The leadership mindset with IDEO U

I recently undertook a second course with IDEO U. My first course, titled ‘Insights for Innovation’ sort out to better improve my critical eye in regards to ethnographic study. This course, ‘Leading for Creativity’ led by the CEO of IDEO himself, Tim Brown, sort to develop leadership skills within the creative mind-set.

If I’m truly honest, I felt this course was somewhat underwhelming in content compared to the first course. The lessons were helpful, but the single most valuable advice obtained for me was in identifying and evaluating the approach and attributes of a mentor/leader you already know. Something I have always tried to do.


The lessons were split into three paths: leading with a strong point of view, leading through culture and leading alongside. Three different methods of leading a team. The biggest task of each was to ask questions of ‘how might we’ go about doing a task, and how to frame a question for our team to better solve the problem.

I thought the course was beneficial, but I sadly would not recommend it in comparison to more in-depth, work-place relevant courses such as Situation Leadership II. It was still good fun though!

Jiro will make you a better designer

I dislike Sushi. My fiancé is a total foodie, who loves Sushi, well, she loves any kind of food. How I’m the fat one in the relationship – I don’t know. With that said, my little blonde munchkin was ill in bed with food poisoning once upon a time and I was nurse-Danny for a week. Whilst mending her broken digestive system, I decided to distract her with a film. I needed something that was easy-watching, related to one of her interests and ideally if possible, with an adorable looking protagonist she could ‘Aww’ at. Enter ‘Jiro dreams of Sushi‘. A 2011 documentary feature film which plagued iTunes and other digital stores with the adorable face of Jiro Ono. I will save you the lengthy description (just check the link above), and tell you my biggest takeaways from the film – and why I think it does a better job than most so-called design-focused documentaries.

  1. Mastery is bred through obsession, nothing else. You can have natural, genetic talent. You can commit hard-graft during your nine-to-five. But if you’re not truly passionate by your occupation, if it’s not distracting you in some (minor) way when doing the laundry, cooking the family meal or driving down the motorway. Chances are, sadly… you won’t ever truly master your discipline. The good news? Masters tend to be rather miserable when they’re not making masterpieces. And you don’t need that kind of despair in your life. High five.
  2. Routine + attention to detail during routine = Quality of product/service. Similar to having an obsessive interest. The discipline to repeat processes routinely and to care about the intricacies of those processes, guarantee an output that your users/consumers will cherish and retain. Jiro only wants to work with the best fish, and so his lead chefs venture to the markets and wholesalers daily, no exceptions. They test every dish they serve, no exceptions.
  3. Experience is for learning, not for salary negotiations. I’m 29, so according to most researchers, I’m a millennial – self-entitled, impatient and quick-learning. But the inconvenient truth remains, that for the majority of my generation, simple things like a mortgage, or an education cost more than our parents will ever truly realise or appreciate. This has caused us to use our experience to urgently re-negotiate our title and earnings at every turn. Experience has become a means of determining value, rather than generating it. Jiro and his team challenge this premise by reminding the viewer that their success, both critically and financially, is a product of their continued development. Through experience, they have learnt to deliver truly innovative, well-constructed recipes and cuisine. Jiro explains how, through decades of experience, he developed a better methodology of preparing Octopus. And it’s a beautiful representation of why experience truly matters.
  4. Through experience, your gut feeling slowly becomes intuition, your strongest tool. I’ve worked in design for just under a decade. In this time, I’ve both followed and gone against my gut feeling when making decisions. This has led to both very good and very bad results. In today’s industry, we have plenty of data, plenty of insight, to direct and support us in defining a rationale… but… sometimes you have to follow your instinct, sometimes you have to think independently to everything around you. Jiro and his chefs know that when something doesn’t feel right, it’s most likely not right. This emotive decision-making may seem slightly less than scientific. But even the chief design officer of Apple, Jony Ive once told Charlie Rose, ‘we chose this version, because, before anything else, it just felt right’.
  5. Enjoy your work. Never apologise for caring and enjoying what you do or how you do it. If you like nesting symbols in SketchApp for more efficient interface design, or you like sieving through spreadsheets for insight around device adoption. Know that out there in the big, wide world, there is an acclaimed documentary about an old guy obsessed with rice.


Great TED talk by Martin Reeves

This is an incredibly well delivered TED talk from Martin Reeves, a senior strategist for BCG. The well drafted narrative of the presentation accompanied by his gentle but enthusiastic tone serves to give a persuasive talk that hooks you in. He utilizes metaphors, hypothetical dialogue and humor to deliver his rhetoric. The premise of the talk is simple, business survival, but the components required to achieve that are quite ambiguous so he goes about explaining each of them in a highly illustrative and relative way. I really enjoyed this talk, not just as a fan of product design and stakeholder management, but as an enthusiast of persuasive speaking.


What I try to do/be in the workplace

Over the years I’ve developed a little code of conduct/rulebook I follow when working and navigating through my career. I believe this shortlist has been critical to my development as a designer, a strategist and towards becoming a better professional. They are:AAEAAQAAAAAAAAodAAAAJDc1ZTM5ZWM1LWNkZTMtNDU1Yy1iZWU1LTVjODFmYjYxMGFlZg.png

  1. Be a good listener – Listening is the fundamental tool to which all good work is done, and all good things are made, whether it’s listening to problems of the user or the lessons of the wise. I listen when my boss speaks, he probably knows more than me, and if he tells me something, I will know it too. Pretty simple really. I often wonder when people debate why they don’t let each other finish. Surely your counter-point is going to have more impact if you know your opposite’s full argument.
  2. Be a sponge – Similar to item one, soak up as much knowledge and experience as possible, learn something every day, speak to someone smarter than you every hour. The only way to qualify for a promotion or a new position is to know and offer more than you did when qualified for your current role.
  3. Be an ambassador – As a senior designer, it is my responsibility to support junior members all the while speaking up to leadership. When I pitch or talk to a stakeholder or client, I need to represent the design team with the same pride and mannerisms of a foreign ambassador. I need to treat design thinking as a sovereign nation.
  4. Be of value – Right out of the Tony Robbins playbook. This is by far the most important, and it sounds obvious. When you work for a results-driven venture, and you’re surrounded by those trying to complete tasks. Being of value, in any way possible, regardless of your job spec, is a great attribute to be associated with. Relate to people’s problems and obstacles and see if you can somehow provide either input, support, a value in any form.

Gathering insight with IDEO U


Some of our UX team have been undergoing a IDEO U course named ‘Insights for Innovation’. A design thinking program aimed to improve our discovery and response to it. The team includes ‘JB’ (our Research & Insights Principal), Elaine and Mark (Senior UX Researchers), myself (Senior UX Designer) and Elizabeth (Innovations Manager). The course is split into 6-8 phases with each week involving (for our team anyway), a series of lessons, an assignment and a mid-week group seminar where we discuss our findings and learnings.


Whilst some of the programme can seem a little abstract, I’m really starting to notice a difference in my own discovery method. Whilst I have always studied people and their activities, I have also almost always turned to hard data and performance analytics to get an objective take on what is happening in-front of me.

The first lesson we are taught is how to observe things, and that it’s okay to be subjective at times. Given a great deal of the user experience is emotional, subjectivity shouldn’t be a negative term to gaining a better understanding and indeed, ethnographic, qualitative research. During the course, we all found that we were making assumptions – and with it being famously deemed: the mother of all f*ck ups – we quickly pulled back. However IDEO counter this and tell you to dig deeper, that these assumptions setup questions that could then help in an interview or a more validating phase of study.

My preference so far in the course has been with extremes. Widening our perspective to better appreciate the extremes found either side of a particular topic’s spectrum.

“New insights can spring up from everyday needs and behaviours but that won’t necessarily inspire radical breakthroughs, that’s what I love about looking at extreme behaviours, they help us see differently.” — Coe Leta Stafford, IDEO’s Global Design Director

With this lesson in-mind, I noticed a particular extreme while watching a family member use an ATM. It was incredibly insightful – not because I gained lots of data or information, but because I gathered a wider perspective on the potential problems that could arise at an ATM. This type of realisation then influences mine and my colleagues thinking when designing an innovative banking app.

The course has certainly improved my approach for gathering insight, I would definitely recommend the courses available by IDEO U. They’re informative, fun and the instructors have a real enthusiasm for what they are teaching.

Goog’ time to be alive.

As other companies have shown off ‘growth’ via a positive correlation on a sales graph. Google have truly grown by way of vision and delivery. I, like so many, have an almost illogical affinity for Apple and their brand, they have been the software and hardware provider of my youth and adulthood… but I’m calling it… for me… Alphabet and it’s child Google are the best companies in the world right now.

What I’m really so in love from a spectator perspective is the vision. Rather than flat out tangle with Apple as Samsung has done, or try and push out Microsoft as Apple has previously attempted to do. They have grown… and developed… and renovated… to the point they now rival all these brands simultaneously. All the while remaining the most important and popular presence on the internet and the digital world.


It’s my belief they have accomplished this through doing three things (among many others, obviously) exceptionally well:

  1. Branding – Correctly renovated the identity of Google, developing a design language that lives prosperously within both software and hardware, all the while communicating and engaging with consumers upon a substantial range of touchpoints.
  2. Product management – Learning from both their past accomplishments (and indeed mistakes) to develop products and services users love and anticipate. From gmail to google docs to the pixel phone to the chrome-cast, Google sees the popularity and appeal of their existing products and uses this to springboard new ones. The only other company to utilize this successfully is Apple.
  3. Human Resources – Google arguably have the good fortune of hiring anyone it wants. They could have any CEO and yet they have selected an incredibly talented man internally, Sundar Pichai, whose background in product management and innovation has immediately smashed through the corporate brick-wall. Whilst I’m not sure I have any ‘googliness’ in me, (I’m a grumpy, cynical, shy man), I respect the notion of the attribute… Google isn’t just a day job, it should take up a portion of your personal culture.

Products they are launching outside of their internet services, specifically made by google, are ‘inviting’. ‘Exciting’ from first glance, again their brand offers a bright, vibrant colours that brands like Samsung and Apple maybe struggle or simply refuse to adopt. They have a marketplace excited and highly anticipative.

And with that anticipation noted, the best part of what’s happening at the moment is that you and me, the average user and consumer will probably fail to even notice future product launches and introductions. They have slotted so seamlessly into our everyday lives in the past, and unlike Apple, have lacked any real elitism in their brand and (recent) product launches. The price of their physical goods maybe mid-to-high market, but their internet services are incredibly accessible and beneficial.

“Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.” — Larry Page, Alphabet CEO

From the old days of the simple google search and the odd gmail account, to the immediate and everyday use of the awesome (and cheap) chrome-cast, the astonishing google maps and my personal fav: google drive. Google outside of its traditional business operations, continues to make our lives better.

It’s also worth noting, to close off this little love letter, I wanted to embed a video that showcased both Google’s progress and its benefit to us all. And what do you know, I got lucky with my search, see below.

Right, I’m done, cheers Google!


An evening with Woz

What a privilege to be in the same room as Steve Wozniak last night, such a lovely, humble, intelligent man. He helped jump-start the world we all live in today, all the while maintaining a belief that we should treat each other with consideration and respect. He admitted that these events were now his primary occupation and income – but that he appreciated the platform to spread enthusiasm for even the basics of computing.

A great way to spend a weekday evening.

: )