe I have a responsibility to ask, “What’s human about this?” For example, facial recognition seems like an inherently human technology, but it makes me think of the devastating problem of losing the ability to recognize faces — especially of those we love. A little over two years ago, a few people in Tunisia, working for Samsung, used a technology as common as Bluetooth to help Alzheimer’s patients recognize friends and loved ones (by detecting nearby phones). The “Backup Memory” app really struck me and still does, because it took widely available bits of tech and did something important, beautiful and deeply human — giving the ability to recognize faces back to people who were losing it. That’s one way to improve life in a deeply human way. Now, with Apple’s iPhone X hitting the market, advanced facial recognition of a very different sort will be a functional part of our everyday lives. That phone will be an incredibly powerful agglomeration technology. And now that Apple has released it, I believe incredible good can be done with it if we design for humans, as humans.
|Client||Start Year||End Year|
|Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee||2017||Current|
|Blue Shield of California||2015||Current|
Critical Mass was founded when a design visionary and a successful entrepreneur came together with a focus on digital experiences in a rapidly evolving space. Over the next 20 years, we helped global brands reimagine digital and transform their businesses though strategic consulting, innovative creative ideas and cutting-edge technology thinking.
Today, we are 950 employees across 11 global offices. Even though we’re much bigger than when we started out in Calgary, we remain true to our roots—we’re transparent, honest, passionate, and have a can-do attitude that our clients notice and appreciate. Our executive and global leadership team use an open and accessible management style to drive our success on all fronts: innovating our work and services, mentoring our talent, and ensuring we deliver of industry-leading work. We believe this is core to our success as a digital leader.
We are now majority-owned (99%) by Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC).
Omnicom is one of the largest holding companies for global advertising, marketing, digital and communications services firms. Their global revenue is over $15 billion, and they have more than 5,000 clients in over 100 countries.
Strategic Consulting: CX Consulting, eCommerce Strategy, Brand Strategy, Technical Strategy, Digital Identity, Search Strategy, Social Consulting
Experience Design: User Experience, Interaction Design, Website Design, Mobile Applications, Intranets, Physical Experiences, Service Design, Product Design, eCommerce Design
Marketing Communications: Channel Planning, Integrated Campaigns, Social Media, ECRM, Search Marketing (SEM) Media Planning/Buying, Community Management
Technology and Implementation: Solution Architecture, Prototyping, Application Development, System Integration, Mobile Development, Search Optimization, Quality Assurance, Devops
Marketing Science: Data Strategy Consulting, Segmentation & Targeting, Attribution Modeling, Testing & Optimization, Measurement Planning & Implementation
Chief Creative Officer
Chief Strategy Officer
Chief Client Officer
Chief Operating Officer
Chief Financial Officer