Impostorism Managed

Last quarter our team researched the impact that impostorism may have on women’s trajectory through higher education and the workforce. Since then, we’ve spent the last month working to turn our research into actionable business ideas. This was done by using a few different methods such as reframing, pattern creation, and ideation to generate a large number of ideas. Once we had these ideas, we went through them one-by-one to rank them on the following scales: level of fun, level of impact, feasibility, and capacity to build confidence. This ranking allowed us to filter down to our top five ideas.

Next we created storyboards, lean canvases, and theory of change structures for each of these five ideas:

  • Impostor Confessionals – is a safe space to share and celebrate your stories of impostorism in your life, and in doing so support others.
  • JVL Consultancy – women-owned consultancy that identifies and designs guiding criteria to demand equality in the workplace.
  • Destruction Box – self care, self reflection, and stress relief, all tied up in one monthly box.
  • The Ladies Dinner Party –  is a place where women gather to share and celebrate stories of failure — and in doing so, grow together.
  • Alumni Sharing – as students graduate AC4D and enter the workforce, they can experience intense feelings of impostorism. This alumni sharing initiative spotlights and shares those feelings to help overcome impostorism within all of us.

After presenting and thinking further on these ideas last week we did another round of down selecting to end with three ideas. Down selecting from five was hard because we all really liked all five ideas we’d come up with. We ended up combined the dinner club and confessional storytelling ideas into one idea where the dinner club would meet more frequently and  the confessional style event would be a semiannual or annual larger event. We also decided that even though we weren’t moving forward with the fifth idea as a business concept we’d still like to create the “prototype version” of it and gather impostorism stories from the AC4D alumni community to share with current and future students.

So now, we have begun the process of talking to people and testing these three ideas. This week, we interviewed one person to get her feedback on all three ideas. For this interview we had one lo-fi physical prototype of a product, and we used the storyboards for the other two ideas to explain their concepts and how they would work. Our hypotheses:

  1. The destruction box idea, while fun, may not be that effective for combatting impostorism long term.
  2. It may be difficult to get people to sign up to tell their stories of failure or impostorism on stage publicly.
  3. Human Resource departments are good entry points, and method for framing the JVL consultancy work.


What we learned:

The destruction box may be more impactful that we thought. Our interviewee loved this idea. She talked about how this could release endorphins in the body and physically make people feel better. She also recommended that there be some sort of reflection tool so users can reflect on the why behind these feelings. She brought up the fact that women are traditionally associated with creating: Mother Earth, child birth, etc. and it was refreshing to embrace the opposite of that: destruction.

She said it reminded her of a similar past experience when she and others intentionally broke plates to symbolically destroy negative feelings. She says it felt cathartic, almost like… “Yeah! Is this how the bros feel when they walk into a board room?”

Our hypothesis that the dinner club might be an easier point of entry for telling stories of impostorism/failure was seconded by our interviewee. She liked both the dinner club and moth style event but said that as an introvert she was much more comfortable with the dinner party. She agreed that she would likely not get up on stage to discuss her impostorism, let alone submit a video to do it.

Lulu was most excited/most pessimistic about the JVL Consultancy idea. Her first question was, will you actually be able to implement this in companies? She feels that yes, we need this, companies need this, people identifying as women need this but it couldn’t only happen with HR. She feels like there’s no chance of success if we don’t have buy-in from leadership. We will need to focus more on how we could position ourselves to appeal to organizational leaders and potentially interview people in these roles to try and evaluate if/what would make them buy into this idea.

Looking forward, we have another interview tomorrow, and plan to continue to iterate and build prototypes of our ideas.

Current destruction box prototype for testing.
Current destruction box prototype for testing.