I’m Dani. Thanks for taking the time to read a bit about me. At my core, I am a designer. I found design in my early twenties and fell in love. Design helped me to understand what I was meant to do in the world and gave me focus and purpose. 

Researching Design Thinker capabilities has been the passion and focus of my life in the past seven years…yes, I am nerdy like that! Research has shown me that design capabilities can help us solve the big scary problems we face in the world today. 

A chronic sufferer of wanderlust, proud human to two awesome dachshunds, a foodie, a wine enthusiast, an avid exerciser, with a love of music and binge watching tv, a serial book worm…a New Yorker living in New Zealand constantly at awe by its natural beauty. 

Have a scroll to learn more about me…connect with me on social media. 


Check out some of my work

Research and publications

The Design Thinker Podcast

The Design Thinker Blog

The Official Bio

Creator of the Design Thinker Profile, founder of the Design Thinker Institute, and co-host of the Design Thinker Podcast, Dr. Dani Chesson has spent her career helping organizations leverage human-centered design and behavioral science to drive innovation, create change, and lead teams through transformations. She has worked with corporates and government agencies in the USA and NZ. Dani is also an adjunct faculty member at Denver University and Antioch University. Realizing that much of her success is the corporate world stemmed from her roots as a designer inspired her research path and establishing the Design Thinker Institute, with the mission of helping others unlock the human power of design. 

Educational Background

  • Phd, Organizational Science, Design Thinking – Antioch University (2017) 
  • Master of Science, Organizational Development, Behavior Science – Queens University of Charlotte (2016)
  • Certificate in Executive Coaching – Queens University of Charlotte (2016)
  • MBA, Leadership and Organizational Change – Queens University of Charlotte (2012)
  • Bachelor of Technology, Visual Communication & Design – State University of NY (2005)

Professional Experinece

  • Adjunct Faculty – Organizational Development, Denver University
  • Organization Development Lead – ASB Bank, 2021-2022
  • Change Lead (contract) – IAG NZ, 2020-2021
  • Change Lead (contract), BNZ, 2019-2022
  • Snr. Change Manager (contract), Westpac NZ, 2018-2019
  • VP, Small Business Strategy & Change, Bank of America, 2014-2017
  • AVP, Regulatory Change, Bank of America, 2011-2014
  • Management Consultant, NTT Data Services, 2009-2011

My Story in Twelve Squares


Discovered Design
After nearly 2 years of aimlessly wandering, moving from various temp jobs, and dropping out of university twice, I discovered design and fell in love.


Completes Design Degree
Completed a design degree in record time. When you know what you want to spend your life doing, you want to get started right away. I was fortunate enough to find paid work in design while completing my degree so, I left school with pretty awesome portfolio and real life experience.


Discovers Banking
Got recruited by a bank to do process design work, I insisted this isn't what I do, but they wanted someone with design skills. I was too curious to pass it up, plus it was only meant to be a three month project. On a personal note, the marriage skeptic got married.


Business School
That three month contract...four years later still in banking and now I found myself leading change. Started an MBA program because it is the done thing when you work in banking. Hubby and I visit New Zealand and fall in love with it, start plotting our move across the world.


Mr & Mrs MBA
Greg and I both graduate with our MBA (yep, same program, same time). Completed study experiences in South Africa, Signapore, and China. Made some awesome friends! Could not shake the feeling that I had more learning to do.


Start of the Doctoral Journey
After several years of leading large-scale organizational change, I was frustrated. Everyone says they want change, everyone agrees why change is needed, until it comes time to change, then it feels like pushing a boulder uphill. How might we do change differently, better? This was the burning question that led to my doctoral journey.


Let's Not Keep It Simple
Discovering Design Thinking led to countless hours of research until I arrived at a gap in the research. Who are Design Thinkers? What are their capabilities? To explore this path it became apparent I need to go back and do some Master's level classes. So, as crazy as it sounds, I enrolled in a Master's program, while in a PhD program, while holding down a fulltime corporate job.


PhD, NZ, Birth of the Profile
With my dissertation study in full flight, in February, I quit my corporate job, sold our home, and moved to New Zealand, all while collecting and analyzing data. My goal was to defend and graduate in July...skipping all the drama and trauma...I made it. Dr Dani Chesson! The Design Thinker Profile was born.


Post-Doc Life
What do you get when you add a newly minted PhD in a foreign country, with no network, and no big audacious goal? A sobbing mess trying to figure it all out. I have achieved two big life goals within a small space of time...now what? Have I peaked? Was this it? I was figuring it out while continuing to validate the Design Thinker profile. Published my first peer reviewed article.


Finding My Footing
I didn't know what to do next so I went back to what I knew, banking and leading change. This gave me an opportunity to gain local experience, meet people, and test out some of my research findings. Turns out when you put yourself out there cool things happen. Established the Design Thinker Institute to focus on creating awareness about the innate human power of design. Published my second article.


Then a Pandemic Arrives
Just when life for us was starting to settle in New Zealand, COVID-19 arrives. I was thankful for all those years in global corporates working remotely with teams all around the world, so while most of the world was transition to new ways of working, I was going back to something I knew to do. I even got to help others make the transition. Published my third article.


Institute, Profile, Podcast
Once again, I quit my corproate job, to focus full time on the Design Thinker Institute. The Design Thinker Profile is ready for commercial use. Launched the Design Thinker Podcast. Publised a book chapter on the ethical implications of human centered design.

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