Dec 222016

I was recently selected to speak at the TEDx Mountainview college event. It was an honor to be a participant and I was truly excited to cross this aspiration off my bucket-list. I enjoy public speaking and I especially cherish every opportunity I have to speak on matters in which I am passionate. At this event my talk was titled, “The Year I Fed the Coyotes.” It was inspired from a book I wrote of the same title.
The talk addressed the challenges of creating and the courage it takes to live a creative life. During the talk, I had the terrible experience of stage fright and had to collect myself more than once. This never happens to me, I love to talk! Yet, I placed so much importance on this night, and this talk and wanted my message to be powerful and impactful that I psyched myself out and performed poorly.
Months later the iconic performer, song-writer and poet, Bob Dylan was acknowledged by the Noble Prize committee. He declined the offer to receive the award in person, thus the singer Patti Smith sang one of his songs in his place. Smith is most well-known for her song, “Because the Night,” co-written with Bruce Springstein in 1978. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Rolling Stone Magazine named her as one of the 100 greatest published artists.
Patti Smith is an accomplished, seasoned artist who has performed for thousands of people over the years. And, she experienced stage fright while performing Dylan’s song at the Noble Prize ceremony. She stopped abruptly in the middle of the song and said, “I’m sorry. I’m so nervous.” Smith, in an article in The New Yorker, after the performance, described an “overwhelming case of nerves…” She literally had to stop and gain her composure. She apologized to the royal audience and dignitaries in attendance. She struggled through her stage-fright and finished strong.
Her performance moved the audience to tears as her raw, humble rendition of the song captured the beauty and wisdom of Dylan’s words. Smith was singing the lyrics of one of the greatest poets of our time, it was perfect.
I was so disappointed that I did not perform to the level I know I can. There was not embarrassment; but, frustration and anxiety that I was not delivering the impactful, insightful, and entertaining message I know I’m capable. I was mad.
In retrospect, I see my performance was the message. I realize that my limitations of that night, reflected one night and one experience, and one more example of the challenges of creative expression. Most of the examples in my talk were constraints and limitations placed on an artist as they endeavor to express their view of the world. My talk demonstrated the self-imposed obstacles which make creation difficult as well. I would like to say, “I nailed it!” That I performed flawlessly that night. But, I didn’t and in retrospect, I think I performed beautifully. Because, in the end, the talk and performance are the message and my message is creativity takes courage, persistence and humility and this talk, that night challenged me as an observer of life and creative person. It was perfect.

You can view my talk at: You Tube video
You can read Patti Smith’s article in The New Yorker, titled, How Does it Feel, December 14, 2016.

Jul 282016

You must seek and invite outsiders into the conversation to think outside the box.

To get truly unique ideas you have to invite people who are not part of the community or live outside your box.  This means people who are not part of the discipline, do not speak the language, they don’t know the inside jokes, the handshake or belong to the club.  These interlopers will bring the different perspectives, ask the wrong questions for the community, which are the right questions and pose the unique ideas.  To think outside the box, you must invite the outsiders into the conversation.

It’s easy to give this practice a nod and lip service, making it happen is much more difficult.  The difficulty is finding these people and then listening to them with the same appreciation as though you agree with them or understand their contrary ideas.

Jul 062016

What it looks like to practice nudge design with a two year old child

My son who is two years old resembles a non-stop, opinionated, continual diatribe of gibberish, bundle of energy, turning everything upside down and pulling everything else off the shelf, perch or place.  He is a walking disaster that leaves messes in his wake and turmoil in his path.  His name is Augie and he is a curious, intuitive, manipulative and amazing little boy.

In regards to managing Augie, I quickly recognized the brilliance of Mom leadership and the power of nudge design.

When I try to discipline or direct our little monster it ends with defiance and tears.  When Mom interacts with Augie it is re-direct, cajole, persuade and engage.  She is direct and firm, with well-established expectations and boundaries; but, he often feels as though it was his idea while following Mom’s wishes and he even has fun doing what was certainly headed to be a battle and standoff moments earlier.

Nudge design is not gentle directions or indirect commands; it requires that leadership consider what motivates and inspires a person to act and design solutions with all stakeholders in mind. 

Whoever invented the cleanup song, “clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere, clean up, clean up, lend a hand and do your share….” was a genius.  And, don’t even get me started on the quiet game.  Pure Brilliance!  The first time I saw the quiet game work, for a twenty minute drive home, I could not believe it.  Didn’t the three kids of 10, 7 and 5 years of age see they were being manipulated?  How did this resemble a game?!  But, they found fun in the challenge and maintained complete silence all the way home and into the house.  That is nudge design!

So, you might say, “How is that nudge design?”

The definition of nudge design:  To create an environment: which inspires action instead of pushing or pulling the individual or group to act.

A simple cleanup song engages the child in a playful way; it redirects their attention away from the task at hand and reframes the activity of picking something up as a game.  It creates a win/win scenario between Mom and child where everyone gets what they want.

In Augie’s case, it is pretty certain anything Mom or Dad asks him to do will be answered with “no.”  He’s driven by his own impulses and desires and not really open to anyone else’s wishes.  Now, I’m not saying organizations have people who act like petulant two year olds; but, we all act easier on our own agendas; especially when we don’t agree with the other’s ideas or commands.

Organizations can practice nudge design by considering their employee’s needs and wants and then aligning the mission of the company and day to day tasks.  Leadership must write their own “cleanup” songs; but, their song titles might be “Make money,” or “Serve your customer well.”  This happens in the hiring process, development of a strong culture and constantly in matching the strengths of employees to the needs of the organization.

What Moms know is kids are predictable.  They have three core things which drive their actions and instead of fighting or challenging these motivations, they appeal to them.  Kids want to eat, they are cranky and unreasonable when tired, and they want to play non-stop.  That’s it.  So, Moms never question this, they just utilize whichever factor is driving the child at that moment and make it work to achieve the desired outcome.

Employees are driven by three things:  Compensation, respect and opportunities to advance.  Paying someone more is not always the best solution to getting desired results.

If Augie has one of his younger sister’s toys and she is crying because she wants it, Mom will offer a more interesting toy to the little monster and return sister her toy.  If Augie has dug his heals into the notion that he will not eat his peas, Mom will entice him with something else he wants to get what she wants.  “Augie, you want cookies for dessert, you have to eat all the peas on your plate.”  Mothers are natural Design Thinkers, if the two year old has everyday tasks such as brushing his teeth, taking a bath, or changing into clean clothes, these all become games or songs which turn a certain struggle into a fun game for the child.

Manufacturers of baby products implement nudge design into every aspect of their products:  Cribs with mobiles for the younger children or towels which resemble animal costumes are examples of turning a practical product into a fun, engaging toy which ultimately serves the parent’s objective. 

The designers of children’s products imagine what will engage and motivate the child to “play-along” with the original intent of the furniture, device or bouncy chair without the adult’s primary objective being front and center.  But, the designers do not stop with engaging the child; they consider what would best serve the parents or adults utilizing the product.  They consider all stakeholders and create products which satisfy the varied interests.

Moms utilize nudge design to get results from the most difficult people, two year olds.  They practice Design Thinking as a way to consider all stakeholders and create solutions which satisfy all the people affected, at the level in which they operate, considering what’s uniquely important to each individual.  Organizations can learn a thing or two from Mom as they deal with their “two year olds.”

Nudge design on a two year old is the same as design for any target audience, any age.  It requires imagining all the stakeholders, people who have an investment in the product or service or impacted by some element of the product, process or service.  The good designers not only meet the needs, but exceed expectations. 

Moms are great examples of Design Thinkers as they practice a holistic approach to solving wicked problems every day.  The only difference is their solutions are rarely met with high bonuses and a special parking space; although, their issues are often equally challenging as the fortune 500 company crisis.




Jul 022016



This graphic illustrates all the roles involved in a creative exercise.

The value of recognizing these roles is to understand your contribution to the process or allow the designer to facilitate to these specific traits.

The Design Thinker must acknowledge all aspects of the creative process to fully realize any vision.

Jul 012016

Design Thinking relies heavily on nudge-design.

I want to define this term as it is the key to successfully collaborating with large groups or nodes.


Instead of pushing (dictating or even suggesting), AND not pulling (forcing compliance or persuading action based on compromise),

nudge INSPIRES action.

This requires insight into the stakeholders and consideration of the entire process, interactivity and larger vision.

Jul 012016

Form, Storm, Norm and Perform as developed by Bruce Tuckman in the mid 60’s provides  a guide for all group collaborative efforts.  It describes the phases any group will encounter in an effort to collaborate.  Attention to these stages will guide the group to more efficiently accomplish their task, whether to maximize their work, address an issue or innovate.

Specifically, this is how it applies to the Leonardo project and information gained:


  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What is their investment, interest, commitment or connection?
  • Identify mission to attract all stakeholders and provide vision to guide group

NOTE:  Vision is big picture goal – Mission describes what is being done to move to vision.


  •  Where is the participant talking from?  NOT experience, degrees or positions.  But exposes outlook on life, influences, passions, interests what is influencing any thoughts, ideas or positions.
  •  Understand each other’s agenda.  Explore disagreements which can inhibit communication or collaborative efforts.  Example:  Right/left-brain metaphor is discounted as “old” science and irrelevant.  The challenge is to not assume the person using that metaphor is not educated on current research and discount the message.  It is best to understand the intent of using that specific metaphor and find a common language which will not be a distraction to any participants but still conveys the message intended.
  •  Punch the Gorilla!  If there are unsaid issues which limit the level of connection, address these issues.  Just because they are not mentioned or acknowledged publicly, does not mean they are not impacting the dynamics of the group.  Recognize that all issues do not need to be addressed; but, be informed about which unsaid issues are inhibiting and which will not serve the current participants by surfacing.
  •  Acknowledge and discuss any hierarchies, positions, titles or arrangements which will impact the dynamics of the group.  Implied positions can severely limit communication and cloud messages.


A common place of operating will emerge which will include shared vision, common language and collective agreement on work process and protocol which serves all participants to move forward.  Note:  This is not considering all the stakeholders, but must apply to the core group.


This entails the processes – steps which lead to agreed upon outcomes and expected results.

Jun 022016


The vertical axis represents the stakeholders within the process of publishing an article at Leonardo Journal.  Historical data is available, while future predictions are easily made by identifying stakeholders’ needs, patterns and expectations.
The gap represents where innovation occurs.  This is where insights are located.

May 312016


The idea

Innovate NOT Collaborate:  The group is not working as a team, but as individuals combining their attributes to innovate.

Participants within the group divide based on their role, as defined by common ideas, preferences, approaches or personality traits.


The four roles:

1.  Elephant – Right-brain thinker, doer, follows instinct, hunch, and pursues their passion
2.  Rider – Left-brain thinker, planner, conservative, follows proven, safe path of experience
3.  Innovator – Creative person who embraces change, seeks unique, and excels at different
4.  Designer – Big picture person who sees all stakeholders and seeks win/win opportunities

Participants divide into separate groups all working toward a shared vision to address a common challenge.


To innovate, the group follows six steps.

  1. Roles?  (Form)
  2. Challenge?  (Form)
  3. Crazy ideas!  (Storm)
  4. Prototypes  (Storm)
  5. Vision?  (Norm)
  6. Insights?  (Perform)

6 Steps to Innovation

  1. Roles:  Each participant must identify and commit to a role within the process.  Innovation requires the right person on the right task, at the right time to succeed.  Once a person assumes this role, they will begin looking at the task/challenge from their unique perspective.

Four roles: Elephant, Rider, Innovator, and Designer.


  1. Frame the challenge [Requires a Designer’s perspective]

–  Agree on the group mission

–  Identify all stakeholders

–  Inventory all experiences, what is known, not known, and the group needs to know.


  1. Crazy Ideas!  [Innovator’s contribution]

–  Imagine many ideas.  (100 idea rule)

–  Imagine without constraints – Thinking outside the box through heuristic design

Example-  It is noted that if individuals could fly, the challenge would be easy to solve.  After the idea is realized, it could lead to the thought, what does flying do that addresses the issue?  Then, what else produces similar results?  Or, how can we simulate flying?  Which all lead to ideas previously unimagined.

–  Divide into flow groups  (Individuals who share similar ideas or united thoughts)


  1. Prototypes [Performed by Elephant, NOT the Rider, it’s too early in process to form opinions and conclusions.]

–  Test ideas, concepts without preconceived conclusions or judgments.

–  Test small – Not too big.  Explore nuances of the idea that provide insights to the larger solution.

–  Gather feedback from all stakeholders


  1. Vision [Designer’s role]

–  Articulate the direction

–  Convey a clear image of expected results

–  Inspire participants, through creative leadership, to support the core idea


  1. Insights [lead by Rider]

–  All participants perform their role to accomplish the vision.

–  All actions must align with core idea as defined by the innovator.

–  Attention is focused on details of performance.  Insights emerge that are only available at this stage.


May 312016

Marcus Neustetter: Study of the Vertical Gaze IV

Artist Marcus Neustetter’s Study of the Vertical Gaze is the result of an observation and – in a philosophical sense – an extrapolation of the work of archaeologists and astronomers.

Both scientific disciplines look back on the past and collect historical data: objects buried deep in the ground inform us about our history and open up perspectives for the future, just as analyses of light from the depths of outer space contribute to a better understanding of time and space. Sightlines towards the sky or down to earth lie on the same vertical axis, the socalled “vertical gaze”. Neustetter’s Study of the Vertical Gaze IV is the material expression of this mind game. The transparent glass tabletop is covered with a complex pattern of interlaced lines and threads – possibly hinting to the enigmatic structure of our universe, and likely also a visual illustration of dark matter or the string theory. As the viewer’s gaze hits the glass, a stack of wooden rings becomes apparent, the shape of which brings to mind the cosmic Ring Nebula or a tunnel entrance into the depths of the Earth. The table’s components are interspersed with wooden slats arranged at straight angles, echoing the systematic classification of a scientific chart., viewed 5-31-2016