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September 7, 2023 57 mins

Journey with us on an eye-opening exploration of innovation and disruptive design with Liya Safina, a powerhouse IndeAlumni and a master designer who has left her fingerprints on groundbreaking technologies like AR, VR, and autonomous vehicles. 

Liya's stellar portfolio, adorned with globally acclaimed brands like Nike, Google, Alibaba, and Toyota, speaks volumes of her prowess. Follow along as we travel through her path to success, her unique perspective of design innovation, and the emerging trends she has noticed recently.

We'll talk about: 

  • Toyota's audacious venture of erecting a private city in Japan, a clear testament to the company's resolve towards bettering lives and fostering innovation. 

  • We attempt to uncover the mystery, examining the vital roles that reactivity and proactivity play. 

  • We also delve into the impact of popular technologies like TikTok, blockchain, and AI on our lives, and the potentially life-altering opportunities (and potential threats) these platforms present for self-expression and revenue generation.

We wrap up with Liya and Jan musing over AI's profound influence on writing and technology, its impact on digital design, and the philosophical implications it bears. We stress the importance of injecting a 'human touch' when leveraging AI tools, and the critical role experienced professionals play in guiding the next generation. 

Follow Liya's Journey:

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IndeCollective | Freelance MBA (@indecollective) • Instagram photos and videos

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome everybody to another episode of the Modern
As always, I'm your host, johnAlmacy, the head of community
here at Indie Collective.
Today, we have another Indiealumni that we're going to be
interviewing on a segment calledthe Launchpad.
These episodes are meant tointerview members of the Indie
Collective community that havebeen through a 10-week bootcamp,

graduated and are in the worlddoing amazing things,
potentially even coming back andpresenting to our cohort, which
this member will be doing thisfall.
I'm super excited and gratefulthat Leah Safina is here with us
To jump things off, I'm goingto give a brief description and

then allow her to introduceherself and we can dive into all
of the things that we're goingto be exploring today.
Over the last decade, she'sbeen fortunate to design for
some of the most cutting edgetech AR and VR, which, for those
of you that don't know, that isaugmented reality and virtual
reality autonomous vehicles,smart cities, blockchain and

artificial intelligence.
As a designer, she's driven toredefine how we tap into
innovation in business.
She's worked with leadingglobal brands, including Nike,
google, alibaba and Toyota.
These experiences inform everyapproach that she takes to every
Leah, thank you for taking thetime to hang out with me today.

Speaker 2 (01:26):
My pleasure.
I'm super excited.

Speaker 1 (01:29):
As we jump into these conversations, I always like to
think that the way that thesefeel is like you're catching up
with a friend after not seeingthem for a long time.
What I would be really curiousabout and I know that we've
connected on this in the pastbut for the sake of the audience
, what got you started in yourfield and what makes you so

passionate about innovation inthe first place?
I guess back me up one stepfurther In your eyes, what does
innovation and organization,especially in design, actually

Speaker 2 (02:06):
Great question I don't know about.
I'm originally from Europe.
To address the elephant in theroom, which is my accent.
Back in Europe, I used to be anarchitect.
This is the way that I got intodigital design through being a
designer, but in a completelydifferent discipline, in
I remember very vividly thefirst time I learned about

Spotify as a huge music fan,realizing that you no longer
need to buy separate CDs, thatyou can listen to any song at
any given moment.
I was stunned.
It was life-changing, I think,combining my insight into how to
build spaces for people,because architecture is super

similar to digital design.
You're always thinking aboutwhat do our users want, what are
they trying to achieve and howcan we help them get there,
either through the spatialdesign or through digital design
Later on, I remember feelingthat tremendous change that
Spotify brought into my life andhow much joy I experienced

while I was able to listen toanything and I wanted at any
And I think that's wheredisruptive innovation really got
me on the hook.
It's not a small incrementalthing where we improve the way
you buy CDs.
It's a huge shift.
One day you went to the storeand bought a CD.

The next day you have it all inyour pocket.
One day you're downloadingthings off of the internet.
The other day you can streamthings.
And that's why, once I switchedinto digital design, which was
over 10 years ago I was alwaysdriven to big, disruptive things
I always wanted to play a rolein a way that we simplify things

for people, who bring joy tothem, and we completely change
the way that they do theday-to-day things.
And this is, I think, the waythat I define innovation as well
We can innovate incrementally,but that's probably something
that you go to someone else for.
You come to me.
When there's no blueprint ofhow to do things, when there's
no best practice to copy, whenyou cannot just say, hey, let's

do blank competitor, when you'retrying to solve something that
hasn't been solved before, whenyou're trying to really figure
out a way, how can you be moreuseful to people, how can you
bring more value?
And that's when I supportdifferent businesses and
companies and individuals andtry to do things differently and


Speaker 1 (04:40):
Yeah, I love that.
I love setting this stage.
So one of the things that Ibecame really, really fascinated
with and I had the greatpleasure and benefit of being
mentored by a gentleman that wasa part of a disruptive
innovation team at IBM early onin my entrepreneurial career.
I actually vividly remember andI tell this story to him all

the time I call him my Yoda, oneof my Yodas.
Now, right, but the first timeI ever met John, he completely
tore apart a pitch of mine and apitching competition because I
was trying to create a businessmodel that kept podcasting
inside of a physical location.
So he was like you're treatingpodcasting way too much like

He's like this is a completelydifferent thing.
Why wouldn't you create thistype of model that had nothing
to do with a physical space.
It had everything to do withconsulting and living in the
digital realm and building for aremote workplace.
And we were having theseconversations in 2016 and then
2020 hit and we had already beendoing that and it just fell

naturally into place.
And Spotify, I think, is also agreat example, right, but
exactly the way that you laidthat out one minute you're
buying CDs, the next minute youhave the world's music
discography in your pocket.
There's a great documentary onNetflix.
If those of you that arecurious to learn more about the
rise of Spotify I think it isyou can just look Spotify up on

Netflix and there's a multi-partseries that talks about the
building of that.
So to dive into that a littlebit more and lock in on this
difference between incrementalinnovation and that disruptive
innovation, I feel that there'sa lot of organizations that want

to be that disruptive innovatorright, because they may have
this mentality it's you'reeither disrupting or you're
being disrupted type ofmentality, but sometimes there's
you know whether it's barriersin communication or they're not
quite sure how exactly tointegrate that Is.

There been trends that you'venoticed in the organizations
that you've worked with of waysthat they're structured or ways
that they communicate or howthey approach things that allows
them to disruptively innovate?
Because, especially across theorganizations that you've worked
with, I feel like that's kindof a would be a cool insight.

Speaker 2 (07:16):
Yeah, I think the common denominator is commitment
to people that theorganizations serve, and I'll
unpack that because I think initself it sounds a little bit
So I'll give you a couple ofexamples and the grand scheme of
If we take the spectrum ofdifferent companies, one of the

biggest companies I've workedwith was Toyota, and they are on
this very ambitious quest rightnow of building a whole new
city in Japan from scratch,which is mind blowing.
They're taking one of theirfactories, they moved it to
another part of the country torevitalize the economy there and
they're utilizing that enormousspace where the factory used to

be to build a private city.
So you would ask yourself, whyprivate city?
Why private?
Why not collaborate with thegovernment and just support an
existing city?
Because they're trying to testautonomous mobility in a safe
environment where they're fullyresponsible for the consequences

And that was the initial brief.
How can we test self-drivingcars in a way where we have full
control, we can observe howpeople behave around them, and
not only cars, wheelchairattachments, bus?
There are even some rumors ofself-lying helicopters, right,
but Akiyo Toyota, the head ofToyota, went even further.

I think I really admire hisethic.
He really wants to truly justimprove life for people, not
just the mobility, but truly.
He feels like this is hisprivilege.
He's in a position of power andhe wants to use it.
So he committed a large budgetto that, and over COVID is when
everyone's budget commitmentswere really, really tested.

People were rerounding money tooh people are no longer buying
this and that and we need topull the budget from this
innovative project.
He stayed extremely true to hisidea and commitment throughout
the pandemic.
Not a single dollar went awayfrom the Vogan City budget and,
as a result, right now it'sbeing built and that is the real

commitment that, no matter what, you see the bigger picture,
you see your North Star.
Yes, we need to sell more carsright now, but ultimately here
we're trying to build somethingthat will test new ways of
navigating through a city andwill make our cities more safe,
more efficient, etc.
That's kind of like the bigexample.

If we think about the smallexample, you don't necessarily
have to have a big budget toiterate.
You just need to have a desireto look not at the business
metrics, not at your competitors, not at your investors, but at
the people who are using yourproduct and identify.
Where is the frustration rightnow?

Where are they wasting time,where are they wasting money?
Where is the product breakingdown and they have to throw it
away and be willing toruthlessly take 10 steps back
and say how can we completelyshake it up for them so that
they don't experience this waste?
And on the other end, we cantalk about the crisis of

opportunity and the crisis ofthe threat of competition.
What is motivating you?
Are you afraid that somebody isgoing to come and disrupt you
or are you excited that you canbuild something new for people?
Both of these discomforts.
They propel people intoinnovation.
But ultimately, if you'rewilling to say look, we're not
just going to fix what's brokenright now, let's take 20 steps

back, 10 steps back, and look atthe overall journey and see
what we can shift in our supplychain, in the way that our
customer support works and a waythat our website is built to
alleviate this pain for people,to bring more joy to people.

Speaker 1 (11:14):
Yeah, I love that and I love the two you know
motivators that you justoutlined there.
Could you explain a little bitmore about what the differences
are between the fear of beingdisrupted and the need to
innovate or provide somethingnew?
I know that you phrase that alittle bit differently there,
but just to kind of give theaudience another analogy, I gave

that little bit of a definitionthere, but could you dive into
the differences between thosetwo motivators?

Speaker 2 (11:43):
Yeah, it's also related to proactivity and
I would say You're reactivewhen you're observing the market
and say your status quo ischallenged, like we're looking
at bigger companies IBM youbrought up, you know Windows,
microsoft all of them are beingchallenged right.

So all of their innovation andyou know I'm not intimately
familiar with their decisionmaking, but I can put a
hypothesis forward that theirinnovation is coming from the
place of fear.
Let's not let our market sharego to someone else and that's a
little bit reactive.
That's why we saw Windows not aday for so many years, until,

you know, macos started creatingreally, really new ways of
navigating your computer right.
So that's all about beingreactive and sometimes it's
really successful if you have agood budget in place, if you
know who to hire, if you'rereally, if you're willing to be
risky and you're not, because alot of these bigger companies

they're really sustained intheir comfort zone.
They haven't been challenged.
So that's where a lot ofincremental innovation comes
They're willing to give up onelittle thing to be innovative,
not the whole system, right.
And then you have pro activityand this is where you know the
startups initially came from.
It's people with a spark inthere who just want to do

something differently.
Nobody's challenging them,nobody's, you know, nobody's
trying to get their market sharefrom them.
They're just really interestedand passionate about bringing
value to people.
And I'm not saying that one orthe other is better, I'm just.
I'm just kind of likeexaggerating in order for
listeners to be able to tap intoboth mindsets.

Both of them can really createamazing progress.
Don't get me wrong.
I think it's an independentcreatives.
We're constantly experiencingboth.
We're constantly scared.
We don't know where ourpaycheck is coming from.
Right, we don't know how tosecure our next client, how to
scale up.
You know we, if we bought aproperty, now we have a mortgage

, you know that's the pressure,that's that crisis.
You know where you have to bedoing something differently to
stand out from competition.
And then there's we allexperience the other thing where
you just get obsessed aboutsomething.
You get into the rabbit holeand you just really are inspired
and you've had an issue thatyou had and you solved it for
yourself and now you want tosolve it for everyone else.

So both can existsimultaneously, but I would
argue that the second one, the,the inspiration driven one,
creates bigger, more disruptiveinnovations, as a rule.

Speaker 1 (14:28):
Yeah, so I'm the way that you describe that and I am
obsessed with neuropsychology.
Psychology came from a nursingbackground.
I'm always reading white papersand studies on on motivation at
the neurological level, andit's reminding me and this is
probably the simplest that thatwe can break this down outside

of, like the innovation language.
Right, there was this studythat was conducted, and I'm not
going to remember the name ofthe university off the top of my
head, but the basic structureof the study, right, was they
wanted to test whether it wasfear of pursuit or the chase of
a thrill that motivated rats.

Right, and so they took these.
They took these animals, andwhat they did is they tied a
tiny little string to their tailand it was attached to a spring
that measured the amount offorce that a rat was running
away from that spring.
And the first iteration wasprinting the smell of a cat
behind the mouse and thenmeasuring the strength that the

mouse pulled away from thatscent, right.
The second was putting thescent of a delicious treat at
the other end in front of themouse and measuring how much
that force was, and then thethird iteration was the
combination of scent and thepleasure and the pull right In
between the fear response andthe proactive.

I want to go seek somethingpleasurable or exciting, the
seeking the cheese right, orthat obsession that going down
the rabbit hole, that want ofcreating something was higher
than the fear response.
But if the fear response wasadded, it almost to X the force
that was put into it.

So if you're listening to thisand you're like, well, I'm not
in innovation, but I am startingtrying to start my own business
and I would argue that all ofus are in innovation, if we're
entrepreneurs at some level, butyou're listening to this and
you're like, well, I'm not, youknow, I'm not.
I don't picture myself workingfor a Toyota at this level or
building a smart city.
How do I apply this in my life?
If you want to really motivateyourself to intentionally

innovate, don't just think aboutthe thing that's scaring you
and don't just think about thething that you're excited about,
but map out both.
Take time to sit down withyourself and say, okay, here's
this thing that I really want tobuild and that really makes me
What are the details aroundthat, how it like start
compiling resources to it, feelthat excitement around that

thing, but also take time towrite down.
If I don't choose to make moveson this in the next year and I'm
in the exact same place as I amtoday, how will that feel?
What will I?
What is that thing that'schasing you as well?
And that balance between thosetwo forces will not just allow

you to enter that space but, Iwould argue like, propel you
into it, because you have bothan acknowledgement of what is at
risk if I am reactive and I'mnot proactively trying to chase
And what are these things thatare really lighting me up,
really sparking me?
And I've seen that besuccessful over and over again

across interview and interviewwith different NV Collective
Those that choose to map outboth of those forces and
integrate them into their liferare very successful at finding
ways to innovate.
Because and I've been curiousabout your experience in this do
you ever does it feel likeinnovation?
Or, in your experience, isinnovation kind of like a

lightning bolt that hits, or isit more of a?
I'm constantly engaging withthis thing and all of a sudden,
something bubbles up and it'slike boom, it's here and it

Speaker 2 (18:20):
Yeah, it's very cyclical, I would say, and it's.
You don't have to work ininnovation to notice that
there's a new trend every year.
I think it became extremelyapparent probably around the
pandemic Everybody suddenly wason TikTok, and next year

everybody suddenly was reallyinterested in blockchain and
NFTs, and then this year,everybody suddenly very
everybody's an AI expertsuddenly.

Speaker 1 (18:51):

Speaker 2 (18:53):
I don't blame people, but people get excited with new
things and I think the way thatI see every new technology that
becomes trendy, I see it as abeacon of hope, because when
people see something new, theystart hoping that finally this
thing is going to change theirlife forever.

Right, tiktok suddenlypropelled so many creators who
couldn't make it on YouTube.
Right, blockchain for a briefmoment gave creative freedom to
so many artists and illustratorsto earn their money through
NFTs right Through directconnection with their fans.
I'm not going to go into fullunfortunate part of the

blockchain wave where a lot ofpeople just took advantage of it
without actually bringing anyvalue to people and that's
ultimately what destroyed theexcitement around it.
Because I really still believein blockchain.
I think it brings tremendousvalue to security.
It will give so much morefreedom to individual creators.

At this moment, we have to put apause on it because of the AFTX
and just like the bad rap youknow, but people are still
building on the back end.
People are still building a lotof really cool stuff on
blockchain and I never wanted towork in AI.
It's not like one day I woke upand like, okay, today I'm an AI

expert, and I would not claimthat I am.
I'm an innovation expert, whichmeans that whatever is the next
new thing that comes along, Ican look at it in a very sober
I can both critique it and getexcited about it, and my job is
to always look for utility.
How can we actually apply itright now, in the next few years

, to make our lives better?
And here's a very interestingexample that I think we'll tie
to the previous point that wewere discussing.
I was recently speaking at aconference, and it was a
conference for marketers, and,of course, everybody was really
excited about AI, so part of mypresentation was dedicated to it

It was really reallyinteresting, because what I was
trying to do is both changepeople's psychology around how
they view AI and give themreally practical tools of how to
get started with it, how tofind your particular way of
working it.
When do you use AI?
Where do you you know to staywith a pen and paper?
How do you put both together?

How do you streamline some ofyour processes and routines to?
Instead of dedicating fourhours to that, you're not only
dedicating half an hour to that,because you're outsourcing it
to AI chatbot that knows youreally well, or an AI tool that
can automate your processes,that live in the two together,
So I give this keynote and abunch of companies come up to me

afterwards and they say, likelook, we really want to bring
you in and talk to our teamsabout AI because we don't know
where to get started.
It looks very threatening.
There are too many tools outthere.
We're not sure what's right forus.
And, of course, a lot of theseinitial asks were driven by fear

They don't want to get leftbehind.
They don't want to miss themoment when you know they can
really be their competition byimplementing something that
saves them hours and hours.
But here's what happenedafterwards.
Probably 10 different companiescame up to me and I am the type
of person I say yes to everybodyin the beginning, like let's
explore it, let's talk, let'ssee what you need.

You know let's and I'm doing itin a very personalized way.
Like I want to learn abouttheir organization and processes
and see what works specificallyfor them, not just one size,
but tall.
A lot of them I would say 50-50, 50% are still stalling.
Like I have emails in my inbox.
They're like yeah, we'll, we'lldo them the next quarter.
We don't have budgets right now, we don't have time right now.

That is a clear indicator thatit was a fear driven thing.
Second, they were like, oh, no,competition is going to come
along and beat us.
But it was not strong enoughfor a long run, you know.
They got distracted by theirday-to-day things and now it's
no longer top of mind untilsomebody actually wants to take

their shirt from them, right?
And then there's another bucketof them who are excited.
They're like okay, how can webring our clients to this?
Okay, there will be oneconversation you have with our
creative team you help themstreamline their processes.
One conversation you're goingto help with our sales team,
helping them personalize theleads and find leads better with
One conversation you're goingto have with our leadership team

and see how we can be leveraged.
That and they're just excited.
You know and that's what?
That's an interestingindication that the second group
of companies yes, they came tome because of the fear, but they
are excited along the way andthey're actually dedicating, no
matter what's happening withtheir business, they're

dedicating time and resources toactually do it right now.
Because, believe me, thosecompanies who said like, let's
do it in the next January.
They're going to come runningto me once AI gets to the levels
that NFTs go to, whereeverybody's like, oh my God,
what is this NFT thing?
Right and you know nothingwrong with that.

But the moral of the story, Iwould say, is to be proactive,
is to commit part of your day,part of your time, to those
things that are not immediate,to those things that propel you
forward, to those things thatfeed your curiosity.
Yeah, and I just lovesupporting people on that.
It could be as simple ashelping people know where to

It's as simple as breaking downpeople's processes and figuring
out how can AI, blockchain, vror whatever help them there.
It really depends on theindustry, but I just love when
people are driven by theircuriosity and passion.

Speaker 1 (25:01):
Yeah, I think that's when you get the most impactful
results from working with a teamis when they're genuinely
curious, they're genuinelypassionate about the things that
you're laying out or the topicsthat you're trying to chase.
I've had lots of conversationsaround AI.
Being in the marketing space,being an agency owner myself

Also, just part of my role asthe head of communities I talk
to three between three and fivecohort members every week in
30-minute coaching sessions, anda lot of those coaching
sessions right now are centeredaround well, how do I implement
this into my life?
I'm seeing 10 differentplatforms every other week

coming out.
We're starting to see thatadoption curve spike and for
those of you that are unfamiliarwith the idea of an adoption
curve, we think about somethinglike the refrigerator had
somewhere around a 70-yearadoption to reach a point where
it's massively adopted acrossthe entire globe.

And then, as we move furtherand further closer to 2023, the
adoption of technology hasshrunk.
It's gotten shorter and quickerand quicker and quicker, and
the internet is something thatinstead of 70 years these are
all arbitrary.
I'm sure that you probably havea more in-depth idea of what
these numbers actually are, butlet's say, for sake of example,

we went from 70 years with therefrigerator to like 15 to 20
years with the internet, andthen we went to like two to
three years or five years andcontinues to shrink down.
So with the increased speedthat people are able to deploy
things because of the internet,the interconnectivity of
communication like how fastthings can deploy, how quickly

it can hit Facebook can make onechange and hit billions of
How does?
What are some indicators orthings that people can look out
for in either platforms that arepopping up in their lives or
ways that they can askthemselves questions Is this am
I experiencing hype?
Am I experiencing part of thedraw into this because it's

shiny, because it's new, becauseGoogle tells me I should be
implementing it, or am Igenuinely feeling a gap in my
organization where I can seewhere this can be applied and I
want to plug it in?
Are there methods that you useto kind of detect the BS in
platforms or ways that peopleare talking about implementing


Speaker 2 (27:36):
Yeah, there's no, there's no kind of universal
It's always try and buy, atrend, etc.
But the one thing that I alwayslook at is does this bring
value to people?
And I'm really glad you broughtup the adoption curve because
I'm sure everybody has alreadyheard that chat GBT is the
fastest app that's ever beenadopted.

Like it took so many years fromNetflix to be adopted for
It took a year to grow to aplace where everybody knew what
TikTok is.
Chat GBT was so fast and thereason why it was so fast
exponential is because itbrought value to people
You used to spend 20 minutes towrite an email.
Now you can do it with fiveminutes.

Maybe you generated, you addedit, you send it.
I'm a super user of chat, gbtand Claude and a bunch of these
things, partially becauseEnglish is my second language.
I used to always struggle withlike is my grammar correct?
Now I can always.
One of my most common commandsis keep the style and tone of
voice proofread for readabilityand grammar, and I do it

probably a hundred times a dayfor everything.
At first I did not add the keepthe style and tone of voice and
it became a little bit moregeneric, the corporate America
thing type of messaging.
Now I'm like no, I have tosound like me, a little bit
quirky, a little bit weird, butit has to be grammatically
So the question that you shouldbe asking yourself is does it

bring value?
And the tools that we're seeingright now are impacting writing
So, anywhere where you'rewriting anything that it could
be helpful, and then you knowthat's the beginning of the
sentence in that we need to lookat, you know, where do we still
need to keep that human element?
And yes, you're dedicatinghours, but it's justified that

you're dedicating human hours.
And where can we actually speedup the processes?
But it doesn't end there.
Obviously, visual tools a lotof companies are now using all
of the image generation services.
Of course, adobe introducedFirefly, which can create
generated feel and all of that.
Of course, we cannot ignorerunway machine learning startup

that now creates video from text, right, and we already saw that
There's a Marvel TV show thatfully created their opening
credits with AI, which was agimmick.
It was an experiment, right?
I think they definitely got alot of press.
I would have never heard aboutthe show otherwise and a lot of
illustrators were really unhappybecause they were replaced with

something that was quitegeneric and I think they were
using AI for the sake of usingAI.
They wanted to try something.
I don't think the value thatthey got out of it warranted
going with an option of actuallyimplementing the opening
credits that were generated.
It was not better than what ahuman can create.
They just wanted people to seethat they leverage a new

technology, so that's exactly areally good indicator.
Was that?
Did that save you time?
Did that bring more joy topeople?
Did that not really right?
There are so many iconicopening credits created by
humans that when you see them,you feel something inside.
I feel nothing when I look atcredits generated by AI, but

again, I will not critique themfor using the technology.
I think it's great.
I think everybody should beinnovating.
I critique them for not wantingto get the outcome, for not
looking at it with a criticaleye and asking themselves a
question is this the rightchoice?
Right, I forgot the question.
I'm sorry.

Speaker 1 (31:19):
You're good.
I totally blanked on whereexactly we started that too,
mostly because I just reallyenjoy staying present inside of
conversation pieces.
No-transcript, what you justhit on right there is so
important for people tounderstand and we're going to
get a little bit philosophicalhere for a second.
We can kind of bring it backdown to earth.

But I love the fact that youbrought up that the
implementation of thistechnology and you've re you've
reiterated this multiple timesthroughout the conversation so
far Like the ultimate goal orthe ultimate ability of AI is
not to fully replace.
There are some things that itmay be able to fully replace,

right, and there's a lot ofpeople that are AI, that are
very bullish in the AI realm,that are saying this is very
early stage AI Five years fromnow.
It's going to replace allcreative stuff.
Copywriters are going to begone.
This is going to be done.
These, you know, naming jobfields that are going to be
pushed out of the market, andthere are portions of that right
There's a little bit of thatkind of angst around those

But the way that you explainyes, the technology can be
implemented Does it make youfeel something different?
Does it bring more joy.
Does it save you time?
Right, those types of filtersthat we add in as the humans

Educating the AI, because rightnow, the language models, the
way that they learn is with realhuman feedback right they are.
The tools are learning from theprompts that we're giving and
the things that we're asking for.
So the way that we use the tooland this kind of circles back
to what you were saying earlierabout personalized chat box that

really understand you and knowyou the way that we use the tool
is going to dictate the waythat the tool provides us
Right, and it's going to.
We may speed up a process, butif we're not looking at that
sped up process at the end witha critical eye, we're still the
ones hitting send on the email.

Our reputation, ourrelationship with that person on
the other side of that screenIs what is being affected by
that message being sent.
Right, so you can have it, checkfor grammar and punctuation and
things of that nature, but ifyou didn't have an added in that

style and maintain the styleand tone of me, it corporatize
generic, it makes it genericright, it takes it away from
being you and turns it into thisthing that is a little bit more
generic, because now it'spulling from all of the input
from all the people and justmaking the best possible gas.
So that's something I want tobring up for people that you

know, maybe newer at usinggenerative AI and this is
specific to language modelsright kind of better initially
diving into that space is youcan Allow it or train it and use
prompts in a way to keep yourEssence as a part of it.
Because it does feel very weirdlike I can still tell the

difference Between a prompt thatwas like strictly I written,
with no human editing or input,and one that was maybe 80%
generated and then humanized andchecked for punctuation.
So whether or not that's goingto get you know harder and
harder to differentiate overtime is up for debate.

But I do want to double hit onthat and I love the way that you
place that.
You know, does it save you time?
Does it bring people more joy?
You know how?
What is this actually inputtinginto the world?
I think that's such aconversation to have.

Speaker 2 (35:07):
And here's another example, because I know that
everybody tends to talk aboutTax or visuals first and
I have an innovation newsletter.
Maybe we can link it In thefootnotes.
It's yeah, of course, at stop,stack right the goods, but
instead of the ohs you havethree zeros.
I recently ran an experiment onmyself where I had three.

I had a system.
I managed my day, I managed mylife or a whole month, and it
was brutal.
It was brutal in a way wherewhen you automating all these
things and perhaps for somepeople it's really going to work
For me didn't because on thebackground they were constantly

moving around meetings in mycalendar for me.
So every morning I woke up, Ididn't know what my calendar
looked like.
I had no expectation becausebetween yesterday and today,
something might have moved.
Especially, some of them allowyou to also plug in other
people's calendars, like yourteam's calendars, into your.
So if they move the meeting foryou, that just becomes a mayhem

of two AI systems.
Are moving things around twopeople's calendars or more,
So I tested three differenttools.
I ultimately love the onewithout the AI.
So three, two are really.
I dream of the third one.
It feels like an AI, but it'snot, and I used it for a month
and then I just stopped using itand I just felt that it didn't

bring enough value for me.
It actually brought a new typeof stress and anxiety that I
didn't have before.
And when you weigh it and yousay, ok, is this worth it?
Does it bring enough value?
Is it actually simplifying mylife?
At the moment I would say no,but I will keep an eye out
because I know that they'retaking users feedback.
They're innovating,implementing new approaches.

So maybe in a year I can comeback to that.
But that's an example of how toapproach something like this.
You have to be open to trythings, create small pilots for
yourself, little controlledexperiments, and to see if it's
best for you.
And one more thing I wanted tomention is that I'm not a big

fan of AI.
It's surprising me.
So I was a huge fan ofblockchain and specifically Web
I really thought that that wasa great way, in new way, to
bring people together.
And you know, you probablyheard of decentralized
organizations and how peoplewere trying to cut out the
middlemen corporation and dosomething directly with the

clients, directly by themselves.
I actually am a part of one nowthat bought land in Wyoming and
now, as NFT holders, wereactually landowners as well, and
they wanted to build theindependent city of the future
there, and they're still.
They're still interested in it.
They have a really bigcommunity all around the world

doing that.
But what really excited meabout blockchain and all those
technologies is a new way forpeople to come together and
accomplish something.
Ai is way more personal.
It's one on one.
It's you and the system, youand the algorithm.
Right, it's not bringing peopletogether.
I would almost argue it'sseparating people more.

I recently used ChadGPT tonegotiate a refund for myself
through email and it was reallyinteresting because I felt like
their support team also usedchat GPT, so just our two little
algorithms talking to eachother trying to negotiate
I won because ultimately, Ilooked into the news about this
company and they had a lawsuitagainst them, so I fad the word

lawsuit to chat GPT and once, Ithink, their support system.
They ultimately issued me arefund.
But it was really sad.
It's not too human to talk intoeach other.
It's just generic words spiltone side to the other, and I
really don't want that to happen.
I know that Google right now istesting a new pilot with Android

where they would suggest wouldthey create automated AI
suggestions for your textmessages.
So somebody is texting you andthe AI system sees that they
mentioned dinner and they giveyou like five different options
of what you can respond Like, oh, let's book a dinner.
Or like, what do you want fordinner?
Like, et cetera.
I'm not a big fan of thatbecause, yes, it saves people

time, but at what cost, right?
So I think I'm really unique interms of people, like in the
field of people working ininnovation, where I try to be
really, really sovereign aboutit.
Right, I am extremely cautious,I would be the first critic of
the things, but I'm also seeingthe opportunity.

So that's kind of like really arope walker in a way, where
you're trying to keep yourbalance and you're trying to
always stay connected, you'realways tracking the news, you're
always seeing what's out thereand you're trying to really
suggest what's best for people,not for the sake of technology.

Speaker 1 (40:07):
Yeah, agreed, and I think a great way that I've
heard that explained thus far isthat AI is really just an
embodiment of one part of whatmakes up a human person.
Right, I mean, it's justintelligence, that's.
It's one thing.
And so we created this model.
That is, we'll just uselanguage models for the sake of

examples, so that we're notgetting too deep into the weeds,
but we'll collect chat GPTs,the most well-known one, right?
So chat GPT pulled a bunch ofinformation, written information
, which is only one type ofinformation, right, so that's
only written.
That doesn't count.
Oral storytelling there's thingsthat it can't capture or
There's things that there's notpulling in.

We have multiple senses, wehave nervous systems inside of
our heart, inside of our gut andinside of our brain, and chat
GPT is really only the nervoussystem present in the brain,
right, and really only onesubsection of the one nervous
system that's present in thebrain.
So when you have something liketwo chat GPTs going at each

other in a argument for a refund, that is just one subsection of
one thing that makes up a wholeperson, all kind of budding at
And to your point, with theexperiment with Google and the
text message thing we've seenand I saw this as a psych nurse

when I was working inside ofthat field we're already seeing
issues with people, especiallyyounger individuals, with
understanding how to navigatecommunication outside of a
virtual space.
It's the first time, like thisgeneration, the younger portion
of Gen Z and Generation Alphathey're really the first

generations that have had tolive in a world where their
brains are developing around twoseparate realities that are
actually the same thing virtualand physical, and so they're
already kind of seeing this.
Well, how do I communicate whenmy heart is saying this, my gut
is saying this, my mind issaying this and I don't know
what exactly the words are thatI wanna say?

How do I navigate these typesof conversations, things like
The more that we outsourcethose portions to something like
an AI and we're just like oh, Idon't need to think about this,
I'm just gonna respond withwhat the AI recommends, you lose
a little bit of that skill setthat goes with that.
So that's an interestingdirection.
Anything on that, I don't wannarisk spending too much time to

talk to you about thephilosophical implications of AI
We can dive back into yourpassions and the things that
you're working on as well.

Speaker 2 (42:50):
Yeah, I think.
One note, since I come from thefield of digital design, I work
in strategy a lot right now,but I'm still a designer at the
I recently had a conversationwith Peter Smart from Phibosame
Interactive, a really greatproduct design company, about AI
, and one of the biggestquestions we're asking ourselves

is what would it look like forthe designers of the future?
Already now there are tools outthere that would create
wireframes, designs for youwithout you doing anything,
which is insane.
Right the same way that Kanvareally disrupted the way that
people post on social media, alot of people opt out of hiring

designers now because they cando themselves in Kanva.
And guess what?
A lot of things just look likeone business looks exactly like
the other one because they usethe templates.
So we will see the same thingwith digital design.
People will be using AI Systems, wizards, ai tools to design
their websites.
It will save them a lot of time.
Websites will ultimately lookexactly the same.

But if we look at the problemfrom the other side, what will
happen to digital designers, uxdesigners, who are just starting
with their career?
It took me many, many years I'vebeen in the field for over 10
years now to cultivate that gutfeeling of how do you put
together a strategy forsomeone's digital presence, what

needs to be communicated, inwhich order?
How do people consumeinformation online?
How do you differentiate fromyour competition?
What can you say to make thisstand out?
How do you convert really fastAll of these things I've
cultivated for years to create areally visceral gut feeling
that allows me to do my workreally, really fast?
What will happen to thedesigners of the future, who

will not have an opportunity todo it themselves with their own
hands, but will be using thisgenerative tools?
How do they cultivate theexpertise?
The craftsmanship Is a very bigand open question, and I think
it's our responsibility asexecutives, as directors, as
people who already experiencedin some field, to also mentor

others and show them the valueof craftsmanship, of handmade
human emotion and inspirationand just art.
So that's something that's topof mind as well for any creative
career really, yeah, I agreewith that, I 100%.

Speaker 1 (45:22):
If we are not the bridges between the era that
we're in currently, in theportal that we're about to walk
through, into the era that isgoing to come into existence,
we're going to experience a lotof the same mistakes and the
pains that we felt when theinternet became widely used.
So, yeah, ok, we're going tohave to book another combo

offline where we can dive intothis, because I could pick your
brain on topics like this allday, and I'm equally as
passionate, but from a littlebit of a different angle.
You're more on the innovationside and I'm really fascinated
with how it's going to affect uspsychologically as people as we
go into the future.
But this hour is already flownby.

We're already getting close tothe end of our time together,
which is mind-boggling becauseit does not feel like we have
been talking for that full hour,and I want to make sure that we
have a little bit of space hereat the end to ask a couple of
So the first one is you'veworked with a lot of these big
organizations and obviously youunderstand innovation very well.

You've been able to apply in awide range of different places.
If there's somebody that'slistening to this and maybe
listening to this episodesparked something in them that
they're like I want to do whatshe's doing.
Or there's somebody that isalready kind of doing what
you're doing and they're like Iwant to try to take this to the
next level.
What are some ways that peoplecan work on trying to break into

this field so that they aregetting recognized and
potentially getting work andplugging into places and working
on cool projects, like you'vehad the opportunity to do?

Speaker 2 (47:03):
I'm really glad you asked this question.
There are several answers thatI can provide.
First, I kind of alreadytouched upon that, but conduct
small experiments on yourpersonal life how you manage
your day, how do you write youremails, how do you create new
But always remember to startwith a human idea.

Never start with a generativesoftware when you see a blank
page, because it will neverbring you to anything new.
It's only remixing what's outthere.
Only you can, starting withsomething that's really genuine
and new, and then use AI to helpyou fine tune it.
But so, small pilots, smallexperiments in yourself, trying
different tools, is step numberone.

Step number two is starting toimplement smaller disruptive
innovations in the field thatyou're in for your clients.
You don't have to go big.
I'm extremely grateful to mymentor back in the day, back
when I still was an architect,david Erickson, who's the

founder of Scandu Navy andInternet School, hyper Island,
who recognized that internetwill disrupt all the companies
in all of our lives.
Back in the beginning of the90s A fantastic man he showed me
this tool that now is known topeople as user journeys, that
back then it was known ascustomer activity cycles, where

you write out on a piece ofpaper every single thing that,
for instance, your audience,your user, does to accomplish
their goals, step by step, andyou identify where are they
wasting time, money, resources,wherever they frustrated, and
you start brainstorming in verysmall ways how can you do
something differently there?
And you can start by smallinnovations within your craft

and now you will become thego-to person for these things.
You know the go-to person who'sknown for not copying, that's
known for creating.
And then the last thing I wouldsay this opportunity is they're
not really posted anywhere.
A lot of this amazing stuff Ididn't even touch about AR.
I didn't even touch the ARstuff that I've done or machine

learning aspects.
They're not posted out thereVery rarely.
People are just like I'm hiringfor this particular thing.
Sometimes you see it, but notYou're creating this for
yourself, as you're becomingknown as the person who's
interested in that and who'sintroducing this into the
And you start small.
But the more you cultivate yourreputation as a person who's
innovating with heart, who'sinnovating with intention, the

more clients will come to you.
The gig that I had with ToyotaI think I only got it because I
not only was the right person interms of digital design, but I
also had an architecturebackground, so sometimes it's
very serendipitous.
So don't?
I think you should be talkingabout what you do and you should
be talking about your passion.

So you should be proactivelyexpressing to your clients you
want to do things differentlyfor their sake, for their user's
sake, and slowly but surely,the opportunities will come to

Speaker 1 (50:15):
Yeah, I think they say that luck is where
opportunity meets preparation,right.
So you almost it's kind of likea cart before the horse, right,
you have to showcase yourpassion and understand and put
yourself out there and try andfail on yourself, and I think
Tim Ferriss is a great exampleof this as a person.

Right, yeah, a large podcast inthe world.
Why did he achieve that?
What did that look like?
Multi-bestselling author.
It's all because he ranexperience on himself and wrote
about his experiences and thenwent out and found other people
that did that and created anentire book that he didn't even
It's just an accumulation of abunch of people that ran little

experiments on themselves overtime.
So I love that.
And the final question that Ialways ask that kind of has to
do with where people getinspiration from, and this
doesn't have to be like aself-help topic or anything to
do with business.
It's really just things thatpeople find interesting, and I

think it's really interesting tofind, especially as somebody
that is focused on innovation.
Is you where we findinspiration?
So do you consider yourself areader, a watcher or a listener
and, depending on which one ofthose three you feel you fit the
best in.
Could you recommend a TV show,a podcast or a book that you

draw inspiration from or youfind interesting?

Speaker 2 (51:46):
I'm a watcher mostly, but I do the other two as well
and I'll give you two answers.
I'll give you the boring answerand the exciting answer.
The boring answer is there's apodcast I really love, Space
Cadets podcast.
They're summarizing VCinnovation pretty cool
newsletter to get every day.
And then the exciting answer isthat I actually draw a lot of

inspiration for innovativeinterfaces through TV shows that
I really love.
So for strategy, you'll belaughing, but I love Better Call
I think he really hacks it.
You know how to bring innovationto different places?
The Ozarks they constantly endthe threat of death and they
have to weasel with a lot of thecrazy situations and then like,

oh, I think I can do this fore-cars.
And then, visually, of course,westworld, white Lotus, station
There's an amazing British showcalled Utopia that was remade
for Amazon for the first time.
It's fantastic, it was reallyvisually stunning.
Whenever I see interactivethings there interactive in a

way where two people interactwith each other in a new way I'm
like, oh, can I steal this andsomehow turn this mechanic into
So that's just.
I watch a lot of TV.
I'm really passionate about myshows.
I really love a well-writtenstory and I just love
I think a lot of basis forinnovation is cross-pollination.

It's bringing something fromone industry to the other and
combining it in unexpected ways.

Speaker 1 (53:22):
I would agree.
I would agree.
I mean, you think about the waythat Einstein explains the way
he disrupted the entire world ofphysics with general relativity
, and it was not by doingequations all day, every day.
You know, a lot of it wasdaydreaming, a lot of it was
walks, a lot of it was music, alot of it was art.
You know, it's these thingsfrom other areas of life that

pull in, and I think fiction isan amazing place to pull
inspiration from, because thatis a true manifestation of the
human imagination at its best.

Speaker 2 (53:52):
Yeah, and the parting thought is just really
productivity is key here.
Back in my days at Red EndClerk, I was known as a person
who would just bug the newbusiness team at all times,
trying to understand whichclients have we signed so I can
work on the most exciting ones?
I was like, oh my God, they'rerethinking death.
Can I work on this please?

Can you put somebody else onthis eShop?
Can I please work on rethinkingback with them?
So it was all aboutproductivity and telling people
what you were interested in,what would you like to tackle,
and showing them that you can.

Speaker 1 (54:25):
Yeah, I love that.
I love that.
So if individuals that arelistening to this, you know or
organizations that are listeningto this are like I wanna get
ahold of you, I wanna learn moreabout you.
Where can people find moreinformation on you and where is
your preferred ability forpeople to connect?

Speaker 2 (54:42):
LinkedIn is great.
You can find me there.
You can also go to my link tree.
Hopefully we'll add a couple oflinks to this podcast footnotes
for my innovation newsletter.
The Goods Link tree has all thelinks and also you can look at
consultation with me if youwould like.
We can talk about what you needAcross really both the personal

business aspects, but also howcan we bring more of it to your
So far I'm available, but notfor too long.

Speaker 1 (55:14):
Yeah, perfect.
And then, if you're listeningto this and you are interested
in joining the indie collectivecommunity, there are dozens of
people like myself and Leah thatare in the community Actually,
dozens is an understatement.
We just hit our 500th memberabout a month or two ago by the

time this podcast will bereleased, and I am super amped
to be in that community withthese individuals that are
amazing coaches, consultants,designers, developers,
innovation specialists, codersEvery feasible job field that
you can think of is a part ofthis community, and I love the

ability to cross pollinate ideas, and I'm so grateful to have
the ability to host shows likethis and talk to our members in
So thank you again for comingand hanging out for this hour.
It's been amazing, and untilnext time everybody listening
this has been an episode of theModern Independent here at Indie
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