Staying Relevant

Being on top of cultural trends has never been more important. We have nearly unlimited access to national and international events, thought leaders, and products. Conferences like TED and media sharing sites like Twitter provide more ideas than it is possible to absorb. And this matters in the workplace. Because your consumers, whoever they are, are part of these trends and have access to that same information. Businesses need to anticipate their needs and understand the ever-evolving ecosystem your business operates in to be successful. Beyond workplace usefulness, it’s fun to be able to connect others with ideas that are relevant or interesting to them, and to try new things as they evolve.

That said, it’s not easy to stay relevant. Some people are more adept than others at being in the know about new products, business models, style trends, and popular media. In any case, it takes time and awareness to clue in to new things.

Keep your eyes, ears, and brain open. By being observant in daily life, you can absorb a lot. I find it’s a lot more interesting and relevant to talk to someone about their experiences with The Internet of Things than to read about it.

  • What are people wearing today? (Have you ever noticed that people walking together are likely to wear the same type of shoe? It’s weird.)
  • See a new business? Why not stick your head in, say hello, and find out why they’re there?
  • Did you have a great experience at a restaurant or retail space? Why was it awesome?
  • Do you or others have relationships with brands? What is it like?
  • Are people talking about experiences that were good or bad? Anything particularly interesting?
  • Are there recurring pain points in your life or the lives of others that can be solved and is anyone working on it? New products, services, and habits also come with their own set of problems to be solved, which results in new products, services and pain points.
  • Try new things and develop your own point of view.
After I'd read about the rising popularity of "bulletproof" coffee, I had to try it myself.

After I’d read about the rising popularity of “bulletproof” coffee, I had to try it myself.

Follow social media. I don’t post much, but it’s fascinating to see what friends post, especially if they are very different from me. It’s also helpful to follow thought leaders and news sites to see what’s current. My weapons of choice are Twitter for broad world happenings and trends and Facebook for social and opinion trends. LinkedIn and Medium also have timely articles and social components.

Seek out industry and interest relevant sources. As awesome and intelligent as you probably are, it’s pretty impossible to be an expert on everything. Figure out what areas you want to focus on, and deep dive. That might mean listening to podcasts, following hashtags, subscribing to newsletters or checking relevant sites daily, a magazine subscription, attending conferences, signing up for newsletters from your favorite businesses/bands/artists, or reading relevant books as they come out. I’ve recently been into:

One of my favorite ways to stay current is to try new, trendy restaurants. Yum!

One of my favorite ways to do research is to frequent popular/interesting restaurants. Yum!

I’d love to know how you follow trends and culture!

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Learning Adventures

The last month has been a blur– living out of a suitcase, graduating with an MBA, and getting married in less than a month! It’s been a whirlwind, but there’s been a lot of fun, laughter, eating, and learning.

Creative Mornings: Oakland

During my last week in California, there was a Creative Mornings event at Impact HUB Oakland. Creative Mornings is an organization that puts together brief creative lecture/networking events during weekday mornings. Chapters generally have about one event a month, and I was lucky enough to catch Favianna Rodriguez, a Bay Area artist and activist.

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She covered a variety of issues, but these were some of the most memorable moments:

  • The power of art is that it can ultimately transform what you see.
  • Don’t only fight against what you don’t want, but fight for the work you want.
  • Language matters. The word homosexual vs. gay made a difference.
  • Define your own story. If you don’t, someone else will.
  • Art and culture are human rights.
  • Dichotomies are limited narratives. We need multi-dimensional narratives.

AIUX Workshop at Stanford d.school

I’ve been wanting to check out Stanford’s renowned d.school since learning about it a few years ago, and got a fantastic opportunity to do so the day before heading back home to Minnesota.

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I attended a morning workshop session around designing user experience for artificial intelligence. The format was more workshop than lecture and the group split into small teams to try out various strategic design/planning/foresight tools. The tools were the same as can be found here: Playbook for Strategic Foresight and Innovation

We used the context map, progression curve, and paper prototyping tools. The most interesting was the progression curve. My group examined the relationship of humans and AI, and included milestones going back to punch card systems and the first computer to fictional characters like Data in Star Trek TNG. Currently, we’re looking at systems like Google Now, which is a proactive AI rather than a reactive one. It was helpful to watch the progression over time and line it up with other curves, like the development of data gathering.

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