Thought Design is a playground for thinking.

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Our Mission

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Our Core

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Our Space

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Our Team

Denise explaining during a Thought Design training

I’m Denise, and I’m so glad you’re here.

When I think back on founding Thought Design, it really was an experiment. I had invested so much time learning about the mind and studying the various components that help adults learn. What I really wanted to know was, if all the pieces could be brought together to create the ultimate learning experience, would it transform businesses and lives? Thus, Thought Design, an ideology and a space crafted around the alchemy of the cognitive and creative mind, was born.

Our work has a strong emphasis on the brain science behind human interactions, which sets us apart in our industry. We don’t just teach strategies; our mission is to help teams and leaders see beyond systems and design how they think.

We often say, “You can’t change something you don’t see.” The influence of systems and culture can cause issues that aren’t even recognized because we’ve never been taught to look for them. At Thought Design, we teach you how to see. From learning to identify your own patterns of being to understanding what is taking place within a fellow co-worker, we help you notice, pause, and then choose an effective response that meets the need of the moment.

The greatest paycheck for us is seeing an individual or team learn to tap into the potential they’ve always had and begin to truly thrive. We’ve witnessed it happen again and again, but the magic of such moments never gets old.

We care a lot about psychological safety.

It might sound like a heavy term, but psychological safety is simply about creating a culture of intentionality, awareness, and emotional health so human relationships can thrive.

In such a space, all parties and personalities have an equal opportunity to communicate, contribute, and grow. This makes for a fulfilling and effective work environment that can carry over into the rest of life. Everything we do comes back to a foundation in this.

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We're honored to be trusted by incredible companies.

You are so welcome here.

Our space is like a mind lab—the optimal environment for growing healthy thoughts. Every single aspect has been designed to foster creativity, self-discovery, communication, and human connection. We hope you love it as much as we do.

Portrait of Denise McClennen

Denise McClennen,founder of Thought Design.

Veteran executive coach and thought leader, Denise McClennen, has dedicated her career to helping individuals solve their own dilemmas, create a roadmap for their own lives, and make a unique contribution to the world. Denise founded Thought Design in 2013 to give physical space to her dream of leading high-performance thinking programs for the high-level thinkers in her classes.

Denise has made the design of powerful learning experiences her life’s work, and when that work meets people who are ready to learn how to think deeply, act courageously, and take some risks along the way… well, that’s the dream. That’s Thought Design.


Specializing in neuroscience, vertical development, and complexity, Denise has worked with organizations across the world. She holds certifications with Fearless Organization (FOS Psych Safety scan), Tilt365 Positive Influence Predictor, NeuroLeadership Institute (Certified Coach), Enneagram (Train-the-Trainer), E-Learning Instructional Design (USC Irvine), DiSC, Conscious Leadership Coach, Imposter Syndrome Institute (Associate and Certified Coach), Cynefin Foundations, The Neuroscience Academy, Growth Edge Coaching/Growth Edge Network, and Bar-On Emotional Intelligence Assessment and is a Member at The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and The NeuroLeadership Institute.

Denise leads her team at Thought Design in developing unique learning experiences to generate insight and inspire better thinking. Her passion for the success of others manifests itself in the halls of Thought Design, where high-potential people learn to do what it takes to be their best selves!

Denise and her husband split their time between their home in Rockford, Michigan, their houseboat in Douglas, Michigan, and a home in Punta Gorda, Florida, gravitating towards the best weather for each of the seasons. In addition to her professional career, she is a mother to five adults and grandmother to seven growing-so-fast kids, who also help her decide where she spends her free time.

Tara Colvin, partner at Thought Design.

A lifelong learner, leader, innovator, and relationship-builder, Tara Colvin discovered Thought Design first as a client before joining as a partner and COO in January of 2022. Tara’s background in education and accounting may have directed her career path, but it is her enthusiasm for the infinite possibilities of fellow inspired humans that fuels her own vision: for the world around her—people and processes, buildings and board meetings, clients and corporations—to overcome their mental roadblocks and reach their full potential.


Tara found kindred spirits within the walls and whiteboards of Thought Design, and she brings her expertise to courses in psychological safety, time and priority management, strategic planning, communication, and leadership development.

Tara earned her bachelor's degree in accounting at Davenport University and a master's degree in educational studies at Johns Hopkins University. She spent her early career guiding dozens of schools and at-risk students through the maze of the public grant process. During this time, Tara embraced her love of coaching individuals and teams through obstacles and wrote an e-book as a coaching companion—Harmony: Better Than Work-Life Balance.

Tara is a fierce proponent of building relationships within communities to foster the well-being of all. In addition to her time in education, Tara has offered her gifts in several volunteer positions within her community, including over 20 years serving with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.

Tara lives in Grand Rapids, where she finds joy in being a dedicated dog mom to her beloved chocolate lab, Emmett, and in spending as much time as possible with her nieces and nephew. Her enthusiasm for transformation doesn’t stop with people and organizations; she loves a good home improvement challenge!

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Portrait of Cathy Henkenberns

Cathy Henkenberns, instructor & educator liaison.

Trainer, coach, and brain science aficionado Cathy Henkenberns, Ed.D joined the Thought Design team in 2023. She brings 40 years of experience in education as a trainer, coach, principal, and director of schools. Her career experience fostered a passion for the power of mentors and investing in the growth of people. Cathy specializes in developing leaders and creating effective teams, and we are thrilled to bring her energy and experience to Thought Design.


Cathy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education from Mount St. Joseph University (formerly College of Mount St. Joseph), a Master of Education in Sport Science from Ashland University, and a Doctorate in Education from Central Michigan University with a dissertation focused on first-year principal transition and the impact of mentoring. She is also a certified CaPP Institute Personal Development Coach.

Cathy is excited to teach this generation of learners new ways to approach teamwork, collaboration, relationship building, and mentoring. Her curiosity and ability to connect ideas help our clients find clarity and create plans to achieve their goals!

Cathy lives in Colorado and enjoys hiking and time in nature to center her soul.

Chef Shaun Wooden, culinary expert.

Chef Shaun Wooden taught himself to cook when he could barely reach over his mom’s kitchen counter, and in the 25 years since, he has worked his way up through the West Michigan culinary scene, doing every job there is to be done from dishwasher to executive chef. He joined Thought Design in 2021, bringing his culinary expertise to our dining room and his love for leadership to our boardroom.

The food isn’t just an afterthought at Thought Design—our Head Foodie wouldn’t hear of it! Chef Shaun crafts a learning experience around one simple idea: preparing and sharing a meal brings a group of people together like nothing else can.


Chef Shaun is best known in the Grand Rapids food scene for his creative menus, showcased in successful area restaurants, including Rose’s Express, Red Jet Cafe, and Cedar Springs Brewing Company. His creativity has won him many awards in his career, including Top 3 Chef in West Michigan, Best Pizza in Grand Rapids, Prettiest Pizza in Grand Rapids, Top 3 Fried Chicken in West Michigan, and MLIVE Top 10 Best Fried Chicken in Michigan.

Chef Shaun prides himself on unpretentious food made with simple ingredients, and he spends time perfecting each dish before bringing it to the Thought Design menu. Chef Shaun loves showing our clients the culinary magic that happens with a few ingredients, a little knowledge, and the willingness to try new things.

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Portrait of Denise McClennen

Carly Ream,hospitality specialist.

Passionate about seeing others develop their personal and professional skills, Carly landed at Thought Design after 12+ years in the non-profit sector. Her background pulls together numerous facets of wellness through healthcare and food security work, with many years in management to lead teams to create a better sense of community. 

Carly does not shy away from tough work and conversations and enjoys stewarding others through the same. At the heart of her interest is seeing community members come together around shared missions and values, which brings joy to her every day. Carly's favorite aspect of Thought Design is that it truly creates a playground for thinking, and it's the type of playground that you want to visit over and over again.

People having a conversation in the Thought Design Culinary Kitchen

Let's connect.

Ready to dream about a program made for your company? Click “Start the Conversation” below to schedule a short call with our team. During the call, we’ll determine if we’re a fit, then begin creating a program carefully designed around your priorities, your budget, and your timeline.