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.
Sometimes I wonder why humans try to express artistic efforts when Nature is so much better at it. Then, I realize, I too, am Nature. Some of my colleagues recently attended an inspiring talk in Denver with speaker, Austin Knight. He led a talk titled “Design is not Art.” So polarizing is this statement for creative professionals that it can lead to healthy dialogue and conversation. We invited him to a lunch brown bag last week and continued the conversation. The two terms of course are not the same if you look at the deeper meaning to each of term. Everyone is a designer. Everything is designed. That does not mean that everything is designed well or with intention and feedback from end users. Conscious or intentional design is the type I believe that Austin is referring to, however every human is a creator designing the world around us. Design could be looked at as a process, however that is too narrow of a focus for this lens. Design is in reality a practice. A mindset and a commitment to continuous, intentional living and creating. Design for other people ought to involve them in the process, thus the reason that user experience or user-centered design was born. Design as a practice means that it is a personal commitment to understanding your role in creating both your world and the world around you. It is certainly embodying principles that Austin talks about such as humility, empathy and self reflection. Everything we do has an impact on others, however its our job to determine how large the impact and how much input and inclusion we need to ensure we design the right systems, tools, events and services for the world to improve as a collective. Art can be seen as an outcome or as as a skill acquired through practice. Art, on the other hand, is really an outcome of a design expression. The practice of designing the world around us can be expressed in many ways. Art is often referred to as the opposite of science. Design is not a scientific process as some want to believe. It can be systemized and turned into a repetitive, relatively reliable process, but it is not inherently science. Art is often seen as a highly creative, intuitive sense of self expression. However, that too is hard to nail down in a term. Is there an Art to the practice of Design? Of course there is. There is art and science to most of life’s greatest challenges. There is intuition and process. As an outcome, art lands in the hearts of others and makes an impact. Art does not have to make an emotional impact for it to be art. Plus, our emotional reactions are not separate from our cognitive reactions, they are intertwined. As an adjective, art is loosely synonymous to creativity. Creativity also is an active engagement in the expression of the world around us. Some, such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, believe that creativity itself does not exist without someone – some Other – to accept the creativity as new and...read more
Perfectionism is not a useful trait in today’s ever-changing world. While it is important to strive for excellence, greatness does not equate to perfection. I learn this over and over again in life. Action and progress trump indecision and endless, unquantified iteration. Analysis paralysis is a thing. Move on, get going! As an experience strategist, folks I work with assume that I think that all the details matter and add up to a whole. That it is every tiny detail that will make an impact. That’s just simply not the case. What matters is the moments that are most tied to emotional experiences and thus are tied to our memory of an experience. As memory is subjective, it clearly is not all about every detail, but the more important and connecting, meaningful details that matter. So, if you make a small mistake as a client facing / customer experience representative – so what? You can actually gain more respect and traction with your customers by using that mistake as an opportunity to course correct and showcase how you can serve above and beyond. Mistakes are the norm and life is in fact filled with chaos. We humans try to control and over-analyze the chaos when in fact that effort is largely futile. We can only shape the world around us, not control it. We have to let a LOT of things go in the spirit of progress and advancement. So how do we know what moments matter most for business and customers? In today’s world, anything that gets people’s attention is a start. Beyond that, its how we correct for mistakes as a business and how we involve our customers in the direction we are headed. If we are humble, gracious and inclusive in the way we do customer service and deliver our solutions to the world, we will gain the trust and loyalty of our customers. The moments that matter most are the ones where we show our humanity and our commitment to our customers over and over...read more
I had the most fascinating experience with customer service this week while traveling with my rental car provider. I’m signed up for their ‘preferred service’ and my vehicle was there, but on the other side of the terminal when I arrived. I went to the desk, “It’s on its way, give us 15 minutes.” Nothing. I returned to the desk, “It should be here, just wait there.” Nothing. On my third attempt after waiting an hour, I was not going to leave the counter. I wanted answers. Just give me another car I said. It was Orlando and Summer and Disney World. So, I get it, its busy. I can be patient, but I need more explanation as to why I wasn’t being treated in a Preferred Way. The lady at the desk looked like she was about 22. She said she’d help me and ran off into the garage. Five minutes later she returned, but she would not look me in the eye. She ran around the counter, behind glass, avoiding looking at me or telling me what was up. I started to wonder – what happened to my car? Finally, she resolved the issue and looked at me. “We gave away your car by mistake.” I looked at her, waiting for the resolution. “We’ll give you a better car and I’ve removed the gas fee at the end.” She handed me a card and shoved the key in my hands, desperate to get rid of me. It was a card to complain to her manager. This must happen a lot in the preferred service lane. The thing is, I was not that angry, even though my kids were waiting. I just wanted good customer service. What is that? I just want feedback – I want to be informed what is going on. I want the people working with me to be patient, smile and look me in the face. So many things get easier when customer service goes this way. When they acknowledge the issue, but work with me and keep me in the loop. That is all good customer service is really. Contrast this to calling customer service at Comcast, where no matter how I feel, they respond with “Hope you have a nice day.” They are not responding to my actual issues, no resolution, with them its me against them. Instead of them working with me. In order to train good customer service, we have to teach people new ways of interacting that are emotionally responsive, courteous and empower them with the ability to make decisions on the go. It is really simple, but it takes an investment in teaching people how to show up and interact in the...read more
Fear An energetic messenger A reminder of unknown outcomes As it lands in your body, tickling your soul, Fear says: Wake Up. Feel. Listen. There is much to learn here Stick around a little longer Breathe into me Allow me to transform into Courage, Compassion, Forgiveness and Truthread more
Action is Queen words are beautiful but distracting they inspire but also dilute and delay process is constricting movement is progress when in doubt take a step forward if you falter self correct if you succeed expand resistance is everywhere doubt and confusion abound gently move forward anyway overcoming resistance does not always require force there is a subtle place where pushing too hard is not required and timing allows for shifts find that place dance through the mucky messy middle glide into the future with...read more
“Fear transforms into courage through connected moments of vulnerability.” – Mark Nicolson The reality that we are primarily driven by our unconscious patterns and our emotional hangups does not have to be a doom and gloom story. In fact, quite the contrary, this reality is the biggest opportunity of our life to become the people, and leaders, we want to be. The Heroines and Heros of our own Epic Life Stories. It is in the every day moments of being a human with enough self-awareness to reflect on our behaviors that we are able to become sympathetic creatures. That we are able to relate to others needs and adjust our lives in subtle ways. Being a better leader is not about “leaning in” to Big Career ladder climbing opportunities. Its not about saying “Yes” to everything that is thrown your way. Being a great leader is about knowing when to “turn toward” a great opportunity to connect and inspire others you work with, in focused, strategic ways and in subtle, vulnerable human ways. Its both personal and professional, its how you show and and who you are at your very core. It is about transparency, authenticity and building trust with your team. It is about pointing people to a vision and admitting that it will be a bumpy road to getting “there”, but that you are all in it together. Being a great leader is about admitting your struggles and imperfections in the face of great risk, and still showing up anyway with your best intentions. It is a constant commitment to agility, reflection and immersion in the opportunities to shape life, not control, outcomes. As we show up and allow our feelings to be, eventually we reshape them. We have the ability to transform. It cannot be something we rush through, it is not a destination to ‘fix’ our emotional reactions. It is a process, a practice, a journey. As we stay connected to our emotions, and committed to our strength, they are the greatest teachers and they offer the most opportunity for growth and transformation both personally and...read more
It amazes me how rampant the idea of “design” being about aesthetics and beauty really is in people’s perceptions around the world. There is something wonderful about the marriage of form and function. When beautiful aesthetics and artistic creations can also be fully functional such as some stuff found at Serious Wonder. That is delightful. Sometimes, functional art is more art than function. This is annoying to me. If function fails, then you are just making art. Case in point, the Norman Doors: Function must always preceed form if you are trying to solve real problems in the world. I’m an artist, too, and I know the difference between art and function. I know when they can work harmoniously together, and when they ought to be separated. When you are creating something for the sake of expression first, that is art. In my definition, crafts are more function oriented, more prescriptive and less about your free-form self expression. Perhaps you could broaden the meaning of art to be giant enough to encompass all human expression, in which case, my definitions get diluted. When it comes to moving from expression first to making something that people with use in their lives, function needs to be the focus first. When it comes to my field of work, interface design, function should always preceed form. Form and aesthetics are extremely important and a “no brainer”, but if you don’t have the function right, you have failed. A pretty window dressing does not help people open a window. Again, these things are important together and can be iterated on in various creative ways – function to form and back again. But, please, don’t forget, when you are creating anything for use in the world: simple function is paramount to “beauty”. Case in point with Norman Doors. I have them in the office I work at in Denver. Beautiful handles on both sides of the door “look” lovely. But, no one knows whether a door is a push or a pull. The primary purpose of the door has failed and countless people waste time again and again with the latent pain of poorly thought out door...read more
I have read and heard differing opinions on whether a leader should expect to receive appreciation and gratitude for their work, mentoring, coaching, guidance, etc. Servant leaders tend to lead by example and be willing to shift their expectations of success based on the business objective and team goals. However, we are all human, and it is possible to feel unappreciated which can lead to de-motivation. I equate leadership (and management for that matter) as similar to being a parent. It is relatively a thankless job in terms of the likelihood of recognition from those you help and guide. That being said, I am so blessed with children than tell me how much they appreciate me every evening before we go to bed. As a leader I try to practice gratitude with those around me, as I go, as well as formally. I can always improve and be even more gracious. Technology should help – not hinder – the process of rapid and ongoing recognition for individuals and teams. However, I do not share gratitude in order to receive it back. I share it because I feel gratitude for those that help, go above and beyond, push through limitations and road blocks on their own. Setting expectations for how you want the world to treat you is setting yourself up for disappointment. This can be a hard lesson to learn. Being a gracious person can come back to you, but it also might not, it depends on your circumstances and the culture of who you work for and with. So, ultimately, no, I do not think that leaders should expect regular appreciation from their teams or colleagues. I do think people genuinely would like ways to appreciate others however, and there are a lot of ways that technology could help and enhance this at work now and into the...read more
I believe that bots will automate many things in the future. So, what can be automated about user interfaces? (Not just those found on a computer, but any device or equipment/hardware). Predictive, Learning Systems. We have some attempts at learning based systems that adjust to a user’s needs, but in the future, this will get even more advanced. Bots will serve you up your next move before you even realize you were thinking about it, they will automate your tasks to your delight and always allow you to take the drivers seat if you get freaked out and want to revert back. Personal & Sense of Control. User input systems will become adjustable to the point of complete personalization and control for end users. Visuals and user interface patterns will be standardized and so simplified to adjust in systems that any person will control their own experience. Perhaps there will still be controls and standards based on industry and regulation, but those will be a baseline only. Immersive and Sensate. User interface systems of the future will be so in tune with their purpose and the bodily needs of people that they will anticipate and respond with sensate oriented experiences. Some of these are attempting to start down this path today with medical devices and readers, wearables and more. However, we’ll figure out how to tie in smart machines to most human experiences from every industry. I’m a design thinker and I believe that user interfaces are simply a mechanism with metaphors that allow people to solve bigger problems that are contextual and fit for purpose – for humans. Everyone is a designer and in the future interfaces will support design-on-the-fly personalized systems on an individual level. Am I talking myself out of a job? Hardly. When I think future, its pretty far off. That being said, not everything can be replaced by the Bots. So, what, you ask, can machines NOT replace. Now, we get to the fun stuff. Social Awareness and Interpersonal Interaction. Some sci-fi movies argue differently, however I believe that the soul of a human cannot be replace with a machine. The depth of humanity lies in our imperfections and nuances. In the game of unconscious choices and hidden motivations. Every time someone thinks they have humans figured out, they discover a new nuance. Multiply that by a billion and you get the possibilities and the magic that hides within relationship. Some of my favorite topics here are unconscious habits, influence, conflict and so many more. Tie this into designing systems, we’ll still need to have people involved all the way along where automation can provide ration but not relation. Energy. One of my most influential mentors taught me that everything is energy. Bots can out-perform humans at tasks until the cows come home. They cannot identify and respond to the energetic nuances of interpersonal connection between two or more people. Practices as Opportunities. I think it will be eons before Bots can observe and understand the hidden practices and pains of humans, the emotional connection they have with non-sensical things, people, places and memories. Bots cannot replace humans because humans are much too multi-faceted. Opportunity lies mostly hidden beneath social norms. It lies in latent pain. Pain that has been pushed aside or ignore for so long it is nearly forgotten. Or,...read more
Perhaps this is just my lens on the world, but I don’t understand why we think that we need to go straight from “Problem” to “Solution” or “Opportunity” when there is so much to learn from problems in the first place. For me, the word problem is a great word. I have no negative connotation with the word, because I know what it holds. Problems do not just hold opportunity; problems hold people’s voice, people’s pain, people’s suffering. Giving voice to problems is healing. Giving space to allow problems to exist, to stare them straight in the face, to turn them over and observe them from many angles is healing. Healing all by itself. We do not have to jump straight to solving problems. We’ll get there, always, in time. But as a culture we need to get more comfortable with pain and problems and unpacking what is lurking deeper beneath the surface. We need to get comfortable in that murky, messy place of problems. After all, they make up much of the human experience around the world. First we have to stare problems in the face and acknowledge the depths of what is wrong, what is out of alignment, what is possible to fix and what may never change despite our best intentions. This is our only hope towards every truly finding empathetic responses enough within ourselves and as a collective to change social problems at their...read more