So, before we start I really should introduce myself. My name is Martin Miller, an Industrial Design Leader with 20 years’ experience working across the range from start-ups to global household names and I am the latest member of Ignite Exponential (IEX). I have taken my place as - Design & Innovation Leader and have already spent 3 (very interesting and very fast) months with the team. When I say interesting, I joined IEX to help companies navigate and innovate their way through disruptive forces. That said, I really didn’t think that when I started a “global pandemic” was going to be one of the first disruptions I had to deal with but hey as they say, “Jump in at the deep end and learn to swim” and let’s face it we are all in the same pool.
On a personal Covid-19 theme - I am lucky really as my previous role allowed me to work remotely from home for a large portion of my time, so adjusting to this “new way” of working was really just me reverting back to the same way I have done it for the last 4 years (except there is much less air travel). If anyone reading this is struggling to cope with the ‘New Normal’ of working from home, drop me a line and I would be only too happy to give you some advice, tips and tricks.
Not unusually, the question I get asked most often since I redirected my career is “why the move”? And it is a good question. I was doing well as a Director of industrial design, the company I was with had offered to relocate me to another country, all was mostly great... But something just didn’t feel right. I am a strong believer in trusting your instincts, after all, they are something humans have developed since the start of time, and so as little as we understand them, we should be aware of them and treat them with the respect they have earned over time. I began to look at myself, some called it a mid-life crisis, I called it a mid-life critique. Now, as an Industrial designer - we are trained to critique everything we see, constantly looking for ways to improve whatever we are working on. It is part of our natural curiosity, what we do and how we do it. Not just focusing on the product we are working on but everything we come into contact with, just in case it can be used to solve a problem elsewhere. So I gave myself the once over.
Interestingly, not all but many of the companies I have encountered believed they were forward-thinking, innovative and constantly changing (agile) but in fact, they were not quite getting it right. The intention was right but all too often the pace of modern-day (before Covid-19) design and development would cause any attempts to create innovation and change the norm, to be thwarted by the clock and a – revert back to what we know and how we do it – would ensue in order for safety or hit the deadlines that come with being a world-beater. Often, they operated in a low-risk environment so any attempts to induce an environment of discovery, trial and error would be closed down by the louder safe conformist voices. You can’t blame them really.
On a personal level, what I concluded was when working in an internal team, it is too easy to repeat what is familiar. Sure the subject matter changed but the process remained the same. I could predict what would happen next, not because I had developed psychic powers but because I had seen this film before and knew the ending... in fact, I knew the whole dialogue, so when development was finished I was happier it was gone than celebrating the creative process. It left me restless and feeling there was a better way.
A voice kept telling me that there was something else I could do with my creativity and knowledge, somewhere else to be, where I could make a real difference. I treated my situation as I would a product development, dissecting what would improve me. It had occurred to me that when you are a company employee it is often hard to find a voice for many reasons; lacking a system to feedback and suggestions, for fear of repercussions, lack of confidence, making the big guys look foolish….. There are many more. One thing I did notice was when external experts were brought in, everyone stopped to listen. That was it –“time to become an expert”. The gauntlet was thrown down and my quest began.
My introduction to Ignite Exponential (IEX) was purely by chance. Talking to my agent, he asked if I was happy in my current occupation. He opened Pandora's Box - and out came the feelings. After what felt like a refreshing download I was told about an exciting opportunity at a company- IEX. They sounded like a team just like me, who had been through the same process as me. A team created of experts from across industries and working groups and they were looking for someone from the creative side of things who also understood how it worked on the business side too (note: they are still looking for those diamonds from all sides of the business, so if you are reading and interested, please drop us a line).
I knew things were on the right track when by the second interview, I was literally begging to show my work (trot the old folio out – that’s what we Industrial Designers do). Alan C. Head of IEX and the team were more interested in how I thought, what my points of view were and how I solved problems, more than what I had done in the past. Not that that wasn’t important to them more they were delving deeper into who I was to understand if I would fit in and be able to make a difference. This was what convinced me that they knew what they said they could do was true.
I believe the difference with IEX from many of the other similar innovation companies out there is that they really take the time to ‘Know their Customer/Company’ (KYC) and this leaves them in a unique position to both think like the ‘C’ whilst remain external and objective in order to offer the best possible advice and guidance – "A critical friends" if you like. The diverse team allows people with different experience and points of view to be injected into briefs and meetings that they normally wouldn’t encounter in order to search for that eureka moment – Usually, sounding like “I’m not sure if this would work but in ‘X’ we did ‘Y’... would that work here”? Now, this is what I came to work for!
It is still relatively early days for me here but IEX is allowing me to experience my own unique personalised innovation journey. If you think your company would benefit from some world-class experts creating a new innovative direction, get in touch.
Stay safe and well
There is never a better time to ‘Ignite’ some innovation into your business...
Start now. You are already late!