A Leader on Teamwork, Credit, & Anonymity

March 13, 2012

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” – unknown

There’s a simple honesty inherent in that quote. It applies to 3rd graders as it applies to adults. It applies to business and the workplace as it does to sports and politics and education and seemingly everything else in life.

It’s a nugget of wisdom that has stood the test of time.

A line that many of us were taught at one point growing up, and one that many of us have forgotten along the way.

It feels wrong to give credit for what appears to be an almost universal truth — especially when giving credit goes against the spirit of the quote itself — but apparently that was said in these words by Harry S. Truman, 32nd president of the United States. But it reads better attributed to ‘unknown’, doesn’t it.


An American Icon on Succinct & Simple Design

September 16, 2011

His words rocked.

If I’d had the time, I’d have written a shorter letter.”

Mark Twain  (1835-1910)

When a good quote starts appearing again and again in your life, you got to honor it. Got to. We’ll leave it at that.

Design/Strategy Conf. 2011: In Their Own Words

June 1, 2011

A few weeks back I attended the Design/Strategy conference, put on by the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago. Overall it was a solid lineup. A quirky and broad range of speakers, discussing the cross-sections of design, strategy and business. Rather than try to sum it up myself, below are some of the more memorable and inspirational quotes I captured from the two-day affair. Read and absorb. Read and absorb.

(Photo not of the actual conference. But it looked similar, I promise.)

“Design research:  how to know
Design thinking:  what to do
Design skills:  how to do it
Design Awareness:  how to choose”  – Bill Moggridge, director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

“All of our systems that work have been designed and proven for a stable world. Now the world is more dynamic and shifting. The frame is constantly changing… The amount of relearning that each of us have to do today is stunning — the half-life of many skills are 5 years…  Learning is a play between context and content: How do I make this strange new idea familiar?… Now, increasingly, we cultivate, we don’t teach.”  “Let me alter the music of a film and I can alter not only its meaning but also what you can actually see.”  -John Seely Brown, visiting scholar and adviser to the Provost at University of Southern California   

“Form is disappearing. Look at all the mobile phones, they look similar. TVs are the same way. The focus has shifted to the UI.”  -Kun-Pyo Lee, head of the Corporate Design Center and EVP at LG Electronics in Seoul, Korea

“Don’t despair, once the Flintstones understood that the pelicans could mix cement, then they understood innovation.”  “Complexity is the number of independent variables behaving independently in a predictable way.  And design is a special vitamin, which taken daily helps with complexity.”  -Jim Hackett, president and CEO of Steelcase, Inc.

“Your best ideas are the worst. Your actual prototypes will make you feel like that… In tech, know your first release is not a final product, just a hi-fi prototype.”  “You have a brilliant idea every day. If there’s no process to channel those ideas, you have a problem.” – Guillermo Krovblit, co-founder of Peapod Labs

“3-D printers mark the beginning of a change where goods aren’t so scarce, its the design of the goods that are.”  “[These days] built to last means built to change.” – told to him by ‘a writer’  “We are trending away from hoarding towards sharing.”  – Chris Meyer, founder of Monitor Talent, entrepreneur, executive, consultant, author, and leader of a think tank

The conference's home: the incredible Spertus institute in Chi-town.

“What we need to teach is passion with purpose.  Our school system is missing this… One of the best ways of learning is to own the learning.”  -Neeru Khosia, co-founder and executive director of CK-12 Foundation

“In the future it will not be important where product is produced. What will be important is who are the customers and where they are.” “Of 6.3 million college graduations in 2010 in China, 136,900 were from the design field. 9630 grads were from 1125 industrial design programs.” -Jun Cai, a leading design educator and researcher in China

“Design of course is this wondrous, rich, ambiguous, hard-to-figure-out kind of thing… Design happens at the intersection of possibilities, constraints and uncertainties.”  –Jeanne Liedtka, professor of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia

“The more value we create [for the 4 billion people in poverty] at the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’/our customers, the more we create for ourselves. We can’t just think about building ventures, we have to think about the ecosystem around these things.”  –Ted London, research fellow at the William Davidson Institute & faculty member of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

“If your ambition is not much higher than your resources, you will not succeed.”  (referring to entrepreneurs in poverty in India)  “Success [in design & business] rests on insights, a blend of logic of observation. Not just intuition.”  – Jamshyd Godrej, chairman of the board of Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Company

“There are emerging trends from our speakers. 1) The problems are tougher than every before. 2) Analysis and Synthesis are fusing.” “Analysis is what you should’ve done beforehand had you known what you know last year.”  – Larry Keeley, design strategist and president and co-founder of Doblin Inc.

Quote Me: Insight from a Man with a Moustache

April 15, 2011

A piece of art.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.”

Marcel Proust (French “essayist”, 1871-1922)

First things first. Happy Tax Day, America.

I had thrown this quote into a presentation a while back, and was reminded about it the other night when reading through Bill Buxton’s Sketching User Experiences. A fine read, about design and innovation, the technology development process, and the importance of sketching in any creative work. It’s loaded with wisdom, engaging anecdotes, and fine visuals. And a unique writing style, a rare combination of academic and grounded… cocktail party talk. Sort of like talking with a professor you think is cool but you aren’t completely sold yet… you think you like him, you’re mostly picking up what he’s putting down. And as far as non-fiction goes, it actually makes for decent beside reading.

Anyways, back to the quote. Good quote. Read it again.

Quote Me: What the Drug and Tech Industries have in Common

January 15, 2011

There are only two industries that refer to their customers as “users”.

— Edward Tufte (American statistician, information designer)


I finally had a chance to attend a Tufte conference (more of a “talk” really, a lecture with posters for sale) a few months back in Chicago. Great experience for anyone working in an increasingly data-driven world — not just us information/design/user-experience/technology professionals. I would’ve posted a review but was too immersed in his data visualization books during the weeks following… or something like that.

So I’ll leave it short and sweet:  A good thinker. A talented presenter. A solid story-teller. Even for those who disagree with his principles, who poke fun at his stance on PowerPoint, check him out if the opportunity presents itself. Even if his views differ from your own, it’s a great way to get some perspective on presenting information and visualizing data. Think better.

Quote Me: A Fine Take on an Age-Old Battle

November 11, 2009

Chair in Sun

“Design is where science and art break even.”

                                                        – Robin Matthew

(Not to get too spiritual on you readers.. but c’mon, it’s deep!)

Quote Me: Mr. Lightbulb on Persistence

July 27, 2009
See? Even when you fail, you succeed.

See? Even when you fail, you succeed.

Sometimes I feel like the importance of persistence in creating great designs (and in life in general) is overlooked. Inspiration, genius, and creativity may be more fun to talk about, but just like Grandma said… nothing holds a torch to determination mixed with hard work. Few illustrated this better than American inventor Thomas Edison. The man once produced 50,000 failed experiments in his quest to create the nickel-iron battery.

Yes you read that correctly. Fifty. Thousand.

When asked along the way whether he had become downhearted with the lack of progress, Edison replied: 

Downhearted?  We’ve made a lot of progress.  At least we know 50,000 things that won’t work!”