Reflecting on 100 Episodes
About 100 years ago, leadership at the University of Iowa were exploring creativity and craft. In academia there was a debate questioning if creativity be taught. For context, eugenics was also a topic of debate at this time. Thankfully we've moved beyond that. Focusing on the brighter side of things, The University of Iowa created an experiment, now known as The Iowa Idea. The Idea involved bringing practicing artists to campus. This lead to a new form of collaboration, of theory and practice, that led the MFA degree, where creative works could be submitted to meet academic requirements, and The Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The original Iowa Idea involved new forms of creativity, collaboration, and persistence. I believe that to address some of the complex and wicked challenges of our day, we can look to the Iowa Idea for inspiration. In May of 2020, I launched The Iowa Idea Podcast. In the podcast, I wanted to talk with modern craftspeople about their approach and see what insights we might gain from their experience.
Last week marked the release of the 100th episode of the podcast. I’m truly humbled that so many artists and innovators took the time to talk with me about their journey and craft. At the end of every episode, I tell the guest that it was an honor to have them on the show. It truly is an honor when you have the gift of an hour-plus conversation with an incredible human. For what it’s worth, I believe that most humans are incredible and have a lot to offer if we take the time to listen.
When I started, I was wondering if I could get ten or twelve people to join me for the podcast. I’m grateful and proud that I’ve been able to produce 100 episodes, with more on the way. To date, I’ve averaged 1.67 episodes per week over 60 weeks. As an innovation and research nerd, and from a qualitative research perspective, this has provided a robust data set on regarding the way successful artists, innovators, and creatives approach their work.
The Structure: 5 Basic Prompts
Each discussion is guided by five prompts. The conversations are not “agenda-less” (stealing from guest and author, Ed Hess), but leave a lot of room to go in directions that, at times, surprise both the guest and me.
Here are the prompts and rationale that guide the conversation:
Tell me about yourself. This a blatant steal from Terry Gross and her perfect icebreaker. This prompt, not a question, allows the guest to set their frame. It’s not me setting the frame. While I have preconceived notions on why I wanted the guest on the show, this has sent the conversations in unexpected and delightful directions. In a few cases, I’ve failed to ask the guest about the topic that first interested me getting them on the show and yet we still had a fascinating conversation.
How did you become interested in X? I want to know what piqued their interest(s) and what attracted them to their particular craft. Some guests have a pretty direct throughline from their youth to their current craft. However, for most that line is more of beautiful squiggle.
Your Journey. We cover their journey… sometimes unexpected… sometimes new connections. Prompts 2 and 3 can be deeply personal, so I work to create a safe and welcoming interview space. Before we record, I tell each guest that this is not “gotcha journalism” and when I ask follow up questions they are because I want to earnestly understand.
Stuck / Unstuck. This is were I ask the guest if they ever feel stuck, and if so their approach to get unstuck. I’ve really appreciated guests’ vulnerability and generosity, with this prompt. Not one guest has said they never get stuck - I mean these are professionals at the top of their field, I'm surprised that not one has claimed to not get stuck. In fact, most say it happens often. I believe tips for getting unstuck can be incredibly useful to aspiring creatives and innovators.
Advice. Here’s another area where I steal. This time at a meta level. In Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist, he claims that when we give advice, we’re just talking to our younger self. From a continuous improvement and learning perspective, I always find this as a rich area of investigation. In the show there seems to be two directions from this prompt – 1) good advice one has received from a mentor; and/or 2) advice they wish they would have received.
Beyond that five-prompt framework, the conversations are open to go in any direction.
As a researcher, I’m now starting to analyze and synthesize the 100+ hours of interview content. One of my general approaches to qualitative data is to look at novelty, intensity, and redundancy. Novelty provides new and unexpected patterns. Intensity addresses the emotion associated with particular themes. Redundancy is where we see patterns emerge.Redundancy is where we see patterns emerge. Another form of analysis is inspired by Symbolic Convergence Theory, where I conduct a thematic analysis looking for righteous, social, or pragmatic themes. Righteous themes speak to quality and tend to have a religious fervor -- there's a right way to do things. Social themes look at elements of caring, humanity, collaboration, and value social interactions. Pragmatic themes address "bang for the buck" and emotional detachment. The third set of themes I explore when conducting qualitative analysis is observation, explanation, implication. This is pretty straight forward -- what have we observed, what might explain it, what are the implications of our explanation?
Some Preliminary Patterns
The preliminary patterns and themes emerging from this robust body of interviews include:
Collaboration and the power of networks
Responding to unexpected turns
Starting small, iterating
The power of an improv mindset
Thanks to all of the supporters and guests of the podcast. This has been a phenomenal ride so far and I appreciate your help along the way. Special thanks to Kate Kruse and Jeremy Corr at Executive Podcast Solutions for their ongoing help and support, and to Kylie Buddin (aka Paisley Bible) for creating the theme music used in the intro and outro of the show. A shout out to friend and colleague Dawn Ealy for being an early supporter and fan of the show.
Beyond the general patterns discussed earlier, each guest has provided me with new insights. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve learned from each guest and things that I think may be of value to innovators and creators. I encourage you to scan the list and see if there’s something you might find interesting or useful.
Please let me know if there are guests or themes you'd like covered in future episodes of the podcast.
Episode Listing / Guests
Alex Dezen. Alex is a wonderfully talented singer/songwriter and musician. Beyond the gift of his songs, I appreciated his description of time at The Workshop and his advice about getting unstuck. His advice, via Ethan Canin is to not fret about finishing a project before going to bed. Instead, leave something incomplete before you go to bed, so that you have something accelerate your start the next day.
Vero Rose Smith. Vero is a fantastic artist and educator. It was a conversation with her and her description of the original Iowa Idea that planted the seed of the podcast for me. I absolutely loved how she approaches art and art education.
Nick Scappaticci. Nick is a wonderful designer and thinker. Over the years we’ve become co-collaborators and co-conspirators. His reminder to continue to build-to-think and build-to-learn is a fantastic reminder for designers and innovators. As we face complex challenges, I’m reminded of Nick’s advice on how we might collaborate at scale.
Charity Nebbe. Charity is a generous spirit and extremely talented show host at Iowa Public Radio. Her reminder that “we’re all human” can apply to every interaction we have with one another.
Mike Monteiro. Mike’s commitment to design ethics is incredibly inspiring. His work reminds me that as designers, we are responsible for what we put forth in the world.
Kurt Nelson. Kurt, co-host of Behavioral Grooves, which he co-hosts with Tim Houlihan. Kurt has been a friend from my time in Minneapolis. His early insights, generosity, and encouragement helped me launch the Iowa Idea Podcast. An unexpected bonus: Kurt introduced me to Annie Duke.
John Kenyon. John’s work directing the City of Literature initiative is inspiring and a reminder of the power of commitment needed to cultivate a sense of place and be a caretaker for Iowa City's literary community.
Ed Nehring. Ed is one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. I met him years ago when he was part of a rockabilly/punk band and owner of one of the coolest hair salons around. Ed’s insights on music, improv, and Zen are always fun and thought provoking.
Kade Schemahorn. I was lucky enough to work with Kade at a design studio for a few years. He’s a terrifically brilliant and thoughtful designer. His commitment to craft, while being a fantastic collaborator inspires me every time we have a chance to work together.
Dave Hill. Dave is an insanely talented comedian, musician, author, and artist. Beyond that, Dave is such a kind soul. Dave and I met because of a mutual friend - perhaps a meta-theme of the podcast is the power of networks. Dave’s creative work and humor has been a silver lining through the pandemic.
John Sweeney. John embodies all that is great about comedic improv. I was able to work with John and the Brave New Workshop when I lived in Minneapolis. John’s application of improv for innovation and sales is incredibly insightful.
Dominique Limoli. I met Nicki through a mutual friend. Nicki’s perspectives always feel like a gift. In our interview, I loved hearing about the communication and caste systems found in bacterial communities and the "tragedy of the commons" that they represent. A reminder that we can look at other systems for insights into the systems we’re currently working.
Mary Cohen. I met Mary through my wife, as they are both professors at Iowa's College of Education. Prior to meeting Mary, I was able to attend one of the Inside Out-Outside Chorus performances at the Oakdale prison. Mary has been directing the chorus, as a restorative justice program, where the inside chorus members, who are incarcerated, and the outside chorus members (community volunteers) collaborate on beautiful and moving productions. Mary reminds us that “who we are as people helps us relate to others.”
Tanya English. I loved Tanya’s unique approach to help people access healing through the blues. I was intrigued by Tanya’s quote when you “put your attention on the intention, there’s no tension.”
Elise Robinson. I’ve known Elise for over 20 years. We even helped run a theatre company together in Minneapolis. She is a talented director and teacher, and one of the funniest people I know. Our conversation focused on elements of empathy, privilege, and our journey towards wisdom.
Yasmin Marrero. Every time I get to talk with Yasmin, I’m impressed with her wisdom and energy. She combines her background in neuroscience and organizational change in a beautiful and elegant way.
Joe Tait. A wonderfully talented artist, educator, and writer. Joe and I met writing for a sketch comedy show in Iowa City. It was fun to reconnect with Joe through the podcast.
Kate Moreland. Kate is the President of the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD) and has been working to help our community for over 20 years. I always appreciate Kate’s comportment and wisdom, as well as her insight on the importance of owning one’s voice.
Gino Chirio. I was lucky enough to collaborate with Gino on an innovation project years ago. That led to further collaborations. Gino’s wisdom and humility are a wonderful combination. His ability to have fun while doing the hard work is inspiring. His HBR article “6 Ways to Grow a Company” is a must for those interested in sustainable innovation. Gino joined me on a special episode of the podcast as we talked about the innovation and insights of Bill Veeck, former owner of the Chicago White Sox.
Jonas Dupuich. Jonas is a bonsai expert and was a fantastic guest. I used to work with Jonas’ brother, Amos, but didn’t hold that against Jonas. I loved the enthusiasm Jonas has for his craft and was intrigued by the parallels between the craft bonsai and the principles of design.
Andy Joynt. Andy is head brewer at Big Grove in Iowa City. I really appreciated Andy talking about the craft and collaboration behind the award winning beers at Big Grove, the healthy competition that exists among teams, and how their organization has innovated during the pandemic.
Howard Allen. Howard and I grew up in the same city and attended the same high school. I never knew we’d reconnect years later to discuss spicy food, craft, design, and entrepreneurship. Howard’s approach to design and experience creating Maroon Sausage Company is truly inspiring.
Aarron Walter. Aarron is an Iowa native and design education expert. His podcast and books on design are a must for folks looking to improve their craft. In our conversation, Aarron shares the importance of emotion when it comes to design.
Chris Bernat. Chris is a talented, creative, and kind soul. I met Chris nearly 30 years ago and have had the opportunity to chat once in a while. In this conversation, Chris reminds us of the rejuvenating power associated with making art.
Bob Kasenchak. Bob is a fantastic combination of intelligence and wit. His talks on information architecture and taxonomies are not to be missed. We talked about the power and potential (for good or bad) in naming and labeling things.
Andre Wright. Andre is a fashion activist fighting for social justice. His enthusiasm and tenacity is contagious. Andre and Jason Sole (co-founder ) are doing incredibly important work with Humanize My Hoodie (HMH). In addition to the awareness campaigns for the HMH, the co-founders host Ally workshops. The world is a better place with Andre in it.
Anne Harris Carter. Anne is a diversity, equity, and inclusion pioneer. Anne is so generous with her insights. Among other things, she shares the importance of having different perspectives and voices at the table to make better decisions. Anne is now using her time and talent to help reduce stigmas associated with mental health.
Tim Houlihan. Tim’s an intensely curious and generous person. In our conversation we talk about how we, as humans, don’t really know or understand our motivations very well. Tim co-hosts the Behavioral Grooves podcast with Kurt Nelson – if you haven’t heard it check it out.
Andre Perry. Andre’s an inspirational leader and an incredibly talented artist. He's a relentless advocate for the power of art and community. Andre helps share the power of better understanding ourselves and others through art.
David Dylan Thomas. Dave is a wicked smart designer, speaker, and author. His work related to cognitive bias in design is exceptional. In our conversation Dave shares why it’s about having the right information, not simply more information.
Katie Roche. Artist, activist, and fundraiser. Katie’s warmth, talent, and positive energy are contagious. I loved her insight “no one can give you permission to become the person you want to become.”
Alex Hillman. Alex is always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust, and business. He splits his time between running Indy Hall (Philadelphia’s oldest coworking space), teaching creative people how to bootstrap their own business.
Chris Gersbeck. I met Chris, virtually, during the pandemic. Chris is a comedian, promoter, collaborator, and producer. Among the shows Chris produces are The Dave Hill Goodtime Hour…which is really 90 minutes. Chris, along with Dave and New Jersey Chicken Rancher Dez, deliver a fantastic package of warmth and humor. Chris also works with “The Mads.” Chris has been instrumental in helping me line up some fantastic guests for the show.
Melissa Murer Corrigan. Melissa has held a number of leadership roles and has been recognized for her contributions to the world of pharmacy. In our conversation, Melissa shares a funny-now story about her early days working at Walgreens. She also shares the story of Iowa pharmacy pioneer Zada Cooper.
Mike Maddock. Mike is an "Idea Monkey" and innovation pioneer. He’s a fantastic person to work with and I always enjoy our conversations. Mike has authored numerous books on innovation. I appreciated Mike’s insights regarding why corporations struggle and why “it’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the jar.”
Aaron Proietti. Author of “Today’s Innovator” and former Chief Innovation Officer at Transamerica. Aaron’s insights on sustainable innovation are not to be missed. It’s always a joy to talk shop with Aaron. Aaron and I had so much fun with our first episode together that we did a year-end recap of 2020. While many of us want to put 2020 in the rearview mirror and not look back, Aaron showed how companies committed to innovation actually found success in the dumpster fire of the past year.
Gary Kroeger. Iowa native and Saturday Night Live alum. Gary was part of the SNL cast that I first started watching on a regular basis and was a part of skits that make me laugh to this day. Gary’s approach to life and contextualizing it as a journey is good advice. Our conversation is one of many where we talk about the power of improv.
Michele Williams, PhD. I was introduced to Michele through Melissa Corrigan. Dr. Williams, among other things, is a sensemaking expert. We talked about her journey, the importance of sensemaking. If you’re looking to improve your leadership and negotiation skills Michele provides some great insights.
Cassini Nazir. Cassini’s conference talks are not to be missed. His work on exformation and curiosity are absolutely wonderful. I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with Cassini as part of IAC21. His warmth and humility, pared with his curiosity are inspiring. Our episode highlights why human-centered design is all about the people.
Dana James. Dana is a journalist, entrepreneur, and community activist. As the founder of Black Iowa News, she’s doing important work raising awareness to the issues of race, equity and social justice. Whether you’re in Iowa or not, Black Iowa News provides valuable perspective and I truly appreciate Dana taking the time to talk with me.
Bill Veeck (special episode with Gino Chirio). Bill Veeck is one of my personal heroes. So, it was a joy talking with Gino about Veeck (rhymes with wreck) through the lenses of innovation and experience design. Some of Veeck’s innovations include the ivy covered walls of Wrigley, the exploding scoreboard at Comiskey Park, and players names on the back of jerseys.
Shonali Bhomik. Shonali is a proud multi-hyphanate. Among her slash-roles are musician, podcaster, and comedian. She’s a wonderful example that exceptionally talented people can also be kind and generous. Her advice to “write it down” is a good reminder for all creatives.
Chemda Khalili. Chemda is another wonderful introduction from Chris Gersbeck. Chemda is an OG podcaster. Time Out New York has referred to her as the "queen of podcasting." As co-founder and co-host of Keith and The Girl, she has produced over 3000 episodes, which makes 100 seem insignificant. Chemda’s empathy, authenticity, and wisdom are truly humbling. We had fun talking about why the cornfields in the Midwest are more terrifying than the streets of New York.
Vivianne Castillo. Vivianne is a UX Researcher, ethics advocate, and DEI expert. Vivianne founded HMNTY CNTRD. Her work, voice, and insights are incredibly powerful. She is a champion for self-care and I really appreciated her comments “don’t let anybody take your voice away. Speak your truth and see where it lands.”
Kenn Godman. Kenn, aka Skipper, has been an important part of Chicago’s indie music scene for decades. Known for his bands The Service and The New Duncan Imperials, he formed his independent label Pravda Records in1984. Kenn’s shares his insights from running a record label, for over 30 years, in an ever-changing landscape.
Kim Casko. A kind and generous soul, whose presence makes every project better. Kim is President and CEO of the Iowa City Area Business` Partnership. I appreciated her insight to “take your time and figure it out.”
Nate Staniforth. Nate is a fantastic magician and talented author. His deep, intense dedication to his craft is inspiring. Nate’s insight that “the tricks are irrelevant” was so interesting. His quest for wonder, and helping others find it, is truly motivating.
John Richard. John is a filmmaker. He has directed or collaborated on many beautiful documentaries. I can’t wait to see his current project about the Iowa Mountaineers, a mountain climbing club from Iowa that had a tremendous impact on the way that Americans relate to the outdoors.
The Mads (Trace and Frank). Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff wrote and performed on the Emmy nominated, Peabody award-winning TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000. Trace played Mad Scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester and Crow T. Robot, while Frank played the lovable bumbling evil henchman “TV’s Frank.” I appreciated their insights related to collaboration and iteration as key components to honing their craft.
Don Smithmier. Don is a musician, songwriter, and serial entrepreneur. I had to chance to work with Don early in our careers. It’s great to see the success he’s earned and how his “culture is everything” approach is a guiding principle to how he approaches business. FWIW, Don maybe the biggest Cheap Trick fan I know.
Andy Stoll. Andy is a serial social entrepreneur and producer and has co-founded six entrepreneurial-focused organizations and currently serves as a Senior Program Officer in Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. His career has focused on building pioneering programs, communities, classes and events to help entrepreneurs and creatives turn their ideas into reality. His commitment to helping people is inspiring. Andy has lived and worked around the world, spending time in over 40 countries.
John Coyle. John is a keynote speaker, innovator, author, and Olympic medal winner. His stories are always entertaining and insightful. From his elite athletic training to studying at Stanford’s d school, John’s able to share humorous and valuable perspectives.
Samantha Ferm. Samantha is a helper and a healer. She assists businesses in southeast Iowa navigate the world of local, state, and federal government contracting. She also owns and operates her own massage therapy and sound healing business in Iowa City, Full Circle Wellness, and is one of the leaders for Her Experience, a day-long urban retreat for women.
Mark Nolte. Mark is a caring connector and collaborator. His supportive energy and deft leadership has helped many organizations in the Iowa City area over the past few decades.
Matthew Swift. Matt is an owner or partner in many of the area’s best restaurants. Matt shares his deep experience and insights from the hospitality industry and discusses how his businesses were able to successfully respond to the pandemic.
Jesse Elliott. Jesse is the Director of Creative Ecosystems for CACHE (Creative Arkansas Community Hub & Exchange), is a lifelong champion of collaborative social entrepreneurship, the power of multimedia and storytelling, and inclusive arts and artist resourcing. I love Jesse’s passion regarding creativity and community.
Jorge Arango. Jorge is an information architect, author, and educator. His publications include Living in Information: Responsible Design for Digital Places and co-author of Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond. In our conversation we dug into responsible design and why it’s important to be suspicious of extremes, especially in the context of social media.
Tim Carty. Tim is a proud Iowa transplant, community builder, and entrepreneur. Tim has served as an ambassador for the Iowa City Area Business Partnership and has recently co-founded a new talent attraction agency called RoleCall. Tim encourages people “actively chose where they want to live.”
Dave Gould. Dave Gould is a wonderfully generous creator and connector, and a self-described accidental academic. He actively works to put positive energy in the universe. Dave has been so kind to me and the podcast, as he has helped connect me to numerous guests. Dave works to “continuously feed friends and community.”
Erin Becker. Erin is a writer, communication consultant, and storytelling expert. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Erin on projects and presentations. I’ve always appreciated Erin’s perspectives on writing and storytelling and loved her advice to “think about the content before you think about the vehicle.”
Josh Krakauer. Josh is the founder and CEO of Sculpt, a B2B social media and marketing company. Josh is another super-connector who helped build Iowa City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Josh now works remote from Washington, DC, but will still convince you Iowa City is the best city on earth.
Anuvab Pal. Anuvab is an incredibly smart, kind, and funny creative. The New York Times calls Anuvab India’s Most Intelligent Comedian. The Times of India calls him one of India’s top 10 comedians. His work has been featured on The BBC, Time Magazine, CNN, and other global media. Anuvab Pal wrote a book about the movie “Disco Dancer.” The movie is unintentionally one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
Kaleb Wyse. Kaleb is the fourth generation to live on his family farm in Iowa. Leaving business and accounting, he started Wyse Guide as an outlet for his passions in the garden and in the kitchen. I really appreciated his insight, “use what you have until it becomes what you want.”
James Tutson. James is a singer/songwriter and community builder. Our discussion explored some of the similarities between music and design, including themes of intentionality, framing, and collaboration. Our conversation concludes after examining themes of “fore-ness,” and love. James is continually driven"to do something more beautiful.”
Erin Rollenhagen. Erin is the CEO and founder of Entrepreneurial Technologies. In 2019, she released Soul Uprising: It’s Never Just Business, a book that encourages entrepreneurs and business leaders to trust their purpose and embrace impact as the true measure of success. Our conversation explored trust, strong brands, and why “at our core everything we do is meant to solve human problems.”
Tim Easton. Tim is a singer/songwriter based out of Nashville. After college, he found himself busking in the streets of Paris, London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Prague, on and off for seven years. We explored the importance of perspective and how living in different countries has shaped Tim’s own perspective. His latest album, You Don’t Really Know Me, will be released on August 27th. I was lucky enough to get an early copy and can say it’s a fantastic record.
Ophira Eisenberg. Ophira, aka Her Ripe Begonias, is a comedian, author, and host of NPR’s Ask Me Another. In our conversation we talked about our kids as our toughest critics, our righteous views about poutine, and the importance of positive energy. As Ophira said, “go towards the people saying yes.”
Dan Clay. Dan is the Dean of the College of Education at The University of Iowa. Dan and I explore his journey from growing up in a small, rural community, his involvement in Future Farmers of America, to his interests in psychology, child development, and education, to leadership roles in higher education, and as a business owner and brewer. Our conversation dug into the crossroads that higher ed finds itself and why Dan says it's important “attend to the people side.”
Gregg Bernstein. Gregg a wonderfully talented UX researcher, speaker, and author of Research Practice: Perspectives from UX researchers in a changing field. He has taught design, typography, and branding at the college level. Prior to a career in UX, Gregg designed album covers and posters for rock bands. In our episode, Gregg shares why “writing is the superpower for researchers.”
Justin Ahrens. Justin is the Chief Evangelist at Rule29 and the author of Life Kerning. Justin’s passion and positive energy are contagious. He’s an advocate for self-improvement and challenges us to consider “if somebody wrote a story about your life, would it be interesting?”
Dan Klyn. Dan is a wonderful human. He teaches information architecture at the University of Michigan School of Information, is co-founder of World Information Architecture Day, past President of the Information Architecture Institute, and is a founding member of the teaching faculty at Building Beauty. Dan is currently working on a biography of Richard Saul Wurman.
Annie Duke. Annie is an author, speaker, and decision strategist. Her latest book is called How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices. Annie’s previous book, Thinking in Bets, is a national bestseller. I highly recommend for innovators and strategists.
Dr. Kenneth G. Brown. Ken is a Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship in the Tippie College of Business at The University of Iowa. His award-winning research focuses on e-learning, engagement, leadership development, motivation and self-regulation, and training design and evaluation. Ken and I dug into psychological safety in the workplace, the importance diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how we might continue to look at opportunities for us to get better together. Ken is another wise and generous soul from the Dave Gould network of friends.
Saul Kaplan. Saul is an innovation junkie, the founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (also known as BIF), and author of The Business Model Innovation Factory: How to Stay Relevant when the World Is Changing. Saul and I discuss how innovation is a generative act and why “you can’t analyze your way to transformation.” We also explored the difference between share taking and market-making mindsets.
Jim Sherlock. Jim is Director of Information Security & Technology Implementation at Pearson. Jim is passionate about innovation and technology better serving students. We were able to talk about the similarities between jazz and innovation. It’s always fun to sit down with Jim and talk EdTech and human-centered innovation.
Abby Covert. Abby is an information architect, writer, community organizer, and all-around awesome human. Abby served as President of IA Institute, co-chair of IA Summit, and Executive Producer of IDEA. She is a founding faculty member of SVA’s Products of Design program, Design Operations Summit and Advancing Research Conference. She invented World IA Day, bringing IA education to thousands in local communities annually. Abby wrote “How to Make Sense of Any Mess” a book teaching IA to everybody. Abby is developing a new book on diagrammatic thinking.
Rachel Williams. She is an Associate Professor of Gender Women’s and Sexuality Studies and Studio Art at the University of Iowa, and the author of Teaching the Arts Behind Bars. Rachel has had two books published this year; Elegy for Mary Turner, and Run Home If You Don’t Want to Be Killed: The Detroit Uprising of 1943. This is another powerful episode that touches on restorative justice.
Scott Smith. Scott is a founder and managing partner of Changeist, a futures research and consulting partnership, and co-author of How to Future: Leading and Sense-making in an Age of Hyperchange. Scott’s shares that when working on the future “it’s much more about the present and eliciting concepts and assumptions about what’s going on.”
Varun Marugesan. Varun is cofounder and Head of Research at Apple & Banana where he believes that everyone can do fruitful research. He has spent his career immersed in psychology, technology, and design at organizations like Facebook, Unitedhealth Group and Best Buy. I love Varun’s energy and enthusiasm. Our conversation covered ways to improve collaboration and embrace leaderless teams.
Nate Kaeding. Nate is former University of Iowa and NFL kicker. He’s helped launch a number of successful businesses in Iowa City. In our conversation, we discussed the importance of design and the bonkers story of Burch the bear, Iowa’s first football mascot.
Ben McDougal. Ben is a tech founder, multimedia marketer, entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, and author. He evolves ideas into reality and accelerates others through the art of connection. We talked about his latest book You Don’t Need this Book: Entrepreneurship in the Connected Era. I loved Ben’s story of connecting with his hero, Seth Godin.
Andrew Sherburne. Andrew is co-founder and Executive Director of FilmScene, Iowa City’s nonprofit cinema and a producer/director at Northland Films. Through his success in film and community arts, Andrew shares why it’s really about “collaboration and trust.”
Stephen McDonnell. This is the first published episode with some of the fine folks of Cork, Ireland. Stephen’s passion and purpose are to support individuals and teams to unleash this potential and help organizations build competitive advantage. His lessons from business and captaining Ireland’s championship hurling team provide for a rich mix of insights and stories.
Nina Lohman. Nina is a Writer, Editor, Publisher, and community builder. Her writing explores how the lived experience of chronic pain can be understood through medicine, theology, and philosophy. She is the Founder and Publisher of Brink, a literary journal dedicated to the hybrid, cross-genre work of Creatives who tend to reside outside traditional artistic disciplines. I really appreciate Nina’s approach to make creative space for those that don’t fit cleanly into a particular genre and her advice to “worry less about the label.”
Jon Levy. Jon is a behavioral scientist best known for his work in influence, human connection, and decision making. His second book, You’re Invited: The Art and Science of Cultivating Influence, was released on May 11. In it, he demonstrates the importance of human connection, trust, and community to accomplish what is most important to us. Jon shares the inspiring and fascinating story of Daryl Davis.
Bill Schmarzo. Bill is an author, professor, innovator, and consultant. His passion around data science, innovation, and design makes for a fantastic conversation. We explore the parallels between basketball, jazz, and innovation and what Bill calls “organizational improvisation.” Bill's insights, energy and enthusiasm are a delight.
Ed Morrison. Ed is director of the Agile Strategy Lab at the University of North Alabama and co-author or Strategic Doing: 10 Skills for Agile Leadership. We explore collaborations to address truly wicked/complex problems. I appreciated Ed’s insight that “there’s no best practice, only promising practice,” when it comes to complex adaptive ecosystems.
Paidi O’Reilly. Paidi is another co-conspirator from Cork, and part of the
podcasts “Rebel Series." He is an innovation specialist, lecturer, and trainer focused on building innovation teams that pursue bolder targets by thinking bigger, starting smaller, but moving faster. In this episode we explore why we need to innovate the way we innovate.
Ed Hess. Ed is Professor Emeritus of Business Administration in the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia. His new book Hyper-Learning: How to Adapt to the Speed of Change sets forth a cognitive, emotional, and behavioral model designed to enable the highest levels of human performance in the Digital Age. Ed’s journey and research made for a wonderful conversation and I appreciated his insight “Inner peace… that’s the human journey.”
Jason Narducy. Jason is a wonderfully talented musician, who Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune, describes as “a first-rate songwriter and band leader.” Hailing from Evanston, IL, Jason has recorded and toured with Bob Mould Band, Superchunk, Verbow, and his current project Split Single have a new album, Amplificado, released in June. The album was recorded at Electrical Audio in Chicago with Mike Mills (bass), Jon Wurster (drums). Jason is also known for having the sexiest elbows in rock.
John Morley. I love talking with John. We happened to record one of our conversations. John represents my third interview with Cork natives and reinforcing the strong connections between Cork and Iowa. Since the late-90’s John led organizations – large, small and medium, urban and rural, public and private – to support self-sustaining innovation projects where the goals are both ambitious and ambiguous, the challenges complex and resources always limited. John reminds us to “accommodate the richness of different perspectives.”
Miguel Encarnaçáo. Miguel is an innovation thought leader and serial chief innovation officer with experience across industries, including banking, healthcare, international development, management consulting, and higher education. He currently serves as head of data visualization (SVP) at Regions Bank and Financial Corporation. It was an honor having Miguel on the show. I consider myself very lucky to work with and learn from Miguel on many innovation, data visualization, and UX projects.
Jackie Pelland. I was introduced to Jackie through the most excellent Dawn Ealy. Jackie obsesses about leadership. She is a founding partner of the organizational design company, Slingshot25 where she designs and delivers leadership learning programs and provides executive leadership coaching. Her insight and delivery style are so engaging. I loved Jackie’s leadership reminder that “you’re not that big of a deal” and why every single employee deserves a great place to work.
Natalie Nixon, PhD. Natalie is a creativity strategist, global keynote speaker and author of the award winning The Creativity Leap: Unleash Curiosity, Improvisation and Intuition at Work. Her work on creativity is incredibly engaging. I loved Natalie’s presentation of chaordic (chaos and order) systems, combining wonder and rigor in our creativity, and sensemaking through an improvisational lens.
LD Kidd. LD is another creative and community builder that embraces the multi-hyphenate. He’s a poet/dancer/ teacher/massage therapist/fashion activist. LD shares why he’s “100% over racism” through his creative journey and commitment to community.
Preston So. Preston is a product architect and strategist, digital experience futurist, innovation lead, developer advocate, and author. We discuss his latest book, Voice Content Usability. We nerd out, and I mean really nerd out, on linguistics and paralinguistic phenomena, and discuss the innovation and evolution of language, and the importance of accessibility.
Kelly Leonard. Kelly is the Executive Director of Learning and Applied Improvisation at Second City Works and author of Yes, And: Lessons from The Second City. I loved Kelly’s perspective on improv and its application into our professional and personal lives. He reminds us that “meaning is made in moments.”
Mohamed Traore. Mo works as a Sales Development Representative for Roboflow, Inc., a computer vision and artificial intelligence startup. He also works as a freelance web developer, hosts a financial education podcast and serves as Chair of the City of Iowa City’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Our conversation covered topics of race, restorative justice, innovation and persistence. I loved Mo’s philosophy of “no losses, only lessons.”
Thanks to all of the past and future guests who take the time to help us gain insights into the creative process and the innovator's mindset.