EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE

“(ELEVEN), a Place Where Anything Is Possible.”
by Glen Walter f innovation is about thinking outside the box, then Glen Walter’s reflections are right on the mark. Influenced by Eastern philosophy, he urges design managers to immerse themselves in the bounty of ideas around them, to listen to their inner voices, to understand failure as learning, to lose their egos, to nurture passion, and to trust their intuition and spirit—pathways that generate exciting revelations and new directions.

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Glen Walter, Co-Founder and Managing Member, Design (ELEVEN)

For almost 25 years, I have immersed myself in design. And at the same time, like many other people, I have increasingly felt the need to uncover the deeper meaning in my life. I have taken comfort and inspiration from philosophers, such as Rumi, the thirteenth-century Sufi poet, and Lao Tsu, the author of the Tao Te Ching, and I have added to my knowledge with the help of Wayne Dyer, Caroline Myss, and Eckhart Tolle, who specialize in translating ancient Eastern theories into palatable accounts for those of us in the West. As (ELEVEN) evolves and my perception of an innovative design culture matures, I increasingly draw on the principles and practices of Eastern philosophies to guide our studio.

I have sought to apply the conceptual building blocks that are the foundation of Eastern philosophy to life—and to business, which is an integral part of life. I have found that the time-tested truisms of Eastern philosophy create circumstances and environments that are conducive to creativity and abundance. (ELEVEN)’s mission has always been highly focused on creativity and innovation, and our passion for problem solving has led us to develop and participate in a variety of unique business models and a multitude of product types and brands. However, to embrace such diversity requires a flexible management approach utilizing instinctual precision and balance. It became

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Given the immense

untapped resources available, do not allow yourself or your staff to have low expectations of what you or they are capable of creating.

immediately obvious that a unique set of dynamics was necessary in order to achieve the level of excellence to which we aspired. How do the ideas and practices of Eastern philosophy relate to extreme freedom of thought, expression, and creativity on organizational, as well as individual, levels? I would like to discuss a basic set of principles that, once understood and practiced, are extremely empowering. They are enormously effective tools for exploring creativity both personally and professionally. “All IS ONE” is a universal truth at the center of Eastern philosophy. The omnipresent energy that spins the earth and aligns the universe also holds our atoms together. This thread of energy is present in everything we see, feel, and imagine. We are all connected. Innovation is truly about making new connections. Building an organization that has creative energy begins with a basic belief that anything is possible. You must open your mind and let go of your ego. Wayne Dyer advises, “I urge you to open your mind to all possibilities, to resist any efforts to be pigeonholed, and to refuse to allow pessimism into your consciousness.” Always strive to be positive as a leader, as well as a citizen. Immerse yourself in the bounty that surrounds us. Creativity does not coexist with negativity. How can anyone create and be a pessimist? We live in a world in which our knowledge base is embryonic at best. Consider the beauty of nature in the spring. Look for a seedling emerging from the ground. Sense the wonder of what you are examining. You are witnessing life. What is the origin or creative spark that moves the universe to play with form and stirs life to sprout? No one on earth has even the slightest idea.

Unlimited potential is a captivating formula for success. The universe offers an abundance of solutions. Peer into the vastness of space and experience the feeling of infinity. It is spatially inconceivable. If one were to travel at the speed of light (300,000 kilometers per second), it would take only one second to leave the earth and reach the moon. Andromeda is our neighboring galaxy. Traveling at the speed of light, it would take 2.3 million years to reach Andromeda. There are billions of galaxies like ours in the universe. We cannot comprehend this vastness. We are but a minuscule speck suspended in a cosmos with no boundaries. The possibilities of new, exciting solutions are in scale with the abundance of the universe. Where does your mind start and end? What are its boundaries? Try to envision the vastness of resources from which it draws its energy. An open mind can achieve whatever it can imagine. It allows you to discover, conceive, and develop. Given the immense untapped resources available, do not allow yourself or your staff to have low expectations of what you or they are capable

“All IS ONE” is a universal truth at the center of Eastern philosophy. The omnipresent energy that spins the earth and aligns the universe also holds our atoms together. This thread of energy is present in everything we see, feel, and imagine. We are all connected. Innovation is truly about making new connections.

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of creating. As psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, “If you deliberately set out to be less than you are capable of, you will be unhappy for the rest of your life.” Set an example for others to follow. Be receptive! Get your people to believe. Open your mind to everything that is positive. Be aware. What you think about multiplies in your life. If your thoughts are predominately negative and you have a closed mind, you will experience indications of your thinking. If you think positively and you make a conscious decision to open your mind to everything that is positive, then you’ll act upon that universal energy. You will be the creator, as well as the beneficiary, of phenomenal results. Nothing manifests itself in the man-made physical world without a thought to get the ball rolling. I am consistently amazed by the people at (ELEVEN). They have such a high level of openness to what is feasible. The ability to participate in miracles happens when you open your mind to its limitless potential. We have a sign in our conference room that reads “(ELEVEN), a place where anything is possible.”

Attach yourself to nothing…. Lose your ego. “A mind that is open to anything must also be attached to nothing.” Your attachments can be the basis of your problems. The need to be right, to win at all costs, to possess something or someone, or to be viewed as a cut above the rest are all forms of attachments. Let go of the need to be right. If you are right, then others must be wrong. Give up the need to be superior. Wayne Dyer articulates, “True nobility is not about being better than another, but being better than you used to be.” Reward kindness and give people the chance to be right. This type of behavior allows positive energy to flow. Positive energy is creative energy. It will escalate throughout an organization. A venue that minimizes ego and self-importance gains momentum and allows creativity to grow exponentially. Design is a funny thing. The need for designers to possess an oversized ego is ultimately false—as well as seductive. This delusion is leading our profession down a very self-destructive path. When our ego views the world, it creates illusion. We must strive to shed that ego and move closer to the truth around us. The individual ego intensifies the collective ego, which seeks more, better, and bigger in order to enjoy this false success. More and more is being designed and produced irresponsibly. If we as designers do not act in a responsible manner, there will ultimately be a reaction to this behavior. Ego thrives on consumption. It fools us into believing that we must have more in order to achieve peace in our lives. “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you,” says Lao Tsu. Management through intuition and spirit. (ELEVEN), LLC and Eleven point five, LLC are establishments that carefully balance creativity and business on a daily basis. Between them, they are involved with creating products and brands in three distinct areas: fee-for-service

Reward

kindness and give people the chance to be right. This type of behavior allows positive energy to flow.

Open your mind to everything that is positive. I am consistently amazed by the people at (ELEVEN). They have such a high level of openness to what is feasible. The ability to participate in miracles happens when you open your mind to its limitless potential. We have a sign in our conference room that reads “(ELEVEN), a place where anything is possible.”

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consulting; intellectual-property-based licensed products; and a new partnership, with creative input, in an exciting consumer-products company targeted at mass merchants. Each type of business arrangement requires assorted results in varying timeframes, so maintaining a finely tuned equilibrium of available talent and financial stability has been a key to entrepreneurial leadership and living our creative dream. I would venture to estimate that 98 percent of business is performed systematically, operating under a preconceived set of management ground rules and litmus tests. However, if we were to identify the most creative business leaders, we might find that they maneuver through life utilizing a set of resources that is unique to them. They tap into a natural yet refined set of instincts some might label as a sixth sense. They have learned to banish doubt from their mental vocabularies. This leads them to a place of “knowing.” By knowing I mean the type of knowledge that feeds one’s intuition. This type of knowing allows for the confidence and self-esteem that gives one the ability to learn and expand one’s knowledge. It’s very different from the type of

knowledge that accrues to a know-it-all. When one truly knows, without question, the solution or outcome one achieves can be truly inspiring—far beyond what one initially believed was possible. What if you had never been asked to accept your limitations? What if you had always been encouraged to exercise the power of your mind without boundaries? Most business are managed and operated on beliefs. There are endless streams of belief-driven data, from checklist performance reviews to hierarchal reporting charts and reams of statistical graphs, spreadsheets, and focus-group results. Great leaders transcend beliefs and enter into the realm of knowing. Knowing lives within you, free of doubt. Learn to use and trust your intuition by leaving doubt behind and expanding your borders. When you are listening to intuition and you are in a position of knowing, the fear of failure, condemnation, anguish, seclusion, looking foolish, or even success will not factor into your quest for a solution. Buckminster Fuller once said, “Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.” Steve Jobs changed the way the world thinks about information. Why is he worth billions of dollars to a corporation? Is it his ability to read a spreadsheet, or is it his ability to connect himself to the abundance of the universe and deliver that energy through actionable ideas? He has learned to take notice and become an observer, thus allowing his senses to work for him in extraordinary ways. Is Job’s mind filled with constant chatter, or does the genius emanate from the silence spaces between his thoughts? Do ideas and images float together and connect in a magnificent, choreographed dance of awareness? Learn to listen to your inner voice. Stop and point to yourself. Chances are your finger is pointing at your heart, not your brain. This may be the portal of awareness. It is intuitive and comes out of nothingness, yet it is vast and capable of producing the highest levels of conceptualization. Eckhart Tolle tells us, “Knowledge achieved by realization is of a much higher order than intellectual reasoning.” An ancient Eastern philosopher said, “It is the space

Learn to listen to your inner voice. Stop and point to yourself. Chances are your finger is pointing at your heart, not at your brain. This may be the portal of awareness. It is intuitive. It comes out of nothingness but is vast and capable of producing the highest levels of conceptualization.

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between the bars that restrains the tiger.” Why do solutions come easier when one is at peace, close to nature, or ready for sleep in a near-dream state? Our ego-driven civilization resists the fact that most of the knowledge mankind strives so hard to understand originated not from a human mind but from some other source of energy. Physicist Max Planck said at his Nobel acceptance speech, “As a man who has devoted his life to the most clear-headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as the result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together…. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.” Learn to listen to the part of you that is connected with this universal intelligence. Living in the now. In order to live at higher levels of awareness, you must be present and “live in the now.” I have heard the past described as “the wake of the boat, which does nothing to propel you forward.” Your personal history is composed of beliefs about yourself that fill your inner space and shape how you act in the present. Leave the past behind. Empty your inner space and collect new, more positive energy that is unbiased and open and thus closer to creativity. If you live in the now, you are no longer in a reactive relationship with events in the past and the future. You yourself become a “participant of form.” And form can only exist in the present. The past is gone, and the future does not yet exist. Being consciously aware of your place in the now slows down the chatter in your mind and focuses your attention on the interaction around you. All that is left is the simplicity of the moment. You become clear and receptive, enabling you to perform at higher levels of understanding, conceptualization, and vision. Your ability to weave solutions from a complex array of input becomes enjoyable and natural. Your appreciation for life becomes deeper and more gratifying.

The finest professional athletes can respond instantaneously to any game situation because they are no longer thinking about how to achieve anything. They have transcended thought by evolving into a confident instinctual awareness. Their fundamental movements are as natural as breathing, allowing them to keep their full attention on that particular moment in that particular game. At (ELEVEN), we often participate in highlevel client meetings with many disciplines and levels of management. We specialize at seeing through the myriad of opinions and the reams of positive knowledge that are often presented. We look for the threads of brilliance that weave themselves through the ideas that are discussed. Living in the now and seeing beyond the chaotic mist into the clarity of a singular realistic and winning vision is one of the most exhilarating and valuable gifts we can give our clients. Listening to the voice of passion. Do you fit into life comfortably? Do you live by the book? Whose book is it? Your life may look right, but does it feel right? Are you doing what you came here to do? The answer is in your pas-

Living in the now. If you live in the now, you are no longer in a reactive relationship with events in the past and the future. You yourself become a participant of form.

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sion. What is it that stirs your soul and makes you feel that you are totally in harmony with your purpose for being here? Kahlil Gibran wrote: “When you work, you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turn to music. To love life through labor is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret. All work is empty save when there is love, for work is love made visible.” The feelings you sense inside you, the ones pushing you to take risks and follow your dreams, are your intuitive bond to the purpose in your heart. When this inner connection to your purpose is in harmony with what you were meant to do or be, creativity flows, with prolific results. This often requires change and can be a scary proposition. Put fear in perspective and realize it is an illusion. No one ever fails. Failure is only a result to be learned from. Love and respect for yourself and your purpose will transcend your fears and allow you to laugh when you trip up along the way. Ancient wisdom says, “Fear knocked at the door. Love answered, and no one was there.” And Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can meet triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same… yours is the earth and everything that’s in it.” Conclusion. Nothing in the preceding words is new or unique. I have only assembled a few thoughts that have been handed down through the ages. At (ELEVEN), we have found that these principles hold the key to building an incredibly capable organization that feels good about itself. We are open to evolution and change, for each day brings new faces, experiences, and energies. It is not an easy proposition. We often lose our way, but we try very hard to find our center again. Our natural instincts led us down this path originally. Letting the passion shine through the beliefs lead to a “knowing.” To begin the process of reading and studying these philosophies and principles validated our journey even more. If there are others out there who feel there may be better ways to approach business management, I encourage them to begin their own journeys. Jump into the abundance the universe has to offer!

Acknowledgement Photo illustrations by Keitero Yoshioka. Contact Information: Glen Walter Managing Member, Design (ELEVEN) 179 South Street Boston, MA 02111 (617)-204-1100 (617)-204-1103 (fax) glen@eleven.net Suggested Readings Wayne W. Dyer, The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way (London: Hay House, 2004) Caroline Myss, Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1996) Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (Novato, CA: New World Library, 1999) Lao Tsu, (Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, Translators), Tao Te Ching : 25th-Anniversary Edition (New York: Vintage; 25th anniversary edition, 1997)

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Symbol Technologies and (ELEVEN): The Women-First Project
(ELEVEN)’s relationship with Symbol Technologies began in fall 1999. Symbol is a leader in the world of mobile computers and other enterprise mobility solutions. Alistair Hamilton, the director of Symbol’s industrial design and human interface department, was busy moving the organization beyond awardwinning form into a functional aesthetic centered squarely on the user experience. Hamilton focused instinctively on a product position in need of low-cost innovation. He knew that Symbol lacked creative point-of-purchase scanning solutions for the majority of their big-box customers. His initial objective for (ELEVEN) was to develop a series of conceptual observations in order to pinpoint consumer needs and desires. This valuable information would theoretically improve all of Symbol’s products moving forward. Instead of engaging a firm that specialized in product research to analyze the untapped universe of bar-code reading, he asked (ELEVEN). We were to observe and gain understanding of a panorama of retail personalities and landscapes. At the time, we knew very little about scanning in general and/or that magical point-of-sale at retail, and we were completely open and honest with Hamilton about our naïveté. We explained to him that at (ELEVEN), we do not have a separate research department. We believe designers must form an empathetic bond between the user and the product the designers are working on. Such first-hand experience assures that the conclusions the designers and engineers unearth will be present as value-added features in the products they design and build. This premise is crucial to us, and Hamilton agreed, giving us the latitude to learn and explore. The first thing we did was to re-define the problem from a business viewpoint to a user viewpoint. For instance: • Business viewpoint: “I need low-level, value-based scanners to fill out my product line.” • User experience viewpoint: “These new products offer essential new features that make it easier for retail workers to do their jobs with fewer mistakes and less fatigue. My customers will find them absolutely necessary.” We began to observe the retail purchase process by taking a digital video camera, embedding it in an architect’s drawing tube, and discreetly sewing it into a computer laptop bag (luckily, we were working with Tumi Luggage at the time). We then proceeded to inconspicuously videotape more than 1,400 retail transactions. Each

“Integrate Female Preferences: We found that a vast majority of the people handling the retail transactions were female. Women first became our mantra.

The LS1900 was the final embodiment of our journey. It is a smooth wand that extends the user’s reach and sets the scan angle at a comfortable position in a wide range of motion

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retail category was represented, from mass merchants such as Wal-Mart to boutique shops on Boston’s posh Newbury Street. We covered Home Depot and other outlets that sell large objects; we also covered CVS and other stores that sell a tremendous number of small items. We visited department stores, chain stores in malls, and mom-and-pop stores. After reviewing all we observed, we felt we understood users’ attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, routines, and patterns of behavior. We also understood issues of store layout, checkout counter/aisle, furniture, and fixturing. (ELEVEN) became obsessed with identifying product opportunities while illustrating potential areas for Symbol to capitalize on in the future. We intuitively boiled this tremendous amount of data down to one very relevant point: Integrate female preferences. We found that a vast majority of the people handling the retail transactions were female. However, Symbol’s product line projected a “male” aesthetic. The existing scan guns, although beautiful to look at, were geared toward men. The design language was strong, intense, and positioned at a male audience. We recommended that Symbol explore a more functionally feminine aesthetic: Women first became our internal mantra. Of course, “women first” was not to be found on a spreadsheet. However, it was recognized instinctually as a core idea, and it eventually proved to be correct. Women were the ones doing this work, and they should be honored as

such. We took this essential information and began a series of blue-sky sessions, visualizing on the fly and exploring new product configurations and value-added features associated with the retail point of purchase. Here are a few of our favorite methods: • Brainstorm. • Applied imagination: adapt, modify, magnify, minify, substitute, rearrange, reverse, and combine. • Bionics ideation: applying nature to manmade things. • Synectics: making the familiar seem strange. This avoids repetitive solutions in a conscious attempt to take a new look at an old world. Synectics distorts, twists, transposes, or in some other way changes the manner in which we normally look at problems. • Projection: Change our point of view; become the other person or object for a while. Learning to see problems from another point of view often results in a solution to the problem. • PAG PAU (problems as given, problems as used): Attempts to manipulate creative thinking. During brainstorming, all ideas are accepted without comment, question, or challenge.

(ELEVEN) took the research information and began a series of blue-sky sessions, rapidly visualizing on the fly.

We have been told that our journey with Symbol Technologies has made a lasting impact.

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The first part of our journey ended with the design of the LS1900 scanner. Working collaboratively with Symbol’s in-house design team to refine the final form, (ELEVEN) developed a smooth wand that ergonomically fits a women’s hand and extends the user’s reach while setting the scan angle at a comfortable position in a wide range of motions. The LS 1900 has sold extremely well. During its tenure, it led all scanner sales. The initial research results turned out to be useful in many ways. The information (ELEVEN) uncovered went far beyond the LS1900 to make a lasting impact. The overall research has had an effect on Symbol’s product approach moving forward. Our retail studies are still in circulation, and our hidden video camera has become part of Symbol’s folklore. Symbol’s extremely competent design department has taken the findings and run with many of them. Some of the other design issues we uncovered are as follows: • Focus on the urban apparel/accessory retail market • Explore customization opportunities • Explore interchangeable and modular scanner systems for adaptability • Cable management • Docking rechargeable scanner • “Tidy cash register” accessory system • Articulating scanner holder • Mobile POS scenario • Customizable scanner • Presentation/hand-held scanner with “true” ergonomic features

Alistair Hamilton’s vision and willingness to take a chance allowed (ELEVEN)’s talent to benefit Symbol Technologies. Both parties were deeply satisfied, leading to a long-standing relationship of mutual respect. We relish the opportunity to be involved with such talented people! Reprint #05161WAL17

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