Curious About…California Dreaming, II
It is important to establish a visual here before I go any further. I am sitting in the living room of a rented houseboat in Sausalito, the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline sparkling in the background. The Airb’n’b world is new to me; you find yourself becoming fully immersed in someone else’s life in both a good and a bad way: in this case, I find myself at an aesthetic...
Curious About...Unlocking Creativity.
IDEO founder David Kelley talks a lot about the notion of giving (and being given) the confidence to be creative, and together with his brother Tom, has a book coming out in the Fall on the topic of Creative Confidence. It inspired me to write this story about a pivotal experience in my own creative journey. Whitley Bay, England. October 1974. I guess you could say I was a bit of a creepy...
Guest Chronicle: Curious About...Curiosity.
This is the first of a series of guest chroniclers - selected thinkers, clients and friends - who I’ve asked to write about curiosity as it pertains to their world. Jim Brett is President of one of my favorite brands, West Elm, part of the Williams-Sonoma group. He is based in New York, and under he and his teams’ watch, the brand has experienced significant growth. In 19 years of...
Curious About...California Dreaming, I.
I’m spending six months working between our two California offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco and have been reflecting over that last week about the whole Northern California experience: driving around my old neighborhood in Berkeley, across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, up to Napa and back to the Presidio. Silicon Valley is particularly dear to us: IDEO’s connections there...
Curious About...鵬程萬里 (A Bright Future)
(My last column for China Business News, presented here in English and the original Mandarin. The title (I hope) refers to the Chinese fable Peng’s Journey of 10,000 Li and means “Bright Future.”) This is, I regret to say, my last column for this magazine, so I wanted to say a heartfelt Thank You to both China Business News and to you for supporting me on this journey thus far....
It’s four-fifteen in the morning and I’m awake - mind racing, thoughts tumbling, heart pounding…but for the first time in a very long time, it’s not pounding from fear of doing my taxes or missing a deadline, from forgetting to email someone something or anything even vaguely related to the practical or pragmatic - it’s not even the now-familiar heart-pounding of my insane hypochondria that kicks...
One of my favorite quotes is by the artist Pablo Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” There is much usage in today’s modern business lexicon of the word “purpose.” I suppose it makes sense, given the increasingly complex times we live in: the constant threat and strain of one global economic crisis after another, endless geopolitical unrest,...
And On Sundays We Rest.
Curious Inspiration. Capturing the essence of your own home is an interesting task; allowing yourself to meander through it and seeing what rises to the top, even more so. In my case, I’ve realized through fooling around on Instagram that our home is essentially a selection of textures from around the world. The house itself is pretty neutral - a simple box - although with every surface...
I’m often asked by a journalist or an audience member at a talk I’m giving: “What’s the biggest barrier to innovation being successful inside an organization?” I always give the same one word answer: “Hierarchy.” A simple explanation of what I mean by that: one of our key principles at IDEO is the concept of encouraging wild ideas: of being bold, exploring the edges, being silly sometimes,...
Curious About…Feral Ideas.
Indulge me for a second, what I am about to tell you will make sense in a second. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Australia, and one thing that has fascinated me here is the absolute rigor of the Australian customs process, one of the most thorough and certainly the most articulate in terms of what can, and more specifically cannot, be brought into the country. I understand not bringing raw...
A few years ago, IDEO was asked by a large global credit card company to help them design a new card for a demographic they described as “extreme high net-worth individuals,” the client’s theory at the time being that these people were on the rise as a target audience and were needing more high-touch services, experiences and offerings. We did what we always do at the start of a project and went...
Curious About…Granny Wisdom.
One of the people I quote more than any other is not a business guru, a poet, philosopher, famous celebrity or author. It is my 87-year old mother. Born in Scotland, an ancient land filled with intergenerational Celtic wisdom, she is filled with more profound knowledge than anyone I know, and even though I think she struggles to know the nuances of what a design consultant actually does, she has...
One of my favorite movies of recent years is “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” David Gelb’s 2011 Japanese documentary film which follows Jiro Ono, an 85 year-old sushi master and owner of Michelin 3-Star restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, on his continuing quest to perfect the art of sushi. The film also profiles Jiro’s two sons, both of whom are also sushi chefs. The younger son, Takashi, having no...
One of the most overused phrases I hear consultants say is: “Trust me.” The concept of trust is, to me, a complex and tricky one: let me elaborate. I’m sitting in an airport lounge after an exhausting week, reflecting on the previous week’s events, as I like to do. A group of colleagues and I have just wrapped up an intense month-long set of workshops for a client and the presentation at the end...
Curious About…Designing Interactions.
IDEO co-founder, colleague and friend Bill Moggridge passed away last week after a long battle with cancer and I want to dedicate this column to him. Bill was an outspoken advocate for the value of design in everyday life, and both pioneered the concept of “interaction design” and integrated human factors into the design of computer software and hardware. To me, his contribution to design was to...
Curious About…Human Truth.
A few years ago a colleague and I did a competitive pitch, something we are rarely asked to do at IDEO, but because it was for a sector that we believed in (healthcare) for a condition that my colleague’s mother had recently suffered from (cancer) in a market that at the time was fairly flat (Europe) we decided to do it. When we got to the client’s headquarters we discovered, much to our dismay,...
Curious About…Where I Came From, Part IV.
The Color Palettes of My Life. Color has played an incredibly important role in my life, as I’m sure it has for most designers. Some of my most vivid memories over the course of what is now a 25-year career (holy shit) are color palettes, color moments, color memories and color schemes that have inspired me over my life. Enjoy. Gay Little Rainbows. I’m probably six or seven years...
Curious About…Radical Simplicity.
A couple of years ago, at the height of the global financial crisis, I was part of a lunchtime roundtable discussion that IDEO hosted, moderated by Larry Elliot, a prominent economic journalist. Naturally the topic of how the entire crisis happened in the first place was a hot topic. We went around and around the table with various complex theories about how and who and what caused this to...
Curious About…Where I Came From, Part III.
Movies have without a doubt been the most profound and constant source of inspiration to me as a designer - to me, nothing beats an immersive, layered narrative with beautifully art-directed visuals and wonderful composition. Here is a list, in neither chronological or favorite order, of the movies that have inspired me, challenged me, changed me and moved me the most. The Color of...
Curious About…Turning Lemons into Lemonade.
(From my Chinese Column, as usual, presented in its original Mandarin and English. Special thanks go to my colleague Elyssa He for what I am sure was a complicate translation.) A couple of months ago I had a persistent cough and had to go into hospital for an MRI to have my lungs examined. I am 49 years old and pride myself on being emotionally resilient, but the second I entered the MRI tunnel, I...
And On Sundays We Rest.
Curious Inspiration. At the behest of my dear friend and colleague Soraya Haas, I am presenting a selection of my own Instagram images. It’s impossible not to be overwhelmingly excited by Singapore’s crazy, brave, beautiful, eccentric and often futuristic architecture, so much so that I’ve started to look at the whole country as if it were another planet. My college Ingrid...
Curious About...Where I Came From, Part 2.
I’ve always been obsessed with smell. I’m blessed in that I have both a strong sense of smell (I can smell things a mile off) and also a vivid scent-sense memory - walking out of the doors at Changi airport in Singapore evokes such strong memories - the rain, durian, fish, drains and orchids make me giddy with the nostalgia of my childhood. Smells are a part of all of us, so here are a...
Curious About...Where I Came From, Part 1.
I’m often asked: Why did you become a designer? What inspired you? One of the most constant threads in my life has been my unequivocal love of music and in particular a love of great album art, a love that moved me from the geeky kid who did creepy Goth paintings in art class to one that went to art school to become a “commercial artist,” that turned into a degree in graphic...
Curious About...Collective Suspension of...
(From my Chinese Column, as usual, presented in its original Mandarin and English.) Years ago I read an article in a magazine about flying. I have no idea why as I am not remotely interested at all in aviation, but this piece really spoke to me. In it, a pilot was interviewed and asked how an airplane stayed in the air. His answer was pretty shocking. “The reason why an airplane stays in the...
(From my Chinese Column, as usual, presented in its original Mandarin and English.) Years ago, I was asked by a large corporation to come and talk to their executive team. They had experienced a few bad years, their pipeline of new products had dwindled to almost nothing, their stock price had dropped and generally there was a prevailing sense that they were in a downward spiral. The...
Curious About...The Secret Life of Plants.
OK, bear with me: I’m about to dive into a chasm of my own craziness that I never thoughts I’d say out loud: I’m terrified of pumpkins. This revelation has amused my partner and many of my coworkers for years, but I’m convinced that I can hear them, well, talking when I drive by them. Nuts, right? I know. But…recent studies have started to explore the concept of...
Curious About...Granny Wisdom.
One of the topics I have been most interested in during my 10 years at IDEO is the notion of design for dignified aging. My colleague Gretchen Addi has really pioneered on our behalf in this space and I am happy to stay she has gained real traction. So…this leads me to one of my favorite innovations of all time: The Granny Cloud. It is well known that no-one does love and encouragement...
Curious About...Dinosaur Babies.
(From my Chinese Column, as usual, presented in its original Mandarin and English.) I want to start by telling you a very delicate story. Years ago, I had a client who had invented a new technology that they were very excited about. I can’t tell you what it is, but it doesn’t matter, because this product never saw the light of day. But this client truly believed that this technology was...