The Design Better podcast delivers insights from the world’s most renowned creative leaders, empowering teams to transform their practice and build remarkable products. This series is hosted by Aarron Walter and Eli Woolery and brought to you by InVision, the digital product design platform used to make the world’s best customer experiences. Discover more best practices, research, and resources at www.designbetter.com.
Dr. Sian Proctor: Building common languages
If you’re looking for an inspiring human being, it would be hard to beat Dr. Sian Proctor. Dr. Proctor is a geoscientist, and also an artist and poet who uses her afro-futurist space art to encourage conversations about women of color in the space industry.
For 21 years, she taught geology, sustainability, and planetary science. She also happens to be an astronaut(!), and was the mission pilot for the Inspiration4 all-civilian orbital mission to space. Her call sign “Leo” was eaned from her crewmates, who consider her a modern-day Rennaisance woman in the mold of Leonardo DaVinci.
This special episode of the Design Better Podcast was recorded at an internal event for InVision, where we brought Dr.Proctor in to speak to our team. After her inspiring presentation, we had the chance to interview her, and we spoke about topics ranging from imposter syndrome, to learning to speak the language of your collaborators, to the natural synthesis between art and science.
Dr. Proctor is a geoscientist, explorer, space artist, and astronaut. She is the mission pilot for the Inspiration4 all-civilian orbital mission to space. She is also one of The Explorer’s Club 50: Fifty People Changing the World. Her motto is called Space2inspire where she encourages people to use their unique, one-of-a-kind strengths, and passion to inspire those within their reach and beyond. She believes that we need to actively strive for a J.E.D.I. space: a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive space as we advance human spaceflight.
Dr. Proctor spent 21 years as a professor teaching geology, sustainability, and planetary science at South Mountain Community College, Phoenix, Arizona. She is currently the Open Educations Resource Coordinator for the Maricopa Community College District. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science, an M.S. in Geology, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction: Science Education. She recently finished a sabbatical at Arizona State University’s Center for Education Through Exploration creating virtual field trips. She did her 2012-13 sabbatical at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Emergency Management Institute developing their science of disasters curriculum. She has appeared in multiple international science shows and is currently on A World Without NASA and Strange Evidence. You can follow her on social media @DrSianProctor.
IBM’s Katrina Alcorn: Developing partnerships
If you lead a team of over 700 people, what skills would you need to bring to the table to help them collaborate effectively? In today’s episode, we chat with Katrina Alcorn, General Manager of Design at IBM, about how she develops partnerships across her organization to resolve conflicts and get aligned. We also talk to Katrina about the challenges that large teams face in remote and hybrid environments, how her training in journalism influences her work as a leader, and what she learned about living a balanced life from writing her book Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink.
Katrina Alcorn spent the first decade+ of her career as a consultant, leading strategic design and research initiatives for startups, non-profits, and Fortune 500s in a variety of industries including financial services, medical devices, energy, e-commerce, the arts, and education.
In 2015 she went “in-house” and learned what it means to be a change-maker from the inside. Katrina built two successful design practices, the first at Hot Studio (bought by Facebook in 2013) and the second at Autodesk, centralizing all digital design and research functions, leading to major improvements in e-commerce sales and customer satisfaction.
Nir Eyal: How to be Indistractable
You’re sitting at your desk, trying to do some deep work—finishing up a presentation, writing some code, sketching out a new interface—and you hear a noise. It’s the familiar knock of Slack, or the chime of your e-mail inbox. All of a sudden, you’re taken away from a state of flow and into an attempt to multi-task, which is the enemy of getting things done.
By some estimates, distractions cost the US economy more than $650 billion dollars a year in lost productivity. And Nir Eyal, bestselling author of the book Hooked, may have been the inspiration behind some of the most habit-forming products out there.
But he also has another book, Indistractable, which can give you the tools to avoid distractions both at work and at home. In this episode, we chat with Nir about what got him interested in the intersection of technology and psychology, how we as consumers can have a better relationship with habit-forming products, and how he—as a parent— thinks about kids and technology.
Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. Nir previously taught as a Lecturer in Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford.
Nir co-founded and sold two tech companies since 2003 and was dubbed by The M.I.T. Technology Review as, “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology.” Bloomberg Businessweek wrote, “Nir Eyal is the habits guy. Want to understand how to get app users to come back again and again? Then Eyal is your man.”
He is the author of two bestselling books, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.
Indistractable received critical acclaim, winning the Outstanding Works of Literature Award as well as being named one of the Best Business and Leadership Books of the Year by Amazon and one of the Best Personal Development Books of the Year by Audible. The Globe and Mail called Indistractable, “the best business book of 2019.”
In addition to blogging at NirAndFar.com, Nir’s writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Harvard Business Review, Time Magazine, and Psychology Today.
Nir invests in habit-forming products that improve users’ lives. Some of his past investments include Eventbrite (NYSE:EB), Anchor.fm (acquired by Spotify), Kahoot! (KAHOOT-ME.OL), Canva, Homelight, Product Hunt, Marco Polo, Byte Foods, FocusMate, Dynamicare, Wise App, and Cutback Coach.
Nir attended The Stanford Graduate School of Business and Emory University.
Detria Williamson: Making collaboration more inclusive
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last year, Detria Williamson, former Chief Marketing Officer of IDEO, said that “diversity can be engineered and inclusion cannot.” In this episode, we dive deeper into that statement, and also ask Detria what roadblocks she encountered over the course of her career—from working as a head of marketing in Dubai, to her most recent role at IDEO. We also ask her about what it means when design becomes commoditized, and how remote and hybrid work impact inclusivity.
Detria Williamson is an internationally recognized digital marketer, who for over 20 years has helped category-leading companies become experience-led and content-driven. Informed by her experiences living and working from the U.S., London, Singapore, and the Middle East, she created the ICX (inclusive customer experience) approach, enabling visionary leaders to embrace inclusivity as an end-to-end element of their business ecosystem.
Guy Kawasaki: Being Remarkable
Guy Kawasaki has certainly had a remarkable career. From gaining popularity as the Chief Evangelist at Apple for the Macintosh computer in the 1980’s, to authoring fifteen books, to hosting the Remarkable People podcast, Guy has made a habit of trying new things During our conversation with Guy, we talk about why it’s important to be able to make a sale, no matter what your role is. We discuss the start of his career at Apple, and how he got developers to write software for a relatively unknown platform. And we ask his advice for people just getting started in their own careers, whether that’s in tech, writing, or entrepreneurship.
Rewind: John Cleese: A cheerful guide to creativity
The Ministry of Silly Walks. The Cheese Shop. French Taunting. If you haven’t seen any of these Monty Python sketches before, do us a favor and go watch one or two of them. You’ll discover—or re-discover—why our guest for this episode is a creative comic legend.
John Cleese starred in and co-wrote the award-winning series Fawlty Towers, was nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay of A Fish Called Wanda, and even has a species of lemur named after him (Cleese’s wooly lemur, Avahi cleesei). He’s also an expert on the creative process, and so if you’re looking for a new framework to level-up your own workflow, his book Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide is a great resource.
We talk with John about his new book, and also about creative collaboration in the midst of friction, how to be comfortable with ambiguity, and creating boundaries of space and time to get in a creative mode. We also get to ask him a question that’s been bugging us ever since we first watched Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
After everything that happened in 2020, we can all use a little more laughter in our lives. We hope our interview with John sparks some joy, and leaves you with some new creative tools. Thanks for listening.
How John’s childhood influences the way he approaches creativity Why John uses writing to explore ideas What “closed mode” and “open mode” are (and how they relate to convergent and divergent modes of thinking).
John Cleese is an English actor, comedian, writer, and film producer. He achieved success at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. In the late 1960s, he co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe responsible for the sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus and the four Monty Python films, And Now for Something Completely Different, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life. In the mid-1970s, Cleese and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote and starred in the British sitcom Fawlty Towers. Later, he co-starred with Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, and former Python colleague Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. He also starred in Clockwise, and has appeared in many other films, including two James Bond films, two Harry Potter films, and the last three Shrek films. He is also the author of Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide.
Design inspiration go-to
I'm the sole product designer in my company supporting engineering ship product to over a million users. As I'm still pretty green it's a big task and having the insights of design leaders broadcast to me is invaluable!
Great content, inconsistent recording quality.
Really liking the content but they really need to improve on the recording quality of those they interview. The forth episode with Albert Lee sounds like someone is sucking on a staw whilst hes talking.