Gareth Loudon's interest is creativity, combining ideas from anthropology, psychology, engineering, and design, and he has led international transdisciplinary research projects in academia and industry. Gareth is a Professor of Creativity and Head of Programmes at the Royal College of Art for the MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering and MA/MSc Global Innovation Design, which is run jointly with Imperial College London. Previously Gareth was Associate Dean of Research at the Cardiff School of Art and Design. He has also worked for Apple and Ericsson Research designing and developing new software and computer-embedded products. Gareth is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
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Hello, I'm Roy Sharples, welcome to the unknown origins podcast. Why are you listening to this podcast? Are you seeking inspiration? an industry expert looking for insights or growing your career?I created the unknown origins podcast to provide access to insights and content from creators worldwide with inspirational conversations and storytelling, about art,architecture, design,entrepreneurship, fashion, film,music, and pop culture. Garden slogans interest is creativity combining ideas from anthropology, psychology,engineering, and design. And he has led international transdisciplinary research projects and academia and industry. Gareth is a professor of creativity and head of programs at the Royal College of Art for the me MSC innovation design engineering, and me MSC Global Innovation design, which is run jointly with Imperial College London. Previously,Garth was Associate Dean of Research at the Cardiff School of Art and Design. He has also worked for Apple and Ericsson research, and designing and developing new software and computer embedded products.Garth is a chartered engineer, a fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Hello, and welcome,Gareth. So what inspired and attracted you to innovation design in the first place?Gareth Loudon:
I guess it crept up on me really, I mean, I think there's a kid I've always loved that I would sort of think of it in that formal phrase, but I think in reality, I've always been interested in that world,you know, as a kid growing up.So you know, for example, I always loved making and creating stuff, whether that be physical crafts, or drawing or authentic.And Wales, we had what's called a nationalized, Stafford. So I was just trying to those competitions for art and craft.And I also used to do singing and music and stuff. So creating in the broadest sense, and that was always a love. And so I think that was naturally there.But I guess, balanced against that. Another thing that was always something I really enjoyed was, was how things worked. So I guess that's the most of engineering mean. And I know I was sort of annoyed my man various times by disassembling stuff and not working, there had to be assembled things and things like that. So yeah, that sort of,sort of world growing up was always, always there. And I was important to me. And so I think I was always naturally attracted to innovation design, even though I wasn't aware of it. But I think as I sort of got older through to school, I mean, my main strength, I guess, in school was maths, and I love solving problems, math problems,mainly, I guess. And yeah, I think I just got a sort of feel for sort of that space. And that sort of gradually morphed into innovation designs, maybe talk a bit more afterwards in, in my career, but that's how I started out. And that's how I sort of was this combination of those things, really, that that drove my interest initially in engineering, but it's pretty much around creativity and innovation in engineering. And it was only a bit later on that I sort of moved into, into that design space. Who,Roy Sharples:
what, how, and why were you inspired and attracted you to the domainGareth Loudon:
when I was an apple, I would say as I was doing purely techie stuff. But then, as we had success in the technology research, they sent over a key designer interaction designer from from the Cupertino headquarters to join us in Singapore. And he asked he was the main person who convinced me to move from purely a techie based world to this broader innovation design space so that he was quite an important person in my sort of awareness of the importance of this topics that we've been talking about,Roy Sharples:
what is your creative process, Gareth, in terms of how do you make the invisible visible by dreaming up ideas, developing them into concepts and then bringing them to actualization? I don'tGareth Loudon:
probably follow a process and in any to stripped away and I guess deliberately don't do that. But there's certainly definitely aspects that are important. So in my in my career I've sometimes taken a very techie experiment driven approach to creativity,certainly in the early part of my career that probably dominated the way I tackled creative process. And probably over the last 20 years or so I've balanced that more with the most of human centered design process, and sort of being more human needs driven. So I guess my creative process is being recognizing that those both are important and and both can produce interesting results. I guess one thing from I guess from a techie side, which is where I started from, initially,in my PhD, I guess in terms of me, the first time I did proper research was in I always had the sort of view that, you know, I'd often do a sort of review of what's the current approach to a problem. And obviously, if that problem hasn't been solved, I guess my first strategy, I remember thinking quite clearly at my PhD was Well, if that's how they're doing it, and it's not working. And obviously, I need to take a different approach have, I tended not to follow the crowd. And that was always a sort of strategy that I had, in terms of then looking to different disciplines. So even in my PhD, it was in Biomedical Engineering, I do at least started reading around sort of social science type approaches to give me ideas how to analyze signals, and data's in different ways. So as a simple example, I guess of something I did quite early on. And I sort of followed that a little bit. In my career,and in other things, I worked at Apple in the 90s. At Apple, I assess Research Center of Singapore, looking at Chinese speech and handwriting,handwriting recognition and similar approach for the handwriting recognition that everybody was tackling in a similar way. And I thought, I need to take a different approach because they weren't solving the problem. And I have a lot of success with that. So that was been sort of philosophy and sort of element type, I've thought to sort of come up with new ideas and new concepts and then translate those into solutions. So but yeah, in in more recent years, in fact, at my time at Apple, I started then working with designers, for my first time, this isn't that 95.And then I got really sort of insights into the role of design and design, ways of thinking,and sort of more social science and anthropology and these types of skills got I got exposed to and I realize how powerful, they were both generating new ideas,too. So in the late 90s, I worked for Ericsson, and we really had a sort of mixture of design, and phonology and sort of technical team, that I lead,to look at new ideas, and it was really that mix. So again, it was still bringing that techie roots that I had, but really bringing it and I was blown away. When I went out with anthropologists on field studies, that blew my mind the ideas that were being generated.In that type of space, combined with sort of my knowledge of new tech that we could do, that combination really sort of made me excited. So yeah, I'm not an over fan, I guess, going back to your broad question of being too rigid on a process. And, you know, I know there's various design processes out there human centered design, and I'm very familiar with them. And I use them quite a lot themselves. But I'm also I don't want people to follow them blindly. I think that, you know, that creativity and play in that experimentation that could just come from that love and interest could be the spark for it to and of course,purpose is a huge driver of, of creativity, because it makes you pay attention. So over the last few years, I created my own model, which I call the LCD model. And its idea that you can do all those different things.So you can move through that creative space. And that was creative processes in the loosest sense of the term in different ways in the quite sort of nonlinear dynamic way, in a spontaneous way. But I guess the other key factor that I felt in that model that I proposed was that it's not just that there's processes that are important,but it's your sort of state of mind or state of being with which you link with those processes. It's an absolutely cruelty, not going to dream up ideas, just by following a process. So it's your your attitude, your mindset, your sense of purpose of leadership,those types of things, as well as that interdisciplinary collaboration and into that, to me is key. So so so so so I guess, even though I came from the techie world, I guess my big sort of understanding of the creative process to do that whole sort of route from ideas to actualization, you know,really does need that interdisciplinary approach.There's usually not one discipline that can do all that work to do it, too. The high level. So this mixture of arts and sciences to me is very important.Roy Sharples:
For sure. Every creative will tell you, there is no ON and OFF button for creativity. It is a constant that happens naturally, by design or by accident in our everyday lives. Through the creative process may seem magical, especially where ideas can come from and how they are brought to form in life. There are proven techniques, tools,methods, frameworks, and approaches to both the art and science of applied creativity that make it happen. But it does not mean being fooled into believing that it is simply about following a process and expecting creative results as an outcome. It is all about people and the execution because people with a vision combined with a passion and drive, make things happen was multiple points you made within that as well,Gareth. And I'll pull a few of them out that really resonated especially around the application of anthropological and ethnographical techniques and tools to help observe and understand people's behaviors in their natural situations to capture what they actually do.And this approach can help us understand cultural trends and lifestyle factors through context, norms, routine, and daily life habits, within communities and societies,ultimately, informing organizations about social context that influences their product creation and marketing process by informing the design positioning messaging, and packaging, what are the key skills needed to survive and thrive? As an innovation designer?Gareth Loudon:
Resilience, I guess the first one comes to mind. I think curiosity probably is the most important one and this, you know, and, and understanding what matters to you and, and what contribution you can make. And you know,where you want to make a difference? I think, you know,when you look at David bone, the famous quantum physicist talks about in his book on creativity talks about attention, awareness and sensitivity, you know, and that links, the sort of curiosity I just mentioned, that sort of willingness to always look at things and always wanting to learn, you know, and being playful and disruptive,these types of things are very important. I guess it's sort of some of the points I was I was making earlier, but also then that sort of analytical and that thoroughness, and that that quality of work, to me is very important, too. Because, you know, to me, it is that mixture of perhaps that more sort of classical analytical skills combined with that creative skills and those combination, I think it's probably allows you to survive and thrive. I mean, I guess then linking back to this thing I mentioned earlier about arts and sciences. And, you know, I don't think any one discipline can do this. So that respect for others from different disciplines is also absolutely crucial. And often, I don't see that in that. So I think that I mean, I see it amongst innovation designers, I would say, I think that's pretty core skill there. But more broadly, I think that's not as common. So yeah, and I guess if you're going to be doing something new, something different, and going against the crowd, sometimes you got to be brave to so I guess those are the things that springs to mind,in terms of key skills to sort of survive and thrive as an innovation designer,Roy Sharples:
not to going against the crowd. If you follow the crowd, you'll never get farther than them. purpose and passion, drive innovators to improve the world. In the pursuit of greatness. Remember,that you don't need permission from anyone, and the spirit of Muhammad Ali. Impossible is nothing. He was a beacon and signpost for change, who shook up society, especially in America during the Civil Rights Movement, rejecting what he termed his slave name, Cassius Clay, converting to Islam, and refusing military service to go to war with Vietnam, a sacrifice that cost him the heavyweight championship and a ban from boxing at the pinnacle of his career. And this was during a conservative time in history.These were courageous actions to take a moral stand that helped push society forward. Even after Ali's Oregon's had stopped, laid to rest on his deathbed, his heart continued to beat for another 30 minutes, which is scientifically unheard of, and a further justification that the heart is the soul as you reflect back upon your life I and career to date, what are your lessons learned, in terms of the pitfalls to avoid, and the keys to success that you can share with existing, and also aspiring innovation designers.Gareth Loudon:
It's not a race,I guess, is the first thing. So you know, in, enjoy, enjoy that life. And don't try and force it to be something. Let let it let it unfold, I think, for me was a key lesson for my life. I mean,I started out, you know, even though I've talked about my early life, in terms of my interest in terms of my career,I saw myself as an engineer and signal processing, pattern recognition being my core skills, and I didn't really see much beyond that I didn't really see myself as the sort of, you know, innovation designer in that sort of formal sense. But,you know, I also had my antenna up, I was always looking for,you know, I was aware of what was happening around me more broadly, I guess, in terms of trends and opportunities, I was aware of what interested me what excited me at that time, and that changes. So what I was, you know, my sense of purpose is not a fixed thing, but I was always paying attention to what, what I wanted to do at certain time, so I was open to new directions,and when new opportunities came along and presented themselves,then I usually went for it and took those. So, you know, life evolves in surprising ways. And I think allowing that to happen and not be overly strategic, I think it's, it would be my sort of reflections on, on my successes, in terms of specific approaches, but also more broadly, I mean, I'm very happy where I am now. And that wouldn't have come about, I guess, in terms of my work and innovation design, if I hadn't allowed myself to move off. So for example, I became quite successful in handwriting recognition technology, and in Chinese and Japanese languages in particular. So it could be very easy for me to stay in that world and stay the expert for a long period of time. But that didn't appeal to me. And and and I wanted to move into this more broader innovation design space.So I sort of stepped away from where I was good, something that maybe I wasn't as good initially, but that allowed me to sort of develop. So those types of things, I think, would be my reflections on sort of,you know, being successful in innovation design, as well as all the things I've talked about earlier in terms of those sort of skills. Yeah, in terms of pitfalls. When I talked about not being too process driven, I think that's quite important.And also, being aware of your own state of being, I think, is very important. So paying attention to yourself. And those signals that are coming through to you of what you want to do,and not necessarily fall in the cracks. And I was always questioning and reflecting on things is going to help you in your career, that would be my thought. And working hard.Obviously,Roy Sharples:
what you do, is shaped by the values and attitudes, internal and external to the world you live in, the people you engage with, and the activities you do to achieve self actualization, and ultimately, happiness in life,it is important to keep moving forward and experimenting with and trying out new experiences by maintaining a modern mindset,and having a global and holistic view, which will help you solve problems with an open mind overcoming prejudice, and having more diverse and better ideas.Because when you lose touch with its with your creativity, it you become insulated and imprisoned,and can become close minded, or pressed and lost in time and life. So navigating into the future. Gareth, what's your vision for the future of innovation design, and the role of creativity?Gareth Loudon:
I think creativity needs to be central more to the future in we've got all these problems we need to tackle in the world. There's so many complex problems and to me,they are really beyond any one discipline in solving this problem. So this interdisciplinarity to me, is is crucial and creativity as part of that it talks about that art sciences before and I think that's, that's so important. And there's a lot of research showing how creativity links to well being as well. So if you're doing you know, one of the most common, she sent me a high was on a famous sort of research on creativity and looked at one of the most common factors across successful people in this space and it was the doing what they love, you know, so and that's good for your happiness either.A lot of study on happiness,there's a strong link between creativity and, and happiness.So I think that is important in its own right, that's coming back to me being as a kid and loving making and taking things apart. It's just naturally what we want to do. And so I think we need to encourage that more structurally in society. And that goes straight to the sort of curriculum in schools. I think the structure that in many countries, which is driven certainly from sort of the age11 onwards is becoming quite discipline specific, where you learn just maths or physics, or chemistry, or arts or design or history, all in isolation, I think is, is not the way to go forward. And creativity comes by looking at these problems more holistically, and taking a more holistic approach. And therefore understanding the importance of these range of skills is critical if we want to be more creative and make innovation design more powerful and more effective in the world. So I've done some work back in Wales over the last few years, there's a new curriculum for Wales coming out and face comes out, I think, in September, and it's actually for ages four to 18.And it's quite interesting because it has really changed the structure of the curriculum,and put creativity quite at its heart and this more interdisciplinary project based approach. And I think curriculums around the world need to sort of move into this this mode more generally,because then I think, then we will create the next generation of people with more naturally those skills. You know, what,what frustrates me at the moment, I mean, I'm a techie,and I'm very STEM based in a science, technology,engineering, maths type,background. And I'm obviously very pro it but it doesn't mean I'm anti arts and humanities were designed. In fact, I'm very proud of that, too. And we need to have a strategy, the governmental level, which comes through to the curriculum comes to an attitude of businesses,and people in general, that if we're going to six need, we need to recognize both are absolutely crucial. And we're not going to solve these technical problems that are often human centered by just looking at technology or science. So that's my my wish.And my vision is that the curriculums change, there's a change of mindset, and a respect and, and a support for the arts and design, as well as the sciences and technology, so we can really make a difference. So we need that for leaders with that mindset. And that understanding. And we we've had that in the past Steve Jobs, I think it's a perfect example of that, where he has had that broader understanding and made major shifts in in the way the products and services are created, but also the way more broadly how we can do innovation, design and creativity. So we need to see more of that. And I think that comes from a sort of structure that would support that more readily. Rather than having the rebels like Steve of having to do it all on them by themselves.Roy Sharples:
Education is the key to success. And this means modernizing an education system that instills creativity as a core discipline at the grassroots, and is nurtured throughout the educational system, which recognizes intelligence as being multifaceted and embracing emotional and social intelligence, critical thinking,and practical problem solving that integrates science, arts and humanities as equal parts of the learning Jigsaw that encourages learning that zigzags across disciplines and domains,with continuous learning pathways that are open to anyone willing to invest effort and time to advance their knowledge,values and skills.Do you want to learn more about how to create without frontiers?Then consider getting CREATIVITY WITHOUT FRONTIERS? How to make the invisible visible by writing the way into the future. It's available in print and digital and audio on all relevant book platforms. You have been listening to the Unknown Origins podcast, please follow subscribe rate and review us. For more information go to unknownorigins.com Thank you for listening!