Design Thinker : Strategist : Mom : Leader : Artist
I care deeply about holistic experiences.
I think about people and how to best tell the story of their interaction with the world. I think about how to make better products and services in the future that solve real problems. I think about how to ease people’s pain and make their lives better. I think about beauty, design and typography. I think about psychology and motivation.
I like to share my art and beautiful quotes, wisdom, poems and tips from myself and other brilliant people around crafting your personal story, philosophy, creativity, motivation, the power of our senses, the beauty of attention, life by design, user experience, leadership, intentional living and more.
There is no such thing as too high or too low. Only how far you are willing to go.read more
What’s the difference between being passionate about your work and putting in the extra “discretionary” effort and truly over-working yourself on a regular basis? In my opinion, its a fine line and one not discussed enough when it comes to the reasons why employees are not engaged. Often, reasons for lack of engagement on the job are cited as team dynamics, leadership, work/life balance and other criteria. However, what really is work/life balance? How do we maintain a balance if our work is important to us and everything else needs to fit around our work schedule? Workaholism is easy to slip into, I know because I have before in my career. When you choose to work instead of attend to your life, you are nearly always rewarded. This allows for a safe and relatively hidden place for people to distract themselves from other places in their life. Many, many studies show that not taking breaks, exercising, eating healthy and being able to integrate your personal needs such as family, friend, personal time and hobbies is detrimental to your health, mindset and also your impact and contributions in society. This is a very pervasive issue in today’s economy and particularly in certain cultures such as in the United States. Workaholism is often culturally encouraged in the workplace, through manager and leader expectations, peer pressure, tight deadlines and many different types of shifts for those that work hourly schedules. Everyone from airline pilots to truck drivers to staff at Walmart can often feel compelled to work odd and extra hours – regularly encouraged by company policy, cultural norms, or over time pay. However, we’ve also seen some policies put in place to counter endless hours for safety reasons due to increased mistakes. What is the threshold that is too much? What is the long term toll that this endless work culture leaves on our society and our people? Coupled with the distraction and disconnection that can come from being always connected but never connecting, we often don’t realize the precious moments we miss. What will it take to turn around an industrial age culture to realize that we truly can work smarter, and even perhaps less, if we truly take the time out to clean up our systems, rethink our values and allow for new ways to live, work and play that add for richer lives and a healthier society....read more
It seems in modern day society people have finally figured out that being “normal” is excessively boring and we are all unique so being unique is really not that special. Weird these days equates to being cool. Weird is interesting. Weird is different, eye catching, attention grabbing. Modern day marketing strives for weirdness because its nearly impossible to stand out in the sea of busy today. I find it all wonderfully weird. I’ve been reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson that a blog goddess gave me. This book gives weirdness permission to play, to laugh, to poke fun of life and all its oddness. Lately my oldest daughter who is seven has decided she prefers to be called weird rather than beautiful. Or beautifully weird. She has been self expressing through her clothing since she was 18 months and rapidly figured out she was not into princesses or perfection. Lately she has favored wearing all black over her holiday dresses. I remind myself this is all part of her self expression. It is those people that are just off enough to risk their own expectation of perfection, to step off a ledge knowing they are falling but that they also might fly that get the chance of succeeding at something meaningful in life. It does take a slight bit of weirdly insane to believe in yourself enough to take risks. To step out of your comfort zone. To step away from the norm. This is how startup founders succeed. This is confidence grounded in weird. Weird is being yourself and not being afraid of the consequences or reactions of others. Weird is testing what really defines you, reflecting and adapting. Weird, these days, is authenticity. Go to any major city and you can find amazing self expression and weirdness singing from the rooftops. In fact, its more uncommon to be “normal” whatever that is anymore than it is to be wildly...read more
I don’t control my destiny, I simply listen to my life and respond. I have been pondering big questions this week like: What really is the difference between an unsolvable problem and an opportunity? How do we create meaning out of an infinite amount of choices for which direction to go with our lives? The answers I have returned to: awareness (our lens or view of the world), focus and letting go of our need for control. Awareness First, we have to be aware of the stories we tell ourselves to allow for new perspectives to form. We need to be open in order to really find root problems before we over engineer ways to “fix” them. We need to rethink the stories about where our loyalty, commitment and attention will go. We continuously prioritize what matters most for us, whether that is personal relationships, work or things we love to do and practice. Not all of us do this consciously. Often when we are not willing to face the weight of some of the choices we have made, it feels heavy. Many people choose to numb or avoid the burdens of life through busy-ness, substances, workaholism. When I realize I am choosing to “numb” out with too much TV or whatnot, I try to remember what it is I am avoiding. Perhaps I just need a break, that’s fine. However, it is awareness that leads us back to problem solving and true opportunities for ‘saving’ ourselves and the world. We create meaning by attaching value to what we hold most important. Attachment holds the keys to the most meaning – and also the most potential pain as well as joy in life. The paradox of life is that you typically get both sides of the coin. It is our lens of the world, our place in it and how we approach each moment that turns the tides of fate and destiny. Focus Focus is not something I am great at lately. As part of this ADD culture and lifestyle I lead, I tend to go many directions. Often related, but not always. In modern day living its easy to forgive our lack of focus and brush it aside as a product of a busy life. However, often this can lead to incompletion of important personal and professional projects. Focus is required to get to a state of completion. Attention first, followed by focus. I believe the best way to allow for more focus in one’s life is to continuously return your attention to what matters. Each day setting reminders in your path to return your awareness to what you want to be focusing on. The best method I have found to allow for more focus in my life is to clear out what is not working for me. This can be clutter around the house, work projects and even the types of relationships in my life. The intensity of my life has forced me to choose where I want to spend my time. When we focus our energy, we are able to attach meaning to our body of work; whether that is our personal or professional endeavors. We can see the thread of why we are here and celebrate our accomplishments. Letting Go of Our Need for Control Perhaps the most difficult task is letting...read more
I have spent quite a bit of time trying to research, describe and align people and teams around user experience and how it applies to designing a better world. In the experience economy, which we are rapidly moving into, commodities are the norm. Outshining means creating attachment to brands in ways we never before used to shoot for – we want people to be in conversation with their favorite companies, to feel they are a part of them and active contributors to the brand. In the past, I have used definitions that have equated user experience to process, technique, mindset, philosophy and principles. None of these ways of defining and describing user experience are inaccurate, but they are also not completely true. People want to believe that user experience is measurable – sort of in terms of scale and the 80/20 rule. Yet I do think it is important to remember the following: An individual’s experience is as unique as they are. At the heart of it those that design experiences are using insight from the best places they can to find the best possible ways of solving problems. They won’t be able to create an exact outcome or behavior for every experience they design, but they can get better and better with time and iteration. I love Gretchen Rubin’s new book title, Better Than Before. This is the point of designing a better world: the next version should solve more problems than before. We don’t have to aim for perfection. I find that each individual has a certain threshold – or tolerance for pain. Pain can show up in many forms and we change our expectations of what sort of pain we will tolerate based on comparing our experience with other examples to the ones we have in a different context. In relative nature, if one experience is better than another, we begin to tolerate less pain. I would say the ultimate goal in designing any type of experience – whether it be for a digital device, a physical object, a service or an event is to stand out of the crowd by the following two principles: Outshine the competition by reducing pain the most where it matters the most and Increasing the user’s sense of pleasure, accomplishment and satisfaction where it matters the most In other words, when designing an experience we want to aim at people’s deeper seeded emotional connection to their expectations and in some cases outshine them. Once we trigger an emotional connection – as marketers have know for decades – we get to people’s true devotion to a person, object, place. Emotional connection is not always about having a better product, but about how the product is marketed and positioned to solve problems. Inspiring great experiences is about looking deeply at people’s perceptions and comparisons within an industry and outshining what other’s are doing along every interaction they have with a company....read more
Throughout my career, I have encountered different personalities, political agendas and run into various types of confrontation within teams and interpersonal relationships. It seems at work, we must behave differently than we might in social situations – and for good reason. The main reason is that we want to accomplish the job, not get caught up in socially awkward confrontations. However, I have begun to see that the result of ignoring our emotions and feelings at work is very detrimental to the social system that is the workplace and also to our personal lives as individuals if we do not learn how to manage and trace the source of our emotions and how we express them. I have learned how to navigate the work environment. I’ve taken courses in “crucial conversations” and how to navigate conflict. I’ve done enough self reflection to realize what my personal tendencies are, for example I flee confrontation when I feel triggered. It takes strength to overcome our personal tendencies to protect ourselves and face confrontation or uncomfortable situations at work. I admit, sometimes I have taken a path that has avoided facing the beast head on and have learned from my mistakes. Others are the opposite – those that explode or express their frustrations and anger can be seen as showing toxic behaviors in a work environment. What I have come to realize after years of working is that the typical work environment prefers generally sterile expressions of our feelings and even our personalities. There is room for humor, camaraderie and positive expressions of emotions, but little room for what would be perceived as negative emotions and expressions of them. Is this bad? Generally, no. In general we should strive to show up as our best. However, where I see this becoming an issue is when “negative” emotions are not allowed to be expressed and end up redirecting elsewhere. If we do not address people’s negative emotions and allow their feelings to be expressed at work in safe ways, the feelings end up either being repressed and expressed in other ways or redirected towards audiences they were not intentionally meaning to let loose on. Unless someone is highly aware of their emotions and expressions of their emotions, their experiences of them at work, especially negative ones, could end up showing up as passive aggressive or “disengagement”, not completing work to the best of their abilities and generally not giving it their “all.” It is my theory that our emotions are a primary factor in why we are disengaged with our jobs as a society. We feel mistreated for a plethora of reasons and after years of not feeling in ‘control’ of our work situations and mistreatments, this can translate into not showing up at our best. Some of the tools that can be leveraged – and I think ought to be encouraged in the workplace more broadly are practices such as: self-awareness, identifying the source of emotions in your body, meditation techniques, inter-personal relationship dynamics training, among others. Allowing people in the workplace to sit with and understand their reactions to their lives can only help them become better people. I like to imagine a world where conflict is an invitation for self reflection, rather than fuel for ill or destruction. The only way for...read more
Crowdsourcing is a modern day way of leveraging a democratic system of voting for what will become the next [Fill in the blank]. Crowdsourcing on the internet is crazy successful and is being used for everything from financing music careers and tech inventions to peer-to-peer lending. I love the concept of it, and I believe it takes the pressure off of the few to always have all the answers, and allows the majority to have a much larger voice than ever before. I am particularly interested in how crowdsourcing can be used to better the corporate workplace, and the workplace in general. CoWorkers.org, recently launched by President Obama aims to crowdsource improvements for the workplace by bringing light to problems and allowing a social voting system to help make significant improvements. This same concept was showcased at HR Tech at the Hackathon as well, where a few of the companies showcased ideas around crowdsourcing votes for which projects and ideas needed to be brought into reality. I love this. We can allow the people to tell us what change is really needed, and then fund those changes. This natural system is democratic at its best form. Crowdsourcing can be manipulated and abused, as any system of voting can be. However, I believe its benefits and potential outweigh the negatives and I look forward to the world where we continue to find new and creative ways of voting for and financing our tribes and causes throughout all facets of social change needed through the power of the most connected world we could have ever...read more
I had the pleasure of attending the HR Tech Conference and Virgin’s Create New Ways to Work where the top minds that are in charge of workplace systems came together to discuss the future of the workplace and how technology can support it. Here are a few big themes that came to life for me about the future of the workplace and how we are going to augment a better world with technology in the workplace. Pre-Emptive Actions: Help me before I know I need help. We need to help both employers and employees with “Pre-emptive Actions” that allow them to adjust their business and their way of reaching employees in a rapid fashion and without having to over-think. Machine learning can help, this will advance the industry beyond predictive analytics and towards what matters most: helping people before they know they even need help. This is great, and we can do better. We can integrate both work and personal life systems so that we do not really have to separate the two. Imagine if your pay statements not only were sent to you via an alert on your phone, but also synced into your financial management tools and alerted you that because you saved a bit more on gas last month, you can re-adjust your savings funds and have them automatically withdrawn to your designated bank. Imagine a world where we integrate systems outside of the work with our personal lives. This is going to be an exciting future. What if your fitbit or Apple Watch let you know that its time for you to go on a walk, and not only does your employer encourage your physical health, your automatically adjusting your monthly payment for your health insurance because your insurer sees your health improving. This is gamification at its best – not superficial but real incentives for living a healthy more productive life and not even having to blink for it to work. Employees Have the Control and Employers Need to Focus on Brand Love Teams are going to move around, loyalty to companies will continue to waver, and the way that we define our careers will be in the hands of people, not employers. The employers that win will be the ones that value Customer and Employee Experience Over Everything Else. The companies that incite brand love with their employee by aligning their mission and way of working to the values of their employees and customers will be the ones that get that people want to feel they are a part of something. Our workforce systems need to account for the realities of the world today, and our workplaces need to think more competitively about how to retain and motivate employees to love their organization over another. The way any human decides to love is related to their associations with a person, place or thing. It is not about the work, its about the feel of work. The environment, the systems, the tools, the people they work with, the policies. The brand of the place a person works needs to fit with the person themselves or they will ultimately not be a fit. Keep Teams Together At Least Long Enough To Get Stuff Done This is something one of my dear friends validated for me recently, he said, as long as you can keep...read more
My new favorite phrase for our ADD culture is “snackable”. This applies to everything from how we interact with others and how we absorb information. We are living in an age where there is too much information to process and it only increases by the second. People are making major life decisions in “micro-moments” during breaks and on the go. Applying for a mortgage on their phone during lunch. Signing a contract while in a cab. I feel the burden as an enabler of this cultural phenomenon because in truth, we would all benefit from slowing down. While the convenience is awesome, we use it to try to cram more into our lives, rather than relish in less. I struggle with this in my personal life. Automating my life has helped and I get more in than most, but I have to be very conscious to slow down for the human to human and experience based times, to play! Regardless of my personal feelings about this phenomenon, its the reality. In order to reach people, to grab their attention, we have to design for interruption and tiny windows of attention spans. This applies to all content for sales, marketing as well as interfaces and the way people interact with devices and objects that support them. Apple just rolled out a news app on iOS9. Its fun and yet I can tell you aggregating news does not mean that people will read a full article. The next level they could take it to is to highlight trends and top themes from your preferred news – the cliff notes of your news. Snackable content means that you create easily consumable, digestible content delivered on a variety of devices with a 3 minute maximum read or absorption time. Better yet – you make it fun, personable and easy to understand, no matter the complexity or boring-ness of the subject. Story telling is generally the way to go. Whether we like it or not, we are a: Cliff Notes Culture that Requires Snackable Content to Enable our Micro-Moment Decision Making...read more
At this point in time, most companies are obsessed with digital. Digital devices make up a huge portion of the high performing companies in the world. Our future as a race is interlaced completely with digital devices and technology. We are truly living the beginning of a sci-fi fantasy. That being said, a few smart people are remembering that these digital devices are enablers, not the point of it all. We will always live in a digital-physical world and the interplay of our physical reality must drive our needs with devices, not the other way around. Too often I find people trying to use some new feature or come up with some new app that is simply for the sake of invention. Invention should be grounded in problem solving real human needs, gaps, pain points. Otherwise its just clutter – and since the invention of the web we have had way too much noise and not enough value added to our digital universe. To avoid being just another small bit of noise, our digital creations and technical solutions need to come after we have clearly articulated the very human problems we are trying to solve. These can be people problems with human interactions, problems with processes, with politics, with social and economic norms that are broken. Problems abound. And for every problem there are thousands of potential solutions. How do we know any particular answer to a problem is the ‘right’ one? We don’t. But we can test them out with the market and quickly discover if they solve the problems before we’ve invested too much time, money and energy. Our technical solutions need to be grounded in our physical reality to make them meaningful. Not the other way around. When we design a way of solving a problem, but do not account for how people will use the solution in the real world, we miss the mark. We live in a digital-physical world and acknowledging that goes a long way to building holistic solutions that solve real...read more