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.
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
I have a secret, (shh!) I am not the best story teller in the world. I know, its embarrassing to admit given the field I am in, one focused on telling stories of people’s lives and needs, desires and emotions. The reason I am not super at story telling is because I have been living such a fast paced life for so long, that I tend to get to the punchline in life very quickly in all that I do. That is not how people learn. People learn best through story where they get to form their own ideas about the conclusion and next paths themselves. Bringing people along does not only help them learn, it keeps their interest much longer. Telling them the punch line at the beginning of a story ruins the story! I know this, and yet I fall prey to this little habit often. In business, there are more and more ways to leverage the power of story to not only teach, but come to common understanding as to the needs of your customers. Story telling is an essential life skill for everyone. So, how do we improve our story telling skills? Here’s a few tips that are helping me. 1. Tell a story that grabs people’s attention from the beginning and orient it around a real life situation 2. Include a metaphor that relates to something else they are struggling to understand to make it come to life 3. Do not give the punchline away, let them come to this on their own (duh!) 4. Follow a typical story line from intro to climax to conclusion. Perhaps even include a hero’s journey. 5. If possible include imagery, video and interactive, experiential elements to make the story come to life. There are so many more tips I could include. What are some that come to mind for...read more
Presence, not Presents…? Since as long as I can remember, I’ve had a love hate relationship with gift giving. As a kid, I loved to give gifts and craved the joy it elicited in response from parents, friends, teachers alike. Often, the gifts were artwork of my own. Perhaps this is what formed my early feelings that giving was a really good way to show love. However, my expectations of gifts shifted as I aged. As an agnsty teenager, I took them for granted (sorry Mom!) and often was not as grateful for all that I was given, and all that I had. As I grew busier, I gave less gifts. Where I have ended up is that gifts are meaningful to me, because it shows that someone put effort forth to show you they care. The gifts that mean the most are not about their cost, but the thought that went into them. Gifts can show up in a form of a gesture and a kind word all the way through to a physical object. I do believe its true that we need to value people’s time as the most precious gift. There are so many ways to spend our time that it truly is the only irreplaceable commodity. This is what has always bothered me about corporate life, where people schedule endless meetings and do not always really appreciate the time that people spend on phone calls. I personally would rather cancel a meeting or not be invited if I am not adding to it, because I know that my time is valuable. I feel the same about other people’s time. To me, it comes down to respect for the gift of each and every moment of life. So yes, presence is the greatest gift of all. Giving anything though is truly a thoughtful act of love that restores my faith in humanity...read more
There are so many buzz words and trends in my industry. The one that irks me the most is “Mobile First” or “Accessibility First” or any cover up phrase for what really should be called “Context First.” It is hard to adjust to rapidly changing demands for technology and screen sizes when building digital experiences. As such, people try to find a “one size fits all” approach. And it doesn’t exist. People have different needs at work than they do at home and with different devices. The same person might have entirely different needs depending on context. Context should always be first. We will never know all the nuances of what we need to cater to exactly fit everyone’s needs, but the more we ask, hypothesize, observe and test, the sooner we will know. It is much more cost effective from a delivery perspective to target certain device ‘features’ based on the way that people use technology in a multi-device world. We are no longer needing to build a one size fits all world, we need to build specific tools for specific contexts of use. We need to really narrow in on what it is we need to build and why instead of trying to accommodate every device that might possibly ever use something. I understand the pressures to leverage the basics and reduce costs to get a one sized approach to designing for digital interfaces. However, the truth is usability and hitting the mark will suffer unless we start to really adjust our delivery based on the type of device. The technology detection is in place today to do so. An example is, we might build an interface that we expect to be mostly used in a work environment on desktops and large monitors based on the observed needs of the users. However, we also know they really want alerts and certain tasks to be accomplished on a mobile phone or device. So, we design specific needs for both environments and ensure they work together as a whole multi-device context. I do not agree that we need to have duplication of all content on all devices. I believe that in almost every circumstance, if we really studied our users, we could adjust the content to the type of usage. We can hit the 80% mark of typical usage and reduce the noise. Neilsen Norman and others have written about how usability on mobile and desktop devices is suffering from the mobile first concept of reusing all content and patterns in the same way on multiple devices. The reason for doing so was noble, but it is not working. Look at some of Microsoft’s mis-steps with their latest OS. I believe the industry will mature to be more focused on the core principles of user experience: adjusting the way we deliver to be based on the actual needs of the users. Using design metaphors for interaction design and visuals that actually help the user complete tasks. Reducing the noise and hitting closer to the mark of what the user needs to get the job done or experience what they expect. Delighting users can only happen with really well thought out, intentional design. This is not possible with a one sized fits all philosophy to...read more
Lean has gotten a bad rap in some areas of my industry (Design and Customer / User Experience). I think it is mostly due to mis-interpretation of the terms that have been assigned to it. People have interpreted the phrases: “Good Enough”, “Minimum Viable Product” and others to mean missing the mark on delivery and not being adequate. That is missing the entire point of Lean Thinking which is meant to be about reducing waste and getting to market as quickly as possible. I have written about when you can reach “Good Enough” in life and in business before. Essentially, its subjective. What makes it a little less subjective is involving others. In business this is through direct involvement ongoing with customers. In life this is with the same; COMMUNICATION with your relationships and keeping the doors open. I love lean thinking and I believe it absolutely can partner with strategic thinking. I think it is possible to know which way you are headed, setting your north star and then delivering to that point with a rigorous focus on quality. Agile development methods are centered around this principle, but all agile really means is adapting. Delivering on strategy is only made possible by embracing the uncertainty of the business landscape and all of the tiny pieces that make up a whole: people, process, tools, environment, economies – heck even the weather. We cannot control the world around us, but we can adapt. We cannot reach perfection, we must let go and embrace a wabi-sabi attitude while at the same time striving for our best personal effort each day. Lean Thinking is a philosophy that embraces reality and because of that it is worth ensuring its part of a strategic delivery of any business outcome, especially in industries that are rapidly changing, like technology. Good Enough is meant to be about reaching enough value that something can be released, and iterated on. Minimum Viable Product is meant to be about not minimum but VIABLE meaning that the least amount of effort must be put forward to reach the maximum value for customers. Effort can be high quality, but focused. Less effort does not mean that it is not valuable effort. Why strive to put effort forward if its not valuable? How do we know its valuable if we don’t get it to market and in the hands of customers? It is possible to embrace the terms lean and agile and be lazy with them, but that is not the intention behind them. Its not about putting out crap and band aids and hoping something sticks. It is about putting out your best foot forward and releasing your best into the world in small increments of value towards your strategic direction, being willing to change your HOW but not your WHY behind your strategy, and ultimately driving value faster....read more