At the risk of stating the obvious, 2020 has been a wild year. It’s challenged us in more ways than I can cover in one blog, but it’s also presented many gifts as well. Including the gift of time. When the world slows down and you can’t go anywhere, you unexpectedly find yourself with a lot more time to think. For me, it’s given me time to think about the direction of Studio Science (more on that in the coming months), and even more time to learn.
When I joined Studio Science as CEO in 2018, I knew the learning curve would be steep. I didn’t have a background in design or marketing, and here I was leading the most experienced and talented group of designers and marketing strategists out there. I had grown and led many successful teams and organizations over the years, but if you were to ask me what a brand archetype was, I would’ve looked like a deer in headlights. So I listened, I read, and I watched. Luckily for me (and the team) the design and innovation space is always evolving, so there was plenty of content out there.
In the spirit of the year-end reflecting we’re all inevitably doing, I asked our team to share something that’s expanded their minds or hearts this year. From the books on our bedside tables to the podcasts we listen to on our morning walks, from the newsletters delivered to our inbox and the (virtual) events we attend, the content we consume has the power to shift our thinking, broaden our perspectives, inform our decisions, and ultimately help us grow.
The recommendations were as varied as our backgrounds. The content ranged from what you’d expect from Studio Science (content around design thinking, system design, technology trends, and marketing and customer service best practices) to what interests and inspires the team personally (from finding happiness to bowhunting).
Here’s what got us through 2020:
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – American Experience (PBS documentary series): “Legendary bank/train robber Butch Cassidy was a systems thinker. He saw his heists not as smash-and-grab operations, but rather as a web of interconnected people and events—and he planned accordingly. It’s Design Thinking 101, and it’s why he outlasted most of his contemporaries.” – Rob Wessel
MeatEater series on Netflix and The MeatEater Podcast – Steven Rinella: “I found this series and podcast to be helpful since one of my personal goals for 2021 was to learn how to bow hunt. Currently, I only hunt using a shotgun and this series gave instruction and valuable insight when making the transition from shotgun to bow. I was very surprised to learn that the podcast had a wide range of conversations and topics on outdoor adventure, cooking wild game, and a strong commitment to conservation.” – Eric Baker
Built Bill Gates’ home, then his own dream bunk-studio – Kirsten Dirksen/James Cutler: “2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. While outside the digital ecosystem, what’s kept me going has been videos, like this, that are so inspiring by the way they talk about design as a lifestyle.” – Jordan Brewer
It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand – Megan Devine: “In a year where the collective population of the world is grieving the loss of normalcy, this book’s transferable themes of how to navigate different types of loss and grief settles into the reader’s mind like a balm for the weary soul. Devine’s view of grief as a natural occurrence that doesn’t need ‘fixed’ or ‘cured’ gives the reader permission to sit in the fire of sadness in a way that feels more like a means of refining impurities rather than an end. Highly recommended for anyone who’s found themselves struggling with any type of loss or grief, big or small.” – Brian White
Ultimate Speed Secrets – Ross Bentley: “This is a book about high-performance and race driving. The most interesting section of the book involves the mental aspect of race driving. Specifically, a driver’s mindset, changing your mental programming, optimizing sensory information, and using mental imagery to maximize performance. These are critical skills and lessons for racing, but also for business, leadership and life. It’s a great jumping off point.” – Steve Pruden
The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups – Daniel Coyle: “The Culture Code sheds light on the secrets of successful teams, coaches, and managers and gives examples of tools leaders can use to build cohesive, motivated cultures. With examples ranging from NBA teams to food service staffs, Coyle lays out use case after use case of how effective leaders communicate and model excellence and empathy in order to bring teams together as they walk in lock step toward camaraderie and cohesion.” – Brian White
User Friendly – Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant: “When Justin recommended this book to me I had no idea how hard it would be to put down! User Friendly will take you on a journey through time to uncover how good design is essential to making our lives easier to live.” – Seth Richardson
A More Beautiful Question – Warren Berger: “A good reminder for leaders that you don’t necessarily need the right answers, as long as you’re asking the right questions.” – Brian Pennington
Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories – Simon Winchester: “It’s fascinating to learn about how things that once seemed extraordinary become routine through the force of human ambition. This book tells a fascinating story about dreams, progress, and struggle – all centered around a biography of the Atlantic Ocean. It makes business challenges seem trivial!” – Steve Pruden
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius: “There is never any need to get worked up about things you cannot control” “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength” – Haley Nelson
Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh: “Building a business with a strong positive culture that focuses on making the people around you happy. Strong focus on being customer centric, and over delivering on the customer experience. This was especially poignant to read this year, as 2020 also took the only person (Tony) who pioneered the concept of customer delight in the age of eCommerce.” – Chris Belli (?)
Where are the Black Designers? Conference – 17 event speakers, hosted/founded by Mitzi Okou: “In the middle of the summer, seventeen amazing speakers and over 10,000 attendees came together to celebrate Black voices in design and address pressing issues in the design industry. This is an invaluable resource that’s free to access and continuing to grow,” shared Madi Fox. Christopher Vice, who also recommended this conference, said: “These conversations, which are now posted on Youtube, represent important perspectives. The participants outlined strategies for leading the required changes to the design profession to become more diverse, inclusive and equitable. As stated by the organizing team, “Make no mistake: this is a movement, not a moment.’”
Ideas Made to Matter – MIT Sloan: “I’ve learned a lot about business, workplace dynamics, productivity, and the systems that drive all these through the well-written, concise articles in this series.” – Isabel Piechowicz
Cloud Information Model (CIM) – Consortium led by Joint Development Foundation : “The age of integrating technology stacks has arrived, and with it are some new cloud data model standards you might want to consider when building that new web app. Contributing partners to CIM include Salesforce, Google Cloud, AWS, Twilio, and Genesys. Not bad company to take a lesson from.” – Nick Marson
It’s Nice That Newsletter – It’s Nice That: “This resource does a great job of highlighting fresh, creative work and ideas as well as creating learning opportunities.” – Madi Fox