On this last day of the conference FEI saved the very best and brought out the big guns, Tom Kelley of IDEO and writer/entrepreneur Seth Godin. Visionaries, legends and icons are words you can safely use in describing them.
I have not had the privilege of hearing either of them speak but knew of them from Ted Talks and the numerous books and articles they’ve authored. It’s safe to compare the experience to putting on a Rolling Stones album versus seeing them live.
First came Tom Kelley who had a very simple, straightforward prose and presentation. It still remains dense and rich with insight from his decades in the game. He had three very simple points as follows:
1) Blend tech with humanity
“Seek to understand people more deeply.” This is at the heart of all innovation; human understanding that is genuinely empathetic to the end user that understands the world they live in, what problems they have and where you can fit into that world. This is such a simple concept that innovators all too often forget or take for granted. Understand the problem and use the wonders of modernity to address the issue
2) Treat life as an experiment
“Prototyping and experimenting quickly accelerates the idea.” Rapid prototyping and fail fast right? I’ll say it again, rapid prototyping and fail fast. As children we learn through experimenting, we learn more through our failure than through success. The quicker, more rudimentary and aggressively you do this, the faster and further down the road your idea will go.
3) Leverage the power of storytelling
“This is how data comes to life.” When you tell stories laden with emotion and drama you humanize the issue, to borrow from Mr. Kelley, this is the “theater of the mind.” You want the listener to be able to see ice bath from the hastily performed “organ donation” or the tragedy of the loyal dog waiting for his never-to-return master.
This is wisdom from someone who set the track records and has more wisdom because he has been at it longer than most anyone in the design consulting game. People pay thousands of dollars to be in the same room and hear his presentation and for good reason. The only thing I can see missing would be Tom Kelley dropping the microphone as Jay Z might do. Mind blown, thanks Tom and FEI.