... commissioning "impossible is nothing"

Recently I was asked by the CEO of BCG Digital Ventures to commission an art piece for our cultural "den" within our Manhattan Beach, CA headquarters.  The input was simple, the famous "impossible is nothing" quote by Muhammad Ali ...

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
— Muhammad Ali

Custom BCGDV-embroidered leather heavy punching back provided by KILLSPENCER.



... Denzel on "falling forward"

I never get tired of this video, and hope you enjoy it too.  Denzel has always been an amazing creative force in my eyes, and hope to have the opportunity to meet him one day.  It's okay for us to acknowledge our creative heroes.  :)



... BCGDV panel: "The Pursuit of Innovation"

Last Thursday evening, BCG Digital Ventures (BCGDV) held an office opening event for our BCGDV Innovation and Investment Center located in Manhattan Beach, CA.  We had over 200 local business leaders, entrepreneurs, celebrities, tech luminaries and investors visit with us for this special occasion. 

The experience allowed guests to enjoy demos of our ventures, engage in human-centered design practices, try out virtual reality and network with one another within our amazing space designed by R & A Design.  We held a panel with the following luminaries living at the intersection of creative, business and technology:

  • Host:  Guy Adami (Fast Money Contributor, CNBC)
  • Jason Mayden (Designer-in-Residence/Founder, Accel Partners)
  • Albhy Galuten (VP of Media Technology Strategy, Sony)
  • Kevin Bethune (VP of Strategic Design, BCGDV)
  • Omar Johnson (former CMO, Beats by Dre)
  • Ted Mico (CEO, MixedMediaWorks)

The panel touched on the group's shared "polymathic" experience navigating interdisciplinary boundaries within each of their career paths.  We discussed the motivations that drive each of us in our pursuit of innovation, and shared lessons-learned around 'falling forward' to paraphrase Denzil Washington.  The following pictures showcase some highlights from the event.

Photo credit:  BCG Digital Ventures



... keynote 'Connected by Design' at the 2016 DMI Leadership Conference

At the invitation of the Design Management Institute (DMI), I had the privilege of giving a keynote talk, titled "Connected by Design" at the 2016 DMI Leadership Conference on September 29, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  

I spoke on the degree of humanity (or lack thereof) we are witnessing in today's digital platforms, and how we might use design in a deeper way to foster more empathy and truly human-centered experiences.  

I was joined with fellow BCG Digital Ventures colleagues Magdalena Paluch, Ron Clark and Seth Weissman who ran a brilliant future visioning workshop on the 'Future of Healthcare' with DMI conference attendees.

Thank you DMI for the opportunity to share and learn at this incredible conference!



... ... featured in Issue #5

At the invitation of John Maeda (Global Head, Computational Design & Inclusion at Automattic), I wrote a piece called "Picking the Locks:  Journey to Innovation" for Design.Blog's Issue #5.

Design.Blog is a new favorite of mine.  Every Thursday, a new issue awaits ... featuring the stories, thought leadership and lessons learned from luminaries deeply engaged at the intersection of Design, Tech, Business and Inclusion.  

Photo credit:  Automattic

Thank you Design.Blog, Automattic, WordPress and John Maeda for the incredible opportunity to share and learn on this platform!




... inaugural NASA Product Design Symposium at ArtCenter College of Design

At the invitation of Jessie Kawata (Creative Strategist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory), I had the privilege of serving as a guest speaker and panelist at the inaugural NASA Product Design Symposium at ArtCenter College of Design on September 23, 2016.  The audience was comprised of mostly JPL engineers, ArtCenter alumni, students and faculty.  

After sharing my story about the journey into innovation, the intersection of design+business and recent work with BCG Digital Ventures, I joined a panel of impressive folks from Microsoft's Inclusive Design program (Sarah Morris), IDEO (Albert Leung & Vinh Pho) and Google X Project Wing (Evan Twyford).  Their presentations and exhibited case studies were tremendously inspiring.

We rounded out the day with a hackathon where the attendees brainstormed and prototyped against a number of JPL's high priority missions.  The group left the day bullish on the need to foster more multidisciplinary and open-source collaborative relationships.

Photo credits:  Jessie Kawata


Thank you NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory!



... mentorship & exposure with The Fellowship Initiative (TFI)

On January 7, BCG Digital Ventures hosted The Fellowship Initiative (TFI), a community-outreach group sponsored by JPMorgan that provides mentorship and exposure for local-area high school youth (e.g. Watts, Inglewood, Compton, etc.).  We learned about TFI through my long-time friend, Malcolm Johnson, who’s currently an Executive Director in Commercial Real-Estate Banking with JPMorgan.  Upon his last visit to BCGDV's Manhattan Beach headquarters, we knew the TFI young men needed to come see what BCGDV was doing.

They witnessed ...

  • An introduction to BCGDV as well as a chance to get to know the team, whose diverse stories inspired the kids to realize they could do in life despite the odds
  • A tour of BCGDV's Manhattan Beach Innovation Center
  • A rapid simulation of the “innovator’s process” via a rapid design-cycle
  • An inspirational lunch with guest speaker, Daishin Sugano, co-founder of the new G.O.A.T. mobile sneaker marketplace (“Greatest of All Time”).  You can find GOAT in the Apple App Store.

The seeds of entrepreneurship and innovation were definitely planted.  The JPMorgan team was extremely pleased.   This wouldn't have been possible without our BCGDV Design volunteers Ron Clark, Magdalena Paluch, Jenn Kuca, Keiko Ishida, Marc Yelloz, Paul Genberg, Erin Ballard and Harnish Jani for preparing for this workshop, and facilitating the kids through an exciting day of fun, inspiration and learning. 



... joining the Design Management Institute (DMI)

My first touchpoint with the Design Management Institute (DMI) occurred in 2012, the same year that I met and teamed with the founders that would ultimately create BCG Digital Ventures (BCGDV).  DMI held an intimate DMI "NightOut" event at a local Los Angeles venue and I was invited by Karen Hoffman, Product & CMTEL Chair at the Art College Center of Design.  Upon arriving, Karen graciously introduced me to a number of design luminaries who were striving to expand design's influence in their sectors.  I remember her squeezing my arm, "DMI is YOUR home ... this is your community."  I considered the seed planted.

The next couple years were very busy to say the least, traveling the world helping global enterprises pursue growth opportunities through corporate venturing.  If you know anything about the BCGDV value proposition, design holds a clear runway in shaping ventures in partnership with experts in strategy, technology and product management.  In many ways, our designers have to pioneer the very definition of design's contribution to the multidisciplinary mix. By this year, our eventual scale afforded me a moment to remember DMI and that it would be a good thing to formally tap into this high-calibre organization.  I signed up and became a member.

Thankfully, my timing was just ahead of DMI's 40th Anniversary Leadership Conference in Boston, Massachusetts last Fall.  My former Art Center professor, Katherine Bennett, introduced me to Carole Bilson, DMI's President.  Carole gave some time to understand my story, share hers, and understand what we were driving at BCG Digital Ventures.  She reinforced that DMI was the place to gain objective insight and perspective on the opportunities facing the design discipline.  I guess you can say I was sold even before traveling to the conference.

On our first day, DMI arranged for us a walking tour of Cambridge's tech corridor.  Aided by perfect weather, many new acquaintances were made as we navigated the streets surrounding big technology, bio-pharma and thought leading departments at MIT.  We learned that Cambridge embraces a culture of sharing to make the world a better place, even at the expense of IP ownership and financial upside.  The tour ended with an intimate meeting among DMI members to openly discuss their goals and needs for the conference.  I got to meet Carole Bilson, President of DMI and quite a "design force" in her own right.  Similar to Karen, Carole went out of her way to introduce me to other DMI members, giving me another reinforcement of the hospitable and generous nature of this community.

The next 2 days immersed us in a series of engaging speakers, workshops and networking opportunities.  Here are just a few highlights that stood out to me.

  • Valerie Casey (Chief Product Officer, Samsung Global Innovation Center) presented “Redesigning the Innovator’s Dilemma" - “innovation emerges from a tangled mess of fresh starts, thinking awry, and disruptive technologies … not from following a linear path based on predictable outcomes” … “innovation myth:  there’s not a lone inventor … innovation is now open with many innovation archetypes” … "creativity is feared if the motivations are to reduce uncertainty” … “we need better communication of ideas versus more ideas” … “without it (diversity), there is less rigor in exploring the possibilities” … “unfortunately in Silicon Valley, design is subordinated … there are ‘line designers’ who are less conceptual."
  • Rob Girling (Co-Founder & Principal, Artefact), Aileen Dempsey (Principal, Designing Business) and Gulay Ozkan (Founder, GEDS & Instructor of Sabanci University) facilitated an interactive workshop on the “Value of Design” - “If the modern definition of design is increasingly moving towards 'formal creative techniques for problem solving', then measuring the value generated by design doesn’t need to be different than measuring the impact of anything else.“ … “Artefact’s Design Maturity Model gives organizations a toolset to measure their competencies across Mastery, Character, Performance, Impact and Empathy.” … “Multi-tasking tends to reduce efficiency & performance, confuses the brain and slows you down, impairs cognitive controls.” … “Leaders need the head-space if we are to be mindful” … “42% of startup failures cited lack of market or need” … “Design meets exponential tech” … “Design can help tech but its processes are too long and ambiguous for tech; a switch from tech to design-driven perspective not possible at the moment.” … “The Design Lens ( helps tech companies create desirable experiences especially for projects that have time and budget constraints”
  • John Maeda (Design Parter, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) presented “Design in Tech” - “ego is an element of being a maker; I want to feel good by making.” … “dirty hands are a symbol of integrity” … “creatives make and it’s pure” … “maker = the creative, talker = the suit” … “makers diss the talkers, but the talkers don’t care.  They do a good job at networking and achieving scale”… “Moore’s Law no longer cuts it as the key path to a happier customer.” … “$2.75 billion (5 startups founded by designers raised more than $2.75 billion) = we (design) are at the table” … “Design in VC is not about pretty … it’s about relevance” … “go to where you are not loved” … “data helps create resilient design” … “future and the past cooperate to form excellent."
  • Doreen Lorenzo (Co-Founder, Vidlet; former President at Quirky and Frog Design) presented “The Art of Leadership” - “failure is a buzzword” … “the more failure you have, the closer you are to your hypothesis” … “allow for learning in your business” … “leadership = human connection” … “empathy is the other 50% to the data” … “empathy is power” … “innovation’s famous leaders are lousy to their people, and we accept it (bullying) as the way it is.” … “a toxic workplace is a frozen workplace"
  • Valerie Jacobs (VP & Managing Creative Director, LPK) presented “Brand REBIRTH” - “Re:imagine entails achieving a bigger vision for the platform {e.g. Google’s creation of a transparent platform called ALPHABET}” … “Re:boot involves starting over {e.g. Dominos Pizza leveraging digital; IT is the biggest department}” … “Re:invent involves finding a new direction {e.g. FujiFilm leveraged their core IP in chemicals to shift from film to cosmetics}” … “Re:focus brings us back to the core {e.g. Burberry was all over the place until Angela Ahrendts and Christopher Bailey galvanized the organization around the luxury trench coat and cohesive brand standards}”
  • Scott Nazarian (Executive Creative Director, Frog Design) presented “Big Design, Small World” - “In an era where technologies of presence and connection are increasingly sublimating into the very architecture around us, it’s incumbent on designers and planners to think big about the massive interdependencies these systems create – and the impact of a data-centric world view on human intuition and interaction.” … “Data creates the connected community {i.e. Infrastructure = Action, City = Interface, Neighborhoods = Platforms, Home = Functional Unit, Individual = Exponent}” … “User Experience, Principles = Fitness, Time & Polity” … “Fitness = humans must be able to decipher their own fitness, the ability to adapt and growth” … “Time = reconciling human, material and technological time scales is crucial; encouraging flow and diminishing disruption” … “Polity = self reflection can lead to the development of more thoughtful public policy”

Needless to say, DMI represents a community of like-minded thinkers and doers carving new avenues for design to deliver strategic value across the world.  DMI is a tremendous source of written thought leadership (DMI:Journal, DMI:Review and DMI:Case Studies), in-person events, education and community building opportunities.  I look forward to encouraging more of our Strategic Design community to becoming a part of DMI.  I believe we can learn a ton, but also can give a ton to DMI from our own learnings.  When we share our knowledge in the spirit of the Cambridge vibe, only great things can happen.   

The Design Management Institute (DMI) is an international membership organization that connects design to business, to culture, to customers—and to the changing world. Founded in 1975, DMI brings together educators, researchers, designers, and leaders from every design discipline, every industry, and every corner of the planet to facilitate transformational organizational change and design driven innovation. DMI focuses it's mission in three areas: design valuation, education, and connection.



... on Linkedin's "Have you thanked your mentor?"

Linkedin recently launched a brilliant campaign showcasing mentees giving thanks to their mentors.  It was a lot of fun to see my friends featured as a part of it (e.g. Jason & Gina ... loved the stories and photos).  Naturally, I couldn't help reflect on those pivotal mentors and advocates that kept me grounded on my path.  My devotion to them knows no bounds.  Here are a few of my tribe (with last names withheld to protect the innocent).  I simply say THANK YOU.

My father, Lonnie ... my first definition and exemplar of what being a Man is all about.  Caring father, nurturing husband and a leader in his professions.  I watched him interact with his teams growing up, and each of his associates looked up to him as a father-figure, a mentor.  He served them, and was (and still is) the truest definition of servant leadership in action.   "You have to build trust before you can be expected to lead."  My father will always be my greatest mentor.

Tony saw something in me to care enough to advocate for my hiring as a fresh college grad entering nuclear.  His advice (paraphrasing), "learn as much as you can about the business in your first 2 years ... follow-through on any and all ways you can help ... and thereafter, focus on mastering your specific expertise."  Thankfully, heeding his advice helped shaped my personal brand as a team player, and afforded me many opportunities to play in unconventional waters.

Sandy appreciated the track record as an engineer responsible for improving reactor mechanics, but encouraged me to step away from my comfort zone and embrace a radically different area of the company.  He suggested I join the transient analysis group to study simulations of nuclear accidents and help nuke plants adopt better set-points.  After a year of runway, he tested my knowledge.  "You know your s&$#" was his signature of affirmation and he kicked me in the pants toward my next adventure.  "I want you to be able to invite the RIGHT people in the room when you find yourself grappling with bigger questions."

Don (an ex-nuclear Navy officer) was probably the most gifted project manager I've had the pleasure of meeting.  No surprise, he was given the craziest mission-critical reactor projects of the company ... and Don let me join him on some of them.  "The crew always eats first" as we stood in line at the cafeteria, in some remote part of the country.  He made it clear that in order to be "one of the men," we needed to earn their respect through earnest action and not words.

Deb pulled me into Global Footwear from Corporate Planning, a move unheard of by many.  Crossing disciplines at a large place like Nike wasn't easy ... but Deb was compelled to take a chance on me.  Together, we worked with the product team to envision what the future of footwear product creation might become.  She introduced me as a thought partner in a fraternal world of "shoe dogs" full of deep tribal knowledge.  She helped me find my leadership voice and did nothing but encourage me to take risks and build alliances across the team.

Patty found me "swimming" at a low point where my aspirations didn't quite match the evolving asks of the job, nor the perceptions people had of me based on my title.  Being the natural coach she is, she broke me down to the primitive elements and helped me rebuild into a more effective agent of influence.  She used the same approach to encourage me to explore beyond the bounds of my present situation by establishing a career vision and making tangible steps to demonstrate my abilities in the same respect.  I often heard from many that Patty was my biggest champion.

D'Wayne accepted an invitation for coffee after a brief encounter through a mutual friend.  After learning of my hobbies in the arts, he encouraged me to cut my creative teeth on real product.  It just so happened he had a brief without a home (i.e. no designer to take it on), and he gave me a shot to design shoes under his guidance.  He allowed me to meet him at 6AM for guidance on the designs, then go do my day job, and then work to the wee hours on Jordan footwear everyday for a better part of a year.  After my shoes released with much success, a designer was born.

Lastly ... Dan, Don, Kris, Octavio, Gina, Tinker, Angela, Mark S., Eric, Bruce, Byron, Andre, Steve, Monty, Mark A., Aaron, James, Anthony, Emily, Andy, Karen, Kevin (KC Katalyst), Katherine, Maureen, Bryan, Rob, Liliana, Krystina, Steve, Jeff, Simon, Sean, La Mer, John, Carole, Jason ... you didn't have to ... but you did ... and I simply say THANK YOU too and I promise to continue paying it forward.  k.g.b.


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On teaming & innovation ...

Companies the world over are thinking about what will keep them innovative.  I would argue that multidisciplinary teams are integral to achieving a viable innovation model no matter the company format.  We see this in Silicon Valley startups.  Founders where multiple hats, and lean startup teams must figure out how to deliver the best of design, business and technology together in rapid agile fashion.  Even in large corporations, multidisciplinary teams create enormous value when protected in the right way.  During my time at Nike, I watched footwear designers, developers and product managers team up in small “triads” always figuring out a new way to make a better product.   Usually behind the world’s most innovative companies, there’s usually some form of healthy multidisciplinary teaming.

At the same time, sustaining these teams is not easy.  If it were, we’d see them everywhere.   The larger the organization, the more specialized their people become.  Their pioneering efforts (usually very innovative and multidisciplinary at the start) eventually spawn large businesses that require tons of focus.  Roles within those organizations become more tailored toward optimizing and growing existing franchises versus creating new ones.  Cost cutting and optimization become par for the course.  Over time, it becomes increasingly hard for employees to engage each other across the aisles between departments.   Strategists belong in corporate strategy.   Designers belong in the design department, and so on.  Large companies may choose to offset this dynamic by ring-fencing a small percentage of organization toward innovation while the core business continues its trajectory.  The small ring-fenced teams appropriately adopt the moniker of “lab, kitchen, garage, etc."

So … Why are mixed teams important for innovation? … Why can’t we just rely on the lone inventor who will dream up the next big thing?  Innovation is about inventing new experiences that evoke desirability, business viability and technical feasibility.  Based on the exponential speed at which the world is moving, these elements need to be comprehended faster than ever before, and the ingenuity of teams are required more-so than the individual.  Innovation requires the team to bring all types of inspirations and “ingredients” to the table from each person’s unique vantage point.  Exposing the team to these inspirations at the same time creates an environment for making intuitive sparks and connections.  That’s creativity in its pure essence … the ability to cross pollinate inspirations to create something new.  In order to do this well, each teammate within the multidisciplinary team will likely have to work very differently than “how they’ve done it before."

A product manager may have been used to “owning” the product in their past life.   A designer may have been used to applying “form” around pre-existing functionality.  A technologist may have had the bleak task of figuring out how to “make it work” at the receiving end of a long process.  In a multidisciplinary team, the “baggage" of prior convention needs to go.  Each teammate has the opportunity to evolve into a "T-shaped" collaborator.  By "T-shaped," I mean exercising breadth and depth.  It’s important that every team member learn the ability to empathize with different disciplines across the team and connect the dots where appropriate.  It’s equally important that each team member feels that they can leverage their deep subject matter expertise to deliver tangible contributions.  As stakeholders usually designate a leader to run an innovation project, that leader must act as a servant leader to bring the very best out of the multidisciplinary team.  The team owns the product, not the individual … and the leadership should do all they can to enable the team’s success.

The more these teams are enabled, nurtured and protected, the more its participants will shape company culture.  That culture might take on many different variations depending on the team and topic, but the underlying foundation will be rooted in mutual trust and respect.  In my experience, when that exists, it’s quite inspiring to see what a multidisciplinary team can do.  I truly believe this form of collaboration is the currency of where our future innovation will come from in the years ahead.

As in any of my blog posts, these views are my own … but I’d be remiss in not giving credit to the great folks that have inspired this perspective along my career path.  Whether you presently work in mixed teams or highly specialized departments, I would love to hear what you think.  There are many different perspectives on this topic, and I’m sure we can learn from each other.  In many ways, innovation in the future will take a “village.”  I hope you enjoyed this post and consider it just another ingredient that helps enable dreams, design and life.  Thanks for reading … k.g.b.

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Recharging in Portland ...

After a tough project, I recently took some time off to get re-centered and relax.  I've been itching to get back to Portland for some time.  LA is cool, but I missed the natural serenity, the ample green and the clean environment that comes with living in the Pacific Northwest.   I missed my friends even more, and my 5 years in Portland introduced to some truly incredible people doing great things with their God given talents.  So I made the trip and Portland did not disappoint.  

The universe conspired with me as many of my folks were in town and available.   The man who gave me a shot to design my first pair of Nike footwear (D'Wayne Edwards), happened to be hosting the 4th annual PENSOLE Footwear Academy final presentation with the Art Center College of Design student cohort.  It was nice to see D'Wayne, Matt Rhoades, Suzette Henry, Karen Hofmann and all my SOLE-brothers and SOLE-sisters.   Having been a part of the first PENSOLE/ACCD class four years ago, the lack of sleep in the students' eyes was all too familiar.

The next day, I visited with my friend and mentor Kevin Carroll, author of the acclaimed Rules of the Red Rubber Ball, What's Your Red Rubber Ball?! and The Red Rubber Ball at Work.  As an author, speaker and prolific change agent, it was really nice to hear of the new projects he's involved in to advance "ball, betterment and play" as he puts it.  His experiences are testimony on what it means to really go after achieving your true potential.  Upon hearing what I've been up to, he encouraged me to keep solidifying my unique value prop and leaving the right legacy for my team to follow.

Over the course of the trip, I managed to see a number of friends over great Portland cuisine.  Seeing that most of my PDX friends came from my time at Nike, it was nice to hear what everyone was up to in their journeys navigating career, family and natural transitions that come with life.  The conversations were a strong reminder of the need to surround yourself with people who aspire to make a difference, share your values and work tirelessly at their craft.  My friends are reinventing approaches within Nike, improving communities and organizations outside of Nike, and addressing the needs of underserved groups.   Together, we shared perspectives that offered fresh insight to advance our individual causes.

At the close of my vacation, my mind is refreshed and my perspective re-centered on what truly matters.  I left Portland with a heightened sense of purpose ... to not live a life on an endless treadmill, but to continue living a life of courage ... that allows me to close the gap between my current path and my true potential ... and to lead by example for others I'm mentoring and managing ... to ensure they see the same bright runway for themselves.



What design IS to me ...

First off, Happy New Year!  One resolution I'm working on is to sketch more stuff that's not related to my immediate professional work.  I like to sketch existing designs that really speak to me (e.g. appreciating the lines that go into the new Porsche 911) as well as reimagine my own takes on potential products.  I love to sketch, and it boosts my creative energy ... and I love that I can always get better.  

Back in 2010, I decided to leave Nike to pursue additional education in the fields of industrial design and strategic innovation.  Nike was a great place to cut my teeth in design, but I wanted a proper ID foundation to round out my multidisciplinary skills.  Thankfully, Art Center College of Design provided the proper grounding, along with the continued support of my Nike creative friends and mentors, and eventually the creative network I would soon find in LA.

Over the last several years, many discoveries have helped solidify my frame of reference and perspective with regard to Design.  I'm also sure that these notions will evolve considerably depending on the project or season I'm in (even depending on the day and how strong my coffee happens to be) ... but that's what blogs are for, to share perspective that could be helpful for someone navigating their own circumstances, and to serve as an open forum to collect alternative viewpoints as well.  Here's 5 notions that have been rattling around my brain ...

  • Design IS process - unearthing insight, making connections, exhausting the possibilities, converging on something interesting, prototyping and getting real-time feedback ... and not being afraid to "kill your darlings" to fail (and recover) early and often is the signs of a good process that will surely yield good fruit.  The process has never failed me, even though I fail a lot within the process.
  • Design IS problem-solving - in relation to the first point, we push on the boundaries, bounce off constraints, reference historical patterns, balance art and science, emulate archetypes, calculate, imagine, cross-reference and iterate incessantly until we must deliver our best work ... always balancing the critical path, the team, the budget and, most importantly, the latent needs of our target audience.
  • Design IS beauty - opposite the problem solving, we desire to "produce" beautiful forms and interpretations that surround the intent of what it is we're creating.  We won't feel good until we are satisfied with our form, typography, composition, CMF, branding, etc. constantly badgering everything that leaves our fingertips.  In immediate contradiction to this statement, we're never satisfied and will never feel like we're finished.
  • Design IS a lasting story - personally, I spend less energy on aesthetic exercises that chase a fad or a flavor of the month.  Design should have intent ... addressing a real purpose and enabling the end-user to accomplish a compelling narrative of experience.  I prefer consuming products and services that are built to last ... they have staying power, sustainability and offer many years of utility and enjoyment.  The advent of digital has advanced these notions as a static device can find renewed life through firmware updates, connection to other artifacts, the cloud, etc.   How are we thoughtfully designing "staying power" in our products and services?  How are we designing 'surprise and delight' moments that line up to our most meaningful life triggers?
  • Design IS currency - I strongly believe that our future economy will be fueled by what sit's at the beautiful intersection of strategy, design and technology.  Design will be a key differentiator, not exemplified by the mere beauty of our expression, but a cornerstone in the design of business models, the viability conveyed in user-centered prototypes ... the human-centered differentiators that design brings to the table to dis-intermediate and disrupt.  The root of it all will be our ability in conceiving authentic experiences that will revolutionize how people feel.  The brands that do that well will win in the future economy.

There you go.  Please chime in and let me know what's top of mind for you when you think of Design.  Even though we've been designing since the beginning of the time, this field is still very "new" to a lot of people.  We can't talk about it enough.

Thanks ... peace, love and blessings, k.g.b.

P.S. - I've also been toying with the notion of video-posts ... it's something that I might try for the next one.  If you have preferences on format, I'm all ears.  ... and I especially appreciate your Likes, Shares and Retweets on social media.  It means the world that you stop and visit.  Cheers, k.g.b.



Contemplating "invisible design" (GigaOm Roadmap 2014) ...

Last week was amazing.  Our team moved into its new digs in Manhattan Beach (a state of the art 25,000 sq. ft. facility geared for multidisciplinary innovation), and not even after a full day, I was on a plane for a conference as well as other meetings in the Bay Area.  My family is up there, so it was nice to catch them for dinner before heading into the city for the GigaOm Roadmap 2014 Conference.   Considering the list of speakers, I had high expectations for the event.

This year's theme was "Invisible Design."  As the title implies ... this wasn't about showcasing beautiful objects and feeding into conventional paradigms that indirectly limit Design's full potential.  This was about showcasing how design is creating big opportunities against latent unmet needs, and that the notion of interface (if done well) seemingly fades into the background, How can Design satisfy people's best intents at every step in their journey.

Every speaker celebrated "Invisible Design" by sharing their personal stories, case studies and thought leadership.  No one tried to assert a definitive answer of what "Design" should be in this context.  What struck me was the genuine nature of each conversation ... everyone spoke from a sincere place based on their product war stories and the infectious passion for their craft.  The couple days felt really genuine, and it was breath of fresh air.

A few notable remarks:

  • "large organizations are cultures designed not to change ... we forget that the big design problem is a problem of culture" - John Maeda (KPCB)
  • "design functions as an editor ... constantly editing the experience and taking away the unnecessary" - Yves Behar (Fuseproject)
  • "even messy data can tell a story" - Simon Rogers (Twitter)
  • "ignoring expectations, makes you see the world in a fresh way" - K.K. Barrett (production designer for the movie HER)
  • "It's not about the product or business (which may be obsolete in 5 years), it's the culture you create" - Tony Fadell (Nest)

I definitely walked away from GigaOm Roadmap 2014 with a good set of guiding principles and exemplars that can inform our ongoing work.  Much appreciation and thanks to the GigaOm team for putting together an amazing two days.  It was also nice to find time with PCH Industries, Lime Labs as well as my good friend Jason Mayden, who introduced me to the stellar team at Mark One (creators of the Vessyl intelligent drinking cup).  Thankful for a great couple of days in the Bay.

Peace and blessings, k.g.b.




Child-like discovery ...

My 5 year old son recently discovered his affinity for drawing and coloring.  He now wants to do it all the time, and that makes me a very happy father.  At first, he had to overcome the frustration of learning how to hold his crayons correctly and keep his scribbles inside the lines.  After much practice (and overcoming the temptation to quit), his creativity takes over and he doesn't hesitate to sit down and create his next masterpiece.  He's very curious about all the things he can draw.

His efforts earned him a family trip to the LACMA this weekend.  At the tender age of 5, one might wonder if he'd care or get bored.  Navigating a matrix of rubber tubes or watching a movie on samurai sword making, his eyes of wonder told the value of the trip.  Through exposures like this ... he discovers ... he imitates ... he improvises ... and he ultimately creates.  I want him to see how amazing the world is, and that he can discover any part of it.  This was an underpinning I was blessed to receive from my parents, and I'm especially conscious to pass it along to my son.

As I witness my son's journey of discovery, I'm reminded of the important lessons we should also embrace in our adulthood ...

1. How can we maintain a 'child-like' attitude when discovering new things ... and avoid allowing our baggage to pervade the moment.  Baggage comes in many forms ... our comfort zone, our biases, fear of failure, judgement, skepticism, etc.  Maybe we can learn how to give our baggage the back seat and be more open to child-like discover, no matter how spontaneous the discoveries come.

2. How can we make it a regular habit to try something new ... every day, every week, every month.  Sometimes we have to purposely interrupt our regular routine by prioritizing a change in pace.  Maybe I'll try a morning run when I'm not a morning person.  Maybe, I'll try that art class on the other side of town.  Maybe I'll take a weekend trip to a city I've always been curious about.

3. When we find those things that really resonate with us, are we prepared to make an effort to find out more?  It's not by accident that you felt that way, and it's worth digging a bit more to see what's there.  Maybe your discovery becomes a new hobby ... maybe you meet someone who shares the same curiosity ... maybe you find a doorway to help someone ... and maybe this becomes your career.  

4.  When we find that "something" and aim to want to do more of it, are we prepared to overcome the initial frustrations that set in when things get difficult.   Practice does make perfect.  Mastering the fundamentals will lead you to a place where you'll eventually think less about "holding the crayon", and more about letting your new "something" take you to new places.

Be child-like ... make a habit of seeking new exposure ... dig deeper when it resonates ... practice that thing that moves your spirit ... and new doors of opportunity will surely open up to you.

Let me know what new discoveries you've made recently ... and how you prioritize getting after your curiosities.  Let's help each other do better about following through on them.  Who knows, it might become our life's work.  If we don't try, we'll never know.

Peace, love and blessings.   k.g.b.



Welcome and thank you ...

Thank you for stopping by my newly reformatted website.  It's been a crazy few years since the release of the last version, and I'm really happy to be back blogging with you again.  I've taken some time to simplify things and ensure we have a seamless platform to exchange ideas, inspiration and perspective.  Feel free to poke around, leave a note and spread the word.  

It's no secret that we seem to be getting busier and busier these days.  Often life can get away from us if we don't keep our priorities in order and make some time for our dreams.  I'm a subscriber that you can take back control and "design your life" (paraphrasing Karim Rashid).  My hope is that this site and blog will encourage you to find those moments where you can explore the beauty that is inside you, and have faith that following through on your curiosity will mean something to your life and the broader world.  

Much love, peace and blessings, k.g.b.