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.