Journey with us on an eye-opening exploration of innovation and disruptive design with Liya Safina, a powerhouse IndeAlumni and a master designer who has left her fingerprints on groundbreaking technologies like AR, VR, and autonomous vehicles.
Liya's stellar portfolio, adorned with globally acclaimed brands like Nike, Google, Alibaba, and Toyota, speaks volumes of her prowess. Follow along as we travel through her path to success, her unique perspective of design innovation, and the emerging trends she has noticed recently.
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We wrap up with Liya and Jan musing over AI's profound influence on writing and technology, its impact on digital design, and the philosophical implications it bears. We stress the importance of injecting a 'human touch' when leveraging AI tools, and the critical role experienced professionals play in guiding the next generation.
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IG: IndeCollective | Freelance MBA (@indecollective) • Instagram photos and videos
Welcome everybody to another episode of the Modern Independent. As always, I'm your host, john Almacy, the head of community here at Indie Collective. Today, we have another Indie alumni that we're going to be interviewing on a segment called the Launchpad. These episodes are meant to interview members of the Indie Collective community that have been through a 10-week bootcamp, graduated and are in the world doing amazing things, potentially even coming back and presenting to our cohort, which this member will be doing this fall. I'm super excited and grateful that Leah Safina is here with us today. To jump things off, I'm going to give a brief description and then allow her to introduce herself and we can dive into all of the things that we're going to be exploring today. Over the last decade, she's been fortunate to design for some of the most cutting edge tech AR and VR, which, for those of you that don't know, that is augmented reality and virtual reality autonomous vehicles, smart cities, blockchain and artificial intelligence. As a designer, she's driven to redefine how we tap into innovation in business. She's worked with leading global brands, including Nike, google, alibaba and Toyota. These experiences inform every approach that she takes to every project. Leah, thank you for taking the time to hang out with me today.Speaker 2:
My pleasure. I'm super excited.Speaker 1:
As we jump into these conversations, I always like to think that the way that these feel is like you're catching up with a friend after not seeing them for a long time. What I would be really curious about and I know that we've connected on this in the past but for the sake of the audience, what got you started in your field and what makes you so passionate about innovation in the first place? I guess back me up one step further In your eyes, what does innovation and organization, especially in design, actually mean?Speaker 2:
Great question I don't know about. I'm originally from Europe. To address the elephant in the room, which is my accent. Back in Europe, I used to be an architect. This is the way that I got into digital design through being a designer, but in a completely different discipline, in architecture. I remember very vividly the first time I learned about Spotify as a huge music fan, realizing that you no longer need to buy separate CDs, that you can listen to any song at any given moment. I was stunned. It was life-changing, I think, combining my insight into how to build spaces for people, because architecture is super similar to digital design. You're always thinking about what do our users want, what are they trying to achieve and how can we help them get there, either through the spatial design or through digital design. Later on, I remember feeling that tremendous change that Spotify brought into my life and how much joy I experienced while I was able to listen to anything and I wanted at any point. And I think that's where disruptive innovation really got me on the hook. It's not a small incremental thing where we improve the way you buy CDs. It's a huge shift. One day you went to the store and bought a CD. The next day you have it all in your pocket. One day you're downloading things off of the internet. The other day you can stream things. And that's why, once I switched into digital design, which was over 10 years ago I was always driven to big, disruptive things. I always wanted to play a role in a way that we simplify things for people, who bring joy to them, and we completely change the way that they do the day-to-day things. And this is, I think, the way that I define innovation as well. We can innovate incrementally, but that's probably something that you go to someone else for. You come to me. When there's no blueprint of how to do things, when there's no best practice to copy, when you cannot just say, hey, let's do blank competitor, when you're trying to solve something that hasn't been solved before, when you're trying to really figure out a way, how can you be more useful to people, how can you bring more value? And that's when I support different businesses and companies and individuals and try to do things differently and better.Speaker 1:
Yeah, I love that. I love setting this stage. So one of the things that I became really, really fascinated with and I had the great pleasure and benefit of being mentored by a gentleman that was a part of a disruptive innovation team at IBM early on in my entrepreneurial career. I actually vividly remember and I tell this story to him all the time I call him my Yoda, one of my Yodas. Now, right, but the first time I ever met John, he completely tore apart a pitch of mine and a pitching competition because I was trying to create a business model that kept podcasting inside of a physical location. So he was like you're treating podcasting way too much like radio. He's like this is a completely different thing. Why wouldn't you create this type of model that had nothing to do with a physical space. It had everything to do with consulting and living in the digital realm and building for a remote workplace. And we were having these conversations in 2016 and then 2020 hit and we had already been doing that and it just fell naturally into place. And Spotify, I think, is also a great example, right, but exactly the way that you laid that out one minute you're buying CDs, the next minute you have the world's music discography in your pocket. There's a great documentary on Netflix. If those of you that are curious to learn more about the rise of Spotify I think it is you can just look Spotify up on Netflix and there's a multi-part series that talks about the building of that. So to dive into that a little bit more and lock in on this difference between incremental innovation and that disruptive innovation, I feel that there's a lot of organizations that want to be that disruptive innovator right, because they may have this mentality it's you're either disrupting or you're being disrupted type of mentality, but sometimes there's you know whether it's barriers in communication or they're not quite sure how exactly to integrate that Is. There been trends that you've noticed in the organizations that you've worked with of ways that they're structured or ways that they communicate or how they approach things that allows them to disruptively innovate? Because, especially across the organizations that you've worked with, I feel like that's kind of a would be a cool insight.Speaker 2:
Yeah, I think the common denominator is commitment to people that the organizations serve, and I'll unpack that because I think in itself it sounds a little bit vague. So I'll give you a couple of examples and the grand scheme of things. If we take the spectrum of different companies, one of the biggest companies I've worked with was Toyota, and they are on this very ambitious quest right now of building a whole new city in Japan from scratch, which is mind blowing. They're taking one of their factories, they moved it to another part of the country to revitalize the economy there and they're utilizing that enormous space where the factory used to be to build a private city. So you would ask yourself, why private city? Right? Why private? Why not collaborate with the government and just support an existing city? Because they're trying to test autonomous mobility in a safe environment where they're fully responsible for the consequences. And that was the initial brief. How can we test self-driving cars in a way where we have full control, we can observe how people behave around them, and not only cars, wheelchair attachments, bus? There are even some rumors of self-lying helicopters, right, but Akiyo Toyota, the head of Toyota, went even further. I think I really admire his ethic. He really wants to truly just improve life for people, not just the mobility, but truly. He feels like this is his privilege. He's in a position of power and he wants to use it. So he committed a large budget to that, and over COVID is when everyone's budget commitments were really, really tested. People were rerounding money to oh people are no longer buying this and that and we need to pull the budget from this innovative project. He stayed extremely true to his idea and commitment throughout the pandemic. Not a single dollar went away from the Vogan City budget and, as a result, right now it's being built and that is the real commitment that, no matter what, you see the bigger picture, you see your North Star. Yes, we need to sell more cars right now, but ultimately here we're trying to build something that will test new ways of navigating through a city and will make our cities more safe, more efficient, etc. That's kind of like the big example. If we think about the small example, you don't necessarily have to have a big budget to iterate. You just need to have a desire to look not at the business metrics, not at your competitors, not at your investors, but at the people who are using your product and identify. Where is the frustration right now? Where are they wasting time, where are they wasting money? Where is the product breaking down and they have to throw it away and be willing to ruthlessly take 10 steps back and say how can we completely shake it up for them so that they don't experience this waste? And on the other end, we can talk about the crisis of opportunity and the crisis of the threat of competition. What is motivating you? Are you afraid that somebody is going to come and disrupt you or are you excited that you can build something new for people? Both of these discomforts. They propel people into innovation. But ultimately, if you're willing to say look, we're not just going to fix what's broken right now, let's take 20 steps back, 10 steps back, and look at the overall journey and see what we can shift in our supply chain, in the way that our customer support works and a way that our website is built to alleviate this pain for people, to bring more joy to people.Speaker 1:
Yeah, I love that and I love the two you know motivators that you just outlined there. Could you explain a little bit more about what the differences are between the fear of being disrupted and the need to innovate or provide something new? I know that you phrase that a little bit differently there, but just to kind of give the audience another analogy, I gave that little bit of a definition there, but could you dive into the differences between those two motivators?Speaker 2:
Yeah, it's also related to proactivity and reactivity. I would say You're reactive when you're observing the market and say your status quo is challenged, like we're looking at bigger companies IBM you brought up, you know Windows, microsoft all of them are being challenged right. So all of their innovation and you know I'm not intimately familiar with their decision making, but I can put a hypothesis forward that their innovation is coming from the place of fear. Let's not let our market share go to someone else and that's a little bit reactive. That's why we saw Windows not a day for so many years, until, you know, macos started creating really, really new ways of navigating your computer right. So that's all about being reactive and sometimes it's really successful if you have a good budget in place, if you know who to hire, if you're really, if you're willing to be risky and you're not, because a lot of these bigger companies they're really sustained in their comfort zone. They haven't been challenged. So that's where a lot of incremental innovation comes through. They're willing to give up one little thing to be innovative, not the whole system, right. And then you have pro activity and this is where you know the startups initially came from. It's people with a spark in there who just want to do something differently. Nobody's challenging them, nobody's, you know, nobody's trying to get their market share from them. They're just really interested and passionate about bringing value to people. And I'm not saying that one or the other is better, I'm just. I'm just kind of like exaggerating in order for listeners to be able to tap into both mindsets. Both of them can really create amazing progress. Don't get me wrong. I think it's an independent creatives. We're constantly experiencing both. We're constantly scared. We don't know where our paycheck is coming from. Right, we don't know how to secure our next client, how to scale up. You know we, if we bought a property, now we have a mortgage, you know that's the pressure, that's that crisis. You know where you have to be doing something differently to stand out from competition. And then there's we all experience the other thing where you just get obsessed about something. You get into the rabbit hole and you just really are inspired and you've had an issue that you had and you solved it for yourself and now you want to solve it for everyone else. So both can exist simultaneously, but I would argue that the second one, the, the inspiration driven one, creates bigger, more disruptive innovations, as a rule.Speaker 1:
Yeah, so I'm the way that you describe that and I am obsessed with neuropsychology. Psychology came from a nursing background. I'm always reading white papers and studies on on motivation at the neurological level, and it's reminding me and this is probably the simplest that that we can break this down outside of, like the innovation language. Right, there was this study that was conducted, and I'm not going to remember the name of the university off the top of my head, but the basic structure of the study, right, was they wanted to test whether it was fear of pursuit or the chase of a thrill that motivated rats. Right, and so they took these. They took these animals, and what they did is they tied a tiny little string to their tail and it was attached to a spring that measured the amount of force that a rat was running away from that spring. Right. And the first iteration was printing the smell of a cat behind the mouse and then measuring the strength that the mouse pulled away from that scent, right. The second was putting the scent of a delicious treat at the other end in front of the mouse and measuring how much that force was, and then the third iteration was the combination of scent and the pleasure and the pull right In between the fear response and the proactive. I want to go seek something pleasurable or exciting, the seeking the cheese right, or that obsession that going down the rabbit hole, that want of creating something was higher than the fear response. But if the fear response was added, it almost to X the force that was put into it. So if you're listening to this and you're like, well, I'm not in innovation, but I am starting trying to start my own business and I would argue that all of us are in innovation, if we're entrepreneurs at some level, but you're listening to this and you're like, well, I'm not, you know, I'm not. I don't picture myself working for a Toyota at this level or building a smart city. How do I apply this in my life? If you want to really motivate yourself to intentionally innovate, don't just think about the thing that's scaring you and don't just think about the thing that you're excited about, but map out both. Take time to sit down with yourself and say, okay, here's this thing that I really want to build and that really makes me excited. What are the details around that, how it like start compiling resources to it, feel that excitement around that thing, but also take time to write down. If I don't choose to make moves on this in the next year and I'm in the exact same place as I am today, how will that feel? What will I? What is that thing that's chasing you as well? And that balance between those two forces will not just allow you to enter that space but, I would argue like, propel you into it, because you have both an acknowledgement of what is at risk if I am reactive and I'm not proactively trying to chase this. And what are these things that are really lighting me up, really sparking me? And I've seen that be successful over and over again across interview and interview with different NV Collective members. Those that choose to map out both of those forces and integrate them into their lifer are very successful at finding ways to innovate. Because and I've been curious about your experience in this do you ever does it feel like innovation? Or, in your experience, is innovation kind of like a lightning bolt that hits, or is it more of a? I'm constantly engaging with this thing and all of a sudden, something bubbles up and it's like boom, it's here and it happened.Speaker 2:
Yeah, it's very cyclical, I would say, and it's. You don't have to work in innovation to notice that there's a new trend every year. I think it became extremely apparent probably around the pandemic Everybody suddenly was on TikTok, and next year everybody suddenly was really interested in blockchain and NFTs, and then this year, everybody suddenly very everybody's an AI expert suddenly.Speaker 1:
I don't blame people, but people get excited with new things and I think the way that I see every new technology that becomes trendy, I see it as a beacon of hope, because when people see something new, they start hoping that finally this thing is going to change their life forever. Right, tiktok suddenly propelled so many creators who couldn't make it on YouTube. Right, blockchain for a brief moment gave creative freedom to so many artists and illustrators to earn their money through NFTs right Through direct connection with their fans. I'm not going to go into full unfortunate part of the blockchain wave where a lot of people just took advantage of it without actually bringing any value to people and that's ultimately what destroyed the excitement around it. Because I really still believe in blockchain. I think it brings tremendous value to security. It will give so much more freedom to individual creators. At this moment, we have to put a pause on it because of the AFTX and just like the bad rap you know, but people are still building on the back end. People are still building a lot of really cool stuff on blockchain and I never wanted to work in AI. It's not like one day I woke up and like, okay, today I'm an AI expert, and I would not claim that I am. I'm an innovation expert, which means that whatever is the next new thing that comes along, I can look at it in a very sober way. I can both critique it and get excited about it, and my job is to always look for utility. How can we actually apply it right now, in the next few years, to make our lives better? And here's a very interesting example that I think we'll tie to the previous point that we were discussing. I was recently speaking at a conference, and it was a conference for marketers, and, of course, everybody was really excited about AI, so part of my presentation was dedicated to it. It was really really interesting, because what I was trying to do is both change people's psychology around how they view AI and give them really practical tools of how to get started with it, how to find your particular way of working it. When do you use AI? Where do you you know to stay with a pen and paper? How do you put both together? How do you streamline some of your processes and routines to? Instead of dedicating four hours to that, you're not only dedicating half an hour to that, because you're outsourcing it to AI chatbot that knows you really well, or an AI tool that can automate your processes, that live in the two together, anyways. So I give this keynote and a bunch of companies come up to me afterwards and they say, like look, we really want to bring you in and talk to our teams about AI because we don't know where to get started. It looks very threatening. There are too many tools out there. We're not sure what's right for us. And, of course, a lot of these initial asks were driven by fear. They don't want to get left behind. They don't want to miss the moment when you know they can really be their competition by implementing something that saves them hours and hours. But here's what happened afterwards. Probably 10 different companies came up to me and I am the type of person I say yes to everybody in the beginning, like let's explore it, let's talk, let's see what you need. You know let's and I'm doing it in a very personalized way. Like I want to learn about their organization and processes and see what works specifically for them, not just one size, but tall. A lot of them I would say 50-50, 50% are still stalling. Like I have emails in my inbox. They're like yeah, we'll, we'll do them the next quarter. We don't have budgets right now, we don't have time right now. That is a clear indicator that it was a fear driven thing. Second, they were like, oh, no, competition is going to come along and beat us. But it was not strong enough for a long run, you know. They got distracted by their day-to-day things and now it's no longer top of mind until somebody actually wants to take their shirt from them, right? And then there's another bucket of them who are excited. They're like okay, how can we bring our clients to this? Okay, there will be one conversation you have with our creative team you help them streamline their processes. One conversation you're going to help with our sales team, helping them personalize the leads and find leads better with AI. One conversation you're going to have with our leadership team and see how we can be leveraged. That and they're just excited. You know and that's what? That's an interesting indication that the second group of companies yes, they came to me because of the fear, but they are excited along the way and they're actually dedicating, no matter what's happening with their business, they're dedicating time and resources to actually do it right now. Because, believe me, those companies who said like, let's do it in the next January. They're going to come running to me once AI gets to the levels that NFTs go to, where everybody's like, oh my God, what is this NFT thing? Right and you know nothing wrong with that. But the moral of the story, I would say, is to be proactive, is to commit part of your day, part of your time, to those things that are not immediate, to those things that propel you forward, to those things that feed your curiosity. Yeah, and I just love supporting people on that. It could be as simple as helping people know where to look. It's as simple as breaking down people's processes and figuring out how can AI, blockchain, vr or whatever help them there. It really depends on the industry, but I just love when people are driven by their curiosity and passion.Speaker 1:
Yeah, I think that's when you get the most impactful results from working with a team is when they're genuinely curious, they're genuinely passionate about the things that you're laying out or the topics that you're trying to chase. I've had lots of conversations around AI. Being in the marketing space, being an agency owner myself Also, just part of my role as the head of communities I talk to three between three and five cohort members every week in 30-minute coaching sessions, and a lot of those coaching sessions right now are centered around well, how do I implement this into my life? I'm seeing 10 different platforms every other week coming out. We're starting to see that adoption curve spike and for those of you that are unfamiliar with the idea of an adoption curve, we think about something like the refrigerator had somewhere around a 70-year adoption to reach a point where it's massively adopted across the entire globe. And then, as we move further and further closer to 2023, the adoption of technology has shrunk. It's gotten shorter and quicker and quicker and quicker, and the internet is something that instead of 70 years these are all arbitrary. I'm sure that you probably have a more in-depth idea of what these numbers actually are, but let's say, for sake of example, we went from 70 years with the refrigerator to like 15 to 20 years with the internet, and then we went to like two to three years or five years and continues to shrink down. So with the increased speed that people are able to deploy things because of the internet, the interconnectivity of communication like how fast things can deploy, how quickly it can hit Facebook can make one change and hit billions of people. How does? What are some indicators or things that people can look out for in either platforms that are popping up in their lives or ways that they can ask themselves questions Is this am I experiencing hype? Am I experiencing part of the draw into this because it's shiny, because it's new, because Google tells me I should be implementing it, or am I genuinely feeling a gap in my organization where I can see where this can be applied and I want to plug it in? Are there methods that you use to kind of detect the BS in platforms or ways that people are talking about implementing things?Speaker 2:
Yeah, there's no, there's no kind of universal tool. It's always try and buy, a trend, etc. But the one thing that I always look at is does this bring value to people? And I'm really glad you brought up the adoption curve because I'm sure everybody has already heard that chat GBT is the fastest app that's ever been adopted. Like it took so many years from Netflix to be adopted for TikTok. It took a year to grow to a place where everybody knew what TikTok is. Chat GBT was so fast and the reason why it was so fast exponential is because it brought value to people Instantly. You used to spend 20 minutes to write an email. Now you can do it with five minutes. Maybe you generated, you added it, you send it. I'm a super user of chat, gbt and Claude and a bunch of these things, partially because English is my second language. I used to always struggle with like is my grammar correct? Now I can always. One of my most common commands is keep the style and tone of voice proofread for readability and grammar, and I do it probably a hundred times a day for everything. At first I did not add the keep the style and tone of voice and it became a little bit more generic, the corporate America thing type of messaging. Now I'm like no, I have to sound like me, a little bit quirky, a little bit weird, but it has to be grammatically correct. So the question that you should be asking yourself is does it bring value? And the tools that we're seeing right now are impacting writing. So, anywhere where you're writing anything that it could be helpful, and then you know that's the beginning of the sentence in that we need to look at, you know, where do we still need to keep that human element? And yes, you're dedicating hours, but it's justified that you're dedicating human hours. And where can we actually speed up the processes? But it doesn't end there. Obviously, visual tools a lot of companies are now using all of the image generation services. Of course, adobe introduced Firefly, which can create generated feel and all of that. Of course, we cannot ignore runway machine learning startup that now creates video from text, right, and we already saw that. There's a Marvel TV show that fully created their opening credits with AI, which was a gimmick. It was an experiment, right? I think they definitely got a lot of press. I would have never heard about the show otherwise and a lot of illustrators were really unhappy because they were replaced with something that was quite generic and I think they were using AI for the sake of using AI. They wanted to try something. I don't think the value that they got out of it warranted going with an option of actually implementing the opening credits that were generated. It was not better than what a human can create. They just wanted people to see that they leverage a new technology, so that's exactly a really good indicator. Was that? Did that save you time? Did that bring more joy to people? Did that not really right? There are so many iconic opening credits created by humans that when you see them, you feel something inside. I feel nothing when I look at credits generated by AI, but again, I will not critique them for using the technology. I think it's great. I think everybody should be innovating. I critique them for not wanting to get the outcome, for not looking at it with a critical eye and asking themselves a question is this the right choice? Right, I forgot the question. I'm sorry.Speaker 1:
You're good. I totally blanked on where exactly we started that too, mostly because I just really enjoy staying present inside of conversation pieces. No-transcript, what you just hit on right there is so important for people to understand and we're going to get a little bit philosophical here for a second. We can kind of bring it back down to earth. But I love the fact that you brought up that the implementation of this technology and you've re you've reiterated this multiple times throughout the conversation so far Like the ultimate goal or the ultimate ability of AI is not to fully replace. There are some things that it may be able to fully replace, right, and there's a lot of people that are AI, that are very bullish in the AI realm, that are saying this is very early stage AI Five years from now. It's going to replace all creative stuff. Copywriters are going to be gone. This is going to be done. These, you know, naming job fields that are going to be pushed out of the market, and there are portions of that right. There's a little bit of that kind of angst around those things. But the way that you explain yes, the technology can be implemented Does it make you feel something different? Does it bring more joy. Does it save you time? Right, those types of filters that we add in as the humans Educating the AI, because right now, the language models, the way that they learn is with real human feedback right they are. The tools are learning from the prompts that we're giving and the things that we're asking for. So the way that we use the tool and this kind of circles back to what you were saying earlier about personalized chat box that really understand you and know you the way that we use the tool is going to dictate the way that the tool provides us responses. Right, and it's going to. We may speed up a process, but if we're not looking at that sped up process at the end with a critical eye, we're still the ones hitting send on the email. Our reputation, our relationship with that person on the other side of that screen Is what is being affected by that message being sent. Right, so you can have it, check for grammar and punctuation and things of that nature, but if you didn't have an added in that style and maintain the style and tone of me, it corporatize generic, it makes it generic right, it takes it away from being you and turns it into this thing that is a little bit more generic, because now it's pulling from all of the input from all the people and just making the best possible gas. So that's something I want to bring up for people that you know, maybe newer at using generative AI and this is specific to language models right kind of better initially diving into that space is you can Allow it or train it and use prompts in a way to keep your Essence as a part of it. Because it does feel very weird like I can still tell the difference Between a prompt that was like strictly I written, with no human editing or input, and one that was maybe 80% generated and then humanized and checked for punctuation. So whether or not that's going to get you know harder and harder to differentiate over time is up for debate. But I do want to double hit on that and I love the way that you place that. You know, does it save you time? Does it bring people more joy? You know how? What is this actually inputting into the world? I think that's such a conversation to have.Speaker 2:
And here's another example, because I know that everybody tends to talk about Tax or visuals first and foremost. I have an innovation newsletter. Maybe we can link it In the footnotes. It's yeah, of course, at stop, stack right the goods, but instead of the ohs you have three zeros. I recently ran an experiment on myself where I had three. I had a system. I managed my day, I managed my life or a whole month, and it was brutal. It was brutal in a way where when you automating all these things and perhaps for some people it's really going to work For me didn't because on the background they were constantly moving around meetings in my calendar for me. So every morning I woke up, I didn't know what my calendar looked like. I had no expectation because between yesterday and today, something might have moved. Especially, some of them allow you to also plug in other people's calendars, like your team's calendars, into your. So if they move the meeting for you, that just becomes a mayhem of two AI systems. Are moving things around two people's calendars or more, right? So I tested three different tools. I ultimately love the one without the AI. So three, two are really. I dream of the third one. It feels like an AI, but it's not, and I used it for a month and then I just stopped using it and I just felt that it didn't bring enough value for me. It actually brought a new type of stress and anxiety that I didn't have before. And when you weigh it and you say, ok, is this worth it? Does it bring enough value? Is it actually simplifying my life? At the moment I would say no, but I will keep an eye out because I know that they're taking users feedback. They're innovating, implementing new approaches. So maybe in a year I can come back to that. But that's an example of how to approach something like this. You have to be open to try things, create small pilots for yourself, little controlled experiments, and to see if it's best for you. And one more thing I wanted to mention is that I'm not a big fan of AI. It's surprising me. So I was a huge fan of blockchain and specifically Web 3. I really thought that that was a great way, in new way, to bring people together. And you know, you probably heard of decentralized organizations and how people were trying to cut out the middlemen corporation and do something directly with the clients, directly by themselves. I actually am a part of one now that bought land in Wyoming and now, as NFT holders, were actually landowners as well, and they wanted to build the independent city of the future there, and they're still. They're still interested in it. They have a really big community all around the world doing that. But what really excited me about blockchain and all those technologies is a new way for people to come together and accomplish something. Ai is way more personal. It's one on one. It's you and the system, you and the algorithm. Right, it's not bringing people together. I would almost argue it's separating people more. Right. I recently used ChadGPT to negotiate a refund for myself through email and it was really interesting because I felt like their support team also used chat GPT, so just our two little algorithms talking to each other trying to negotiate something. I won because ultimately, I looked into the news about this company and they had a lawsuit against them, so I fad the word lawsuit to chat GPT and once, I think, their support system. They ultimately issued me a refund. But it was really sad. It's not too human to talk into each other. It's just generic words spilt one side to the other, and I really don't want that to happen. I know that Google right now is testing a new pilot with Android where they would suggest would they create automated AI suggestions for your text messages. So somebody is texting you and the AI system sees that they mentioned dinner and they give you like five different options of what you can respond Like, oh, let's book a dinner. Or like, what do you want for dinner? Like, et cetera. I'm not a big fan of that because, yes, it saves people time, but at what cost, right? So I think I'm really unique in terms of people, like in the field of people working in innovation, where I try to be really, really sovereign about it. Right, I am extremely cautious, I would be the first critic of the things, but I'm also seeing the opportunity. So that's kind of like really a rope walker in a way, where you're trying to keep your balance and you're trying to always stay connected, you're always tracking the news, you're always seeing what's out there and you're trying to really suggest what's best for people, not for the sake of technology.Speaker 1:
Yeah, agreed, and I think a great way that I've heard that explained thus far is that AI is really just an embodiment of one part of what makes up a human person. Right, I mean, it's just intelligence, that's. It's one thing. And so we created this model. That is, we'll just use language models for the sake of examples, so that we're not getting too deep into the weeds, but we'll collect chat GPTs, the most well-known one, right? So chat GPT pulled a bunch of information, written information, which is only one type of information, right, so that's only written. That doesn't count. Oral storytelling there's things that it can't capture or understand. There's things that there's not pulling in. We have multiple senses, we have nervous systems inside of our heart, inside of our gut and inside of our brain, and chat GPT is really only the nervous system present in the brain, right, and really only one subsection of the one nervous system that's present in the brain. So when you have something like two chat GPTs going at each other in a argument for a refund, that is just one subsection of one thing that makes up a whole person, all kind of budding at itself. And to your point, with the experiment with Google and the text message thing we've seen and I saw this as a psych nurse when I was working inside of that field we're already seeing issues with people, especially younger individuals, with understanding how to navigate communication outside of a virtual space. It's the first time, like this generation, the younger portion of Gen Z and Generation Alpha they're really the first generations that have had to live in a world where their brains are developing around two separate realities that are actually the same thing virtual and physical, and so they're already kind of seeing this. Well, how do I communicate when my heart is saying this, my gut is saying this, my mind is saying this and I don't know what exactly the words are that I wanna say? How do I navigate these types of conversations, things like that? The more that we outsource those portions to something like an AI and we're just like oh, I don't need to think about this, I'm just gonna respond with what the AI recommends, you lose a little bit of that skill set that goes with that. So that's an interesting direction. Anything on that, I don't wanna risk spending too much time to talk to you about the philosophical implications of AI. We can dive back into your passions and the things that you're working on as well.Speaker 2:
Yeah, I think. One note, since I come from the field of digital design, I work in strategy a lot right now, but I'm still a designer at the essence. I recently had a conversation with Peter Smart from Phibosame Interactive, a really great product design company, about AI, and one of the biggest questions we're asking ourselves is what would it look like for the designers of the future? Already now there are tools out there that would create wireframes, designs for you without you doing anything, which is insane. Right the same way that Kanva really disrupted the way that people post on social media, a lot of people opt out of hiring designers now because they can do themselves in Kanva. And guess what? A lot of things just look like one business looks exactly like the other one because they use the templates. So we will see the same thing with digital design. People will be using AI Systems, wizards, ai tools to design their websites. It will save them a lot of time. Websites will ultimately look exactly the same. But if we look at the problem from the other side, what will happen to digital designers, ux designers, who are just starting with their career? It took me many, many years I've been in the field for over 10 years now to cultivate that gut feeling of how do you put together a strategy for someone's digital presence, what needs to be communicated, in which order? How do people consume information online? How do you differentiate from your competition? What can you say to make this stand out? How do you convert really fast All of these things I've cultivated for years to create a really visceral gut feeling that allows me to do my work really, really fast? What will happen to the designers of the future, who will not have an opportunity to do it themselves with their own hands, but will be using this generative tools? How do they cultivate the expertise? The craftsmanship Is a very big and open question, and I think it's our responsibility as executives, as directors, as people who already experienced in some field, to also mentor others and show them the value of craftsmanship, of handmade human emotion and inspiration and just art. So that's something that's top of mind as well for any creative career really, yeah, I agree with that, I 100%.Speaker 1:
If we are not the bridges between the era that we're in currently, in the portal that we're about to walk through, into the era that is going to come into existence, we're going to experience a lot of the same mistakes and the pains that we felt when the internet became widely used. So, yeah, ok, we're going to have to book another combo offline where we can dive into this, because I could pick your brain on topics like this all day, and I'm equally as passionate, but from a little bit of a different angle. You're more on the innovation side and I'm really fascinated with how it's going to affect us psychologically as people as we go into the future. But this hour is already flown by. We're already getting close to the end of our time together, which is mind-boggling because it does not feel like we have been talking for that full hour, and I want to make sure that we have a little bit of space here at the end to ask a couple of questions. So the first one is you've worked with a lot of these big organizations and obviously you understand innovation very well. You've been able to apply in a wide range of different places. If there's somebody that's listening to this and maybe listening to this episode sparked something in them that they're like I want to do what she's doing. Or there's somebody that is already kind of doing what you're doing and they're like I want to try to take this to the next level. What are some ways that people can work on trying to break into this field so that they are getting recognized and potentially getting work and plugging into places and working on cool projects, like you've had the opportunity to do?Speaker 2:
I'm really glad you asked this question. There are several answers that I can provide. First, I kind of already touched upon that, but conduct small experiments on your personal life how you manage your day, how do you write your emails, how do you create new things. But always remember to start with a human idea. Never start with a generative software when you see a blank page, because it will never bring you to anything new. It's only remixing what's out there. Only you can, starting with something that's really genuine and new, and then use AI to help you fine tune it. But so, small pilots, small experiments in yourself, trying different tools, is step number one. Step number two is starting to implement smaller disruptive innovations in the field that you're in for your clients. You don't have to go big. I'm extremely grateful to my mentor back in the day, back when I still was an architect, david Erickson, who's the founder of Scandu Navy and Internet School, hyper Island, who recognized that internet will disrupt all the companies in all of our lives. Back in the beginning of the 90s A fantastic man he showed me this tool that now is known to people as user journeys, that back then it was known as customer activity cycles, where you write out on a piece of paper every single thing that, for instance, your audience, your user, does to accomplish their goals, step by step, and you identify where are they wasting time, money, resources, wherever they frustrated, and you start brainstorming in very small ways how can you do something differently there? And you can start by small innovations within your craft and now you will become the go-to person for these things. You know the go-to person who's known for not copying, that's known for creating. And then the last thing I would say this opportunity is they're not really posted anywhere. A lot of this amazing stuff I didn't even touch about AR. I didn't even touch the AR stuff that I've done or machine learning aspects. They're not posted out there Very rarely. People are just like I'm hiring for this particular thing. Sometimes you see it, but not You're creating this for yourself, as you're becoming known as the person who's interested in that and who's introducing this into the processes. And you start small. But the more you cultivate your reputation as a person who's innovating with heart, who's innovating with intention, the more clients will come to you. The gig that I had with Toyota I think I only got it because I not only was the right person in terms of digital design, but I also had an architecture background, so sometimes it's very serendipitous. So don't? I think you should be talking about what you do and you should be talking about your passion. So you should be proactively expressing to your clients you want to do things differently for their sake, for their user's sake, and slowly but surely, the opportunities will come to you.Speaker 1:
Yeah, I think they say that luck is where opportunity meets preparation, right. So you almost it's kind of like a cart before the horse, right, you have to showcase your passion and understand and put yourself out there and try and fail on yourself, and I think Tim Ferriss is a great example of this as a person. Right, yeah, a large podcast in the world. Why did he achieve that? What did that look like? Multi-bestselling author. It's all because he ran experience on himself and wrote about his experiences and then went out and found other people that did that and created an entire book that he didn't even write. It's just an accumulation of a bunch of people that ran little experiments on themselves over time. So I love that. And the final question that I always ask that kind of has to do with where people get inspiration from, and this doesn't have to be like a self-help topic or anything to do with business. It's really just things that people find interesting, and I think it's really interesting to find, especially as somebody that is focused on innovation. Is you where we find inspiration? So do you consider yourself a reader, a watcher or a listener and, depending on which one of those three you feel you fit the best in. Could you recommend a TV show, a podcast or a book that you draw inspiration from or you find interesting?Speaker 2:
I'm a watcher mostly, but I do the other two as well and I'll give you two answers. I'll give you the boring answer and the exciting answer. The boring answer is there's a podcast I really love, Space Cadets podcast. They're summarizing VC innovation pretty cool newsletter to get every day. And then the exciting answer is that I actually draw a lot of inspiration for innovative interfaces through TV shows that I really love. So for strategy, you'll be laughing, but I love Better Call Saul. I think he really hacks it. You know how to bring innovation to different places? The Ozarks they constantly end the threat of death and they have to weasel with a lot of the crazy situations and then like, oh, I think I can do this for e-cars. And then, visually, of course, westworld, white Lotus, station 11,. There's an amazing British show called Utopia that was remade for Amazon for the first time. It's fantastic, it was really visually stunning. Whenever I see interactive things there interactive in a way where two people interact with each other in a new way I'm like, oh, can I steal this and somehow turn this mechanic into UI? So that's just. I watch a lot of TV. I'm really passionate about my shows. I really love a well-written story and I just love cross-pollination. I think a lot of basis for innovation is cross-pollination. It's bringing something from one industry to the other and combining it in unexpected ways.Speaker 1:
I would agree. I would agree. I mean, you think about the way that Einstein explains the way he disrupted the entire world of physics with general relativity, and it was not by doing equations all day, every day. You know, a lot of it was daydreaming, a lot of it was walks, a lot of it was music, a lot of it was art. You know, it's these things from other areas of life that pull in, and I think fiction is an amazing place to pull inspiration from, because that is a true manifestation of the human imagination at its best.Speaker 2:
Yeah, and the parting thought is just really productivity is key here. Back in my days at Red End Clerk, I was known as a person who would just bug the new business team at all times, trying to understand which clients have we signed so I can work on the most exciting ones? I was like, oh my God, they're rethinking death. Can I work on this please? Can you put somebody else on this eShop? Can I please work on rethinking back with them? So it was all about productivity and telling people what you were interested in, what would you like to tackle, and showing them that you can.Speaker 1:
Yeah, I love that. I love that. Well. So if individuals that are listening to this, you know or organizations that are listening to this are like I wanna get ahold of you, I wanna learn more about you. Where can people find more information on you and where is your preferred ability for people to connect?Speaker 2:
LinkedIn is great. You can find me there. You can also go to my link tree. Hopefully we'll add a couple of links to this podcast footnotes for my innovation newsletter. The Goods Link tree has all the links and also you can look at consultation with me if you would like. We can talk about what you need Across really both the personal business aspects, but also how can we bring more of it to your clients. So far I'm available, but not for too long.Speaker 1:
Yeah, perfect. And then, if you're listening to this and you are interested in joining the indie collective community, there are dozens of people like myself and Leah that are in the community Actually, dozens is an understatement. We just hit our 500th member about a month or two ago by the time this podcast will be released, and I am super amped to be in that community with these individuals that are amazing coaches, consultants, designers, developers, innovation specialists, coders Every feasible job field that you can think of is a part of this community, and I love the ability to cross pollinate ideas, and I'm so grateful to have the ability to host shows like this and talk to our members in depth. So thank you again for coming and hanging out for this hour. It's been amazing, and until next time everybody listening this has been an episode of the Modern Independent here at Indie Collective.