Lessons from a Principal Design Coach

If there is one thing I’ve learned from those who have coached me throughout the years it is that human nature dictates that if you have a desire to give back to see others grow, you must also have a willingness to make enough of an investment into those you mentor to allow yourself to be let down by them.

People convince themselves (without knowing it) that they have gotten everything they need out of an experience before getting to the good stuff and will oftentimes give up early when they think they have nothing more to know or gain. At which point a back stab can appear to be a more attractive ‘gain’ – even though it ends up preventing them from growing.

Experience is the best teacher, if you have a sadistic desire to raise up design founders the question is never IF your protégé is going to stab you in the back, the question is WHEN they will (and how deeply). If you are coaching someone who you don’t ultimately want to excel past you, you are in this for the wrong reasons altogether.

You really have to have been burnt a few times as a coach before you can have that kind of mature and sober perspective about it – Once I obtained that, I was able to be a much better coach to those I’d bring under my wing. Knowing that it is a WHEN and not an IF has brought a lot of insight and discernment into my practice.

Join rethinkCAFÉ in collaboration with The London Design Festival and the Service Design Fringe Festival as we host Service Design Sprints‘ first West Coast Sprint Master’s bootcamp round on September 19th from our incubator space located in the heart of San Diego’s historic Gaslamp district. Early bird tickets are still available.

Event details: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/boot-camp-san-diegoca-become-a-service-design-sprint-master-tickets-26910215178

The qualities of the professional

The professional displays courage, not only in the roles she embraces (which invariable scare the hell out of her) or the sacrifices she makes (of time, love, family) or even in the enduring of criticism, blame, envy, and lack of understanding, but above all in the confronting of her own doubts and demons.

The linebacker and the Army Ranger go into action as part of a team. But the artist and the entrepreneur enter combat alone. I take my hat off to every man or woman who does this.

Steven Pressfield (Turning Pro)

As a standalone company, Apple’s services business could be worth as much as $260B

Trying to sell service design and design thinking for innovation to people who have never come across it about the benefit it will have to their business is like trying to sell an airplane to a remote village without knowledge about how airplanes work, what they do or why they would ever have a need for one.

When we opened the war room at Union Cowork in San Diego we opened an airport in a remote village with very little awareness about the value or purpose of flight travel.

This is the ongoing problem that we can only address through demonstrating the power that design thinking can have on people’s business. It is only through through testimonial and case studies that this value can begun to become understood by people who see it as a gimmick.


Jamie Miller (Union’s owner) argues that the gap is not as wide as an ‘airport’, likening us to “A coke dropping in a remote village in Africa.”

Jamie Miller (Union’s owner) argues that the gap is not as wide as I express. The metaphor he uses to illustrate his point is one of “A coke dropping in a remote village in Africa.”..

“The design of the can, the obvious weight of a liquid is universal to the point these people understand they are to drink from it. The people embrace the fact it tastes amazing and makes them feel refreshed. They don’t need to know how complicated the process is to carbonate water or to establish distribution chains or what caffeine is. They only need to embrace it as something that adds value to their lives.”

This statement “It just has to have value.” is indicative of my original point. Nobody who has experience applying design thinking to their product or service formulation would ever make such a statement (this is the type of statement made by people who haven’t ‘tasted the value’). The value of service design has already been proven by companies who actually understand disruption — the burden isn’t on us to ‘preach’ that value.

As refreshing as design thinking may be perceived to be (yes, it should be refreshing) — it must be refreshing in order for it to feel inclusive and inviting. People aren’t at their creative best when something isn’t refreshing. The point however is not refreshment, it is radical insight and perspective into their customers lives. Many people are too afraid to re-assess this because they’ve been led to believe that ‘pivoting’ is the worst thing they can possibly do by people who just want to make a dime off of their ignorance by fueling preconceived notions about their need for business innovation. (There is a good reason why people who have the word ‘innovation’ in their job title have much lower job security than people who don’t.)

Here is one reason we focus on service design, service innovation, service aesthetics and use service dominant logic at I Love Mondays and rethinkCAFÉ.

As a standalone company, Apple’s services business could be worth as much as $260B

Article: http://appleinsider.com/articles/16/04/20/as-a-standalone-company-apples-services-business-could-be-worth-as-much-as-260b-piper-jaffray-says

Source: http://rethink.cafe/whatif/as-a-standalone-company-apples-services-business-could-be-worth-as-much-as-260b

The application deadline for our June-December incubator program is May 20th —  http://rethink.cafe/apply

A breakthrough in telepresence and human-computer interaction.

Working with Cisco’s telepresence research team for the past few months I’ve been trying to prove live 360° video conferencing as a concept but haven’t been able to get it working until I met Michael Wall in Sweden who also had a 360° camera. 

Today we made a breakthrough in video conferencing using VR headsets on each end (California and Sweden). The platform we used was designed for live streaming 360° video but we were able to get it to work using two separate browser windows and an audio headset.

We believe we may have made a breakthrough in human-computer interaction here.

Here is the use case I’ve identified for using VR headsets and 360 video conferencing: When one person is tuning in remotely to a room full of people without a VR headset the remote person is rarely engaged as it is.

The purpose being to create a more immersive experience for the distributed person calling in. You don’t need 20 people wearing headsets in a room to alienate people from each other in a room. Just the one calling in remotely. (The one who is less ‘centralized’) – the one feeling more ‘alienated’.

Other people have done 360º video conferencing and I don’t doubt there has been ‘talk’ about the idea of using a VR headset in a meeting but from my research this ‘talk’ has resided entirely among naysayers who didn’t think there would be value in exploring this. We believe we were the first to get a VR headset to work in one.

To keep things simple well call this VR teleconferencing.

Design knowledge wants to be free.

Beginning today and every Monday at Union Cowork in San Diego I’ll be hosting a free design workshop for startups in the San Diego area. The guest list is limited to 25 seats to keep things intimate and will fill up quickly so be sure to RSVP in advance if you are in the area and would like to attend.

We’ll be selecting one project to focus on and do open service innovation around while applying proven design methods to capture meaningful and actionable insights. Design thinking is focused on ‘making’, not an academic exercise. 

I Love Mondays is a weekly dose of design thinking for startups to kick your week off on the right foot. Light & fun activities designed to stimulate discussion around the business value of design, methods-based research and the importance of seeing with new eyes.

/ Play is the highest form of research
/ Design knowledge wants to be free

RSVP: http://nvite.com/ILoveMondays

Live 360º Stream: http://hugvr.com/ILoveMondays

Good design is empathy and clear thinking made visible.

While there may be such a thing as over-thinking there is not such a thing as over-empathizing. Good Design is clear thinking and empathy made visible.

Whoever best describes a problem is the person most likely to fix it. Never compromise improving upon your descriptions in fear over-thinking. Design thinking is focused on making things real with actionable insights and isn’t an academic exercise.

Empathy creates insights.

As design practitioners and as a profession we must be willing to ask what types of models we can create in order to make better observations about the terminology we’ve become most comfortable using and then ask ourselves how might we improve upon and humanize the language we use to describe the activities of the people we are designing for.

6 design secrets for any founder who is truly interested in disruptive innovation

1) Your success criteria is directly proportional to your tolerance for doing shit work.
2) Always have a prototype in your back pocket (never go into a meeting without a prototype).
3) Never show up to talk about an idea without some way of showing that idea to the person whose feedback you need.
4) The prototype you end up building should always answer the questions you need answered in order to prove the most important parts about your hypothesis and teach you about the insights you are trying to generate by building it.
5) Insights that are ‘generative’ should lead you to draw things or cause you to want to address them right away.
6) Insights that are ‘provocative’ require prodding in order for you to be able to think about them — these insights require a willingness to ask why being prodded was necessary in order for you to be able to think about them in the first place.

Keyrious – The adventure that never stops giving

One of the products that I had the unique opportunity of doing service experience work on is launching this evening at the Emmy awards. Gentlemen if you are looking for a special adventure that never stops giving this Christmas you need to buy her a key.

You script the journey and she gets to unlock new surprises and clues every year, it is a gift that never stops giving — literally. http://keyrious.com


#AppleWatch 1st observations

Being an early adopter goes with the territory of doing user research / experience design so here are some of my initial observations of the Apple Watch:
  • The hardware aesthetic feels as though I’m wearing the original iPhone from ’07 on my wrist.
  • There is some utility I’ve discovered so far in that I don’t find myself pulling my phone out of my pocket to see incoming text messages, email or phone calls.
  • It is nice to have a scripture verse of the day on my wrist along with a few other apps that do partially make up for the steep price point. (The 3rd party development community will really be the ones deciding the ultimate fate of this wearable).
  • I am someone who sits and works for long periods of time so the hourly reminders to stand and walk around a little are not as obnoxious as I thought they might be.
  • I wish there were better controls for managing types of notifications from apps. I definitely don’t need all the notifications I receive on my iPhone to all show up on my Apple Watch.
  • I wish Siri worked better on the Apple Watch because I can see myself using it more on my wrist than I would on my mobile device.
  • The remote app for the Apple TV is great when you are always losing your Apple TV remote and remote management of IoT devices (HomeKit) from the Apple Watch really will be the killer app if you want my opinion. People don’t want to have to go hunting for their phones to do routine tasks in their home like adjusting the temperature on a thermostat, unlocking the front door, changing watering cycles on their sprinkler system.
  • Another tradeoff that many people are complaining about is the lack of connectivity when an iPhone isn’t within range. Marissa is a runner and likes to map her runs using RunKeeper and GPS which you would think would be something that she would be able to do without carrying around a tablet sized phone in her pocket.
  • Apple just opened up the watch band API to third party designers so I’d really love to see watchbands designed by the likes of Dolce & Gabbana and other big name fashion brands.
  • I see lots of opportunity new ways of visualizing time and it won’t be long before we start to see branded/unbranded watch face experiences brought into the Apple Watch app store.
Marissa and I went in for the stainless steel versions since the sport versions didn’t come with sapphire glass (although I understand that the display on the sport version is a bit brighter).
BTW, I wrote post from my Apple Watch using dictation (kidding)

To Ello or not to Ello…

“The people who oppose your ideas the most are those who represent the establishment that your ideas will upset.” ~Anthony D’Angelo

I am finding it amusing to watch people try to tear into the Ello business model and attempt to destroy the credibility of its manifesto who would clearly be affected negatively by the prospect of the network’s success. @todd @budnitz @cacheflowe @mk @gv @jayzes @anna and the rest of the team at Ello will continue to buzz from the noise of people comparing its featureset and interface to the familiarity of Facebook and Twitter, and they will succeed not by building those features but instead staying true to their own design philosophy.

Their success will be measured by how well they can continue to cater to peoples inclination and desire to learn something new and be a part of something contrary. 

Chloë Bregman said it best:

Ello is extremely thoughtful in its play against convention. Very well thought out think different fuck society we are hipper than hip more authentic than shit marketing campaign. Totally brilliant anti conformist play. Good play on false sense of exclusivity / fake over subscription. Simplistic. Supports gifs. Adult tumblr irreverent design so designed its anti designed. Left you thinking I’m cool if I’m in. Cool if I’m out. Fake out on fuck advertising but we are taking VC funding. Hipster designed so retro it’s cool so obscure its antifunctional, love them or hate them appreciate we are talking about ello… We can’t judge their design without hypothesizing. Only they through metrics can judge the problem they are solving. Art critics go home.