The Crazy One

Ep 26 Creativity: Have better ideas with better insights and a creative palette

December 17, 2016 Stephen Gates Episode 26
The Crazy One
Ep 26 Creativity: Have better ideas with better insights and a creative palette
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The Crazy One
Ep 26 Creativity: Have better ideas with better insights and a creative palette
Dec 17, 2016 Episode 26
Stephen Gates

A continuation of Episode 1 ‘Lightbulbs are bullsh*t’ that helped you understand your creative process, we now look at how to better develop your creative palette to evaluate your work, find new areas of insights and opportunities, and judge the quality of those insights.

SHOW NOTES:
http://thecrazy1.com/episode-26-creativity-creativity-is-a-blue-collar-profession/
 
FOLLOW THE CRAZY ONE:
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Show Notes Transcript

A continuation of Episode 1 ‘Lightbulbs are bullsh*t’ that helped you understand your creative process, we now look at how to better develop your creative palette to evaluate your work, find new areas of insights and opportunities, and judge the quality of those insights.

SHOW NOTES:
http://thecrazy1.com/episode-26-creativity-creativity-is-a-blue-collar-profession/
 
FOLLOW THE CRAZY ONE:
Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook 

Stephen Gates :

What's going on everybody, and welcome to the 26th episode of The Crazy One podcast. As always, I'm your host, Stephen Gates. And this is the show where we talk about creativity, leadership, design, and a whole host of other things that matter to creative people. I want to go back and revisit the topic that we talked about, actually in the very first episode of this podcast. And what we talked about was creativity. In that episode, in particular, we talked about how light bulbs are bullshit. We talked about how most people have got this twisted notion that whenever you have an idea that there's this big explosion, that there's a light bulb that there's this moment where the clouds part and it rains, champagne and puppies, and all of a sudden, all your problems are solved. And the reality is, is that's just not the way it works. But the other reality is, is that that show really just started to touch on this topic. Because what that show really did was it just looked at trying to put you in touch with your creative process. It looked at trying to put you in touch with how to you have ideas But the reality is that there's more to it than that, that that's just a process. That the other part that becomes so important. The other part where I see creatives struggle so much are what do you put into that process? What are the insights, the opportunities, the observations that you put into that, that you can then build ideas on? So that's what we're going to talk about in this episode. I want to talk a little about how do we find those insights? How do we find those opportunities? How do we make those the foundations for the ideas that you need to have? And how do we plug those into your creative process? Because that's probably the more important part. That's the part where you're going to find real separation, in your work in your career and in everything you do is your ability to see what others don't? Because that's really where you're gonna make the mark in your career because the reality is, well, the reality is that I think we can Coming back, I keep coming back to talk about creativity to talk about having ideas. And I think that honestly, it's getting to the point where I'm starting to struggle with Why am I talking about this so much? Why am I getting so many questions about this? Why is it when I speak at all these different events, that so many people are clamoring for leadership, so many people are clamoring to understand creativity. And in the last episode, in Episode 25, I started talk a little bit about what are some of the problems that I see in the design industry today. And I'll be honest, over the past week, I tried to let that go. I tried to let go some of the things that have been gnawing at me about our industry because I think whenever I think about this podcast, what I want to do is I want to share information. I want to share things that I've learned. I want to share hope and I want to share ways that people can grow. But I also think that you know what, sometimes for you to grow, you need to hear the truth. We're gonna indulge in probably a very short lived intervention or rant or something here is that if we all want to get better creativity, if we all want to get better at our craft and what we're doing, we need to be aware of and we need to overcome what are really kind of two major shifts that have recently happened in the design industry. And we need to wake up to it, and we need to see it for what it is. And we need to understand how do we overcome it? Because the first shift that I really see is that we have become an industry we have become a group of professionals that suddenly value beauty over everything else. We crave the instant gratification that we've learned from social media, we've become infatuated with our likes on Instagram, that all of a sudden we've started to deify and look up to these internet famous designers. And it's a problem. And I think that some of the leaders of our industry also need to understand what they're doing to contribute to that problem, and I'm not one, to really kind of call people out by name, I don't think it's productive. I don't think it's healthy. everybody's opinion is based on something. But I think that there are times that if you are in a certain place in this industry, if you are sharing opinions about what's going on, I think that comes with the responsibility. And the one that I had a front row seat to fairly recently, as I saw this year, I traveled to speak at a conference in Miami. And as usual, the speeches that I was asked to give or on create creativity and leadership, these are continued to be the things that everybody wants to hear about. But one of the things that I saw there was that one of the big keynotes, one of the ones that filled the big conference room was from Stefan sagmeister. sevens been around for a long time. He does beautiful work. sagmeister and Walsh has done some groundbreaking design work, I will not dispute any of that. It's something that I certainly look to whenever I'm designing something, for insight for inspiration for the creative process that leads them to do Do something differently. But the problem that I had was that I watched Stephen stand on stage for 45 minutes, and giving a talk that espoused on the virtues of beauty. That that was what we needed to be doing. We needed to be investing more in beauty as creative people. That's what we needed to aspire to. And I guess it's just something that I have to disagree with. And I think it's a trend that we need to all start to become much more aware of, because the reality is as a creative director, as somebody who leads a team, the world is filled with people that can make pretty pictures. There is filled with people who can create beauty. They can make their own typefaces, they can do all these sorts of things, and that's fantastic. But the problem is, that is somebody who leads a team, as somebody who is trying to be somebody that is pushing this industry forward. I don't need just beauty. What I need is I need people who can create ideas. I need people who can lead teams I need people who can change companies. And that's becoming damn near impossible, because it's just this is this idea of just beauty, I just think is grossly irresponsible, that we're taking beauty. We're taking this instant gratification, we're taking the dopamine hits that we're getting off of social media. And we're placing that over the real satisfaction that comes with creating something meaningful. The problem is, is that there are no shortcuts, that to be creative, takes patience, it takes hard work. And both of those are in increasingly short supply. And the reason why I get so pissed off about this, and the reason why I've decided to talk about it, after debating it for so long, is because the reality is, is that we live in an age where designers have a seat at the leadership table that we have to answer for far more than just beauty. Because aspiring to only create beauty is a dangerous concept, especially with what we have at stake. Here. The reality is, is that design for the first time probably since the Industrial Revolution has been given an opportunity like never before. We are being looked at to lead change in companies we are brought in to change industries. That is a massive, massive opportunity. And I hate to break it to people, but we're blowing it. We, as a group continue to value beauty. We continue to value these sort of things that are easy. The reality is, is that if you want to do great design, if you want to do design that changes things, the best expression that I've ever heard about that I first heard from Edward tufte, he, I don't know if it was his actual quote. I don't know if he took it from somebody else. But what he said I thought hit the nail on the head is that great design is a visual expression of great thinking. And this is the problem that we have before is that we can't escape the fact that I have said this for years. I would continue to say it. I'm the only person I've heard say it. So I'm going to keep saying it until I hear other people start to say it is it creativity is a blue collar profession. We have to stop just wanting to make things. We have to stop wanting to make things that we can put on Pinterest, we have to stop wanting to make things that are just judged on their aesthetics. Because what we need to start doing is to start thinking about the value behind what we're making. There are no shortcuts to hard work. And I get sick of people. They keep asking me What's the secret to success, because it implies a shortcut. We're in an age where the people who put in the work will rise and succeed like we never have before. All of a sudden, you're seeing a chief design officers, all of a sudden you're seeing people that are at leadership tables where we've never been before, not in a really, really long time. And the problem is, is that for those of us who just want to be internet famous, those of us who want to be Pinterest popular, those of us who just want the instant gratification and the easy answers, you're going to be in for Very frustrating chapter in your career, the bar is going to rise. This is why whenever people ask me, should designers learn to code? And I say, No, they need to learn business because our work has to answer for more. It has to answer for value it has to answer for changing businesses, it has to do more than just be pretty. And I think that this is just the problem is because this is this other shift is because so many industries are in crisis. So many industries are being disrupted by the Airbnb s, the Ubers. All of these startups that these big companies need us like they never have before. And as a result, we're seeing these roles like we never have before. And so I said whenever I look back at history, not since the Industrial Revolution. Have I seen this? And I'll say it again, we're blowing it. Designers cannot hold their own at these tables. We cannot hold the conversations that we need to do. And it makes me angry that at 43 years old, all of a sudden I feel like The old man and the grumpy man in the industry who has to come out and scold people about this. Because I just see more and more designers that I interview more and more people that I talk to at conferences, who think this way, who think that it's just about pretty about creating something creating a template, creating a design that they can put on dribble that they can put on Pinterest, so they can put online and just let people like it for aesthetics. And don't get me wrong. None of this, I would not be where I am if I was not a good designer. But trust me, my career would have flatlined about 20 years ago, if that was all that I was, was a good designer. So the reality is, is that we need to wake up as a profession. We need to wake up and want more, we have to demand more. We have to aspire more, because these are the reasons why we need to do this stuff. Because just look at the podcasts we listen to look at the books that we read. We want leadership, we want creativity, but we are at an age and a time where our agencies and our companies Have a systemic failure of teaching us how to do this stuff. So the reality is if if they're going to fail, and until we can get more people in the positions to help with this, it's up to us. It's up to you, the person who's listening to this podcast, to try to take some of this stuff and invest in want for more than just pretty, because that's the problem. This is where, like I said, I see so many young designers that that's all that they want. They just want to make, they just want pretty. And whenever it comes to looking for insights, for doing the work for doing all these other things, all of a sudden that gets hard that gets uncomfortable. This is where the millennials are also hurting us and doing this and it's not their fault. This is a this is an entire generation. That is a byproduct of failed parenting strategies, that has the lowest self confidence of any generation in history. And they've also are a generation that was raised, that every solution has a right answer that if they want for it, they get it just by asking for it. All of that is completely counter What creativity is, with that rant out of the way, with it out of my system for whatever good It might have done. How do we change it? How do we start to do things differently? We've talked about the process to us. But I think that's the part where I got it wrong. That's the part where I missed was because it wasn't just about the process. Yes, you have to understand what do you do to have ideas, but if you have nothing, if you have no fuel to put into that engine, well, then it's not going to run and stamina, you're not going to run very well. So there are three things that we want to focus on today. I want to focus on talking about how do you develop the measuring stick? How do you develop your palate? To understand if you're working if your ideas are good. I want to talk about how do you find those insights and opportunities that are going to answer them to more than just being pretty? And whenever you find them, how do you judge them? How do you know if they're any good at all? And so those are really the three things I want to focus on. The reading Reality is, is that great ideas. And the best ideas I've ever had the most popular The most notable ideas I've ever had, have been based on insights and opportunities that I think other people couldn't see. And I think that that's the part of the creative process that so many people are missing out on, is how do you connect the dots? And for me, I think if you're going to see what other people don't see, if you want to find something different, it's really a two part process. And the first one, like I said, is developing your palate. And this is just simply meaning how do you have a measuring stick? I've talked about this in other podcasts, and I'll talk about it here again, that phrase comes from the fact that I draw a lot of inspiration from chefs. I just think there's a fascinating correlation between watching what they do have the wild creativity of coming up with a new dish, to the fact that whenever you walk into a restaurant, the expectation is that that dish is going to be executed exactly the same every single night. So how do you go from that ramping creativity To that sort of just regular production, how do you take young chefs and teach them to be creative, especially at a world class level. And if you've ever seen the documentary, Jiro dreams of sushi Jiro Ono said something that I thought was incredibly insightful, because someone had asked him whenever you have young chefs who come in, and you want them to be a part of your kitchen, you want them to be a part of your team. How do you teach them? And he said, one of the first things that he does is he sends them out to great restaurants. He believes they will never be able to cook great food. If they've never eaten great food. They don't have the palate or the reference point. To understand what makes food grade what makes a dish great. I don't think creativity I don't think design or writing or any creative endeavor is any different. If you aren't constantly consuming your given medium, whether it's design, whether it's coffee, whether it's experiences, whether it's all of it. I mean, I draw inspiration from a massively wide gamut of things. You're never going to develop and then refine your palette so that whenever you do have an idea, you can judge it by something. You can't judge your dish against another one that actually everybody believes is really great. The thing is, the challenges is that the thing that I see with most creatives Is it the time when they want to go out and try those dishes, the place where they want to start building their palette is only when an opportunity presents itself. All of a sudden, they have a project that they're excited about. All of a sudden, something has come to them where they feel like okay, well now, I need to put in the work. And it doesn't work that way. The way that I'll teach people to do the way that I would tell you to think about it is pick your favorite sport, football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, whatever. But the reality is, is that athletes who perform at that level who perform at a professional level at a world class level, work all year round. For a football team. It's not just for the 16 weeks of the season. They work year round. And it's a lot of work that no one sees. They're putting in time in the weight room, they're out there doing sprints, they're out there doing drills. They're constantly working to make their craft better to tune their instrument, so that in the moment when they need it, whenever game time comes, then they can put it on display. But the problem is that all anybody ever sees is that gametime moment. Well, creativity, I don't think is any different. That if all you're going to do is to start getting ready and to start to train and prepare, whenever it's game time, we're going to get out there and get your ass handed to you because you're not going to be ready the same way an athlete wouldn't be ready. Because what you need to do is you need to be doing this constantly. You need to be constantly working. To develop your palette. You need to constantly working to empathize with your consumers. There's not an offseason for this, that it's something that you have to constantly work at. And I think this is the number one place where I see people fail where I see them fall down. They only want to do it sometimes they only want to do it Whenever the opportunity comes along, but then it's too late. Because you can't develop your palate that quickly, you can't recalibrate your measuring stick, you can't suddenly sit there and kind of grit your teeth and say, Okay, now it's time to have an idea. The problem is you haven't been working on this long before. It's one of those things where because what you need to do, if you study sports psychology, if we have somebody, a basketball player will say that's gonna shoot a jump shot. But what you do whenever you train them is to go through and to drill, shooting, jump shots over and over and over again, to develop the muscle memory to do it to be able to get that just simply down so that in the moment when the tension comes when you're in the game, What you don't want is your brain getting in the way. You don't want you sitting there thinking about how do you dribble the ball and how do I hold my hands and what's my follow through gonna be because if you're overthinking it that much, you're gonna shank the shot. Creativity, again, I think isn't that different, that what I need is I need to be mining these insights, I need to be mining these opportunities I need to be developing my palate. So in the moment when it's called on, I have it there that my brain can almost get out of the way a little bit. And I can just draw on all of this stuff that I've soaked my head in. Because if not, then in the moment, I am that basketball player who's thinking about how to dribble, how do I hold the ball? How do I shoot it, and I'm going to shrink the shot because again, I'm trying to force it far, far too much. And this is a place where as I so violently kind of criticized social media in the beginning part of this podcast. I will say that, honestly, social media, I think can be a great way to develop your palate. I think it's an easy way to do it every day. But I think it only works. Really if you do two different things. I think the first one is to make it a ritual, that it has to be part of your day. It has to be a part of your process. For me, it's a big reason why I write so every Friday on my blog, I released one of my weekly inspirations. These are the list of what are the most interesting articles most interesting Movies most interesting things that I've seen that week. Well, knowing that I'm have to write that article every Friday forces me, no matter how tired I may be, no matter how overworked I might be, I need to spend some amount of time on my commute. In the morning, whenever I wake up, and I'm watching TV at night, whenever I'm in bed, and I'm watching TV before I go to sleep some time, I have to find some time to be able to find some of this material. And I really do it and looking at it from a few different angles. And part of it is just looking at how do you make social media work for you, not the other way around? Because so many of us, I think we work for social media. What people like is that there is just a physiological human chemistry, that whenever you see somebody like something you've posted, a photo something on Facebook, something on Pinterest, or dribble. Those likes give you a hit of dopamine will double it means the same reaction that many drug addicts get whenever they take drugs and so it It is really becoming a conditioned response that we like that sort of a thing where we like to just be the ones that are going out there and putting out this content to get that dopamine hit. But we need to turn that around, and how do you start make social media work for you? And I really kind of think about my social media in three kind of distinct areas, personal professional, and then honestly ones that are probably half and half. So something like Facebook, for me is just purely personal. That's the place where I can go on I can rant, I'm sorry, I don't I'm not friends with people on Facebook, who I'm not actually genuinely friends with. It just doesn't make sense to me. I need some closed space. I use Twitter and I use Pinterest. Those are really my professional sources. Those are the two things where I'm getting a lot of my best information from and I'll talk about how are those set up and then honestly, Instagram probably is half and half. Instagram is half of kind of me trying to do the personal stuff of putting it out there getting the little dopamine hits off of that, but it's also half consuming content. I help him keep my palette fresh. Let's kind of look at those few things here for a minute. And we'll start with Pinterest. And Pinterest is interesting because I know and I'll admit that I think I'm probably at least based on the statistics, probably the only man in america that uses Pinterest. And honestly, I love it, because for me it is a massive living mood board. But like I said, before, Pinterest fails us. Pinterest fails creative people, because it really fails our process. Everything is static. Everything has a very brief description. And in most cases, that description we probably never even read. And so what it is that we're consuming is only judged on its visual merits, what you need to do is to understand that fact. And so if you're going to use Pinterest, use it as a thought starter. Not as fodder not as a place where you're going to just copy that work. That what I want to do is use it as a thought starter. Use it as a place that it's an interesting Inspiration point, it's an interesting place to understand maybe why I think they did something, what was the insight and a piece of branding. And it's not just looking at it go, Oh, that's pretty. I like it because it's pretty, because again, it's not good enough. But for me, Pinterest really serves two purposes. And it part of it is, like I said, it, it is something that is a living mood board. It's, it's a way to keep my palate fresh, that I can go in there every day, there are new pins, there are new things that I can go through and just kind of keep a rolling guide, a rolling mood board that I can plug into to just keep my palate calibrated. The other part of it is that whenever I see those things I like over time, it can become a really great reference library. But I think it's what that second part where I see most people struggle because what people struggle with, and what Pinterest I think doesn't quite understand is the fact that the lack of structure whenever you come into it is a hugely debilitating thing for most people, because tons of people will say, Oh, yeah, I tried Pinterest. I didn't really like it. Then I'll show them how I have it set up. I'll show them how I have my board set up. I'll show about the way that I've thought about it and they go, Oh, well, if I had to structure it like that, I'd use it all the time. That's the inherent problem with Pinterest is that it forces you it asks you to bring your own structure to it, how do you want to work? On the one hand, that can be incredibly liberating, but like I said, I think for most people, it's incredibly debilitating, because they just don't really know how to structure it or how to organize their thoughts or that work in a way that's useful. So for me, I really organize it around what are the things that I find inspiring, and this is everything from fashion, to street art, to digital design, to furniture, to packaging, and all kinds of other stuff. Because those are the things that I just find inspiring, I find them places where I can find little insights. There's a reference library, but I think that what you need to do is you need to create your own structure that works for you, that works for your process that helps to inspire you, and gives you the ability to keep these sort of things rolling in, but I think it'll requires you to really be diligent about how you curate the people that you follow. Some people are fantastic sources, they spend a lot more free time that I have to be quite honest, putting content into Pinterest. And if you can find those right ones, it can really become this just flowing source of kind of interesting material. But it takes some time and investment to first of all, find those people. And then to create the structure to put those things that you find into so you can hold on to them for later, you don't really want to want to become a digital hoarder, because that's one of the things I would do on Pinterest is fairly regularly I go back through my boards and just edit what's in there. I throw out what I don't like, I just kind of do a little bit of housecleaning, because I want it to be useful. I don't want to have to sit there and sort through these big piles and piles of things that I pinned, that no longer really have relevance for me. It really is just thinking about that what works for you and your process. So and then we move on to Twitter. And here again, I probably use Twitter in two different ways. On the one hand, I use it to build my brand because it's An easy way, it's a short way to be able to communicate with people. And because of the fact that it's so transient, people tend to engage with it far more than I've seen on Facebook or other mediums. So it's just it's an easy way for me to go out and build my brand. But I think it's also a really nice way to stay up to date on what's going on. Here. Again, if you find the right people to plug into if you find the right people to follow, they can be a source of some really interesting insights that they're personally having. Other people are really good at curating what are the best articles that are out there. And I tend to look for a mix of this. So where is the original thought leadership that I'm getting, versus Where are the places where people are finding really good thought leadership? Because it's just it's inherently a good counterbalance to the visual overload and some of that just saccharin beauty suite that comes with only being able to see the way something looks. And then probably the the extension past Twitter that I then do is that there are two apps that are absolutely part of my everyday that this is something that every morning I'm going through and reading, and those are Flipboard and another one called appy geek Flipboard most of you have been on it's been around I think, really almost since the launch of the iPad. And Abby geek came in a few years later after that, but I think both are just fantastic sources for information appy geek is specifically tailored towards digital. So if digital is something that you work in, it's an easy way to be able to go in and just set up topics like iOS or iPhone, or Apple or information design, or just different things like that, that are very specific to digital Flipboard can be much broader. It can be across very large topics, like ideas or inspiration, down to very specific things like UI UX design. And here again, with both of these, it takes a little bit to tune it in and to get it just right. But there's a lot of these things that whenever you tune it here, again, it becomes just an easy way for it to bring information to you being just stay up to date. But I think with all these, it does require some amount of how do I curate it, how do I set it up? And I think that's what trips some people up is just they don't want to spend the time to do that. But I think once you do, it can actually become Have a genuinely, really just kind of impactful way of doing some of these things. And then there's another app that I use to honestly try to make sense out of most all of that, which is pocket. And pocket is similar to Evernote where there is an app that you can have for your iPhone, your iPad, your laptop, but all it really does is it just lets me collect those articles. Whenever I find them collect those little insights whenever I find them, whether it's from Twitter or appy geek or Flipboard, or whatever that is, it's the place where I house those, partially because then I use them for that Friday inspiration article that I write. So every week I just go in, pull up, what are the articles that I've saved for the past week? kind of say like, Oh, yeah, I think these good ones would be shared would be good to share. That one was maybe for a project that I'm working on sets, not for the public. And then you know, there's a movie trailer on the show my wife or something Goofy, so I'll show that and then just delete it. But here again, it also then starts to become a great archive. So if I'm gonna go back in whenever I did the show on atomic design, I went into pocket and just typed in atomic design, pull up all the articles that I had ever saved on that and said, Okay, yeah, these are the good ones that I I really wanted. But it really does come down to the fact that because of what I do, and because of my process, I understand and embrace the idea that I have to curate my own news, because it's one of those things where I have to figure out what matters to me. How do I keep my palette fresh. And as a part of this, the other thing that I've done is developed. I talked about this in the social media episode, I've developed an interesting role. I wish I could tell you where it came from. But I think it honestly was born out of necessity because all of these mediums all of this social media can become such a firehose if unchecked. And so what I did was said, Okay, look, I'm going to put some constraints around this. So if you go to Twitter, if you go to Pinterest, if you go to anything, Instagram, any of my social media networks, I have this rule of 115. I don't know where the number came from. It just is what felt about right to me. And what it is, is that I refuse to follow more than 115 people on any social media channel. What I see is people who suddenly follow 500 900 3000 people, the channel just becomes a firehose, you aren't actually consuming anything of value. Because every time you go, it's just such an overwhelming amount of information. What I discovered was if I dial in on 115, what I do is if I find a new source of information that I really like somebody who's saying something that I think is really interesting, it forces me to go back and look at that list. We'll use Twitter, for instance, found somebody really interesting, I'm gonna go follow. I'm following 115 people great, I need to go back to that list and figure out who isn't cutting it. Who am I going to cut out of this list so I can put this new person in. And what this does, you know, as a bit of an interesting fact is that it forces you to get rid of some of the noise. The pity follows that you have the friends that you follow who you don't actually find interesting, but you follow them just because they're your friends. And if you don't, somehow they're gonna judge you for it. But so what I'll say is like, Great if we're actually friends, we're friends on Facebook. Most of the time you're posting the same stuff across, you put on Instagram, it's going to Facebook too. So let's dump Instagram Ram off that list. I'll still see it somewhere. But what I want to do is I just want to tune this channel, I want to tune in Twitter to really be useful to me. So one in one out, I would tell you to think about that about how are you making sure that you're getting value out of it, that the network is working for you and you're just not working for it. But I think these are ways that social media can help just define your palette, because you have to have the measuring stick, you have to have some way of saying, okay, I found this opportunity. Is it any good? So once you've done that, you start to work through your palette you started to work through how do I bring this stuff into my head? How do I start to understand just what good is? Well, from there, we have to get more specific, we have to actually start how do we translate kind of just the the broader expertise, and bring it down to actually solving the problem that you have to working with your client, your customer working on the problem that you have. And the best way that I've known to describe this is that I think what you need to do is you need to start living your problems, because I think that what you're really looking at is like you develop your palate. So your your measuring stick. But it doesn't give you the insights that you need to create really great new ideas. And those insights really come from, at least for me, they come from empathy. So that you really have this idea of understanding and walking a mile in the shoes of the people you're designing for. I've talked about this in the past about the lengths that I've gone to, to understand some of this stuff, that whenever I worked on car companies that would actually go out and talk to people at gas stations, which has me banned from some of them in the states of Texas in New York. But what it did is it allowed me to genuinely understand how do people think about their cars? How do they relate to them? Whenever I started, Starwood, I lived in a hotel for 364 days, I could have lived in corporate housing, but I really felt like a hotel was going to genuinely let me understand probably unlike anything else, how do I empathize with people who are actually staying in hotels, because the reality is in these moments, these are the moments that matter, because these are the moments where you're looking for the insight For the opportunities where you're trying to build empathy with the people that you're working with. And the reason why I say that is because over the course of my career, I've really come to embrace the fact and know that I have to live the problem. I have to walk a mile in their shoes to see what others can't, because so many other people here, again, aren't willing to put in the work in the offseason. What they want to do is think, Oh, well, I bought a car, I've stayed in a hotel. I understand what their problems are. I don't need to do anything else. I'm already an expert. That kind of hubris and arrogance is what creates mediocre work, because you don't, what you have done is that you have a generalized reference point you haven't really been paying attention to what goes on at Hotel, you didn't really talk to the staff, you didn't really understand what their problems were, you didn't understand what does it like to stay hundreds of days in a hotel room. And I think that that's the thing is that I have to be able to do that. And the other reason why I have to be able to do that is because to find a really great idea Do I have to do something else? I have to be able to look past what maybe even the consumers can't see. If I just solve the problem that they're asking for, if I just take the obvious, I'm doing what everybody else does. I'm doing the easy answer, I'm going to create things, they're going to be the same that our competition are creating, I'm not going to find any value, I'm not going to find any business differentiation and what it is that I'm doing, because I'm just taking the easy insight. And so in these moments, in the gas stations in the hotels, and the bank branches and everything else in between, what I'm doing and what you need to do, is really look for four things. I think there are four things that just simply if you live the problem that is going on, you just want to notice when one of these four things happen. Whenever I've noticed these things, those are what start to become the seeds that will germinate into the insights and into the great ideas that I've ever had. The first thing that I look for is in the process of doing something our consumer is doing either workarounds, or their own adaptations? Are they creating something? Are they going about the process in a way that I wouldn't expect to do a workaround that I wouldn't have thought would have been there. And here again, whenever that happens, I'm not trying to judge it. All I'm trying to do is to take note of it to take note of my reaction to it that I found it odd or interesting, or that there was something that I wasn't expecting. Because here again, in these four things, what we're looking for are these moments, these moments that stand out so that we can note them, write them down, come back and think about them later. Because there's something to them, there's an opportunity there. And that that opportunity is where we need to come back and work on. The next one is that I look for things that people care about. It may sound really simple. But when you talk about something like a car, which is basically your main way of getting around in the world, when you talk about something like a hotel, room which is quite honestly a home surrogate for people, what matters to them in those moments really matters? What are the things that they really care about? And how can I tap into that as an opportunity? I look for things that are missing. I'm really looking for whenever I'm going through the process. Well, whenever I get to some place, if I'm really living that problem, if I'm walking a mile in their shoes, I get to the some point in the process, and I go, man, you know what I really wish something would have happened. I really wish something would have happened with this relationship with this process with something. Again, there's an opportunity there because something is missing. And when something is missing, a summer opportunity to be able to create something. And lastly, the thing that I always am on the lookout for is anything that surprises me. Anything that I just go, Wow, I never would have expected that I never would have thought that would have been there. Those are the things that whenever I'm doing that, those are the moments that you have to hold on to and be so aware of, but there are the moments that you will only find if you are genuinely going out and living what's going on. It's The same process that I use whenever I look at new technology, when I look at new design, when I look at workflows, or building teams or anything like that is that these four things work around and have that adaptations, looking for things that people care about looking for things that are missing. And for anything that surprises me, it works in basically every part of your life. If you think about your friendships, your relationships, if you want to get better at those watch for these things. Because here again, being able to tap into these as an opportunity, it can be an opportunity to have a great idea can be an opportunity to become a better friend. But it's just it's a basic life skill that I think works in so many things. But whenever I find these, I know that I found an insight or I know that I found an opportunity. And it's just something that I want to be able to make note of and to be able to come back to. And I look at those insights to really see if they do one of three things. Because here again, how do I judge my insights and know if if they're any good? The first is just to simply say, Okay, look, does this represent an unmet need? Does it point to an area that needs improvement? Yes or no? Because if there's an unmet need there, then that that again, that's an opportunity. That's an insight. Does it reveal an aha, that once I say it, it clarifies and simplifies what it is that I'm trying to do that all of a sudden, there's an insight to why people act a certain way. Why do they think a certain way? Why do they do a certain thing? Why is something selling when it makes no sense that there's an aha there. And that the last part of it is to make sure that it is not a solution. Because what you want it to do is I want it to be something that inspires a lot of ideas, but it doesn't point to one single idea, because that's the other thing that you're going to want to do is when you find the insight in the opportunity, your brain is naturally going to want to race to have solutions. So what you need to do is just to take it at the opportunity to not run it down to not immediately try to narrow it in or lump stuff together or kind of make it into just one night, nicely neatly packaged little thing, because that's not the way that you really need to do because if it passes those criteria, Then I know how I have an insight that I can build ideas on. And that I know that those ideas are going to resonate with my customers. I'll give you an example. Because coming out of the 364 days at Starwood, one of the insights that I had was I watched people time and time again, at the front desk, in the lobby, and all these other places really want information. They want to know when the restaurant was open, they wanted to know if the pool was open, they wanted to know where they exercise where the gym was, or something like that. Time and time again, I watched them want to do that. But time and time again, the signage in the hotel, failed them, the front desk was busy, they couldn't figure these things out. They weren't going to go to a website, and then all of a sudden search for the hotel and dig into the property page and then go down in the hopes of finding out that something was going to be available. Well, so that's an opportunity. It's actually a huge opportunity, because what we can do is that we can then back that out and say, Okay, well, there's an unmet need there. The need for information, the need for guidance that I'm in a place that's a home surrogate I'm unfamiliar with it that I'm traveling because I want that experience, but I'm not familiar with the town that I'm in. So these are all opportunities. And what that did was that insight led to just the core concept of, we just want to give our consumers the information they need when they need it. The reality is that we had a life cycle that we could understand. We knew when you're going to shop someplace to check in, we knew how long you're going to be there, and we knew when you were going to leave. So based on that, what I could do is then I could build experiences, I could build an app that said, Okay, well, before you get there, you're going to care about things like the hotel address, you're going to care about things like phone number, if you're traveling abroad, you're gonna care about things like the address of that hotel in the local language. Well, after you check in, those things become slightly less relevant. Now. I care about dining, I care about the gym, I care about the things that are actually going on in the hotel and then after I leave, I care about things like calling an Uber to be able to get to the airport writing a review, maybe rebooking the hotel, maybe sharing where I've been with friends of mine Because we've we had brands like w that had a social currency to them that if you share the you say to W people probably would think more of you. So I could actually create a smart interface that could adapt to those needs. And that the other thing I could do was then to just simply take that concept of give people the information that they need when they need it. And out of that, based on that insight, that insight wasn't going to change. That's a human truth that whenever people travel, they need that information. It's hard to get, okay, well, if that's not gonna change, now, all of a sudden, I have a concept. That's a platform idea. That's probably the closest thing I've ever come up with to a technology proof idea. Okay, well, that has incredible power. Now all of a sudden, all of our content starts to make more sense. We're not just driving you to hit the book button. Now whenever we bring new things in, we can layer it in on top. It lets us get to solutions into ideas that we have like keyless entry, like mobile check in like all these other things, because now we can start to push out that concept more and more. But it all went back to the offseason. Then I went back to staying in that hotel, to putting in the time to talking to the people to looking for those insights of that moment of just that something was wrong, something was off that something made my brain itch in that moment. And I said, hey, there's an unmet need there. Nobody else is doing this stuff, everybody else's only they're only really caring about what happens until you hit the book button. They aren't even thinking about what happens in the stage, like digital is almost becoming irrelevant then. And so it was this cascade of ideas that led from that offseason work that led to that work. And then you extrapolate that out, six years later, and then all of a sudden, it's nine Apple keynotes later, it's being an apple commercial. It's, you know, actually for Apple commercials, but that was the promise that all went back to that incredibly unglamorous offseason. And I really think that's the thing is you have to develop your palate. You have to live the problem. You have to go through and put in the time to Think about this stuff. If you don't, the insight isn't there, you don't know how to judge the insights that you have. Because it really is something that you have to see what the others don't. So many other hotel companies, all they wanted to do is, like I said, they just wanted to focus on the book button. And that was it. But they missed such the bigger opportunity. They missed a better understanding of how their guests operated of what it is they actually needed that they were designing for themselves, not for other people. And it was such a huge, fundamental Miss. And I think honestly, even whenever we got into Apple Watch, it was the ability to do that process again to see that most people didn't understand that. Well, whenever you used your phone whenever I use that app, that was a utilitarian thing. That was something I wanted to get something done, but I was willing to do it across a two or three month horizon. My watch well then I just wanted to do something that was going on right then in that moment. But those were the insights that really led us to be able to create that stuff. As a final thought, right? I think that the thing that we need to do is that we have to stop glorifying the ends of the work that we do the ends being the first 10% of a project when it first kicks off, when there is that moment of great possibility. And then the other end of that spectrum at the end, whenever it launches, whenever there's the the awards in the press, and the accolades. That said, 80% in the middle, it's all the hard work that comes out of that. And then it's even beyond that. It's the work that needs to go into it before the project even kicks off. Because the reality was, is that I just inherently knew that I didn't understand a hotel guests that I needed to stay there to understand what their mindset was. I didn't know that I was going to be asked to redesign the app at that point. At that point. Honestly, at that point, apps really didn't even exist. But it was a thing that I knew I needed to understand that mental model I needed to look for the opportunity I needed to put in the time I still do. I still put in the time every single day, every single day, weekends, weekdays, days nights. I'm going on social media and consuming the work that's out there. I'm looking for new thought leadership. I'm constantly trying to keep my palette relevant and up to date. I'm going out and I'm living the industries that I work in. I'm looking for the opportunities, the things that are missing the things that are different, the workarounds, the opportunities to find, where do we need to go to not where we are, because where we are keeps us in a features race. That is just not going to get us any separation from anybody else. But that's the difference. That's the thing that we need to do. We need to give up the beauty and we need to embrace the hard work. We need to go through and we need to put in the offseason. We need to put in this work. We need to embrace the fact that here again, and I will continue to say this as long as I do this show that creativity is a blue collar profession. There are no shortcuts. There's no easy way around this, that if that's the path you want. If you Pretty easy, you're gonna lead a career of a middling salary with middling ability, with probably no recognition. And really making no difference, that it's only through the people that put in the hard work that put in the work in the offseason, those are the people are gonna become great, they're gonna stand out. And because the reality is, is that at a time when design is valued like never before, the next step in our evolution is going to be because people see value there, because people see people getting paid well there, suddenly, there's going to be a lot more of us around. And so if you don't start this work now, if you don't understand the value of this now, if you don't do these sort of things, to keep yourself moving forward to force yourself to move forward, you're going to become irrelevant. Your career is going to flatline you're going to become incredibly frustrated, and you're gonna become some of the people that I talk to. Whenever they talk and they come up to me and they say that they wish that they could get back to the place where creativity is the way that I talk about it. It's helpful where it's powerful, where it's interesting, because for them, that's not what it is anymore. And I think that is the problem that we see. This is why so many people come to the talks about creativity. And they come about leadership, because they aren't forcing their way forward. They want it to be easy. And it's not going to be, it's going to be blue collar. And so with that, I hope that this helps. If you have thoughts about if you think I'm right, if you think I'm totally out of my head, head over to my Facebook page, you can like it, but it's a place where it's where we're really building the community. It's where this conversation is going on. It's where you can get updates is where you can ask questions, like I said, if you think it's great, tell me if you think you really have an issue with that. Tell me this isn't meant to be a one way conversation and I certainly know that I don't have all the answers, but I am definitely at least the one who's willing to put it out there to try to help. The only compensation as always I'll ever ask for the show. Take a few minutes, go over to iTunes leave a review. It makes a big difference and it brings more people On the show and that's really the point of all this is trying to help this industry try to help more people to try to help people get better at what it is that we do. If you have any questions if you want to take a look at the show notes, if you want to listen to other episodes, you can always head over to podcast Stephen Gates comm Steven is spelled s t e e p h, e n. And like I said, whenever you go over there you go to episodes, you can find the 25 other episodes that I've done so far, you can find related articles, you can find a whole host of other things about each one of those shows. As always, the boys done illegal want me to remind you that all the views here are my own, that don't represent any of my current or former employers that these thoughts are just and as always my own. And finally, I say it every single time because I mean it every single time. But thank you for your time. I know that time is truly the only real luxury that we have. And I'm always incredibly humbled that you want to spend any of it with me. So until next time, when hopefully I'll have burned off some of this frustration. And we'll move on to another interesting topic dealing with leadership, creativity, design and who knows what else Stay crazy