Design Thinking, Distributed Cognition & OKRs
Christina Wodtke is a designer, educator and author who’s worked for a string of iconic Internet companies – Yahoo, LinkedIn, Myspace, and Zynga. Now she teaches design thinking, story structure and how to use OKRs – with her own unique twist. Christina has a gift for bringing ideas from different disciplines into design & management. Listen in and learn about Christina’s boundary-crossing model of design thinking as distributed cognition. It blew my mind – I know you’ll enjoy it to.
More on Christina Wodtke
Christina’s Website: Elegant Hack
Christina’s Book: Radical Focus
About this episode
[Amy Jo Kim] Welcome, Christina to the Getting2Alpha Podcast.
[Christina Wodtke] Thank you, Amy Jo. I’m really excited to be here.
Me too. For those who don’t know you, why don’t you start with the whirlwind tour of your background, tell us about how you got started in design and tech and then the forks in the road along the way. How did you decided what to pursuit?
There’s only one kind of tour of my background and it’s going to be whirlwind. I first came to San Francisco as an art student and painted and waited tables for about, good Lord, almost ten years. I was having painting shows and various art galleries and then my boyfriend’s best friend asked me, “Hey, do you want to build a Yahoo killer.” I didn’t really want to build a Yahoo killer but my arms were tired and my feet hurt and I thought perhaps doing something else with my time might be useful. That’s how C|Net hired me to review 50 websites a week and build their directory. I got to say, reviewing 50 websites a week I felt completely, madly, passionately in love for the web.
In fact, sometimes I think I was spending most of my life just waiting for the web to show up in my life. From there, I went on to work at Egreetings. Became a very early information architect. Wrote a book on information architecture. Went on to I’m going to snap and repeat from there. I went to work at Egreetings. Became an information architect very early on. Wrote a book on information architecture called Blueprints for the Web. Started my own consultancy and left that and started a product startup called Cucina Media. Cucina Media was an amazing experience. I built a startup before Eric Ries and Steve Blank were really around telling you how to build a startup.
I was just making everything up and then one day I came across Steve Blank’s book and I picked it up and I read it. It was this new book that he self-published through Cafepress and I went, “Oh my God, I’m in trouble.” I looked up his name on the web and found his phone number and drove out to Half Moon Bay to meet with him. We had a two hour conversation. At the end of that I realized my startup probably didn’t have a huge future. I shopped around, I was lucky enough to have it picked up by LinkedIn. Me and my co-founder worked there for a few years then, MySpace, Zynga, I’ve been the general manager for a while and then I kind of hit a wall and dropped out of that whole world and asked myself, “Where is meaning? Where is this passion I used to have for making great things?”
I found it again by teaching at CCA and teaching the next generation of interaction designers and entrepreneurs. I also taught the current generation over at Stanford Continuing Studies. Teaching them how to use design thinking to be more effective at finding product/market fit. I will say I’m in my second marriage with the internet and I love it as much as ever.
What topics as you’re teaching in these wonderful institutions and sharing your knowledge, what are the topics that are nearest and dearest to your heart? What is it that you’re most passionate about sharing?
As I mentioned, one of the things that comes up over and over again is design thinking. It’s funny because when I first heard about design thinking I thought this is a load of hooey. I don’t know what the rating is on your podcast but we’ll see if we can keep it PG. I thought I was just trying to rebrand UCD as something they could sell for more money. Then, I was lucky enough I was invited to teach at the Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design and I took those students through a one-week version of my entrepreneurship class and they got the product/market fit in one week. That really shook me up like how could you get to product/market fit so quickly, that’s crazy.
I realized that it was because they use their tools as designers. They used design thinking approaches to every single aspect of the entrepreneurial process. The way they talk to people, the way they managed the data, the way they quickly prototype and validated and tested, it’s just really effective. When I came back to California I went ahead and deeply integrated the design thinking approach into my entrepreneurship classes. I’ve been extraordinarily surprised and delighted at what a big difference it makes to people’s ability to be effective. As you know, since you run an entrepreneurship course. The one thing that startups don’t have is time and any time that you have an approach it allows you to accelerate and be more effective. You got to grab that and hold on tight.
Design thinking can mean a lot of different things. It is practiced in different ways. How is it that you practice it?
I’ve got to say I do have a little bit of a different point of view than most people about design thinking. When I first started questioning, “Hey, does this design thinking thing, maybe it’s an actual thing. Maybe it’s just marketing.” I thought, “Let’s think about those words,” think about the word thinking. What if design thinking was a type of cognition? I reached out to a friend of mine who teaches at Kent State and I said, “Is there a chance that design thinking is actually a different kind of cognition? Is it an effective way to think?” He pointed me at this amazing body of literature which is around distributed cognition.
Distributed cognition is a relatively recent phenomenon and in it, scientist are beginning to believe that we don’t think with our brain. I just love that. I’ve always thought I thought with my brain. It turns out that if we want to be truly effective at thinking we need to think not just with our brain but with our hands, with our body, with paper, with pencils, with tools, with walls, to get your head around it. Just picture trying to play a card game or a game of Scrabble with your hands behind your back and you’re not allowed to rearrange the cards, you’re not allowed to rearrange the tiles of Scrabble.
Can you imagine how incredibly hard that is to figure out what words you should make or what hands you might have? The fact is we think better when we can manipulate the objects and the world around us. What’s happening when design thinkers sit down with a problem? They don’t just sit around a conference table and go, “Hey, Joe. What do you think? Hey, Jim. What do you think?” They actually very quickly start going out and talking to customers, building prototypes, writing ideas on post-it notes, rearranging the post-it notes, sketching out potential prototypes, tearing them apart, rearranging them.
All this physical manipulation of information and data and this constant testing it against the world is a really fantastic example of how distributed cognition can be more effective. I think one of the things that lean has always had is everybody presents it with science-y, you know? Maybe not science but science-y with its hypothesis and all that. I guess I’m saying it’s not science-y, it’s actually science that both lean and design thinking which in a lot of ways are two sides of the same coins, they are all a type of distributes cognition and it is literally a better way to think.
Awesome. I love hearing your point of view. Are you bringing this distributed cognition thinking into the way that you’re teaching students and educating the next generation of interaction designers?
Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s really fascinating I guess that I teach at CCA. I’m teaching some sophomores right now in a class called Story. In this class they have to give talks and what they always think is, “Hey, I’m just going to open up PowerPoint and I’m going to think real hard with my brain and then I’m going to write this brilliant talk.” What I teach them to do instead is sit down with a pad of post-it notes and then quickly come up with as many ideas as they possibly can. Write one idea per post-it note and then take all these ideas and put them into groups and see are there patterns in this. Is there anything you want to build on? Then, you map it against a framework.
A great example of a framework is the one that Nancy Duarte came up with in her book Resonate in which a talk constantly goes back and forth between what it is and what it might be. My personal favorite framework is actually snapping against a classical story arc. You have a situation, you have an exciting incident, you have struggles, you finally have a resolution and mapping these ideas against the framework is a way of using the wisdom of the world, but manifesting it in the physical form. What I teach my Stanford Continuing Education class on entrepreneurship, this is at the exact same way we put together their pitches.
The class ends with a pitch and of course they are all sitting there going, “Hey, I should look up the ultimate pitch deck on Forbes” or what have you, and just copy that. It’s like, “No, no, no. Start with your ideas, gather them, pre-list them, brainstorm them, find the pattern and then shape it into a compelling story.” They’ll just sit there with PowerPoint going, “Here is a number and here is another number and here’s another number.” Tell the human story. Talk about the struggles your users are going through. Paint a picture of the passion that they have around your product and the VCs of course do want the numbers but they also want to know that this is a problem that people are really struggling with and this is a problem that they are really seeking to solve and this is a problem you actually can solve as well.
Right, that’s fascinating. One of the challenges with design thinking, particularly how it’s implemented is a lot of focus on ideation which is great but not as much engagement with the real constraints of building a product. I know that you’ve been on both sides of that. You teach, you’ve also built and shipped products. You dealt with the realities of constraints. How do you merge or deal with that contradiction or that challenge when you’re using design thinking, when you’re teaching design thinking?
I’m a massive fan of validation. The worst waste of your time possible is to come up with an idea and then build it and then ship it and then see what happens. That’s an extraordinarily dangerous approach. What I like to do is I like to take things when they are still in a smooshy space and take them out with actual potential users or invested in your success because they have real problems that they want you to solve for them. Use the users insights to try to decide what the right thing to do, what the right thing to build. Validate your decisions you’ve already made are. For example, there’s a methodology that I’ve built off of some work we did actually at LinkedIn back in the day and then I took it and built on it.
We used to do customer development at LinkedIn and one of the things we would do is we talk to people about feature sets, because we wanted to have an MVP. We didn’t want to build anything more than we absolutely had to because we had a limited amount of time. We would go to them and we’d say, okay what do you want us to build first and what do you want us to build next and we would use that information to try to figure out what goes in the MVP. What I did instead is I list out all the features and I put it on a big chart that has a soon bucket, a later bucket and an eventually bucket. The soon bucket is really, really small.
The later bucket is a little bigger and the last bucket is huge because everything can be built if you have enough time. Steven Wright used to say, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” It’s the same thing for software. Then all the features are written on post-it notes and you put what you think is a great MVP in the first bucket. You put things that maybe belong in the MVP, you’re not so sure in the second bucket then you put all the wacky stuff in the last bucket. Then, you would tell users they can move the post-it notes around but they can’t add. They can only swap. Any time they want to take some things from the second bucket and put it in the first they have to decide what they’d give up on that first bucket.
You don’t want your users to actually do your deciding for you but you do want to ask them why, why is that feature so important and why is that other feature less important. There always comes a point where they are like, “I can’t swap anything but I wouldn’t buy this MVP.” At which point you could say, “What’s the one thing, the one thing you would take out of that second bucket to put in the first bucket?” You let them struggle and talk about, “This does this but this does this,” you can have them remove it. You can then have them stack rank things.
If it seems a little too easy like maybe you made your MVP a little bigger than you really needed to, you can have them stack right that first bucket and then when you go to your next interview you take the bottom three out and put it in the second bucket then see if your MVP is getting too small. This is called the participatory roadmap. I written on my blog Elegant Hack and it’s a great way to use the principles or design thinking in research to pick a reasonable and sensible MVP.
That’s awesome. It’s fascinating that you’ve had both the experience of working in the industry at several amazing companies and running a startup and also teaching. That gives you a very broad perspective on people that are first-time entrepreneurs or new to design. What are some of the really common mistakes that you see first-time designers and entrepreneurs are making when they are in the early stages of testing their idea? What do you wish they would not do so they could make more progress?
You said when testing their idea I mean the biggest mistake is not testing the idea, people would be like, “It’s too early,” so we won’t test it. It’s never too early to start floating the idea around. Then, sometimes we’ll get positive feedback from that and they’ll go, “Terrific. Let’s just go build it.” The fact is there’s something that happens when you’re talking about an idea, or using words that are very, very abstract and so you might be standing in the grocery line and saying, “Hey, I’ve got a new app that will stand in line for you.” Somebody’s like, “That’s terrific. I would love that app.” Then you built it and nobody will buy it. What happened?
Somebody was excited and then they won’t buy it. One of the things that you have to do when you’re testing is not just float the idea around but you have to make it tangible enough to evaluate and then you have to push people to put a price on it. On that first topic I really want to push hard on your listeners to remember that just because you’re saying the word chair and I’m saying the word chair doesn’t mean we’re talking about the same thing. I could be talking about a rocking chair, you could be talking about a big soft cushy arm chair. You’ve got to make things tangible for your audience so that they could figure out what the heck this thing is and do they actually like it.
Prototypes are amazing, sketches we’ll do in a pinch. Just make sure that your users are really getting a sense of what the real value is. Then the other thing that’s really, really, really rest of the podcast repeating the word really hard is pricing. Pricing is amazingly difficult and I will tell you that hardly a week goes by where I’m not looking for another book on effective pricing. There’s very little usable literature out there. What I’m going to say is just my current working theory because I don’t think there’s a good answer on it. I do know that people have a price in their head. When you’re trying to figure out how much you can charge for something you can ask them, “What would you pay for this?”
They might give you a number and you can say, “Will you write me a check right now? I will hold it until it’s built and then I will cash it. I will give it to you.” You can see what the reaction is, that’s not a great approach. Another thing you can do is you can do something called anchoring which is you can ask people, “Have you bought a product similar to this? What is that product? How much did you pay for it?” Then you want to always look up how much the product actually is because sometimes people misremember how much they may have paid for something. They might think they paid more or paid less for it. That’s a really terrific approach.
I recently helped a small startup that I’m advising to try to do pricing and they had literally priced themselves so low that the two of them, these two founders probably would never be able to hire another person to work there unless they had a huge hit. The likelihood of them having a huge hit was a bit challenging because they couldn’t build any more feature that people want. If they’d launched with that price point they would have been caught in the fact that they didn’t have enough people to build features and yet they weren’t charging enough to get enough people it’s like a vicious death cycle. What we did is we went out and we interviewed tons and tons of their beta customers.
Luckily they had a terrific Kickstarter and they had a bunch of people using the product already. We were able to ask them, “What is this product like? How much did you pay for that? What other things in the world are this like? Is it like KQED? Is this like Starbucks coffee? Is this like buying a stapler? What does this feel like?” It’s really interesting because the more I talk to people the more I realize that everybody has a price in their gut, a sense of this app is like this or this app is like that or this website is like this, this service is like that. These conversations around pricing is really effective.
Then, you got to get people to sign up and commit their money and that is another tricky thing. It’s actually believe it or not easier to do if you have a B2B product because with a B2B product you can do pilot customers who are on the product council and you set up a contract with them and they know when the build is going to come. With B2C, it gets a lot trickier to get your pilot customers. In a lot of ways Kickstarter is a massive gift to entrepreneurs because then Kickstarter access a neutral third party that hold the money.
You do have a sense whether or not you’ve priced it accurately or not depending on your ability to raise. In fact, even if you can’t raise your total amount, the number of people who have committed to your project can often tell you how close you are to the correct price point. Unfortunately, because you only have one shot at Kickstarter you want to do a lot of these interviews before you go to that next level.
Yeah, it is. It’s really changed the game.
I feel very grateful for it. I will say regarding pricing, if Steve wasn’t dead, Steve Jobs, we’ll give him a pass on this but he really hurt independent game makers and other independent app makers by forcing that price point at a dollar, at 99 cents because now everybody’s anchored at that price point. If you see an app that’s terrific, right? Amazing functionality, a lot of richness to it and you price it at $29.99, people are like, “It’s in the app store, it’s $29.99. There’s no way I’m going to pay for that.” We’ve ended up with a whole generation of developers who are doing some fairly sinister in-app purchases and upsell appproaches because of Steve Jobs’ anchoring choice. He basically forced a lot of people who could have just charged a fair price to instead have to come up with clever payment gates in order to try to just make a living.
Yeah, it will be interesting to see how that evolves and what the next form of payment might be.
I hope something happens. There’s a little bit of hope in the iPad space because there seems to be a little more variety of prices and maybe because it’s similar to laptop size people are mentally willing to make that jump to software. We’ll see, we’ll see.
Yeah, there’s also the subscription model which if you’re doing something you can think of as a service that works and it’s harder if you’re not.
Absolutely. I mean, look at the change Adobe made. I think that is an incredible indicator for all entrepreneurs thinking about the future. They were a very expensive piece of software and they were pirated like crazy. You could go on any BitTorrent site and get so many serial numbers for Photoshop. Not that I did such things but they were wildly pirated. With their new Creative Cloud services the price point is lowered. It’s psychologically easier to imagine yourself paying $200 a year and because of the cloud-based service pirating is significantly more difficult. I think there’s that, the subscription model is a really sensible direction for a lot of folks especially if you have high-value software that you’re in danger of being pirated.
There’s another mistake that entrepreneurs make all the time, I would kick myself if I didn’t think about this. They don’t explore multiple business models. Entrepreneurs often when they are considering their business model they just go, “We’ll do a subscription,” or, “We’ll do advertising.” When I started working with Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas and using it in design thinking way in which you generated many ideas as possible I realize that you spend time in the revenue box and you can pre-list one business model after another after another after another.
You can say, “There’s subscriptions and then there’s in-app purchases. Then there’s special events, there’s a one time download fee. We can do fees.” It forces you to think a lot more broadly and then you can combine them. You can have one to three different revenue models which will make you a lot more robust as a company. When I work at LinkedIn back in the day we actually had five business models. Who knows how many they have now but they had advertising, they had the events business, they had recruiting, they had job listing, and then they had a special research division that would allow you to reach people that you normally can’t reach.
By having a diversified revenue model they had a very interesting IPO when they first went live as opposed to say Facebook or Twitter whose IPO is significantly less interesting and had a singular business model. One of the things that I want to encourage entrepreneurs to do is do the research, find out all the different ways you can make money. Then mix them together and find a healthy combination in order to make sure that your company is going to be robust and healthy going forward.
It’s a great message. Boy, that can save some time and heartache.
Oh my God, yes because, “Let’s try this model. It didn’t work.” Three months later, “Let’s try this one. It didn’t work either.” My god, that’s waste.
I’m so excited about your new book you have out. Even more so, after this conversation. Tell us about that.
Thank you, the book is called Radical Focus. It is actually the story of a small startup based on several startups that I’ve worked on. I combined them and turned it to one story and a couple of my students. I think the important thing about stories it has to have a lot of drama and failure and unsurprisingly the startups I’ve worked with are not super interested in talking about their struggles and failures. What I ended up doing is combining several startups that I’ve worked with along with one of my student startup and turning it into a journey about two young founders who are desperately trying to find product/market fit before they run out of money.
Then they do it, they figure out what their pivot is, but they can’t get the rest of the company behind them. They ended up using objectives and key results to drive the company forward to successfully hit their numbers, create growth and be able to raise their next round. I’ve had wonderful responses to the book. I’m really happy with it. The book itself is a lean startup story. I originally decided to do it as an MVP. I had proposed to talk at South by Southwest and I said, “Hey, I want to give this talk. It’s from my upcoming book which I hadn’t even started writing.”
I really shouldn’t put these things into speaker proposals but I said, “I’m going to give this talk from my upcoming book, the Executioner’s Tale,” as it was called back then and South by Southwest wrote back and said, “We don’t have a spot for your talk. Would you like to do a book reading?” I said, “Yes.” Then I had three months to write a book. What I did was I wrote a really, really fast version of the book, 75 pages, had it printed by a local printer in Palo Alto and signed them as if they were like prints or art or something, numbered signed copies of the book and then sold them. I got so much feedback. I learned amazing things from this experiment that to be honest if I did another book I’d like to do it the same way.
I found out really surprising things like tons of people said, “I’m so glad this book is short.” I was deeply embarrassed that it was only 75 pages, but people loved that it was short. They are like, “I can sit down and read it in one sitting. This is terrific.” My current book is a little longer. It’s a 160 pages but I knew that people did not want to read a humongous heavy book. The other interesting thing I did was with pricing. I set one price at South by Southwest but after that I had quite a few copies left. I sold it over the web and on Twitter and every time somebody wrote to me saying, “I’d like to buy your book,” I raised the price. I kept raising the price until people said, “That’s a little expensive.”
I would also send them a photo of the book so they knew how thin it was. I learned that the price point was considerably higher than I thought it was. That was really important to me as well because as a self-published author getting the price point set was really important to me. Then I went out and hired a cover designer and then fired them and hired another one and fired them and then found the one I like. I hired a fiction editor to make sure the story was fun to read. I hired a copy editor. Self-publishing is really an amazing experience.
As an entrepreneur it feels very familiar to me but I think the power of an author to take their fate into their own hands and make choices about the message their audience that maybe they can’t make under a publisher who doesn’t understand them. Of course, realize the value and make some real money I think that authors are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.
We’re talking to one right now. Your entrepreneurial roots are showing.
I’ve been an entrepreneur from day one. Just like design I don’t think an entrepreneur is a job title. I think it’s a point of view. It’s who you are and how you work in the world.
As an entrepreneur and a designer and a teacher and a business owner, what do you feel is your super power or your sweet spot? What kind of things light you up the most?
If I have a super power I was going to say the super power that’s made me the most money for sure is I can learn something in one field and take it to another field and understand how it applies. I started out being a designer and I designed products and I became a manager and I design my organization. I used to say I design a place where design can happen. Then, when I became a startup person I said I design businesses now. Now, I’m designing my own life. Once you understand what design really is, you don’t have to call yourself a designer to be great at design. It’s the same thing as not being an entrepreneur using lean.
There’s no reason that the lean startup model can’t help you figure out what your future is. When I was at Zynga, I was so tired and I was burned out and I don’t know if I even really wanted to work in the internet anymore and I took some time off and then I thought, “Okay, it’s time to get back. What should I do?” I thought, “I’m lean. I should form a hypothesis and test it.” I had a hypothesis which is what if I like teaching. I thought what’s the smallest possible thing I could do. I mean, I could have been one of those people who’s like, “Now I’m going to apply to school and go back to school and get my Ph.D.”
Instead because I’m an entrepreneur, I have a lean point of view I contacted general assembly and I taught one night class and I discovered, “Hey, I like it.” I’m enjoying teaching and so I said, “What else can I do?” I tried teaching full-time. I decided I didn’t like that. I went on to CCA. I now teach part-time. I do trainings and I write. I found a balance in my life by treating my life as if it was a startup. Instead of product/market fit I was looking for life/happiness fit you could say. I think that super power of seeing a good technique and applying it to more places than people might originally think of I think that’s a pretty good super power to have.
It clearly lights you up.
Yes. I love learning. I live for learning. When I was asked to teach the story class at CCA I said yes even though I didn’t know that much about it. Twenty books later I really deeply understand the story and story arc and it has changed everything I do. I apply story not just to my presentations and to my essay writing but I actually apply story to the product development process. For example, when I’m working with entrepreneurs in the classes I teach them a story arc and then we take our end users and we put them through the story arc as if they were the hero. We say, “Who are your users? What is our life right now?” That’s exposition.
Now, let’s do the inciting incident, the thing that will cause them to change. What is the thing that might get them to think about adopting your product. Then we go through the struggles, the try fail cycles. Okay, what else that they tried? What are the competitors? Why didn’t that work out? How do they try to fix it to themselves? Why is that failing? Finally, we have the wonderful moment of your product saving them and then we do the return home change. How did your products fundamentally changed them? That’s a great example of taking something that you might not think immediately applies to product development but making it a much more effective way to understand how your product was in people’s lives.
That’s awesome. Thank you for explaining that. I could really see it. I think I’m going to use that. That’s really useful. I mean, it maps to pretty basic expository structure that immediately feels familiar.
Absolutely. I have a nice little six panel cartoon that I have my students do. I’m happy to send you a copy of that if you want for your own use or show notes.
I always do my story-driven product storyboards as an improv first. Here’s what my @CCAIxD students threw at me. pic.twitter.com/w0Y0rRLE1W
— Christina Wodtke (@cwodtke) March 4, 2016
Show notes, baby.
Yeah I want to share it with everyone listening.
It’s great because it goes right back to what we talked about right at the beginning of this interview which is your start as an artist.
Something like that. A painter. Talk about something with no story.
Part of what’s great about this field, design and tech and games is that people come in from really different backgrounds. You came in from your background, other people come in through engineering or systems design or movies or D&D.
Absolutely. I feel really lucky that I came to technology at a moment where there was this new thing called the web and nobody knew what to do with it. I was smart and that seemed to be enough at that moment. Then my students asked me, “Is it too late?” Right? Everything qualified has to have a degree and there’s always a new thing. Who knows anything about wearables? Who knows anything about AI or voice interfaces? There’s always something new and there’s always room for smart people who are passionate. I’m lucky but anybody can be lucky. You just have to be excited and interested I think.
What are you seeing that’s new and exciting these days? What trends are you following or whose work are you paying attention to?
Gosh, there’s always something wonderful happening all the time. I know that sounds ridiculous but there is and there’s always something cool for me to pay attention to. Right now, I’m interested in something old and something new. You’re familiar with interactive fiction. You’re an old school gamer. You walk down the hall, north is an oak door. East is a box. What do you do? I’m really interested in voice interfaces because I think that interactive fiction teaches designers to be able to design effective with voice interfaces. I have this wonderful round box in my house it’s an echo. I always say, “Hi, Alexa. Tell me a joke.” Then she’ll tell me a joke. The problem with Alexa and the problem with interactive fiction is that there are no affordances.
There’s no way to know what’s possible so if you can figure out how to design a game that clearly helps you learn what’s possible, we can design a voice interface that will also help you learn what’s possible as well because the old school interactive fiction allowed you to type absolutely anything into it. It’s a lot like a voice interface where people can say anything to it. You have to create a controlled vocabulary. You have to say a book is the same as a tone and then of course with the voice interface you have to figure out if they can pronounce that. I feel like the kind of thinking and the kind of challenges that came out of those really, really early command line interfaces are the ones that we’re revisiting now.
Learning about how those are solved help us understand how are we going to solve these ones in the future. These are things that are weirdly exciting to me and super fun. The other thing I really love is cooking as you well know I’m a passionate cook. I’m really interested in how food fits into the ecosystem but when I went to culinary school I learned a lot about deep foundational understanding of material. For example, a knife. We think we cut with our knife. Actually we can do a lot with a knife. We can press with a knife, we can slice with a knife, we could saw with a knife. You think, “Okay, fire.” You can move the pan around so one side is hot and one side is cold.
You can have a low heat. You can have a high heat. You can cover it to make an oven. Right now, I’m really, really curious about the fundamental building blocks of technology. Are we really spending enough time to understand all the possibilities that are inherent in language, in our interface, in our codes? Do we understand our materials the way a chef understands its materials? Obviously not, because cooking is 20,000 years old or something and the internet is what, 20? I think that by doing other things that are outside of apps and technology, you bring back insights and understanding and approaches you couldn’t possibly have any other way.
Anytime I have free time I try to go do something weird like let’s take a storytelling class. Let’s learn how to build a bike because I find that that’s what makes me smart way, way smarter than reading some venture capital wad to be quite honest. Going out and moving life is good for your body, it’s good for your soul and it makes you smarter.
The whole world is making me smarter and it could make you smarter too if you want to listen to it.
Is there anything coming up for you on the horizon that is exciting that you want to tell us about?
I’m speaking at Cultivate at Strata Hadoop and that’s super, super exciting for a couple of reasons. I get to talk about OKRs at Cultivate which is a terrific conference about leadership and designing human experiences. By that I mean designing companies and organizations. Then I get to hang out with the data nerds and I’m super excited and thrilled to look at visualization techniques. Big Data is one of those things that’s hidden inside the boxes. I’m really interested in how we’re going to bring it to the world so that people can interact with it. Super, super excited about all of that.
Awesome. We’ll put links to all of that in the show notes. Thank you so much, Christina for your time today and for sharing your stories and insights and expertise and tips. It’s been wonderful.
Amy Jo, thank you so much. It’s been a blast talking to you.