Celebrating my 30th Workshop


Celebrating my 30th workshop. I’ve done them now for clients and internal teams, with small teams and with groups as large as 70. And yes, they get a bit unwieldy at that size. And here’s what I’ve learned along the way;

  1. Stakeholder buy-in is essential. Both for the workshop itself and all activities that come after the workshop. If you don’t have that level of commitment – don’t bother with the workshop.
  2. Preparation makes the workshop. The more research, data and analytics you have, the more impactful the workshop. And the more prep you have the better you are able to identify the opportunities to create better products and services. And super bonus if you can present all of it in a manner that is simple and visual.
  3. Don’t bring people in cold. Give participants some homework. Keep it light and easy.
  4. Watch your data. Don’t bog the room down with endless detail. There is nothing more soporific than the sonorous tones of someone spewing endless data points.
  5. Stay on your toes and read the room. Discussions should be lively. Keep it flowing. If eyelids are drooping and laptops and devices start to appear, it’s a pretty likely bet that you are losing your audience.
  6. Make sure to get people out of their seats. Workshops aren’t meant to be passive butt-in-chair experiences. Numerous studies have shown that people think better when they are on their feet. But don’t take it as far as a dance class.
  7. In the workshop make a mental note of those participants who are not participating for whatever reason. Easy to identify them when you are standing in front of the room. Sit with them. Work with them. In the end, they’ll appreciate it the most.
  8. One more workshop doesn’t an answer make. Focus on tangible outcomes. Testable prototypes, a research plan, KPIs, and identifying product owners should just be a few mandatories.
  9. Get to prioritization as quickly as you can.
  10. All eyes are on you. Stand tall. Move around. Drink water. Remember names. And make sure to personally thank and acknowledge everyone in the room.





Architecture swallows violence. The streets are washed clean. The walls patched. The holes filled. The windows repaired. And the names and lives of those lost are slowly forgotten. Mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins. Human lives lost. Human possibilities erased. An Einstein or a Curie or a Buddha. A shop owner or a waiter. A Van Gogh or Matisse or a Brahms or Beethoven. A farmer or seamstress. They might have led the world to peace. Or they might have written a poem that would have touched you deeply. Or offered you a smile. Or written a song. But they are dead now. Killed violently by whatever act. And their stories are forgotten. Washed away. Except for those who knew them. Architecture swallows all. And we are quick to oblige and forget and erase the pain with the spray of a hose and a patch of plaster.

What if we could change the world one story at a time? What if we could tell the story of each of those people who were violently killed so they don’t just remain a forgotten statistic? What if we had the potential to affect the next wave of violence by telling the stories of those who were murdered for whatever false cause or madness? What if those stories had the power to spread compassion and empathy and gave pause to anyone who contemplated committing these terrible anti-human acts?

This is Loved, a site and mobile app for remembering. It brings the stories of each of those victims back to the last place they were seen laughing, shopping with friends or carrying a child. And gives them back their dignity and humanity as they deserve.

We can change the world, one story at a time. They were loved. And this is how we might start.


Songlines: Part One

Bruce Chatwin’s book, The Songlines, inspired me to think how I might design an application that would enable composers to create and map music to a specific geography. In the book Chatwin describes Songlines as, “…the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as ‘Dreaming-tracks’ or ‘Songlines’; to the Aboriginals as the ‘Footprints of the Ancestors’ or the ‘Way of the Lore’. Songlines are songs that describe paths, features and specific locations through the outback that are essential to the creation myths, survival and identity of a clan. They are, in many ways, a map that is sung. And they are accurate enough so that a clan member can walk across the Australian landscape for hundreds of miles – and sometimes across the whole continent – without getting lost. Handed down orally from generation to generation over the course of thousands of years they were eventually recorded in physical form as churingas. Pictured below, churingas are essentially mnemonic devices that were used by the Aborigines to recall specific Songlines. They are like tribal vinyl records. Like the grooves in a vinyl record, the shapes, ridges and features of each help the fingers of the clan elder recall the Songline. I cannot imagine the years and years(and years) of knowledge accumulated in each churinga. They are sacred to the Aborigines and it is sad to see one in a museum or a collection as it means that the Songline associated with the churinga and that specific path across the Australian bush – is gone and lost forever.

Giving the power of creating a Songline to a composer would be pretty remarkable. Imagine a composition created by Philip Glass or Arvo Pärt or Brian Eno that is contextual to a location – a walk down Broadway for example. The faster or slower you walked and your direction – perhaps even the time of day and season, would affect the composition making the experience of the music unique to you. This envelope of sound would become, in essence, your personal soundtrack to your experience of the landscape around you. Perhaps even other listeners to the same Songline might affect the music based on their proximity or distance from you. Perhaps you could swap Songlines – experience a Songline created by a friend. Perhaps even the listening to the Songline might be enhanced and affected by ambient sounds – like RJDJ or the new “here” ear buds from Doppler Labs. I’ll keep working on this idea and post my progress as I go.

In 2011 Bluebrain created an app similar to this idea meant specifically to be listened to while walking through Central Park. Songlines would take it a step further by creating tools that any musician could use. Stay tuned.


The Stack of Sedition


Tinder’s use of a very familiar mental model – a stack of cards – is break through design work. Like a stack of cards it is a true thumb first expression of designing for mobile – first. The mental model – a stack of cards – encourages exploration and, though less efficient an interface at processing information than other mobile apps, it is addictive because the mental model is so strongly associated with the “just one more” of rifling through a physical deck of cards. The addictive quality of sorting cards to find just the right one is seditious for mobile design as it illustrates the limited amount of mental models that we have to work with as designers. Tinder’s cards fit the format of a mobile device and make the device feel more like an actual deck of cards in your hand. There are very few mobile apps that enhance the experience of the device to such an extent that the experience is “felt” in your hand. The challenge for designers is to design mobile applications where the model of interaction is enhanced by the format…and platform – and in turn enhance the experience of mobile.

Christmas Cards

Deckled edges, two colors only, minimal lines and shapes, hand drawn. Feels just right working pen and paper making these. I was in the flow.


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Posted in Art

Old Cultural Models

I’m still surprised to see ad agencies struggle after nearly 20 years but it occurred to me a few weeks back that most ad agencies are having a hard time modernizing and adapting to the needs of the new customer because they are stuck and organized internally in an old cultural model that has a history in the hierarchical models of production for film and television. Not terribly surprising and not terribly wrong. But the cultural struggle within these ad agencies is this friction between a very strict and hierarchical model where “advertising” teams who report to a CD are fundamentally different than that of a “digital” team who, by necessity born out of the complexity of their deliverables, are flat and collaborative. To reduce friction is to focus creative teams on developing work that is informed by customer needs and driven to change customer behaviors – for the better – first. Focussing on real customer needs and understanding real behaviors requires a much more robust and holistic view of the more permeable and fluid nature of marketing and branding today. A hierarchical culture is more brittle and cannot anticipate uncertainty nearly as well as a more collaborative system of working together. I would posit that a move to a more collaborative way of working that is more clearly focussed on discovering and understanding needs and behaviors would lead to agency output that would resonate more clearly with customers. Creative that is insights driven, needs and behavior driven, requires a different kind of process than traditional pyramid models. structure1

Defining a Minimally Viable Experiment

Using Maslow to define need states, there is a hypothetical starter set of desirable features or services that, over time, are supported by learning. The mandatories – functional and usable – are built first. The topmost sections of the pyramid would not exist without the foundational work. The emphasis, however, is always on the learning.


The Monkey Mind


Thoughts being those random things that jet around our heads. Attachment being the tension/reaction when becoming aware of the thought. Awareness being the “self” or emotional state that is defined by the attachment to that thought. Letting go is becoming aware of the attachment and reaction to that thought.

Story Mapping


This time with a financial services client. Always fun to do with clients whose product or service impacts our everyday lives so directly. We spent several months developing very robust personas – based on data and analytics from a wide range of sources. It’s the best way to go and makes the workshop flow more easily as people get a real feel for the customer.