Well, it’s hard to believe, but it has now been officially two months since I last set foot in an office environment as a regular daily practice, i.e. “my day job”. Whoa! What’s happened since then?
After departing Peel, a consumer startup trying to improve the “universal remote problem” via smartphone apps, I set upon a personal sabbatical of sorts, with nothing lined up. Crazy? Sure, it’s a bold, daring move. Yet, I last did this upon leaving Cisco in the summer of 2008—while major financial institutions were crashing all around, no less! So that kinda worked out OK…And, in certain rare moments you reach a critical, personal “crossing of the threshold” where your values & principles are at incredibly intense odds with external demands or pressures, thus you simply need to break away and pursue a personal path of self-discovery, right? There’s that conflict of intention, expectation, and benefit that’s just too overwhelming, demanding escape. So that you can then, in effect, become more attuned to the subtler, nuanced aspects of whatever it is that drives you and elevates your aspirations to even greater levels, which tend to get drowned out–or ground down–amid the combative frenetic pace of an emergent, hi-tech development context—for instance ;-)
So I took a break…I traveled. I tried new foods—Japanese style hot dogs! I experienced new things—flying in a seaplane in crazy fog and rain! I met up with other design professionals in Europe. I gave talks on design in Pittsburgh and Copenhagen, and met with design leaders tackling similar issues. I caught up with childhood friends and family, to remind myself what matters most. I drove an Audi A4 Performance Edition in the Texas heat for 8 hours—awesome but tiring! I gave guest lectures at Carnegie Mellon and CCA in San Francisco, as well. Great ways to meet the new generation of designers excited to dive into the madness …that I had left behind ;-)
All the while, though, I have been quietly reflecting upon a variety of conundrums at the core of being a designer and practicing design, such as:
• What does partnership truly mean with dynamic, contested personalities & agendas?
• How can design leadership be measured effectively, the signals for success, and by whose standards?
• What is the path of design authority and influence in immature yet evolving and chaotic contexts?
• How can innovation of the business model happen in tandem with creating novel experience models?
• Why is design still so damn misunderstood, with the lack of bonafide investments in resources and process?
• How do we preserve the strategic significance of design value amid the wild torrents of short-sighted, tactical frenzy?
Not an easy mix of questions! Lots of hard soul searching required at the personal level of unearthing whatever it takes to plod onward into the murky yet fiery depths of politics, requirements, logistics, etc. And also at that broader level of how to engage and educate organization leaders to want to dig into these tough issues with an open-minded attitude, together. Whew…
But it’s definitely time to get busy and start fresh tackling these challenges, with a new outlook and approach… Stay tuned!