I work at McKinsey & Company Johannesburg where I’m Experience Design Director. My interests lie at the intersection of design, agile, and managing in complex situations.
The world is becoming increasingly complex, but our ability to cope with complexity is not getting any better. It’s not only us individually, governments and big companies struggle with it too.
Successful start-ups do complexity well, they disrupt it – replacing it with simplicity. There is a method to all of this, big organisations and governments can start doing it too. But it requires new ways of thinking, learning, making, and taking risk. And that’s what I’m interested in.
Before joining McKinsey & Company I worked as a designer and consultant in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Kenya. At amazing big companies like Capgemini and The Open University, and at smaller awesome ones like Flow Interactive. I’ve also been the co-founder of two startups, both ran out of runway, but they’ve been the best learning experiences I’ve had to date.
Why I’m writing this blog
This blog is an experiment because the return on the time investment I’m making here is hard to gauge. But I love the structured space that blog writing opens up for reflection. And for now, reflection and understanding is the reason why I’m doing this.
Who I’m writing for
William Zinzer wrote that if you write for yourself you’ll reach the people you want to write for. I’m a designer at heart, what I write about here is knowledge that I believe makes me a better designer – I am writing for my fellow designers and my clients.
I was surprised to learn that the word ‘cyber’ originated from cybernetics. The word cybernetic is derived from the Greek, kubernétés, ‘steersman’ (the navigator of a ship). Cybernetics explored parallels between humans and machines, and in the early days of the computer, cybernetics became associated with the new technology, hence, in popular culture, ‘cyber’ came to represent the concept of a human/machine hybrid.
Used here Ciberia denotes the technological utopia of the future. Is it a forbidding or an inviting place? It is inviting exploration, either way. (And of course, all domain names containing cyber had already been taken, hence ciber.)
How I became a designer
Art and science were my favourite subjects at school – choosing was hard, and still is. After school I spent two weeks on an industrial design course before switching to, and completing, a Science degree at Stellenbosch University in Biochemistry and Genetics.
But the design bug is tenacious, and faced with postgraduate studies in Biotechnology, I decided to study graphic design instead, and enrolled at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. At the time Plan A was that I’d eventually merge science and design in a ‘career’.
I soon realised that I wasn’t learning what I needed to know – the digital world moves faster than design school – and I had a sense that I could learn on my own. After studying for five years, and three more to go, the prospect of a job seemed remote. Then Plan A changed to Plan B; stop studying and find work – so I took what I had and made a portfolio.
I found a digital design job in an educational publishing company where art and design students looking for work regularly presented their portfolios, and being a design school ‘dropout’, I felt like an impostor, and still do, sometimes1. I was lucky, the calculated risk of jumping ship paid off, and I could call myself a designer.
My career continued in Cape Town, and in the United Kingdom, where the most notable companies I worked for include: The Open University, Hemsley Fraser and Capgemini. As a consultant in London I worked with: The Skills Funding Agency, Astra Zeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Elsevier and Lloyds amongst others, mostly in the product space where digital transformation causes significant change in organisations.
I’m always learning from colleagues, books, clever people sharing on the web, trial and error, and making things on the side. Recently, I decided to study formally again, and registered for a creative writing course, because I love making books. I’m now studying toward an M.Sc. in Systems Thinking in Practice. It allows me to link experience to theory, and most importantly, it gives me new language, creating options in a future that is becoming more uncertain.
Why Systems Thinking? It is a meta-discipline that exists in the spaces between other disciplines, and escapes orthodoxy for the most part. It reflects how I think about things. Where will it take me next? I’m not sure, but I know it will be somewhere unexpected.
I’m not done taking risks yet.