FACETS OF LEARNING:
As a designer, I used my head and my heart which has led to a unique skill set. There are those things that you learn in school… and then there are those that you can ONLY learn by diving in. Failure provides a landscape for improvement. With improvement comes knowledge and depth of skill.
FOUNDING A COMPANY (VUVOX)
(Successfully positioned for acquisition) – I co-founded VUVOX in 2006 with Jim Lanahan and Brian Williams. I learned how to raise money, build a strong team, and hire with care and fire quickly. I have never moved so fast.
Being a leader means more than ‘Directing the work’. A leader needs to earn followers. It takes trust, time and dedication. I’ve led small agile teams and large cross-matrix organizations. I’m learning every day to become a better and stronger leader.
BUILDING PRODUCTS & SERVICES
For many years, this was my identity. This is what most of my experience had served. I have sweat, blood and tears all over the products I’ve helped design, build and launch. It’s a strong part of my knowledge base and an essential foundation for me.
I’m thankful for the experience of starting a company, and testing that story on Sand Hill road. We were invited to several top-tier VC meetings after our performance at the 2007 DEMO event.
- Failure experience is just as important as success experience – Investors want to know if you have the ability to ‘recover’ quickly.
- Pivot & move fast – Thanks to my other co-founder Jim, I learned how to constantly watch the competition and listen to our customers. By adjusting quickly and building quickly, we could move faster than anyone else, especially those bigger than us.
- Design Making is Powerful – A small team making products creates something to ‘respond to’ -for customers, investors and potential suitors. Always create something to respond to! It turns out that our acquisition was based on talent, and our most valuable asset was that we were a team that had a powerful skill and talent to make awesome stuff.
I’ve been fortunate. I’ve always had passion and drive. I see clarity in what I want and I go after it. It’s with this conviction that I take ambitious leaps and tell the story of where we want to go, where we are, and where we’ve been. Storytelling has served me well because it is an emotionally driven format to communicate, ignite and lead. I’m generally optimistic & enthusiastic for the outcome.
The glass is almost always half-full.
There is a sense of family in almost all I do. I take a liberal definition. In sports, my team was a ‘family’. At the office, we have characteristics of family. When I’m home, I invest in my family. I’m passionate about the love & tension of families and understand the highs and lows. I don’t make relationships with masses, but I have a lot of brothers and sisters.
TEACHING AND MENTORING
I’ve learned that when I teach something, I learn even more. It’s a great responsibility to teach, because you HAVE to know your stuff. This is why I do 1-2 films a year with Lynda.com. I find that it pushes me & forces me to learn at a very high level. Mentoring is mutual. I enjoy giving back and passing knowledge and learning onto those that have sought me out. I also approach a ‘coach’ about once a year. I’ve had great mentors over the years, some don’t event know how much they’ve helped me.
For me this means having a proactive stance. I see too many designers with a passive & reactive posture. I told myself that I would play offense. I would have a distinct Point-of-view in my work & communications. It starts with active listening & learning. Insights create making, and a designed story usually follows. Being a proactive maker is critical in order to create impact & influence. The work should serve. It should feel selfless.
Being passionate creates vulnerabilities. The world is sometimes not kind to passionate & creative forces. I’ve learned a great deal from my mentors and from my experience about such things.
- Servant Leadership pays off. A humble leader that enables people and creates results usually wins the day.
- We are emotional beings. Designing something that people LOVE counter-acts data & analysis.
- It’s never my idea. Trying to owning an idea in a large organization is pointless. It’s alway ‘our’ journey together. Your leadership will know where it came from.
- Speak up. No one will do it for you.
- Customers win. They are just as passionate as you are. Listen to them.
Building my Craft:
I have always found my own way. My skills have evolved as a result of being a tenacious problem finder. When you fall in love with the problem, you end up finding skills that help you get to a solution. This has always served me well. These aren’t just tactical job skills to share with an employer, I see them as life skills for a creative thinker.
My skills are as diverse as the problems I chase.
MAKER OF EXPERIENCES
In almost every conversation I have or facilitate, I am able to communicate in experiential terms. This skill is a bi-product of having designed experiences for twenty years. It’s a lovely vocabulary and one that helps people see things in new ways. By speaking this way, it leads to making. Design thinking is always paired with Design Making.
CONNECTOR OF PEOPLE
LinkedIn is a service that will connect people on several dimensions, but I have a skill to connect people in personal and synergistic ways. I connect people with opportunities even if they have no idea what I’m doing at the time. I see their collaborations & communications 3-4 moves ahead. It’s a strategic gift of finding potential and leveraging a better opportunity together.
VISUALIZER OF FUTURES
In late 2011 I stumbled upon an incredible perspective. Hollywood gave me the gift of ‘preVIZ’ (short for pre-visualization). From this simple premise I created a design POV to help companies ‘rehearse’ their future. 3 years later, I’ve spoken all over the world about how preVIZ can be operationalized inside of organizations, unlock innovation and allow companies to make better decisions about what and how they might think about their future state. Learn more about how I created the preVIZ movement at ebay.
I can’t be a good leader without first being a good listener. ‘Slow to speak, Quick to listen’ is something I try and live by each and every day. Listening paired with translating is what shapes a unique POV. Translation into execution creates the ‘hand’ of the designer. Empathy derives from listening. Whether I’m listening to my kids or my customers, I can’t design a thoughtful approach without listening first.
LIFE SKILLS & LESSONS
I’ve learned a lot after a career of hiring other designers. I found that I can always train a great colleague with job skills, but I can’t give them the training to be a good person. I’d hire a better person with less skills than someone with amazing job skills. Character is key. I try to follow that in my own skills.
- Iron Sharpens Iron – I learned this on the soccer field and in the studio. You raise to the level of your competition. If those around you are extraordinary, they will push you further and farther than you thought you could.
- Visualize *enough* to have the right conversation – This has always served me well. If you need the design to move the *next* business decision forward, use the right amount of fidelity in the design to get you there.
- Try it a different way – My friend Peter Falt from BMW taught me about the ‘Chasm of Pain’ – it’s the deep valley you go through when you learn something new. If you did everything in the same tool all the time it wouldn’t give you insights into how it could be done differently.
- Connect People to ideas – My mentor Michael Gough said the ‘Stories build in strength with re-telling’. He was right. Whenever I’ve connected good people to ideas, they get better and grow in strength and momentum