What My Tennis Coach Taught Me About Business

I am a terrible tennis player, but I love my coach. I only see her over my summer vacation and this August I learned more from her than just tennis. I learned lessons in how to be a better leader and entrepreneur.

1. Like your clients.

Irem Hepkorucu, my tennis coach, genuinely makes me feel well liked. She will send short, thoughtful notes throughout the year, ping me as it gets closer to the summer and then she writes me a lovely thank you note after I go back to New York.

Work with people you like, or you can grow to like. Show them you care about having them as clients.

2. Provide good service.

In addition to her professional demeanor--she's always on time, court is always clean, she always looks crisp, even in sports cloths--Hepkorucu anticipates my needs. She'll give me a dry t-shirt, a ride home, a fresh bottle of water or even a snack, depending on the situation.

Anticipate what your clients need, even before they do and be ready to take good care of them. Without breaking a sweat.

3. Concentrate on the balls coming in.

Hepkorucu tells me, "Don't think about the balls you missed. Think instead about the ones coming in." To this day, there are failures and missed professional opportunities I rehash and remember. They're the "tennis balls" I missed. My tennis teacher made me realize if I worry about the past, I won't recognize what is possible in the future.

Remember there are plenty more opportunities coming at you, but you need to be in position, looking forward, not back, and ready to receive them.

4. Feel. Rest. Get ready.

In tennis, there are about 20 seconds between the balls. The way Hepkorucu explained it, you have 5 seconds to be sad or happy, 5 seconds to rest, and 10 seconds to get prepared for the next ball. And that is the key to winning--making time for your feelings, making time to rest, and then getting ready.

At work, find a rhythm between each day, each meeting, and each project. Then give yourself time to celebrate a win or mourn a failure, get some rest and then get ready to play the next round.

5. Use metaphors.

Metaphors help us understand things that are difficult or new to us. When Hepkorucu uses metaphors for various movements--curtsy, broom, and accordion--I learn and remember them quicker.

Find metaphors when you explain new ideas. They'll stick and be more easily understood.

6. Visualize.

My favorite, being a visual person, is when my coach reminds me to visualize. When playing, don't think of how to hit the ball but where you want the ball to land. Visualize the spot. That is how you get the ball to go where you want it to go.

To me, this is just like design. Whether you're designing your life, your work or your next product. You can make happen what you visualize. 

7. Fear your fear. 

This year I feared I was too out of shape, too busy, too old, too ---- (fill the blank) to play. I only played because I wanted to see my teacher and because once I made the first appointment, I couldn't back out. Five minutes into the first lesson, I felt like an idiot. I had almost let fear get in the way of a great experience.

Fear fear itself. Make the appointment, take the decision, write the email, announce the news, play the game. 

This article first appeared on Inc.com on August 14, 2018

What Are The Lessons You Can Learn From the Future of Cake

Less is more.

In this case specifically, less sugar, more sweet.

The best news this week was that soon we will be able to indulge in sweets and feel less guilty. DouxMatok, a small Israeli startup based in Tel Aviv founded in 2014 by father and son duo Avraham and Eran Baniel, has invented a new way to use less sugar while keeping the taste the same.

It turns out that sugar is highly inefficient. Only 20% of it sticks to our sweet-taste buds with 80% disappearing into our digestive track. Baniels invented a way to add food-grade silica to sugar to act as the perfect vessel to carry more sugar to our taste buds directly. The result is sugar that is 40% more efficient than regular sugar. 

Imagine changing desert recipes that call for 1 cup of sugar to almost 1/2 a cup in a few years. A truly "sweet" example of less is more, a quote attributed to the architect Mies Van Der Rohe.

Here is what we can learn from Less Is More, a paradox that is at the heart of many powerful ideas and innovations that we're familiar with:

LESS IS MORE_51764.jpg

1. Have less of a good thing with more of the benefits. 

Doux Matox is a great example (which stands for double sugar--Doux means sweet in French; Matox, in Hebrew) of how to achieve having less of a good thing with as much if not more benefits. But so is Uniqlo feather coats and thermal underwear, which generate more heat in the winter but are thinner than other winter garments. As a result, you stay warm without looking like a snowman. 

Take a beloved, precious, luxurious but expensive or unhealthy ingredient and use less of it to more effect.

2. Create a small kit of parts with just as much richness.

How can you make a richer system with less parts? Imagine minimizing an office system from 300 pieces to 20 and still making almost an endless variety of different work settings. That is what I worked on with the Resolve System office furniture system for Herman Miller which as a result was 1/3 the weight of traditional office systems and those of its competitors. More recently, I worked on a similar problem with the Overlay Boundary System, helping to define space within the open office without cutting them off from others and the environment around them.

Reduce the parts to make a system richer.

3. Choose less stuff for more joy.

Marie Kondo asked us to dump our closets, bookcases, and pantry in the middle of the room and then hold each item in our hands and ask ourselves does it bring you joy? If it did you kept it. If it didn't, you lost it. Similarly but in a different vein, Graham Hill, founder of Treehugger became an ambassador for less space, less stuff so that we can be freer to have more joy. 

Does it bring you, or your user, joy? If not, drop it.

4. Create more clarity and focus by simplifying.

Boil the world's best search engine to one white page with a simple logo and one interactive field where you type in your search. That's Google. Few experiences exemplify the power of vastness meshed with simplicity.

Find simplicity in complexity.

5. Minimize breaks to strengthen the whole.

Space X engineers use friction stir welding to create large but light expanses of aluminum sheeting, something that wasn't  done before on a spaceship. Issey Miyake's Pleats Please clothing don't have seams--they're woven three-dimensionally and then heat cut. They're a feat of engineering and design, and a commercial success since the 1970's.

Every time there's a break, a seam, a connection, explore how you can delete it 

Next time you need inspiration to think differently, think less is more. 

This article first appeared on Inc.com on August 7, 2018

How To Slow Down Time To Make Your Summer Vacation Feel Longer?

Last week I wrote about how to expand time by creating timeless experiences. This week I wanted to explore how time can be slowed down or sped up, or simply feel just right, intentionally. It turns out science can tell us a lot about our perception of time and why a year feels so long to an 8-year-old but flies by for a 48-year-old. 

Slow time with new experiences:

I am on holiday as I write this post and, based on science, if I use my holiday to have new experiences--go to a new place, stay in a new hotel, go hiking on a new trail, learn a new sport (kite surfing), meet new people, join a tour to see new sights, go to new restaurants--I will slow down time. 

This is called the "holiday paradox," dubbed as such by psychologist and BBC columnist Claudia Hammond. Our brains register more memories when we're experiencing new things, which in retrospect feels like it all happened over a longer period of time. This is why time seems to fly as we get older too.

If you're in the cruise ship business, like Royal Caribbean, you might want to mix-up and shuffle experiences, to expand the feeling of cruise goers' vacation time. 

Slow time by living dangerously.

David Eagleman who leads the Eagleman Lab says, "Time is this rubbery thing. It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, 'Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,' it shrinks up." Eagleman who leads research on our perception of time, is interested in how a near death experience slows down time. Our amygdala, which registers emotion and memories in our brain, starts registering everything when we feel threatened.

In this context, people who choose to put their lives in danger to help others--police, firemen, the military--might experience time slowing down more often than everyone else. For others, this might explain the draw of extreme sports like kite-surfing, parachuting, free-style climbing. All your senses are alert, you're focused 100% and time stretches so that you feel like you've lived much more in the same amount of time. 

For companies that design extreme experiences, like roller-coaster rides, creating experiences that stretch time can lead to designing new gaming experiences that, make us aware of how our experience of time changes in these moments.

Experience the present by being in the flow.

Being a scaredy cat, I am not going to start kite surfing anytime soon, even on vacation. What I will do is find opportunities to get into the flow. 

The flow state, discovered by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is being in the zone, when our skills and the challenge at hand match so well that we lose our sense of time. I find myself in a state of flow when I am sketching ideas, where the problem I am trying to solve is within my abilities and sketching helps me unearth my ideas. For others, flow might occur while playing an instrument, doing team sports, horse-back riding or solving a math problem. 

For organizations, creating flow by matching skills to challenges provides happier people at work, better use of resources and a better outcome. For more on this, Whitney Johnson's book, Build An A Team, is a great read on how to create the right "S Curve" between skills and challenges for members of your team.

Speed up time by creating routines:

There are times when you want to speed up time. For anything that involves waiting, like check-out or check-in lines, or chores like cleaning or tidying up, routines and habits come in handy. Since they're familiar experiences, our brain doesn't register them as new memories. Less new memories, shorter our perception of time. 

If routine speeds up time, it makes sense for companies like Amazon to design user experiences that quickly become routine, like Amazon's one-click buying option. In the analog world, Mari Kondo, author of the bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is wildly successful because she created simple routines for tidying up and speeding us up through an often difficult chore.

Thank you to our intern Meltem Parlak for inspiring me to think about the science of time. A great way for me to get into the flow on vacation!

This article first appeared on Inc.com on July 31, 2018

How To Expand Time

Deadlines to meet. An endless stream of incoming emails that need to be answered. Meetings to go to. Planes to catch.

Does your life feel like its timed to the max, hour by hour? Do you set your alarm clock not only to wake up but to not forget the multiple meetings and phone calls you need to make throughout your day? Can you not afford to lose your sense of time in what you're doing. If this describes you, then I am just like you. 

In this world where everything seems to be timed, I am on the quest for timeless things that need no scheduling. Here is my starter list:

Connecting people. 

Increasing the likelihood of a great new friendship or an incredible collaboration is timeless. Connect people you know and increase the chances of great things happening. For an extraordinary example of two people connecting, read The Undoing Project, author Michael Lewis's book about Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, Israeli psychologists who collectively invented the field of behavioral economics. 

Thanking your heroes.

Have you told someone you know, or you know of, how much they've influenced your life? A family member or a teacher who believed in you? A great boss? A friend who inspired you? Or someone you don't know but who has deeply inspired you--an entrepreneur, an author, an artist, a thought leader. They're the unsung heroes of our lives. Write them a thank you note--a timeless, lasting gesture. 

Teaching what you know.

A good friend of mine brought me flowers one day and then showed me a trick for how to arrange them in a vase. Now every time I arrange flowers I think of her. Teach what you know and you will touch someone, perhaps in ways you don't expect, and perhaps for life.

Offering help.

I learned this from an interview with Beth Comstock that I read years ago. The single most important question you can ask is, "how can I help you?" Years later Marshall Goldsmith taught me the same thing in his 100 Coaches program--how you can give help and receive help. Making opportunities to be supportive of others doesn't require an appointment or a deadline. You can just pick up the phone in the middle of the day to reach out to someone and the positive impact may be infinite.

Being in the flow.

When I sketch my ideas to solve challenging problems, I lose my sense of time. Ideas form and reveal themselves to me at the end of my pen. Time opens up and I am in the moment. This total immersion in an activity results in a total loss of time and space--what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identified as being in the flow. What are your means to be in the flow?

"The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times... The best moments usually occur if a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile." Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi 

Experiencing beauty.

Whether it's a beautiful piece of music or art in a museum, a hike in the mountains or a perfect summer day, experiencing beauty doesn't have a time limit. Jonathan Haidt, the cognitive psychologist, talks about how awe-inspiring beauty helps connect us with something bigger than ourselves. Increasing your chances of experiencing beauty leads to timelessness. Recently I took to working at the Museum of Modern Art in the proximity of greatness and then walking through an exhibit, often picked at random, on my way out. For you this might be something completely different--just increase your chances of experiencing beauty and with it, timelessness.

What are your timeless moments in an ever more busy and timed-to-the-max world? Savor them when you can. 

This article first appeared on Inc.com on July 21, 2018

Why Do Design Thinkers Need To Add 'Design Doing' To Their Toolkit

"To personalize an experience in the context of the moment--to understand what makes a customer human--Reinventors don't just plumb lots of data, though they do that well. They're design thinkers. They approach problems with a sense of empathy for their customers, which helps them explore and consider the right questions." IBM 2017 Global C-suite Study

The Reinventors, above, are CEOs who lead in innovation and outperform their peers in both revenue growth and profitability over the past 3 years by 27%. To understand how these Reinventors use design thinking, I reached out to Don Norman, the best selling author of the seminal book, Design of Everyday Things

Here are the basic building blocks of design that every CEO needs to know, drawn from Norman:

Design is a way of thinking.

Norman's 1st sentence was, "Design is a way of thinking." So many people still think that design is making pretty things when in fact you can design everything--from your life or any particular aspect of it to companies, governments, countries... 

"Here's the issue. Design Thinking is the rage. Executives love it. But how does it change things? Design Thinking is worthless on its own, what you need is "Design Doing" (developing, fast prototyping, demonstrating and testing the ideas generated by design thinking)."

According to Norman, business people don't understand what modern design is and see designers as an adjunct or a tool, not a driver or decision maker. "Modern design" in this context is design of human-centered experiences that uncover needs (often unsaid or unarticulated) and answer them in intuitive and delightful ways (think of Nike, Apple, Tesla products as successful examples of modern design).

The right thing to do is to have designers in the C-suite and at the table. Designers are taught to solve real issues, going in novel and unexplored directions that can help businesses create new and unique value.

Design needs to be taught by doing.

Design is about solving problems. Instead of lecturing, give your team an actual problem to solve. If successful, demonstrate to others to show what can be done. 

Innovation can help companies grow 10 times bigger or go bankrupt. And, yes, that is risky. Norman is keenly aware that companies need to survive and continuously make profit. His recommendation is to first start with a small project, demonstrate and learn what it takes for design to work, then you can move on to the bigger, riskier projects.

"CEO's want innovation but then they say, 'hold on, no one is doing that.' We need to educate CEO's about design."

Everyone needs to be in.

Design Driven Transformation requires buy in by everyone in the company. Everyone needs to be on board. You want entry level staff, managers, managers of managers, all the way up to the CEO in agreement.

Important point is tradition gets in the way of innovation.

Norman finds that it is easy for the CEO to say we need more innovation and for juniors to say they have great ideas. It is in the middle management that it gets stuck. The reward structure is not there. If you gamble and you fail you're dead. "It should be, you fail and we reward you", says Norman.

It needs to be transferable.

Have a repeatable process that can survive changes.

Design Driven Transformation takes a long time to build. Norman says the biggest danger is when people change--they move on, change roles, retire.

Important processes are the ones that survive these changes. Toyota's Just-In-Time, Manufacturing flow and methods of marketing are such processes. They're engrained. Design is not, not yet.

"Innovation needs to be thought of as a system and not as individual projects."

You need to develop methods for the average person, have it work for everyone, not just the 1%.

Couple Design Thinking with Design Doing to get to Design Driven Transformation--that's how real change will happen and value will be created. 

This article first appeared on Inc.com on June 30, 2018

What Moments Can Make A Difference In Your Leadership Style

Does being a leader feel overwhelming to you at times? 

When you look at great leaders like Indra NooyiAlan MulallySheryl Sandberg, and Frances Hesselbein, it's easy to forget that leadership is something you get better at with practice. In the magnitude of their greatness, leadership can feel overwhelming, big, and often unattainable. 

At those moments, think about this simple but powerful trick from Laine Joelson Cohen, NA Director at Citi Leadership and an Executive Coach: use the small moments.Leadership is how we show up in the small, mundane moments.

Cohen's approach resonated with me. I am keen on breaking big, complex issues into small, manageable parts and then putting them back together in new, often unexpected ways. That is how I solve complex problems, simply using my DE:RE process (short for Deconstruction:Reconstruction). Cohen is doing something similar with leadership--deconstructing leadership into its smaller parts to make it manageable and then reconstructing them into a greater whole.

First, you have to take a moment to recognize what these small moments are. They are everyday conversations and interactions you have at work, and even at your home, that you might pass by if you're not paying attention. Pause and take a moment to recognize them. According to Cohen, how we show up in the small moments has a huge impact on our leadership and how we're perceived.

I asked Cohen to give me an example. She told me that recently she had her team run a meeting, but she came out of it feeling like they could've done better. In that small moment, her gut instinct was to tell them what they did wrong. Instead, she asked them to identify what went well and what they could've done better. Their answers covered all her points and more. She seized the moment to ask and listen, changing that small moment into a learning opportunity. Instead of criticism, she leads with positivity, empowering and motivating her team. 

Here are four small leadership moments, most everyone encounters at work (or at home):

1. Listen when someone comes to you for help.

Often we make the mistake of giving people suggestions when they ask for help (I do this all the time since as a designer my reflex is to solve problems). Cohen told me that the best way to help someone is to actually ask them what they think would be a good solution and then create a space in which they can try it out. This way they develop ownership of the solution, as they learn how to cease the moment and make a change.

2. Create a safe environment, when someone comes to you with a mistake.

Imagine someone comes to you and says, "Boss, I screwed up." What do you do? A. yell at them; B. jump in to take over; or C. help them work through it. Choose the latter says Cohen, and create an environment for growth and show them you trust them even when they make a mistake. This is especially important in innovation where failure is part and parcel of the exploration process and yet so many leaders have a hard time with this critical step.

3. In moments of conflict, take emotion out of feedback.

When there's conflict and you need to give feedback, give positive feedback instead of negative, and do it quickly. This kind of situation doesn't age well and gets bigger and bigger. Negative feedback is fraught with emotion--people get upset, they cry, or even scream. Cohen says, simplify the situation with SBI, Situation Behavior Impact, that executive coaches use. 

Let's say someone on your team came late to a meeting and interrupted the flow of an important keynote speaker. You're upset with them and think they were disrespectful. Instead of telling them they messed up, state the situation (you came late); the behavior (this interrupted the presentation); and the impact (it disrupted the flow, took the presenter off their game and it took us a while to get back into it). This takes the emotion--me and you--out of it, makes it more objective and gives the other person room to explain what happened. It's a skill, the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. 

4. And yet, recognize emotion when you see it.

When a colleague is upset you can avoid it or match it. Or you can recognize it, which is what is needed here. Something as simple as, "You seem upset, what's going on?" can open up a dialogue. You might find that the person is not upset but frustrated. This then gives you a chance to understand why they're frustrated and how you can be of support. Cohen says, this way, you've both identified that something is going on and created grounds for communication at that moment or later, if they prefer waiting. 

Cohen suggests that the small moments can also happen at home and that you can transfer these skills to your life. For example, when her younger daughter approached her about who she should vote for at a school election--her best friend or her older sister--Cohen kept her calm. She didn't say, "You should always vote for your sister, blood is thicker than water." She took a deep breath and said, "I can't make that decision for you. What would you hope your sister would do if she was in your situation?" The answer was, vote for my sister. Crisis averted, one more vote won, a small moment for learning and growth seized.

Small moments equal big gains in kindness, thoughtfulness and genuine leadership.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on June 8, 2018

How to Design Highly Effective Products

If you're asking how to design a better chair, you're asking a product-focused question. If instead you ask, How can I help someone who is tired of standing up? you're asking a human-centered question.

Often, we find clients asking us product-focused questions. Design a better knife, car, bathroom, table, office system. Those are the wrong questions.

Better questions are those that are human-centered, that focus on the wants and needs of the person engaging with this product:

  • How can someone with arthritis peel potatoes without hurting? (Hint: Use the now iconic OXO Good Grips line of kitchen tools.)
  • How can a guest using a shared hotel bathroom with two doors makes sure both doors are locked? (Hint: Without locking the locks at all--read about it in Ralph Caplan's best-selling book By Design.)
  • How can a person concentrate on heads-down work in open offices? (Hint: We've been working on this last one for four years with Herman Miller: Stay tuned for the reveal in June).

Re-framing the question around the user, instead of the product, is a simple but effective tool for leaders who aim to do human-centered innovation to grow their business and improve the lives of their users.

Here are two examples to help you understand how to be human-centered and why it matters.

How can I get my teenage son to do laundry? 

This is a question a participant asked us during a co-design session for GE appliances. By putting the teenage son in the center, the question shifts from the appliance to the person and their experience.

When you ask a human-centered question, you open yourself to empathy. You can imagine the dynamic between the mother and the teenager around a household chore; the disinterest of the kid versus the mom's need to get her kid involved; and a woman wanting to raise a young man who knows to do his chores as part of everyday life in a family.

A more commonly asked question would've been, "How can we design a washing machine for Millennials?" Note that having the product at the center of your question makes the product the star. The problem with that is that you can't empathize with the washing machine. And if you did, it would be misleading--designing a cool-looking handle, fashionable colors, a form that looks like a sneaker. It sounds absurd, but a lot of companies do it and add features to products that enhance products for product's sake, not for the user's sake.

Remember, make your user the star.

A simple exercise to get the product-focused questions out on the table, and out of your head.

Next time you or your team find yourselves asking a product-centric question, ask yourselves to solve it from the perspective of the product.

That is what I did with the Herman Miller team when we were designing the Resolve Office System, designed like a theater set for the performance of work, our first project together. I asked the team to switch places with me and answer the question they were asking me--"How can we create an office system that is technology-centered?"

It is a perfectly valid question. In fact, most companies ask us to answer questions like this. But it is not the right question. A tech-centered office system excludes people who have soft bodies, who hate having their backs exposed to passers-by, who love putting their kids' drawings on the walls, who bring in homemade sandwiches for lunch and stick them in their drawers.

It took me five minutes to make the point that the center of our system is the user. That lesson learned early on kept us on the right track for three years, all through the development of the product. The Resolve System honors the user and has resulted in a 50 percent increase in user performance in a case study done with British Airways.

Product-centered questions will not lead us to human-centered innovation. Re-frame the question around a soft-bodied person. You might change our lives.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on June 2, 2018

In Which Industry Is the Diversity Thriving

Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards were just announced. The nation's highest honors, now in its 19th year, are often called the Oscars of design, where entries are nominated and juried by peers. 

As a former jury member I wondered the message this year's awards would collectively send. After all, it is a jury's unwritten rule to use the winning entries to articulate what constitutes our highest values around a topic at a given time. 

The National Design Awards' rigorous process of recognizing the best also takes the pulse on what matters in design in America today. 

Looking at the winners with that perspective two messages emerge:

1. Design is a "diverse field."

Traditionally male-dominated, design at the highest levels of excellence is multi-gender, multi-race and multi-culture. In this design is ahead of Hollywood, another bastion of creativity. The diversity of the awards sends an important and timely message to all designers: you too can be here, regardless of where you come from.

2. Design is a "healthy field".

These great people are doing good--ethical, progressive work that improves our lives, our cities, our perception of our world--while also doing well--succeeding commercially and making their clients succeed.

I first heard of the term, "healthy field," in Jonathan Haidt's book, The Happiness Hypothesis. Haidt explains that "when doing good (doing high-quality work that produces something of use to others) matches up with doing well (achieving wealth and professional advancement), a field is healthy." 

And this second message is very important to companies. Design at its best makes companies successful by making them do good and well. Design is a healthy field. Use it.

"All ten of this year's winners present a powerful design perspective and body of work that is at once inclusive and deeply personal, accompanied by great achievement, humanity and social impact." Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt.

Here are the winners:

Gail Anderson, Lifetime Achievement. Anderson is designer, writer, and educator. Steven Heller, a Cooper Hewitt Design Mind, says, "a lifelong New Yorker, Anderson embodies three virtues: inspiring art director, inspired designer and inspirational teacher." You've been surrounded by her work--from Rolling Stone Magazine (where she was a Senior Art Director) to her posters for Broadway and off-Broadway plays to her books covers. 

Anne Whiston Spirn, Design Mind. Author of the seminal book, the Granite Garden. Spirn has dedicated herself to building sustainable relationships between the built and the natural environment. 

"Human survival depends upon adapting ourselves and our landscapes - cities, buildings, roadways, rivers, fields, forests - in new, life-sustaining ways, shaping places that are functional, sustainable, meaningful, and artful, places that help us feel and understand the relationship of the natural and the built." Anne Whiston Spirn, from her website for the Granite Garden

Design for America (DFA), Corporate & Institutional Achievement. DFA was founded by Liz Gerber and three of her students at Northwestern University to use design innovation for social good. Everything from how to reduce hospital inquired infections to campus waste, or create access to potable water. 

WEISS/MANFREDI, Architecture Design. Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, the co-founders of the firm see their work at the intersection of an existing site overlaid with a new project. They unearth what is possible (hidden potential, use, innovation) when the old and new come together. Seattle Art Museum: Olympic Sculpture Park is a living example of what they bring to built environments. 

Civilization, Communication Design. Civilization, tackles tough, often divisive social problems with humanity and grace. Its co-founded by Michael Ellsworth, Corey Gutch and Gabriel Stromberg. Their projects include #ShoutYourAbortion and Death Over Dinner, and Design Lecture Series, a destination for the Seattle design scene. 

"Design is a collective human act." Civilization

Christina Kim, Fashion Design. Kim who is known for her company Dosa is a designer, entrepreneur and social activist. She embodies the term "conscientious designer", designing beautiful, sustainable, ethical products in consideration with its impact in people's lives--people who make them as well as use them. 

"Similar to eating organic food, people need to know where goods come from and how they are made, this will help keep the artisan traditions alive.." Christina Kim, from her writings, Life of Jamdan

Neri Oxman, Interaction Design. Oxman is the founder and director the Mediated Matter research group at the MIT Media Lab. But you can think of her as Elon Musk of design (and that is a compliment to Musk). She brings together biology, material sciences, computational design, 3D printing and computational design, to everything from wearables, called Astrobiological Exploration, to architecture.

Oppenheim Architecture + Design, Interior Design. The firm, with work in 25 countries, defines its work as "designs with sensitivity toward man and nature - harmonizing with the surroundings of each context."

Mikyoung Kim Design, Landscape Architecture. Boston-based Mikyoung Kim and her team give soul and humanity to public spaces. Case in point is the ChonGae Canal Restoration, which unearthed the canal that runs through Seoul, transforming the city and breathing it life, not unlike what the High Line has done in New York City. 

Blu Dot, Product Design. Founded by Maurice Blanks and John Christakos, who started the company because they couldn't afford the designs they liked and what they could afford they didn't like. That became the raison d'etre for Bludot as a business--to make a stand for good design that is affordable.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on May 16, 2018

What Habits Woman Need To Break To Become Better Leaders

"We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay--and rise!" -- Maya Angelou

Are you a perfectionist? Are you good at multitasking? Are you humble?

If you're a woman leader, these very qualities that make you good at what you do may be holding you back from being great. That was my wake-up call when I recently read How Women Rise.

Written by Sally Helgesen, an expert on women's leadership, and Marshall Goldsmith, bestselling author of What Got You Here Won't Get You ThereHow Women Rise explains 12 habits that hold women back. 

Most of these habits are behaviors that help women early in their careers but become roadblocks as they move up. Below are four of the habits that resonated with me the most. They're examples of strengths that become liabilities for women as they rise in corporations. 

Habit 1: Reluctance To Claim Your Achievements.

I got a taste of this a few years back when I was talking to Goldsmith, who asked me if I wanted my book, Design the Life You Love, to become a bestseller. Not wanting to look too ambitious, I mumbled something ambivalent. I will never forget what Goldsmith said: Why bother writing it if you don't want it to be a huge success and everyone to read it? 

Now reading How Women Rise, I realize I was exhibiting Habit 1. As Helgesen explains, I was ambivalent about the value of my own work and "if you don't value it, why should anyone else?" I have since learned my lesson and am a great promoter of my book, which is in its 3rd print.

Lesson: Take credit by believing in your work.

Habit 4: Building rather than leveraging relationships.

In Give and Take, one of my favorite books by psychologist and Wharton Professor Adam Grant, he explains how, "Givers are more likely to see interdependence as a source of strength, a way to harness the skills of multiple people for a greater good." 

Helgesen and Goldsmith advocate similarly for developing relationships of "mutual exchange of benefits." Women tend to worry about being self-serving or using others, but reframing business relationships as a mutual give and take is both freeing and constructive. In innovation, leveraging relationships among talented people is necessary to success. It is so in leadership as well.

Lesson: Leverage your relationships. Give and take with good people. 

Habit 7: Perfection Trap.

In design we talk about evolution or revolution. Evolution is perfecting what you have; revolution is discovering new territory. Helgesen explains that women are prone to fall into the perfection trap and that this approach is stressful and hyper detail oriented. You look for negatives rather than celebrating positives, and it sets you and your team up for disappointment.  I like the idea of easing up on being perfect to be more creative and visionary, and to explore new territory and test new ideas. 

Lesson: Rather than being perfect, be fearless. 

Habit 12: Letting Your Radar Distract You.

Women see the big picture, picking up cues from the environment like a radar, which is a strength. Men focus on a specific point in the knowledge environment, undistracted by what is not necessary. The sweet spot is to do both. Use your radar, your natural strength to think holistically, as you hone your laser focus, your acquired strength, as a leadership skill. 

Lesson: Use your natural radar and hone your focus. To get what matters done, you will need both.

Here is my visual map of all 12 habits and lessons learned. It's my daily reminder. If you'd like, print it as your cheat-sheet.


This article first appeared on Inc.com on May 11, 2018

How To Think Like Elon Musk

A few weeks ago I wrote about a warm-up exercise to prep your right brain for thinking creatively. Let's say you're warmed up and ready for the next step. Where do you go from there and start thinking creatively?

Here is a simple tool that anyone can use to start their creative process. In fact this is how Elon Musk thinks. It is called First Principles Thinking. I call it Deconstruction. It is about breaking what you know into its components until you understand its fundamental parts and pieces.

First Principles is as old as Aristotle and used as diversely by Nobel winning scientist Richard Feynman, the military strategist John Boyd, Nobel winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, and his partner Amos Tversky. Michael Lewis's New York Times bestseller The Undoing Project is also dedicated to this process as you can tell from the title. 

We are all full of assumptions and preconceptions. Breaking something apart breaks helps us to break them. It opens up the possibility of a powerful thought processes--to go deep and radically change the way we think about one or more of the parts. 

Musk broke down space rockets and challenged each assumption that emerged--rockets cost a lot of money, you cannot make them lighter, you cannot have boosters that come back, and more--and made parts that were cheaper, a body that was lighter, boosters that were reusable.

He combined the new parts to make something never imagined before, the remarkable Falcon Heavy launched on February 6 of this year.  

Here is how you can apply First Principles Thinking.

1. Deconstruct an idea to examine its parts.

A rocket is made up of metal. That is obviously simple, but Musk pushed SpaceX to develop a new way of welding called friction stir welding that is much stronger than traditional welds. It allowed SpaceX to dramatically decrease the weight of Falcon rockets by welding large thin sheets of metal together, something never done before. 

What is a toilet seat? The coming together of a toilet and a seat. And a seat is meant be comfortable and ergonomic. This Deconstruction helped TOTO, my client, and me to develop a new toilet seat that was unofficially coined as the most comfortable toilet seat in the world. The idea was simple--make a toilet seat that is like a chair, except with a hole in it. 

Look at the building blocks of something you're working on and question all the assumptions you have about the parts. Challenge assumptions that hold you back to see how they can be done differently. 

2. Deconstruct it to see what it can be combined with.

Boyd, who served in three wars, called deconstruction "destruction" (no pun intended). His example, below, shows how you can destroy something and recreate a new thing by combining it with something else.    

Boyd used 3 objects to show what they're made up of: 

  • A motorboat for water skiing: motor, body of the boat, pair of skis
  • A military tank: metal treads, steel armored body, a gun
  • A bicycle: handlebars, tires, gears, and a seat

The parts can be combined together in many different ways, most of them not useful, but one of the combinations will in fact add to a whole that we now take for granted: handlebars from the bike, body and motor of the boat, skis of the skier, and thread from the tank = snowmobile.

Break something into its parts and mash it up with other products from different contexts to generate new ideas. Or in other words, deconstruct and cross fertilize from other products and industries.

To summarize, break something down to its fundamentals, question age-old assumptions to solve the fundamentals differently, either by inventing from scratch or by cross fertilizing from another product or industry.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on May 4, 2018

How To Improve Your Business In Tremendous Ways

Can you improve on something as simple as a thank you? It turns out you can. I learned three lessons on how to thank people from Chester Elton--who said "I love you in life is thank you at work," at the MG100 Coaches talk I recently attended--which have already made me better at expressing gratitude

Elton is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Carrot Principle, about inspiring people with a carrot, not a stick. In fact, carrots have become a symbol for Elton who always wears something orange and throws stuffed carrots to his audiences when he gives one of his high impact talks. 

Elton's lessons on how to improve something as simple as saying thank you are profound and, according to him, will help you "lower employee turnover, higher customer satisfaction, and higher worker engagement levels" based on 850,000 people he surveyed for his books.

Here are three lessons that will improve your giving thanks:

1. Specificity is key.

This one really helped me. I used to say thank you but didn't always say why I was thanking someone. Elton's first lesson is to be specific. It is important to say exactly what someone did that you are grateful for when you thank them. 

2. Don't delay it.

Elton says, "Gratitude doesn't age well." Next time you're grateful to someone, say it out loud. Email them a thank you note. Do it now. And don't forget to say why (lesson 1).

3. Say thank you often.

Elton has a formula. It is 5:1. Five compliments to one criticism. Compliment and say thank you much more than you criticize people.

Now that you know how to give thanks, who to thank? Here are four groups you can start with:

Thank people who are good to you.

Marshall Goldsmith, executive leadership coach and founder of MG100 Coaches, tells the story of how when faced with mortal danger (his airplane's landing gear didn't open up) the one thing he regretted was not thanking people enough for being good to him. He survived, and after thanking the pilot and the crew, the first thing he did that night was to write 50 thank you notes. 

Thank your heroes.

Your heroes are the people who inspire you, who have qualities you want to emulate. They represent your values. Think for a moment about your heroes--high school teacher who made you love writing, your aunt who was interested in everyone she met and showed you there's something valuable in each person, your mentor who offered help when you didn't know how to ask for it. Write them a note and say thank you, you're my hero. And, once again, don't forget to say why.

Thank people behind-the-scenes.

The waiter who made your client dinner a great experience. The intern who arrived at 7a.m. to set up the workshop space. The model-maker who made the prototype just so. There are hidden people behind-the-scenes who make you and your experiences successful. Thank them. 

Thank your family.

As I was writing this post, I thought, do I thank my family enough? Not enough. I tell them I love them all the time, but I don't thank them and say why often enough. Today I will start with my family. 

Thank you dear reader for reading my post.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on May 1, 2018

What Transformed David Jones into David Bowie

David Bowie, the iconic pop star, was a true opposable mind.

Roger Martin, author of The Opposable Mind, defines what successful business people have as integrative thinking: "The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each."

"There's new music, there's old music and there's David Bowie." From David Bowie Is exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum

Bowie put his individual mark on everything he worked on and yet he was a supreme collaborator. He was one of the biggest performers of our time and yet he was shy. He was a musician who was incredibly visual. He was a singer who was trained as a mime. His creativity was boundless and yet he too could get stuck. Even his eyes appeared to be opposing colors. 

Here are five leadership lessons we can learn from Bowie. 

1. Be individualistic and collaborative.

David Bowie put his creative mark not just on his music but on everything that he did. He imagined the whole: sketching his own album covers, writing his lyrics, creating his own make-up. "I must have the total image of a stage show," he said in his 1974 interview in Rolling Stone Magazine. "It has to be total with me. I'm just not content writing songs, I want to make it three-dimensional." 

Within this total vision, he was a collaborator extraordinaire. He collaborated with fashion designers (Yamamoto), photographers (Brian Duffy), writers and producers (Tony Visconti), make-up artists (Pierre Laroche) and musicians (Brian Eno, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, to name a few).

The takeaway: First have a complete vision about every part of your work and then be seriously collaborative about bringing them to life.

2. Be an introvert and an extravert.

Often we think that we need to choose between being an introvert or an extravert, but the sweet spot is being both. Bowie was painfully shy, but he created stage personas that helped him become someone else, a star, on stage. His make-up, hair, costumes, shoes were all tools that transformed him on stage into Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom, Aladdin Sane.

"I was painfully shy, withdrawn. I didn't really have the nerve to sing my songs ... I decided to do them in disguise. ... Rather than be me -- which must be incredibly boring to anyone -- I'd take Ziggy in, or Aladdin Sane or The Thin White Duke. It was a very strange thing to do." 13 Quotes to Remember David Bowie the Right Way

The takeaway: Nurture a persona that you can call on when you want to be your best performing self.

3. Exercise two talents at once.

His genius was music, but he was also a visual thinker. Bowie was an art student, a singer who drew his album covers and a painter later in life. As Melena Ryzik of the New York Times put it, "Transmuting visual cool into magnetic listening pleasure: that was Bowie's hallmark for the length of his protean, nearly 55-year career." 

The takeaway: Identify 2 talents or strengths that can be combined to become your unique super power.

4. Practice your strength and its opposite.

Bowie trained as a mime with Lindsey Kemp and learned to move and express himself with no words. Miming is the polar opposite of singing. His work with Kemp helped him "reimagine the way rock music is performed live," according to Tim Lewis of The Guardian. 

The takeaway: Think of what the polar opposite of your key strength is and then explore how it can add a new dimension to your  work.

5. Be prolific even when stuck.

It is hard to imagine Bowie stuck, he made it all seem easy. But Bowie had a well-worn out deck of Oblique Strategies cards, created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in the seventies and gifted to him by Eno. According to the website Improvised Life, "the cards are meant to be picked at random when a musician or artist found themselves 'stuck' and in need of a shift of view. Bowie clearly got a lot of use out of them." Here are some examples from the cards:

  • Don't be frightened to display your talents
  • Think of the radio
  • Use an unacceptable color
  • Work at a different speed
  • Ask your body
  • Do nothing for as long as possible.

The takeaway: Make it look easy by having tools that help you get unstuck.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on April 19, 2018

How To Super-Charge Your Creativity

Any creative, whether a designer, entrepreneur, thought leader or other, can tell you creativity works best when the mind is at rest. You let your mind relax and wander and it starts connecting the dots in new and valuable ways.

This is now backed by new research, where "Neuroscience is finding that when we are idle, in leisure, our brains are most active."

I wrote about 32 simple, daily exercises you can use to practice your creativity. Today I am adding some new ones, specifically to try on vacation. Some are easy prompts to be creative, others focus on how to be creative with your time now that you're off your daily routine.

  1. Do nothing--sit anywhere, on the beach, by the pool, on a rock, and let your mind wander. Being bored with nothing to do is a boon for creativity. 
  2. Take photos--faces, flowers, architectural details, store signs--to see things differently as you create a visual repository of what you saw. This is a great time to try different photo apps like Snapseed (great landscape photos in beautiful colors) and Slow Shutter Cam (night shots and waterfalls).
  3. Draw what you see--when you're at a cafe or a restaurant waiting for your order to arrive, draw what you see. Imagine you're a child and don't worry about the quality of your drawing. Like with the photo exercise, it will help you remember the moment and notice details you wouldn't otherwise see.
  4. Play this game with your fellow travelers--fold a paper a couple times until its business card size. Draw something on it. Open it once and give it to the next person. They need to continue your drawing and then give it to the next person.
  5. Take the road less traveled--imagine you live here. Pick an address on Google Maps that interest you and go there. Once you arrive discover cafes, bookstores, local shops.
  6. Change your hours--if you're usually a late bird, wake up really early to watch the sunrise or to be the first person in the sea. If you're an early bird, stay up late and discover night life. In either case, take a siesta to pack on sleep.
  7. Listen to local music--try Radio Garden, an app where you "rotate the globe" to listen to live radio.
  8. Go to a different kind of museum--find a small one in a big city or a big one in a small town. You'll be surprised the little jewel of a place you might discover. Here is a list from the NYTimes to inspire you, including the Museum of Innocence in Istanbul.
  9. Learn something new--snorkeling, scuba diving, rock climbing, windsurfing, pottery, cooking, live drawing. Learning new skills helps you practice having a beginner's mind, a key state for creativity.
  10. Read a site-inspired book--discover a local author, read a book about the history, or the biography of a local artist, entrepreneur, inventor. Nothing like reading Iliada when you're on the Aegean coast, or the diary of Frida Kahlo in Mexico.
  11. Doodle in a book--take one of these books with you: Keri Smith's The Line: An Adventure into Your Creative Depths, or Wreck This Journal, or Souris Hong's beautiful coloring book, Outside the Lines, Too: An Inspired and Inventive Coloring Book by Creative Masterminds.
  12. Make a collage--collect bottle caps, sea shells, local food packaging, your boarding passes to make a collage in your sketchbook at breakfast or over drinks. Bring or buy a glue stick. 
  13. Make unusual sand castles on the beach--try abstract forms like a cube, a cone or a pyramid. 

Written on vacation, I myself am putting these exercises to practice.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on April 13, 2018

How WD-40 Does $380 Million In Sales A Year

If you want your company to be free of squeaks, create a tribe that lives by its values, encourages learning, and sees mistakes as educational moments. 

WD-40 Company, maker of the iconic spray that stops squeaks and makes parts run smoothly, knows something about creating a tribe that is happy to come to work. WD-40 pulled in $380 million in revenue last year and boasts an employee satisfaction rate of 92 percent, compared with a widely cited 2015 Gallup poll that puts employee engagement in the U.S. at 31.5 percent. Like its iconic product, the company has figured out how to minimize friction so that its people can go about doing their work with ease. 

Garry Ridge, WD-40's CEO, recently spoke at the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coachesretreat in Phoenix. Here are his tricks for creating a company that I call his "smooth operation":

1. Be a learner and a teacher.

Ridge says that the No. 1 responsibility of a leader is being a learner and a teacher. This is a CEO who signs his emails "ancora imparo," which means "I am still learning" in Italian. "The three most powerful words I ever learned are: I don't know," Ridge says.

To commit yourself to learning, Ridge has put together a WD-40 Maniac Pledge, below, which he describes as an oath to become a "learning maniac":

I am responsible for taking action, asking questions, getting answers, and making decisions. I won't wait for someone to tell me. If I need to know, I'm responsible for asking. I have no right to be offended that I didn't "get this sooner." If I'm doing something others should know about, I'm responsible for telling them.

Ask yourself this question that Ridge asks himself: When's the last time you did something for the first time?

2. Embrace mistakes as learning moments.

Just like its name--the 40 in the name WD-40 comes from the 40 attempts it took the product's creator to get it right--this is a company that sees mistakes as educational moments.

For this to work, Ridge sets the example himself. He is humble. His humility comes from knowing that "leaders need to exercise good judgment, but that good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment."

Too often, people are afraid to learn because they're afraid of making mistakes. Let the tribe know part of learning is making mistakes. Set an example as the leader that it's OK to make mistakes, and show that even you are not perfect, and can and are open to still learn. 

3. Live your values instead of visiting them.

If you go to the WD-40 website and click on any job opening, you will come across this note:

"Please, only consider employment with WD-40 Company if you feel as strongly about our values as we do:  We live, breathe, and play by our values every day." In other words, if these are not your values, don't apply.

Ridge sees values as the description of the only acceptable behavior in a tribe. And a tribe is people gathered around one purpose. 

Here are WD-40's company values:

  • We value doing the right thing.
  • We value creating positive, lasting memories in all our relationships.
  • We value making it better than it is today.
  • We value succeeding as a tribe while excelling as individuals.
  • We value owning it and passionately acting on it.
  • We value sustaining the WD-40 Company economy.

Ninety-eight percent of WD-40 employees feel that their opinions and values are a good fit with the company culture. Ask your tribe the same question, and you will know if you're living or just visiting your values.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on March 30, 2018

How Flying Taxis Will Change Everyday Life

Larry Page, CEO of Google's parent company Alphabet, is financing Kitty Hawk, a company that is developing and testing Cora, a new kind of electric, autonomous flying taxi. Leading the company for him is Sebastian Thrun, who was the director of Google X and helped start Google's autonomous car division. Page, Thrun, and Google are now moving from autonomous cars to autonomous flying vehicles. So, if you thought the self-driving car was a game changer, self-driving flying objects, air taxis in this case, are going to be a game changer of a different, larger scale. 

Business travel will be just-in time.

From a user perspective, this will bring an Uber-like flexibility and choice to users (Uber is also working on a version of a flying vehicle with Boeing). Instead of reserving a place on an airplane, you will reserve an air taxi to take you where you want, when you want (airplanes as we know them will literally become flying buses). Imagine what this will do to how you manage time, travel and availability when it comes to your business travel. No layovers, a lot more flexibility, for travel to locations that are nearby, and easier/immediate access. We will take an air taxi to areas that are too distant for a car, but too close or too small for commercial airlines. To give an example, I will take an Uber from my midtown office to a meeting on Wall Street, take an air taxi from Wall Street to a factory in New Jersey.

You will go where roads won't take you.

Now think of Africa where there are 204 km of roads compared with the world average of 944 km/1000 square km. Air taxis will also mean you can go where no roads will take you. Africa has been leapfrogging traditional infrastructures with new technology--the energy grid with solar energy; finance with banking over the phone. The next leap for the continent is going to be in autonomous flight. Drone experiments are already under way for transporting goods to remote areas--medicine and health supplies being a key one. Imagine what transporting doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers will do to remote areas in Africa will do for the economic and social development of Africa.

You will witness the design of new flying vehicle archetypes.

What should an air taxi look like? The Larry Page prototype is a cross between a drone and a plane. Is this the new archetype of what autonomous flying objects will look like or is this a fast, early prototype? First cars looked like the horse-drawn cart because that is what we knew. It took a few decades for the car to take its archetypical form. Air taxis might take decades to find their true design expression--in terms of both its form and experience.

Laurent Bouzige, designer with Toyota Europe, whose day job is to explore the future of transportation design, thinks that we will see new designs as the technology of autonomous flying is being developed and regulated. "Future air taxis might have a more integrated, less technological form that intentionally communicates an inherent feeling of trust to the users--perhaps a flying bubble where you can't see the mechanics," Bouzige says. "This new three-dimensional space offers us new poetic perspectives never explored; a new layer of mobility to think of new uses and respond to certain societal problems."

Safety still comes first.

How do you move fast, like Larry Page and his team are, in order to be the first to market, and yet still do due diligence to FAA regulations and bring a safe flying vehicle to market? How can you demonstrate that catastrophic failures will not happen in a million flights, a standard manufacturers are held to by regulations?

Norm Ovens is a senior technical leader with GE Aviation who views these vehicles as a wonderful development. They are however, just another evolution of flight, simply in a different form. As Ovens puts it, "These new vehicles introduce complex systems into areas that they haven't been before, the challenge will be to find acceptable methods to determine safe operations and acceptable development practices. Denying the hard work is not an option. The ones to ultimately succeed will meet all the requirements, not just the technological ones".

This article first appeared on Inc.com on March 16, 2018

How IKEA Made Customer Research Fun?

If you want to innovate and bring new solutions to old problems, ask yourself if your customer research is innovative. 

A recent study by IKEA into co-living spaces is a good case in point. The study asks what co-living will look like in 2030 when there will be 1.2 billion more people on the planet with 70 percent of these people living in urban areas where space and resources will be limited. IKEA's goal is to understand what is happening today, so that it can design and develop products for the future.

To do this, IKEA's future living research lab Space10 launched One Shared House 2030, a survey that was developed by interaction designer Irene Pereyra of Anton & Irene. I highly recommend you try it out, both because it's fun and because it gives you real-time data as you're doing it. An amazing 60,000+ people have already taken the survey.

Here is what makes IKEA customer research innovative:

It's an experiment.

Everything about the survey from its design to it's game-like interaction communicates, "We're experimenting here!" The IKEA team is out to explore the new--in new ways--and they're not afraid to try things. This intentional pioneering spirit is key if you want to explore new frontiers. 

Next time you're designing your research, ask yourself if you're being experimental enough. In other words, are you experimenting with your experiment?

It's empathic for its subjects.

The research and its style was inspired by a documentary Pereyra did about her own co-living experience from when she was a child, growing up in shared housing for mothers and kids called Kollontai in Amsterdam. Her story gives authenticity to the survey and creates a deep sense of empathy. It is that sense of empathy that draws us in and helps feel the complexities of co-living? Do people want to share toilets? Do they want someone else to use their bedroom if they're not there? How much sharing is too much sharing?

If you want your innovation to be empathic, start by making your research empathic. 

Even research can be beautiful.

Good design is pervasive, and here even the research is visually beautiful. The survey is striking with bold geometric shapes and intense colors ranging from pink, green, orange, and purple assigned to its different categories: demographics, pets, tolerance, personality, and privacy are just some of the headings. It's inviting and makes you want to participate. 

Design your research tool to be beautiful--it, too, is a design after all.

It's playful.

From the start of the survey, you're told that One Shared House 2030 is a playful research project. It's designed more like an app than a survey with music and pop-up windows.

It sets the stage as if in the future. You want to do it, and it captures your imagination.

This reminds me of something Jocelyn Wyatt, CEO of IDEO.org, advocates: "When stakes are high, levity and playfulness are critical to the process."

If you want lots of people to participate, make your research playful and game-ify it.

It is not about the future, it's in the future.

The survey doesn't ask you to imagine the future--it sets the whole survey in the future. From the first interaction, it tells you that it's 2030. The world is more crowded, 70 percent of us are living in cities, we're all a little closer, there's self-driving cars and smart technology. In this new world we're sharing services, spaces, and goods so much more. Simple as it sounds, it is effective as setting the scene in a science fiction film. It is 2030, so what will you do?

You want people to imagine the future? Take them there.

At the end of the IKEA survey, take a look at the results. One take away is that, on the average, "people think being neat and tidy, honesty and being considerate are the most important qualities in a house-member". I agree.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on March 8, 2018

How Can Your Team Warm Up Their Right Brain

When you exercise your body, you start by warming up your muscles. When it comes to exercising your creativity, you also need to start by warming up your creative muscles. Whether you are brainstorming, ideating, or co-creating, preparing your brain for creative thinking is the first step. It is a signal to yourself that you're entering a different mental space--different from emailing, writing, or talking on the phone.

My favorite creative warmup takes a mere three minutes. It is the first thing we do with any creative session. It helps break the ice, gets people to laugh, and, most importantly, puts the team in a playful mindset.

Just like you wouldn't dream of running or swimming or playing tennis without warming up your body, don't dream of doing anything creative without warming up your right brain.

Here is warmup exercise:

All you need is a stack of copy paper and pens. Let people know you're going to start the session by warming up their creative brains. Then simply ask them to turn to the person next to them, to their left or to their right, and draw each other. Instructions for the warm up:

  • You only have three minutes, so no masterpieces!
  • Your face is like a rectangle, and the eyes go in the middle of it. Everything else can go wherever you like. 
  • Have fun and remember to sign and gift your portrait to your neighbor once you're done.

Here is why doing the warm-up is important:

Break the ice.

People often feel awkward in the first minutes of an ideation session. Will they be creative? Will they rise to the occasion? When they start by drawing each other they engage with their neighbor, they start laughing at how they butcher each other's portraits, and the energy in the room rises. Before they know it, the awkwardness is gone and they're in this experience together.

Be playful.

Cardinal rule of creativity and design is to be playful. When we play, we're like kids--we're not afraid of making mistakes. We try things, experiment with ideas, and learn by doing. There's nothing like getting people to draw each other to signal we're in a playful state.

Transition into the creative space.

A creative meeting is different from other meetings. It is about generating ideas, breaking your preconceptions, and stretching your mind to imagine new possibilities. This warmup, or others you might try, disrupt people's daily work routine and help them enter a new, creative thinking space. 

Make something difficult, easy.

For so many of us, drawing someone else is tough. By doing a difficult thing together, from the get-go, and doing it in a state of collaboration and fun, you're actually priming people for the whole session. The underlying message is--you got this, you can be creative, and have fun.


Collaboration is social. It is about working with other people. This warmup is also about looking each other in the eye and starting a dialogue. That dialogue will continue for the rest of the session, and potentially, longer.

We all have favorite warm up routines when we exercise. This is mine. Give it a try and be ready for its effectiveness.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on March 1, 2018

What 5 Lessons We Can Learn From 5 Very Creative And Successful People

I started a podcast last year to talk to people who have designed inspiring lives, who are successful doing work they love. What I wanted to understand is how do they do it. What are their tools, tactics, and tricks that can help inspire me and my listeners? How do these successful people deal with fear and failure, find excitement in their work and have so much confidence? At the end of season one, I went back and re-listened to the interviews.

Here are the top five lessons I've learned.

1. When stakes are high, levity and playfulness are critical to the process.

Jocelyn Wyatt is the CEO of ideo.org, a nonprofit organization focused on how design can change the social sector by putting an end to global poverty. She says that she sees levity fly out the window when you're designing to solve a social problem and the stakes are high. People tend to approach serious problems seriously which is the exact opposite of what actually is needed. You need joy and optimism to believe the situation can be different. She says because the stakes are high, levity and playfulness are critical to the process. "We can be our best selves and we can unlock the best in the partners that we're working with, and in the communities where we're working, when we do bring that playfulness and joy, rather than bringing sadness," Wyatt says.

2. To fight fear, put yourself in a place where you can't back off. 

Paolo Antonelli, the fearless senior curator of MoMA's department of Architecture and Design and the director of R&D, is not immune to feeling fearful. She says, "My life is ruled by fear." Her way of confronting her fears is by putting herself in situations where she can't back off or change her mind. Like the time as a young journalist and terrified, she interviewed architect Frank Gehry. Once she buzzed the door bell, it was too late to back out. She had to walk through door and conduct the interview. "If you have to jump off a cliff, you're already halfway through, so you better jump well," Antonelli says. 

3. If you are not making enough mistakes you are not trying hard enough. 

When I asked Amit Gupta, entrepreneur, designer and founder of the wildly successful Photojojo, what advice he'd have for my teenage daughters he said, "make lots of mistakes." Gupta believes that much of the good in his life comes from doing the wrong thing, failing and trying again. "The perfectionist is the worst possible thing," he says. "If you are not making enough mistakes you are not trying hard enough."

4. If you don't want boredom, keep trying new things.

Every time Stefan Sagmeister, one of the world's leading graphic designers, repeats himself, there is less excitement. He admits that it makes him lazier and the work worse. And that he gets bored. That is why he's developed this idea of the seven-year sabbatical. Taking a year off every seven years to reinvigorate himself, try new things, and to take on new activities, like filmmaking with The Happy Film. With each sabbatical creating the start of a new chapter in his life and work. 

"Try out as much stuff as possible. See what you like and see what you don't like," Sagmeister says. "Stick with the stuff that resonates and leave the other stuff alone. And here and there go over your comfort zone."

5. Confidence is overrated. It's courage that is needed.

Debbie Millman--author, educator, curator, and the host of her own podcast, Design Matters--makes a very useful distinction between confidence and courage. She advocates that you don't need the confidence to try to do something; you just need the courage to take the first step. "Courage is the birthplace of confidence," Millman says. "[It's when] you feel that you can take that first step no matter what the outcome."

I look forward to sharing more of my learnings from my podcast with you. Now, go out and talk to someone you admire and see what you learn.

This article first appeared on Inc.com on February 26, 2018

What We Can Learn From Elon Musk

Elon Musk and the SpaceX team launched Falcon Heavy into space on Feb. 6. The launch reminded me of when I watched the Apollo missions as a kid growing up in Izmir, Turkey. It symbolized the dawn of a new space age and making the impossible a reality. We might even watch a landing on Mars in our lifetime.

If the launch awakened the childlike sense of awe and wonder in me, watching Musk's press conference afterwards spoke to the designer in me. Musk is a designer at heart, and SpaceX rockets and spacecrafts are a feat of innovation and design. As he talked about what it took to bring Falcon Heavy to life, Musk gave us an important lesson in innovation that we can all use in our own industries.

1. Have the courage to try difficult things.

"It always seems impossible until it's done"--this quote from Nelson Mandela sums up Musk's approach to innovation. Many things, even on a smaller scale, seem impossible. And you will never know what will come of them if you don't try. Prototyping, demonstrating, failing, and retrying are part and parcel for the development of new ideas and innovation. To imagine the future based on what you know today takes courage.

"Crazy things can come true. When I see a rocket lift off, I see a thousand things that could not work, and it's amazing when they do."--Musk

Do you have the guts to do difficult things?

2. Be serious about play.

Sending his Tesla Roadster with Starman in the driver's seat and a display that says, "Don't Panic!" on the dashboard was a marketing feat. It spoke to the child in us and made it fun. But, most importantly, instead of putting a chunk of concrete as payload, the Roadster and its driver humanized the mission. Intuitively, we all identified with the Starman and imagined it as us going into space. 

And it wouldn't have happened if Musk and team had not nurtured play as part of their everyday serious work. Playfulness lets in the human element. It is especially critical when the stakes are high.

"Silly fun things are important."--Musk 

Are you being playful?

3. New takes time and it's hard.

As our tools become faster, there's an expectation for design to also become faster, more effortless, and easier. But it's not. What Musk said about how much time going from Falcon to Falcon Heavy took is revealing. New, ambitious things take time, and they're hard.

"We tried to cancel the Falcon Heavy program three times at SpaceX. Because it was like, 'Man, this is way harder than we thought.' The initial idea was just, you stick on two first stages as side boosters -- how hard can it be? Way hard."--Musk

Do you have the patience?

4. Design is creating something that looks good and performs well. 

This is the crux of design excellence. You can make something that looks good but performs badly. You can make something that performs well but looks poor. Good design is about making these two co-exist--a thing of beauty that also works well. Musk's description of the Starman's suit is a lesson to any leader involved in the craft of design:

"It took us 3 years to design that spacesuit. It's easy to make a spacesuit that looks good but doesn't work. Or that works but doesn't look good. It's really difficult to make a spacesuit that looks good and works."--Musk

What are you doing to mash-up beauty and performance?

5. Constraints are the opportunities.

The common wisdom for decades was that you couldn't reuse your boosters. SpaceX took that constraint, turned it on its head, and made reusable rocket boosters. This cuts costs, allows for faster launch cycles, and is one of the requirements for future Mars-landing-technology. Seeing the two boosters land back on the launchpad was a thing of beauty. It was also a lesson in how constraints can become your competitive advantage if you choose to question and challenge them. 

"The booster, I think--I don't want to get complacent, but I think we understand reusable boosters," Musk said. "Reusable spaceships, that's the hard part. We'll go to low-Earth orbit first, but we can go to the moon shortly after that."--Musk

What is a piece of common wisdom you can challenge in your industry?

This article first appeared on Inc.com on February 15, 2018

How To Be Successful according to David Sedaris

One of the most important lessons I learned about success comes from the best selling author and humorist David Sedaris: if you want to be successful you need to give up something. 

In a personal essay that Sedaris wrote for The New Yorker" Laugh, Kookaburra,"  he describes a road trip he took with his boyfriend Hugh in Australia. While there they meet up with a friend, Pat, who had retired after a successful career. She explains to them that life is like a stovetop with four burners. The burners represent work, family, friends and health. If you want to be successful you need to turn one of the burners off. If you want to be really, really successful you need to turn off two. She has chosen to turn off family and health. Sedaris says he's turned off friends and health. His boyfriend has turned off work.

"I asked which two burners she had cut off, and she said that the first to go had been family. After that, she switched off her health. 'How about you?'"

Understanding that you, or Sedaris, or any successful person, cannot have everything is one of the most important lessons we can learn in life and work. Especially when, in this age of oversharing, other people seem to have it all. The simple reality is no one has the time, energy, or resources to have everything they want. Making peace with your finite resources can reduce stress, as well as help you to develop strategies for tricking the system when you can.

Trick the system.

If you can make what you want and what you need co-exist, you can trick the system. You can walk to your meetings, transform your desk to a treadmill desk, work with your children, meet your friends at the gym, or go on hiking trips together.

My favorite? If you can work with your friends and become friends with the people you work with, you're having your cake and eating it too. 

It is true that between work and family, often friends are the first thing to go. But friendships at work can turn projects, travel, and collaborations into opportunities to get to know people and the best excuses to hang out with people you enjoy. And friendships at work will positively impact your business. 

Some of the best collaborators in business are also great friendships. Look at Obama and Biden; Oprah and Gayle King; Sheryl Sandberg and Wharton professor Adam Grant.

Manage time with intention.

Just like you can turn on and off burners on a stove, you can choose to deliberately give something more importance at the cost of something else. 

As a mother of young kids, I used to be torn between being a great parent and being a great designer. It was impossible to be both at the same time. My solution? I stopped working on weekends and became a fully present mom. And during the week I gave my work my all. 

Stefan Sagmeister, graphic designer and director of The Happy Film, turns the work burner completely off every 7 years to take a sabbatical to travel, see friends and family and to replenish his creative soul.

Once you become aware of your burners, you can develop strategies to turn them on and off with intention. 

Which burner will you turn off to be successful?

This article first appeared on Inc.com on February 2, 2018