My one year anniversary at IBM Design is on the horizon. Ten months in I have successfully co-created a new program that provides systematic incubation capabilities available to every business unit at company. More importantly, I have, as Monteiro puts it, I "designed" sixty designers. Together we created nine new products and services for a wide array of business domains including global procurement services, cognitive Internet of Things, cognitive education, cloud product support, cloud marketing SAAS, and Blockchainpatents pending.
I have learned a lot about myself and where I want to go in my career in the last year. After closing Happy Cog Austin, I was repeatedly asked what I wanted to do, and I didn't have a good answer at the time. It goes without saying that I wasn't prepared to go from studio owner one day to unemployed the next.
Now, after a year of working on the Incubator Program, I know without a doubt that I love leading and mentoring designersespecially the ones right out of school. I have had the privilege of working with world-class talent. But after time, I realized that as much as I enjoyed leading with these teams, I grew weary of having to start over after six-week sprints. It takes a lot of effort, energy, and passion to take a team of strangers and turn them into a highly functional product design team within a few weeks. I enjoyed the challenge, but I got tired of saying goodbye.
So I have been on a search for a different type of experience. I thought for sure this meant leaving Austin to join a team on the West coast. Many conversations were had, and multiple opportunities were on the horizon, but something seemingly came out of nowhere that I was not expecting.
A few weeks ago I was invited to join a new team at IBM with a mandate to duplicate the success of the Austin studio around the world (That's right folks; Storey Style is going international). While I genuinely want to be reunited with the Pacific Time Zone, this is an opportunity I could not pass up. In this new role, I have the pleasure of working directly with design leaders I admire, and some of you know: Nigel Prentice, Sarah Nelson, and Doug Powell, who has a new role of his own.
In my first year at IBM, I proved that I've still got it when it comes to leading team's of designers to fantastic outcomes at a large scale. My attention will now be focused on building a global community for studio directors and design leaders in every continent except that cold one down South.
West Coast, I will see you soon, but I've got a new job to do.
One evening, eleven years ago, I got an instant message from Cameron Moll. He asked if he could show me some work he recently completed. After agreeing to keep what I was about to see a secret, he sent over a hyperlink. I clicked the link and got my very first look at Authentic Jobs.
Cameron had a history of posting design jobs to his blog. Those posts became so popular that employers and recruiters started sending him emails asking to have their job listing posted. Seeing an opportunity, Cameron, got to work creating one of the first job boards devoted to our trade.
That evening, he also showed me a new addition to the sidebar of his blog featuring links to the last five job listings. Wanting to help a friend, I asked how I could put that list on my site, Airbag. As I recall, Cameron seemed slightly confused that someone would want to help promote his site, but a few weeks later I got the code and happily added it to my site.
That gesture turned into an opportunity to join the advisory board for Authentic Jobs. I served for ten years, happily peppering Cameron with ideas and thoughts on how to expand market share and revenue. Not every suggestion made it through the Storey Filter, but enough did to make me feel like a worthwhile contributor to the team.
Though I resigned from the advisory board a year ago, I am still a big supporter and fan of Cameron and his team. Last night the guys deployed a brand new Authentic Jobs that has been a long time coming. It's a big improvement, and the team should feel proud.
A weird question came across the Dear Design Student desk recently: "What are some things (if any) that designers are incapable of?"
My immediate reaction was, "nothing." Why would anyone seek to define limitations to someone's capabilities? I grew up in a community that assumed anyone from fifty miles out was better, smarter, and more successful. That point-of-view sucks and it took me decades to understand that it's simply not true.
That said, after giving the question more consideration within the context of my experiences as a designer, I uncovered more than a handful of things designers are incapable of doing.
Things Designers Simply Can't Do, The List
Each of these points was written based upon a lot of career experience earned the hard way over the last twenty-plus years. There are a lot of bad expectations out there regarding the design trade. That said, if you treat designers right, they can be capable of a lot. Give them the proper support, a collaborative environment, the freedom to do their job, and then prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
In the days after September 11th, I waited for news of terrorist attacks in small towns around the United States. As horrific as the attacks were in New York City and Washington D.C. (including the crashed plane destined for the White House), they took place in two big cities on the East Coast. At the time, I lived in Southern California, three times zones or a six-hour flight away. I felt a certain amount of security being so far away from Ground Zero (except that one time a F/A 18 flew CAP (cover and protect) above Disneyland for about an hour, that was pretty freaky).
I thought for sure a few small towns around the country were going to get hit. Nothing as spectacular killing by jet plane, but maybe a local diner or cafe shot to hell. Keep in mind, assault rifle massacres were not so common as they are now. At the time, I theorized that the best way to really shut down the United States was to hit a handful of really small towns in Middle America. Thankfully, it never happened.
This evening I read the attack in San Bernardino is being investigated federally as terrorism. And now, though I am thousands of miles away in Austin, I don't feel the same security via distance as I did fourteen years ago. Look, I'm not going to avoid public places, but with all the shit going down this year, nowhere is 100% safe. Nothing is off the table anymore: Elementary schools, university campuses, offices, government buildings, theaters, malls, coffee shops, and now Christmas parties.
Given the current state of our country--our government--I am concerned that our country's leadership will be more willing turn parts of Syria and Iraq into glass (that is to say, drop a nuclear weapon) than they are to conduct level-headed discourse and take appropriate action about access to weapons in this nation. I don't see the government willing nor able to come together to work this out.
So, Happy Holidays everyone! Drink and be merry, this will all pass soon or at least never happen in your townmaybe. And may little, Instgramable, birthday boy, baby Jesus bless the United States of AR15s.
"I work at IBM Design here in Austin." For many people outside the program, that statement doesn't do much to explain what I do or what IBM Design is and what it's trying to do. Even after I explain what I do exactly, I still get puzzled looks.
This is understandable. After six months, IBM at large is an enigma to me, but I'm learning. A lot of people I talk to think IBM makes the Thinkpad and that I'm required to wear a suit to work every day. Neither of these things is true and haven't been for some time.
This morning, the New York Times published a fantastic, well-rounded article on the IBM Design program in Austin. The piece provides a full overview, from humble beginnings to a group that is tasked with helping IBM do what it has done time-and-time again: Evolve. A major theme to the story, and where my own comes into play, is that for IBM to evolve with the times we have to hire designers at an incredible scale.
The recruiting pitch made by Mr. Gilbert and his colleagues has been essentially twofold: First, you can make a difference in socially important fields because IBM's technology plays a crucial role in health care, energy, transportation, water and even agriculture. Second, you can be part of a groundbreaking effort to apply design thinking in business.
The wonderful part of my job is to work with the new hires in their first three months and lead them through a six-week-long project that has a direct impact on a product or line of business. To date, I have led six teams of six-to-seven designers and front-end developersforty people total. And that's just my teams, there are several others.
We have created everything from re-envisioned service designs to prototypes for brand new mobile experiences. The work is real, not theoretical. The teams is tasked with a tremendous amount of research, prototyping, and user testing all the while learning how to interact with IBM executives and presenting their work for discussion and critique.
This is the type of work that would make the average new employee fold, give up, but not these young men and women. Oh, if I could share their portfolios with you! I'll just say that the recruiting department does an amazing job finding and hiring a lot of very intelligent, smart, and gifted designers to the program. And it is my pleasure to be a part of their first projects at the forefront of their career.
Tomorrow begins the last week of the current cohort. On Thursday, my three teams will present the culmination of their work to executives. It's nerve racking and exhilarating. Come Friday, "my" designers will move on to their assigned business unit, the 7th floor will go quiet, and I will begin preparing for the next wave of work in early 2016.
Last night Kitchen Storey and I came to a difficult decision that I hope will spare our marriage, reduce blood pressure, and result in a much happier life. After careful consideration based upon some bad history, we have decided to stop going to restaurants during their opening week. We are done spending good money on an intended experience that always falls through the floor.
And this is frustrating because we love to try new places and because She Who Flies All The Time is on the road, it's not often that we get into a place during their debut. It's also really frustrating because almost all of our bad experiences aren't the result of the food, but the quality of customer service.
What I don't understand is how restaurant workers, especially servers and bar tenders, who typically move from restaurant to restaurant seem to fall all over their faces during an opening week. Let me clarify that I don't take issue with food coming out at weird times. That is expected up to the point of ridiculousness (e.g. food not coming out at all). I get that it takes time for a kitchen to develop its cadence.
Good customer service is not reliant upon having a rhythm. You only need to pay attention and check-in with your customers to communicate, set expectations, and do what you can to avoid a bad experience. This is the basic structure of the relationship between the restaurant server and the patron. And yet somehow this all falls to the floor during the first weekmaybe three weeksof a restaurant opening.
I'm sure everyone is nice and doing what they can, but that's not good enough when we're dropping a few hundred dollars on, what we hope to be, an amazing meal. Thus was the case yesterday when we went to Wu Chow, a new Chinese place on West 5th in downtown Austin. It wasn't the white-hot mess that we experienced at Juliet's opening weekend back in July, but here again, we left the restaurant wanting for a better experience and making excuses.
I love that Austin is growing and with it an ever-expanding restaurant scene, but I'm done paying for on-the-job training for servers, bar tenders, and the like. I'm happy to be a user tester, but not on my American Express. There is nothing special gained by attending an opening other than bragging about itwhich would be cool if I was still in grade school.