Creative Life – What Is Human-Centered Design

Twisthink’s Director of Design & Strategy, Gordon Stannis, had the opportunity to connect with James Taylor on the Creative Life podcast. James Taylor interviews a variety of creative and innovators and has them reveal their creativity and innovation strategies and techniques to help you unlock your own creative and live ‘The Creative Life.’ Listen in, as Gordon share real-world examples of using imagination and creativity led to new innovation product solutions.

Here are some of the topics on this podcast:

  • Internal Innovation vs External Innovation
  • A smart glove that advances a 4-ton lift truck in industrial warehouses
  • The principles of Human-Centered Design (HCD)
  • Coming to the table with a point of view
  • Bringing a fresh perspective
  • The Herman Miller desk and making chairs smarter
  • What hotel rooms were like before sensors and connectivity
  • How only 9% of companies have an ongoing innovation process
  • 40% of companies do not talk to their customers
  • The importance of deeply engaging with your customers
  • HCD tools to use today like the Twisthink VRT Tool and the 10 Types of Innovation


James Taylor 0:00
Hi, I’m James Taylor business creativity and innovation keynote speaker. And this is the creative life, a show dedicated to you the creative. If you’re looking for motivation, inspiration, and advice, while at home at work or on your daily commute, then this show is for you. Each episode brings your successful creative, whether that’s an author, musician, entrepreneur, performer, designer, or thought leader. They’ll share with you their journey, their successes, their failures, their creative process, and much more. You’ll find Show Notes for this episode as well as free training on creativity over at Jamestaylor.me Enjoy this episode.

I’m delighted to have on the show today, Gordon Stannis, Gordon brings a unique perspective to the world of innovation. He is a partner and Director of Design Strategy at Twisthink where he specializes in unlocking exciting new business value for clients. How do they do this? Well, by using human-centered design, to uncover strategic insights and apply emerging design and technology trends and capabilities, he’s worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Whirlpool, Stryker, Howorth, Crown Equipment, Lutron, and many more. For nearly two decades now Gordon and his team have devoted their time to creating the ideal user experience to help their clients to become market leaders and grow. It’s my great pleasure to have Gordon with us today.

James Taylor 1:26
So share with everyone what’s going on in your world just now.

“Companies are investing in innovation. Companies are investing in developing IoT strategies”

Gordon Stannis 1:30
Business is great. Companies are investing in innovation. Companies are investing in developing IoT strategies, which is a specialty of our firm. And we’re feeling the robust economy. Oftentimes, customers are like birds on a wire, they wait for each other to jump and shift position. And that that jump appears to have happened and nobody wants to be first. But nobody wants to be last. So that’s the behavior we see corporately from year to year.

James Taylor 2:03
And you’re in a part of America, I always think as being in an industrial heartland. For the USA, you’re actually in a beautiful part. So when a lot of people think about innovation they think of Silicon Valley, if its just a West Coast thing. Sometimes they think of maybe New York but where are you based? And why did you decide to base the business there?

Gordon Stannis 2:27
We’re on the other West Coast. So we’re on the sandy shores of a beautiful freshwater sea called Lake Michigan. Kind of like the best-kept secret of the Midwest. My friends in New York, when they come here to visit in the summer, they like to say, we live in the Hamptons, and without the crazy property, taxes, and so forth. So it actually is a quality of life standpoint, it’s an extraordinary place to live. I’ve lived in LA, I have five different places in LA, and I love it. And I visit and my friends still live there. And I love going back and I love traveling to San Francisco, I’ve probably been there 20 times and we’re able to do a lot of the same work. We hire from the same schools, oftentimes. And we kind of fly under the radar. We’re not, we don’t have the giant marquee. But we live comfortably between the two coasts in our what we call the third coast.

James Taylor 3:28
The third coast, wonderful. Now, a question, I’m guessing you might be asked a lot is these Fortune 500 companies that you work with a lot of time and why would they bring in an external team to what they’re not innovating when they might already have in house innovation?

Gordon Stannis 3:46
Great question. In fact, we recently codified a slide on our introductory presentation deck for this reason, because we’ve noticed that people come to us,

There are about six different archetypes or modes that people are in when they come to us. They range from highly strategic on the left to highly tactical on the right, and someone on the far left could be coming in that archetype could be saying

Hey, I’ve heard something about this HCD thing. And I really just want to learn more, it keeps popping up in my trade journals.”


     “Hey, I’ve heard about Twisthink and I’m just really curious what you guys do.”

which the other end of the spectrum is, “I just need more bandwidth”. I have people who do what you do. And I just don’t have enough of them for a season of time. And I need you to run alongside us for a month or a quarter or a year. And then everything in between.

James Taylor 4:43
So some of the clients that you’ve worked with, I think I probably use a few of your products and I didn’t even know that you’re involved.

I think about the Hilton door key. If anyone uses the Hilton app, there’s a little door key out there that’s being introduced a lot. So that was something I know that your team worked on. So you kind of got the more technical app side, which actually is the one I want to speak to you about first because I’m fascinated by this. There’s a TV show we have here in the UK where they go into factories and show how In fact, individual factories work, whether it’s you know, that the Heinz baked beans factory, It is always fascinating to see how these factories work. And one of the clients that you have is Crown Equipment, and they had a unique challenge in their business. And you work them out on a piece around innovation. And you got pretty amazing results. I saw some of the stats that came out. So can you talk about, first of all, the initial meeting that you had, what their initial brief was, and how you went about finding a solution to that challenge?

“the typical tenant of Human-Centered Design is; Don’t assume you understand the problem, get in and discover all of the dimensions of the problem.”

Gordon Stannis 5:50
I share your fascination for what happens in manufacturing facilities and distribution centers and in infrastructure oriented places because these are all hidden. And I think that’s why that TV show is still running called ‘How It’s Made’. And it shows you how cookies are made and engines and other car parts and building components. And I think we have a natural fascination with things that we see every day, but we have no idea how they get there. So a lot of the products that we designed for customers are consumer-facing. Things that will sit on a shelf, or you can buy through a William Sonoma online, and so forth. And we we take a lot of pleasure in those. The slick, glossy retail business to consumer oriented design challenges that we’re faced with. But a lot of the work that we do is B2B. So you’ve identified Crown Lift truck, which is a great client of ours, a fantastic company, they have a legacy of design and Business Excellence. And they encountered a problem over a decade ago. They’re very safety conscious. They are leaders in industry in so many ways, and they don’t beat their chest and say things like we’re the safest truck or anything like that. You know, Michelin Tire and Volvo are two of the outliers of brands that actually lead with that story. Most companies just do it. And they just do it quietly. And they do it because that’s right. And that makes good business sense. So Crown came to us and said, we’ve got a problem. We have a certain type of lift truck that’s been around for many years is called a picker truck, And we’re encountering some problems because the people who drive these trucks aren’t paid by the hour. They’re not pacing themselves and working as slowly as they can throughout the day. These men and they’re like athletes because they’re moving and lifting all day long, really fast. They’re paid by the load. So their incentive is to work hard and work fast, and get out of work early and go fishing with their kids if they can. And so the net effect of that incentive program is these folks are driving these trucks and they’re hopping off before they come to a complete stop. And that causes pretty significant downstream problems like somebody could slip and fall and twist an ankle. Somebody could slip and fall and run over their toe. And a four-ton lift truck is not kind to a toe in a situation like that. Or worse, even they could run into racks and these racks, you probably have seen videos of Domino’s in million square foot warehouses tipping over one at a time. And it’s a big mess, and it is potentially deadly to other people in the space. So the design challenge was how can we solve that safety problem? How can we keep people from jumping off trucks before they’ve come to a complete stop? So we spent a lot of time and energy on that. The typical tenant of Human-Centered Design is don’t assume you understand the problem, get in, and discover all of the dimensions of the problem. So that’s what we did first. We immersed ourselves in this world; we interviewed people; we did observational ethnographic research and we watched what was happening. And that research provides insights. That’s the fuel for innovation, as the insights derived from the discovery phase, we started to see some interesting things that led us to conclude that the best way to solve a problem is to avoid the problem. So these people are getting on and off these trucks hundreds of times every day. If we could minimize getting in and out of the truck, we minimize the problem entirely. So cutting to the chase, the solution that you see is this glove. So we’re remote control, driving a four ton object and walking behind it and if you’re walking behind it, you’re not jumping off of it and it’s going to run you over It has a laser guidance system that keeps it straight in the rows, and you’re just walking behind it loading the truck. So the insights lead to some epiphanies, which we’re pretty confident in our ability to design really great IoT wireless infrastructure products. We created a bullet proof system with many levels of redundancy. So the dozens of lift trucks that are operating simultaneously in the space won’t cross-contaminate each other, you can imagine what kind of a problem that would create. And so Crown’s the only company that can bring a solution like that to the market. And there is this amazing side benefit. And we see this all the time. With IoT solutions, we set out to solve problem A, And we successfully solve problem A. And we we did it by creating this new technology capability. Low and behold, this new technology solves other problems. There are side benefits, tangental Solutions, one of which was the fact that these people weren’t getting up on and off the truck so many times saved up to 70% of footsteps each day. Think about that, per worker per day globally. Think about worker wellness, and think about longevity and aging workforces, and all that kind of stuff, profound effects, and the net effect of this whole solution is our customer. Crown is is reaping the benefits of solving the safety problem and improving the wellness scenario.

James Taylor 11:43
So I would love to know. the obvious way you would’ve thought someone would have tackled that problem is thinking, Okay, do we have, you know, when the person jumps off, maybe the engine stops, and all these different things. But fundamentally, people are still thinking of humans sitting on machines? What was what was where did the bit come from? And actually, what about if we didn’t even have them? Say the machine? What about the the, you know, the the human being was just was was walking alongside or going behind or walking alongside this. And where did that idea come from?

Gordon Stannis 12:18
It was a pretty bold thought it was on that idea. Luck favors the prepared mind. So we had just finished several other projects of remote control. Now, those weren’t for ton objects. But you know, you walk before you run and build your confidence. And it’s because of past projects that were even our collective imaginations even allowed us to go to that new place, because I’ll confess, where we started was a very different place, we actually and it’s kind of embarrassing to admit this, we started with the idea of little cattle guards that are deployed when the truck is moving. And when the truck comes to a halt, those little cattle guards go up and allow people to get off the truck. And we thankfully realized that workers would not respond favorably to being locked into their vehicles. We wouldn’t blame them if they took a chainsaw to those little cattle guards to remove them so that they could get to work and quit being treated that way. So we realized quickly that that’s not a genuine solution and might be a knee jerk reaction, it’s kind of looking down on your workforce as opposed to uplifting your workforce. And imagine the difference if we had launched the cattle guard solution versus the one that saves 70% of footsteps, and completely obliterated the safety problem.

James Taylor 13:36
You mentioned that this idea of a Human-Centered Design. And there’s obviously a lot of different innovation firms out there. And you’d use different things. For someone who hasn’t heard that that term before Human-Centered Design, can you just explain what what was the background to this? And, you know, how do you often see it being used?

“One of the terms that we use when we talk about HCD Human Centered Design is that it’s an anti-arrogance principle process.”

Gordon Stannis 13:59
Just to use colorful language that might be memorable. One of the terms that we use when we talk about HCD, Human-Centered Design is that it’s an anti-arrogance principle process. It’s not a process, like checkboxes where you might go from step one to three. And it’s you don’t have to keep thinking to just execute it. These are principles that are fundamentally grounded in the belief that problems are more complicated than people think. People are more complicated than people think. And we need to take the time to understand the problems and understand the problems roles in people’s lives. And if we do that, if we’re thoughtful and rigorous in patience, then these beautiful insights will percolate up and we will see them and then we can seize on them. Through analysis and collaborative co-creation and product development.

James Taylor 15:05
So I’m wondering as you’re talking about this, what is the role of ego in a team and especially an innovation team context? Because you just think you see, they see that the way the media portrays the great innovators or creatives, you know, they have the big egos and you know, movies, prima donnas there. What? Where do you see the role of ego? Is there a role for ego at all, in a firm like yours, where you’re working more in that kind of collaborative concept?

“So, one thing we talk about often with our teams, is that we are absolutely useless if we do not come to the table with a point of view.”

Gordon Stannis 15:36
So I’ll give you two ends of the spectrum as answers to that solution. And I’m glad you brought this up. Because ego is important. Someone once said, “The true test of intellect is the ability to have two conflicting ideas in your mind at the same time and be okay with it.” So, one thing we talk about often with our teams is that we are absolutely useless if we do not come to the table with a point of view. Now our point of view could be misinformed and wrong. But we’ve got to have one, we can’t just sit there passively and nod; Not really having a firm conviction. So we have to have a point of view. At the same time, we have to believe that we could be wrong.

We have to constantly seek new information to either strengthen. weaken, or change that point of view. So that speaks to ego. One of my favorite lines I’ve ever heard about ego is Paul Hewson, Bono of U2 said that

“ego’s not always the enemy, it’s like a small child crossing an eight-lane highway on a voyage of discovery.”

I couldn’t possibly put it any better than that. Ego isn’t inherently bad. He goes on a journey. He goes searching and seeking and has the courage to attempt running across an eight-lane highway. So we want our people to have our team members and our customers to have egos, but at the same time we want 50% of their weight planted on that foot, and we want the other 50% planted on Human-Centered Design principles of ask, seek and knock. Talk to the people who are actually going to use your product and get to know them really, really well. And understand their problems and solve their problems.

James Taylor 17:35
So another client, I noticed, as I’m doing these interviews, now I’m sitting on a Herman Miller chair. And that’s one of the newest one of your clients as well. That’s a classic brand classic company. I don’t know when the first Aeron chair was first designed. With a brand like that you think; “Well, that’s a company, they’re gonna have loads of designers in house!” Why would they come to an outside firm to help them with innovation? What was it that you were bringing to the party?

Gordon Stannis 18:07
A Fresh Perspective. Our team is doing things that their team isn’t doing or wasn’t doing at the time. I’ve studied Herman Miller, and as a designer, I study all of the top firms. I’ve been doing that religiously for decades and Herman Miller’s right in there. And what they’re so great at is they’re great at conceiving, creating, and developing artfully functional products. Inextricably linked to that is physical products, not digital products. There has always been a glass ceiling of physical and they’ve never really, prior to us working together, they hadn’t really tried or succeeded at breaking through that glass ceiling. And I’m using language that we and they used together five years ago when we embarked on this journey. So they came to us with an idea kind of a kind of like Crown came to us with this;

“Hey, we’ve got this problem/opportunity, can you help us? Can you sit with us and help us think through the true nature of the problem and imagine new solutions?” Herman Miller did the same thing. And they had this idea of how to make chairs smarter, how to give chairs intelligence, how to how to help chairs coach people to use them better and adjust them properly, and so forth. And so we embarked on that journey. I don’t know what Herman Miller chair you’re sitting on but it probably had a hangtag when it arrived in your office, and you probably ripped the hangtag off the adjustment knob, the torsion spring adjustment knob and you probably glanced at it for a solid minute and tried a few things, and then you pretty quickly binned that hangtag and moved on. Well, that’s a problem. Because if your chair’s not adjusted properly, you could actually get hurt. You could damage nerves be in your hamstring area, you can develop neck and shoulder tension, you can have all sorts of problems if you’re not adjusting your chair properly.

So the big idea was how can we use sensors, microprocessors, and some form of communication back to the end-user to adjust a chair better to that person. Beginning that journey, opened up a whole new realm of other things that could be done, and maybe should be done sooner. So we pivoted away from the big idea of the chair and we attacked the height-adjustable table.

James Taylor 21:03
It’s a very popular thing at the moment, a lot of people realizing that they should be standing more rather than sitting. So I could see how that was a natural move as well,

Gordon Stannis 21:13
The beauty of the adjustable table is it already has power! So if you’re going to put sensors in it, and you’re going to put a microprocessor on it, and you’re going to allow it to chirp to the environment. Think of hundreds and thousands of desks that already have AC power. So it can do that all day every day without having to have batteries changed and stuff like that. So there’s a general belief that height-adjustable tables are healthier for people. There’s a general knowledge that they cost hundreds of dollars more than non-height adjustable tables. And there’s a general curiosity about whether it’s worth it, to spend the extra $5 to $700, to add that height-adjustable capability. When you’re buying 5000 desks at a time that that number adds up pretty fast.

So that’s how we pivoted and realize that there is a more compelling immediate opportunity to add intelligence to a product, and that’s the height-adjustable table. And these tables, they know when a person is standing in front of them versus a dog or a chair or a plant because there’s a sensor that’s tuned to the heat signature and scale of a person. So it has that level of intelligence. If you set your phone down on it, it knows that it’s you, and not someone who’s a foot shorter than you or a foot taller than you. So when you go to adjust it to standing height, or sitting height that goes to your version, standing height in your version of sitting height. And so it’s, it’s, it’s delivering some immediate benefits to you as an end-user. And if it sees that you’re sitting a little too long, it’ll gently vibrate and sort of prompt you to like, wake up and become self aware and stand for a while. And if you’re standing too long, that’ll prompt you to take a break, because standing all day is not the goal either. So that’s how we’re serving that stakeholder. And there’s a whole series of other stakeholders that get served by the data.

“We’re on this cusp of the moment. This brings in Internet of Things, connected connected buildings, and I was in a hotel, the other the other morning is just somewhere I was speaking somewhere abroad.”

James Taylor 23:13
Interesting, because we now It almost feels we’re on this cusp of the moment. This brings in the Internet of Things, connected buildings. I was in a hotel the other morning is just somewhere I was speaking somewhere abroad. And I woke up in the morning and I automatically asked Alexa, can you put up put on the bedroom light? And when nothing happened, I felt really disappointed. Oh, I’m in a dumb hotel room.  And I can see actually even more. So I would say when I see a lot of children interacting with environments, and they’re so used to having some of these things. And the interactivity that when it doesn’t happen it’s a little bit jarring. So it does feel like we’re on this cusp of moving from dumb spaces to smarter spaces like the Herman Miller examples.

Gordon Stannis 24:10
It’s one small step toward that goal. I was just contemplating Star Trek of all things a couple of days ago, and how maybe 30 or 40 years ago people were walking up to doors that were immediately opening and closing behind them like airlocks, but they were motion sensor-enabled and how there was ubiquitous computing. You would just stand in a space and instead of saying, “hey, Alexa”, you’d say computer, “Answer this question for me”, and you would open up a flip phone and that turned into the Motorola StarTAC. And a couple of days ago, I read that someone has you remember the tricorder from Star Trek. There’s a prize for it. It’s a multi-million dollar prize for someone who can bring that Dreamspace to life; where you have a device, and you have an external edge device, a sensor that’s used for medical purposes. And you can wave it just like Bones did over a colleague, and it was feeding information into the tricorder to diagnose something. It’s so great that Hollywood’s unencumbered by actually having to produce something, and do the hard work of figuring out how to make things do what they want them to do, they just create the vision. Here we are 30 and 40 years later, still trying to bring many of those visions to life. And I would say, Alexa, in the last five years, is the closest thing that we have seen to ubiquitous verbal computing or VUI Computing.

James Taylor 25:44
So that case of the Herman Miller, What can anyone that’s listening to this just now that maybe doesn’t work a firm which is considered like a design leader? Like a bit like a Herman Miller? What could they be learning from what you did there with that brand? In terms of thinking maybe around the Internet of Things or just thinking in terms of general creativity or having a more innovative mindset? What was it was any kind of key takeaways that when you just speak to other organizations, that you say that listen, this is something that we found in the process of designing this product with Herman Miller.

“only 9% of public and private corporations in North America have an ongoing innovation process, and baked into that statement is a human centered design or design thinking, investment, a perpetual investment in those two modes of working.”

Gordon Stannis 26:22
So a recent study by Harvard Business Review, not too recent, maybe it’s within the last five years determined that only 9% of public and private corporations in North America have an ongoing innovation process. Baked into that statement is a human-centered design or design thinking, investment, a perpetual investment in those two modes of working. And what that means is that the other percentage of organizations aren’t talking to their customers the right way. That’s a huge indictment. What we recently learned from a McKinsey report in Q4 of last year is that 40% of companies do nothing. they still literally do not talk to their primary, secondary, and tertiary stakeholders. That’s shocking. Because those stakeholders have all of the insights, all of them, not some of them, they have them all. And if you’re not talking to them, you’re getting none of the insights. And then what’s kind of worse is there’s this gray area in the middle, that’s roughly 40% of organizations, 45% of organizations that are actually talking to their stakeholders, primary, secondary and tertiary, but they’re doing it the wrong way. One thing to not do something because then you’re not wasting money. Well, 40 plus percent of organizations are actually wasting a ton of money chasing their tail going in the wrong direction, because they’re doing completely unproductive old fashioned focus groups, that has been proven to be grossly ineffective. They’re doing surveys. And they’re asking people to visualize a complicated user experience, and then circle or put their pencil to the circle or click the circle of mildly or somewhat or extremely and try to translate complicated user experiences into sentences and circles. That’s not normal, And so what we all know what people do, they hate those things. They don’t believe in those things. They just want to get through it as fast as they can. So they bang them out as fast as they can. And they usually go right down the middle. And, and then teams of people look at the data with which I would put a smiley face next to the word data to this not useful data. It’s a farce. And then they try to make business decisions based on that “data”. So to answer your question as succinctly as I can.

Deeply engage with your customers and ask them a lot of questions. Don’t tell them anything, let them tell you and listen to it. And then once you’re done, you have done what’s called the discovery phase. Spend a lot of time there, it’s not a meeting, It’s a phase, in the Analyze phase. And that’s where you draw meaningful conclusions. You cluster the insights that you received in the discovery phase into something that’s strategically and tactically actionable. Then you start the Create phase. You create a new offering based on that. It’s foolproof. It’s bulletproof.

James Taylor 29:35
That idea of asking questions, remember that quote, The Voltaire quote, which is “judge a person by the quality of their questions, not their answers.” I think it’s harder as you get further up in an organization because you’re, you’re expected to have all the answers and the questioning bit of you can, that muscle can become a bit weaker with lack of use. So it’s great that you have organizations like that coming in helping to ask those questions and deeply engaging with the customers. As we start to finish up here, I would love to know, are there any online resources or tools or apps you find particularly useful for doing the type of creative work that you do?

Gordon Stannis 30:17
I think we all move through data so fluidly these days, there isn’t a specific place that I personally go to. I’m like a shark swimming through an ocean of information and data just like the next guy. One thing that could help is this. First of all, that was a great quote. And I’m going to use that in the near future, because I love it. And it reminds me of a great Abe Lincoln quote that I just recently heard, that goes, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him.”

It’s so succinct. Take out the word, man and just say, customer or stakeholder or… How often you view your customer as a problem? If you start thinking of your customer as a problem, then that’s a problem. Oftentimes, we have those feelings, because we just don’t understand. And the best way to understand is to ask better quality questions and invest ourselves. One of the greatest epiphanies that we’ve had as an organization in the last five years, is this understanding of the difference between service and hospitality. And there’s a restaurateur in New York City his name is Danny Meyer’s. He’s actually written a book and he’s become extremely popular in the last six or seven years. But six or seven years ago, when I first walked into one of his amazing restaurants called Gramercy Tavern, I had an experience walking out, I couldn’t figure out what had just happened, my head was spinning, and I’m kind of a foodie. And I try to reverse engineer experiences. So I can understand how I was just tricked into loving something. And I couldn’t figure out why I had a level 10 experience. And I didn’t know if it was the food, or the service, or the ambience or the music, smells, go right down the list. And it turns out, this guy had written a book and it’s called Setting The Table. And it explains his life journey as a restaurateur. He’s actually the guy who launched Shake Shack and the whole case study of where Shake Shack came from, and what it is now is worth investing into. Because it’s all about prototyping and testing and failing and growing and learning and never giving up and innovation is not for the faint of heart, it is kind of like Rocky stepping into the ring and getting punched in the face 50 times before he really galvanizes his metal and decides to go in for the kill. And that’s what innovation is like you take a lot of hits in the early stages, but they’re essential to craft your point of view so that you can do a great job. So I would encourage everybody to check out that book and be inspired by the radical difference between service which is a commodity-oriented word and idea, and hospitality, which is all about surprise and delight it’s all about perpetual growth. It’s all about that Maya Angelou, quote, people, “I’ve learned that people remember what you said and what you did, but they will really remember how they made how they made you feel?”

James Taylor 30:57
Exactly. Yeah, that’s it. That’s so we’re gonna put a link near to Danny Meyer’s, but a great suggestion. I’m looking forward to reading that one myself as well. What about an album if there’s one I mean, you’re you live in a part of the world you have places like Detroit not too far from Chicago. If you do recommend one album that you think our listeners should check out? What would the album be?

Gordon Stannis 33:57
My favorite song is a Landlady by U2. This is which is the last in a series of homages from Bono to his wife, Ali. It’s extraordinary It’s an extraordinary double album, by the way, the last tour that came out. And it’s an extraordinary song on the last album. And what a lot of people don’t know is that the idea of the two albums as bookends was conceived half a decade ago. And after our recent election debacle of two years ago, they had to press pause and redo that album because it was no longer socially resonance. Because things weren’t as optimistic as they had looked when they had previously conceived of the album. So here’s an example of innovators. And I would say that these are master collaborate, collaborators, Master innovators, pivoting because of the sign of the times and retuning their output. We have to do that all the time too.

James Taylor 35:03
I just walked through the program the other night about Queen and Freddie Mercury, and one of their tours, which was in 1970…1977. US tour. Well, punk had just happened by that point. And so you actually heard that they recognized that actually, there’s a more aggressive style of music happening now those big rock operas, they’re starting to go out of favor. So you actually heard their music changes, they started experimenting with much harder kind of sounds as well, because the punk influence was starting to come in with what they were doing as well. So Landlady by U2, we’re gonna, we’re gonna have that link there as well.

“we don’t live in silos, we live in the whole world all at the same time. And things could be happening in automotive, or fashion or consumer goods, that could affect a medical product”

Gordon Stannis 35:41
So Queen was benchmarking with what you just said. And we all have to do. We benchmarking is kind of obvious. And what we counsel our clients to do is allow us to do adjacent benchmarking with them and for them, because we don’t live in silos, we live in the whole world all at the same time. And things could be happening in automotive, or fashion or consumer goods, that could affect a medical product, they affect our expectations of user experiences. And so we need to let those things cross pollinate each other.

James Taylor 36:14
And a final question before you go, let’s imagine you woke up tomorrow morning, and you have to start from scratch. So you have all the skills all the knowledge you have acquired over the years, but no one knows you, you know no one. What would you do? How would you restart things?

Gordon Stannis 36:27
I would focus on the most important thing of any organization and that is team and assemble the right team. So just as the bands that we just talked about, they were only able to do great things because they had a great team. And you know, your earlier question about ego and so forth. There are, there are people who think that they catalyze a team, like I’m the big energy source, and I walk into a room and I catalyze this team and we do great work together. What is more interesting and appropriate to me is teams that co-catalyze each other. And, and I don’t just mean like our firm Twisthink and our great team, I mean, we have to co catalyze with our clients. So we have to get in a room together from scratch, and figure out a way to fast track high functioning collaboration. Because there’s a huge spectrum of collaboration where we endure each other on one end of the spectrum and we thrive together on the other end of the spectrum. And you can imagine the outputs of those two ends of the spectrum are going to be radically different, right? So one of our number one jobs is to figure out a way to create that thriving atmosphere, and co-catalyze and co-create, as a team and do things and none of us ever thought we could do at the start of a project.

James Taylor 37:48
And if people want to connect with you learn more about Twisthink and some of the projects that you’re working on your clients you work with, where’s the best place to go and do that?

Gordon Stannis 37:57
Our website’s a great place to go. And I thank you for asking that question. If you go to twisthink.com/creative there, you can see all sorts of things like case studies and blogs. And some of the things that we just talked about today are going to be evident there. There’s a tool that we created out of necessity a decade ago called a VRT, which stands for Visual Research Tool. And we’re we’re you know we have it trademarked The name is trademark, but we we tell everybody about it because we think it’s the best way to engage with clients on a discovery journey. So we explain how it works. And we encourage everyone to, you know, theft is the greatest form of compliments so go for it and use it. And there’s another dimension to a story called usability desirability. And I would contend that any product service or experience that you’ve ever loved, personally that you’ve ever loved, is is a blending a balance of usability and desirability, we have seen extremely competent, usable products fail in the marketplace because they weren’t desirable, so nobody noticed them, and that nobody bought any and it’s shameful and pointless and heart wrenching to see that happen. What’s even worse is when something looks really desirable in it, it lures and tricks people into purchasing it and it doesn’t deliver on its usability. That customer tells 10 friends to stay away from that brand. And that’s a that’s a surefire way to tank an organization. So we focus with our customers on the 10 types of innovation, and also on balancing usability and desirability and all that stuff. In fact, our usability desirability blog goes live this week.

James Taylor 39:50
Wonderful. We’re gonna put links to all of this up with jamestaylor.me. Just type in Gordon Stannis, so you’re gonna find all the links we’ll be talking about today. Gordon, thank you so much for coming on today sharing all your insights on innovation and also the creative process as well. I wish you all the best for the clients that you’re working with.

Gordon Stannis 40:07
Thanks, James, this was a pleasure talking with you and hope you have a great day too.

James Taylor 40:10
If you’re interested in living a more creative life, then I’d love to invite you to join me as I share some of the most successful strategies and techniques that high performing creatives use. I put them all together in a free downloadable ebook that you can get by going to jamestaylor.me. That’s jamestaylor.me to get your free downloadable ebook on creativity.

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