Unknown Origins

Ghulam Rasool on Product Design

October 02, 2021 Roy Sharples Season 1 Episode 76
Unknown Origins
Ghulam Rasool on Product Design
Show Notes Transcript

Henry Ford changed how people lived and moved around by making cars affordable and accessible to everyday people and driving the world forward to a greater good.

Ghulam Rasool is a design leader responsible for growing design enablement and talent acquisition within Ford's Enterprise Connectivity and Mobility team and a dedicated champion of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity initiatives. He provides perspective on navigating toward an electric, autonomous, and connected vehicle future. Empathetic to benefiting society with improved safety, less pollution, freeing up time, and customized services and experiences enabled by intelligent technologies.

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Roy Sharples:

Hello, I'm Roy Sharples, and welcome to the unknown origins podcast. Why are you listening to this podcast? Are you an industry expert? Looking for insights? are you growing your career? Or are you a dear friend helping to spur your pylon, I created the unknown origins podcast, to have the most inspiring conversations with creative industry personalities, and experts about entrepreneurship, pop culture, art, music, and film and fashion. Henry Ford changed how people lived and moved around by making cars affordable and accessible to everyday people, and driving the world forward to a greater good. Go. And resume is a design leader responsible for growing design within enterprise connectivity and mobility at Ford of Europe, where he is on a purpose led mission of navigating toward an electric, autonomous and connected vehicle. empathetic, to benefiting society with improved safety, less pollution, freeing up time, and customized services and experiences enabled through intelligent technologies. Hello, and welcome Ghulam!

Ghulam Rasool:

I really appreciate and likewise, it's good, it's good to hear that voice, again!

Roy Sharples:

What inspired and attracted you to product design in the first place?

Ghulam Rasool:

I've had a career in for now of nearly well, over 24 years now, right. And it's a couple of things, you know, the industry has been evolving, the world's been evolving. And I just got really lucky that an opportunity had come up in our enterprise connectivity and mobility area where the team needed someone that was going to basically grow our design capability. So we had some teams that had product designers within them, it was recognized that, you know, taking a human centered design approach and asking, guess what asking people what they want, or what their problems are, and trying to resolve those problems, and provide them with the right solutions was actually really effective. So we needed to do more of that. We're already working in Agile product teams. And I got the opportunity to, you know, come along and help grow that capability. And one of the things that kind of happened at the same time or, you know, like background to this is, you know, the things that are happening in the world out there that kind of really resonated with me. That kind of helped me think, well, there's some, there's some challenges out there. There's things that happening out there that, you know, we, you know, we can't ignore. So things like you know, urbanization is happening on a really rapid scale. I think it's estimated that two thirds of the world's population are going to live in urban areas by 2050. So space accommodation is and will become even more of an issue in major cities. You know, the growth of mega cities, right, that those are cities that have more than 10 million people in them. The three largest of those are in Asia, right? Tokyo is 37 point 5 million people, right? Delhi 28 point 5 million people. Actually, I think it might be more than that might be closer to, you know, meter is by now. Right? London has now also got over 10 million people, right? In 1815, London was the largest city in the world. And if you think right, all of these other mega cities have grown all around the world, and they're going to continue to do so right? I think something like only 30% of people lived in urban areas in 1950, right? So with all of this happening, less people are learning to drive, there's less housing being built with parking or access to parking. So that was one, you know, really kind of important thing that was happening. And then another one, there's a couple more that I'd like to kind of mention if that if that's okay, for causing climate change, right? And the scarcity of resources, right? It's on all of our minds, and we've all adapted our behaviors as consumers as a result of it. But if predictions are correct, by 2100, the average surface temperature of the planet is going to have risen by 5.8 degrees right Celsius. That's huge. You know, we're already seeing you know, extreme weather, we're seeing crop failures. We're seeing wildfires, we're seeing destroyed, destroyed natural habitats and energy shortages. It's almost like an everyday occurrence. So that's another thing that you know, we can't just carry on in terms of human beings and our our behaviors and how we consume just just carry on like that. as we as we have done before. And then, you know, some of the other, you know, trends in terms of technological breakthroughs right. Now some of the industries that we've worked at, right, and, you know, technology and the ways that technology is touched by these industries, right. So if you think about machine learning, if you think of AI, machines are already learning faster than humans, right? personal data is now a hugely valuable commodity. And if you think about automation, right, nearly two thirds of occupations could see a third or more of their kind of activities being automated in the future. So that's, that's happening. And then if you put into that the final, you know, part of, of these trends I want to talk about is demographics and social changes happening, right? The global population could increase by over 1 billion people by 2030. And by 2050, a third of the population of 55 countries is going to be over the age of 60. That's going to have massive implications of how we live as human beings how we consume, right, there could be labor shortages, you know, the extreme demands on healthcare, the different type of living conditions, and, you know, transportation conditions and needs, right, and changing consumer demand. So, there's all of that happening, and having some knowledge about that. And this is, you know, stuff that you and I, you know, probably discussed many, many years ago, and it's already happening, right? And then being being offered the opportunity and seeing, you know, firsthand, in real time, the ability to try and help put the company in a better position and help affect the, you know, the lives of humans in a better way. Those were kind of those are the types of things are attracted to me, you know, attracted me to that role of enabling my part of the company, my partner, former company to be able to do do design and help design help us design to better needs to meet with our customers,

Roy Sharples:

Henry Ford changed how people lived and moved around by making cars affordable to the everyday person. And that purpose led mission driven approach still exists today, or the ultimate outcome of what for producers is around advancing humanity's well being and pushing society forward for a greater good. Ford is a prime example of a creative leader in their time on field. Because he did things differently. He rejected failure and swam against the tide of adversity, to break through the frontier is to provide novel solutions to complex problems that we didn't know existed. They just he disrupted existing industries and created brand new worlds that became the norm Ford revolutionized the automotive industry, by making the assembly line produce affordable cars for the masses, which changed society, and how we lived and worked by making it easier and more convenient to get around. And this helped the economy prosper, by giving birth to many businesses, and spin off industries, which ultimately created 1000s of new jobs. Many innovators are classic outsiders who disrupted invented and change the faces of their industries forever, such as Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Disney, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Nikola Tesla, and the Wright brothers rose from obscurity to radically transform industry and how people lived. Creative leaders have confidence and their ideas, and they never give up on bringing them to fruition. It means leading without frontiers by seeing around the corners, and fearlessly navigating into the future.

Ghulam Rasool:

Absolutely Roy! I'm really pleased that you've mentioned our founder, Henry Ford, you know, he did amazing things. In his time, he was a visionary. And he really, he really, you know, didn't just go with the flow and think, you know, short term, and I'm gonna drop a little fact on you, right? That I found found out not that long ago, you know, from from those times, right? So the Model T price, right, the price of the Model T vehicle, which, you know, brought the highways to all of mankind at the time, in 1909. That vehicle cost $950. Okay. In 1916, that price became $360. And then by 1926, they were retailing for $290. Wow, I mean, just think of the impact of that and what it enabled people to do, right, in terms of being able to get out there having that freedom of movement. And our purpose has evolved with that, right? So you know, our current purpose is to help build a better world where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams. And it's still in that same spirit of Henry Ford and what he was trying to capture of, you know, opening that highways to all of mankind, but you know how as individuals and as, as people on this planet, right, having, you know, building a better world, it's so important. And being able to being free to move and pursue our dreams as individuals and groups of people, that is also super important. And that's what that's what we're about now, right. And we were going to be doing that and you know, we've adapted and changed some of our behaviors, as a company as, as employees to be able to do that. So, you know, we want to compete like a challenge, we want to modernize, we want to disrupt and we want to do that, whilst caring for each other within the company and our fellow human beings and, and for the world out, there is a great time to be alive and a great time to be working on this stuff. It's very, very exciting. And some of the stuff that we're working on. And, you know, you'll see lots of amazing press releases right now in terms of, and I'm sure we'll come on to discussions around know electrification, as we as we start to move more into an autonomous world, as we start to adapt our solutions to, you know, the needs the needs of our customers, and then demanding from us what they need, rather than those trying to predict what they need, which traditionally, is what we've what we've done. Yeah, yeah, it's a really exciting time to be working on this stuff!

Roy Sharples:

That in itself is a quantum shift from being a product led company, which for and suddenly was where their go to market strategy was much more aligned to be in product push, as opposed to where they're, they're moving towards now, which is much more market pool, and showing up where your customers are, and understanding their needs. And once and then engineering back from that, to then create products that they want and love. That combined with creating a brand where people connect emotionally, by providing authentic, personalized and unique experiences. And that then generates brand love, which is created by establishing trust and, and making people feel good, confident, and connected to something greater through the products, services and experiences that you provide.

Ghulam Rasool:

Yeah, and I guess it's driven a lot from seeing, seeing what what companies are doing that are being successful, right. And again, it comes back to Human Centered Design. Companies that are successful, they are going out there, they're listening to their customers, they're trying to understand their problems. They're trying to, and then they're addressing those providing the right solutions, right. So you know, a company in the automotive space, has to think, you know, traditionally, five to seven years out, right in terms of how long it takes to get from an idea to an actual vehicle out there on the roads. And it's an extremely long cycle of time that it takes to do that. But consumer needs nowadays, you know, they don't, they don't wait along, people want you know, we've we're in we're in the arena of instant gratification, and if someone isn't addressing my needs now, as a consumer, well, I'm not afraid to switch my allegiances, you know, if I'm an Android user, right? And if Apple gives me something better than I don't care that I've always been on Android, I will switch to an Apple product, right? Yeah. You know, and consumers are not afraid to switch. And that's what companies have realized. And those that haven't, you know, companies that didn't give their consumers what they needed, or were a bit too dependent on their traditional profit base. You know, companies like Kodak, if you like our Blockbuster Video, that we're too scared to adapt. Look, they're not around anymore, you know, so the consequences of not adapting and not giving consumers what they need are, others will, and your consumers will go to them. And you will, you know, no one's got a right to exist, just because we've been around for 118 years. As a company that doesn't give us a right to be around for another 118 years. We need to give our customers what they need. And that's what we focus on doing.

Roy Sharples:

That's a really good insight into Ford's cultural transformation. The Harvard Business Review, published in July 2017 digital transformation is racing ahead and no industry is immune. And the article claimed that research shows that since 2,052%, of companies in the fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or cease to exist as a result of digital transformation, the collision of the physical and digital world have affected every dimension of society, commerce, enterprises and individuals. And while many factors have contributed to these organizations rise and fall, no one is immune. And also philosophically, you know, art invents, science evolves, technologies improve industries change, economics and politics adapt, society moves forward, and human life goes on, which underpins that we exist in time where change is constant is constant. And, if you don't adopt then look out. So to adapt and grow and flourish. You need to keep your finger on the pulse of your markets ever evolving needs and preferences so that you can make changes to your approach. The golden rule is to avoid the deadly sin of complacency and greed kicking in like a debt that you can't cure almost. And don't take the cowardly way and caveman or get conceited and arrogant and territorial instead, stand on shakingly aware and resilient by constantly keeping perspective evolving and innovating. Why? Because in general, people are shiftless and self gratifying another and as a result, the future will leave them behind. This is because they can self destruct through access and become victims of their own success by cultivating destructive habits and complacency, and avoiding at all costs, falling asleep at the wheel, getting permanently drunk on your own Kool Aid, surrounding yourself with B and C players, and getting lazy and bloated, where you can't see the wood from the trees and all the beasts of prey and ultimately making ego based decisions. So look at other companies that cannot fall into that sphere, if you will. Xerox missed the opportunity because it's self inflicted mindset curtailed its ability to grow and evolve due to its inability to commercialize its products. Kodak's complacency from its dominance of the traditional photography market, led to it missing the shift to online photo sharing blackberry sank from owning over half of the American and a fifth of the global smartphone market to now zero. blockbuster used to monopolize the video rental market until Netflix disrupted it by adapting to customer needs and technological changes and the learnings is having an effective strategy with a clear value proposition understanding and adapting to market changes are daily and rigorously execute at speed. And it is it is and it is precisely the same. And the creative arts. It's why art movements come and gore fashions flash and burn, recycle, repackage reissue, reevaluate the painting the song, the film, the show performance event, and satiate the audience. This is the lazy and habitual nature of human beings, we get consumed easily and bored quickly, and our main simply are not big enough to consume and look beyond north south west and east 24 by 7, 365 days per year. Anyway, effective prioritization, being laser focused and disciplined on your execution are the keys to success. It is just as important to decide what you do not do as it is to what you do.

Ghulam Rasool:

Yeah, Imean, that's an astounding statistic that you mentioned there about, you know, the companies and I think that pace is going to keep increasing it might not be we might not need to look 50 years in the future we might only need to 10 years in the future right? Or in the past should I say and we'll see how rapidly you know there's new entrants coming in and they're they're grabbing that market share they're being able to put products out there that meet people's needs and traditional companies right have have disappeared because they weren't willing or able to adapt quickly enough.

Roy Sharples:

Exactly! You mentioned that the people centered design based approach is that the the approach that you use for your for how you can design like products and services and your your approach for creativity at Ford in terms of how you dream up new ideas, turn those ideas into concepts and then bring those concepts to actualization.

Ghulam Rasool:

I'm not sure what I would call our approach but you know, is a human centered design approach right and you know, according to Don Norman, the the godfather of Human Centered Design, the process really starts with a good understanding of people. And then the needs that the design is intended to meet. So you know, most of our designers and in common with the industry out there, right? You know, we follow the design Double Diamond, right and the first first time it is like design the right thing. The second diamond is designing things. Right? Right. So, right at the start, you've got, you know, what's the problem, right? Let's go out there, let's talk to people might be in person, it might be a questionnaire, it might be virtually, unless really get to, you know, that discover phase where we get the insight into the problem, right? And you know, is that at that point the diamond is diverging, right? Where we're opening up, right? And it's really getting into the customer's head and trying to No, no, what do you need? What are your problems? You know, what are the things that you know, causing you pain when you and it could be a new new solution? Right? It could be exploring completely exploratory? Or it could be well, when you use this product or service, what are the problems that you have with it. And then as we kind of move out of that discovery phase, we start to synthesize, we start to think about, well, you know, what's, what's the area that we need to focus on? Right? So we explore, we define things. We scope down the focus, we, we think about, you know, what are the insights we get in the year? What are the themes? What are the areas of opportunity, that we can kind of try to kind of distill unstructured research, right, but it starts to get more structured as we kind of converge and get to the end of that phase. And when we reach the end of that, you know, first diamond, that's really when we kind of got to the problem definition, we've got a really good understanding of what the problem is for the consumer, right? And what are the problem? You know, what is that problem that we as a team need to go in and address? And then that's when we start our ideation, right? So we're now we've come out of the research phase. And we're now in the design phase, right? So we go into that, looking at developing and testing potential solutions, maybe creating some mock ups and prototypes. And they could be really rudimentary, right? They could be, you know, paper prototypes, you know, cardboard, mock ups, whatever you want to call it. And this is a thing that companies need to an individuals need to understand, right, that working on these solutions is this, this is not high tech, this is not necessarily needing millions of pounds or dollars to do this stuff, right? This is, you know, quite basic processes, we're talking Sharpies, we're talking, you know, post it notes, we're talking paper prototypes, right? And going through the ideation phase, coming up with those potential solutions. Putting those ideas out there, you know, there's no such thing as a silly idea, doing things like crazy eights, and just spending a short amount of time to come up with really crazy ideas that will help to meet the needs of whatever that problem might be. And then moving into that delivery and implementation phase, trying to figure out what are the solutions that that will work? Right? using those prototypes, taking them back to the the customers, right, the consumers and saying, What do you think of this, let's walk through this process? And this solution? What do you think that is? You know, how does that meet your need? Taking that feedback, I mean, this is really, it really is an iterative process, right? So taking that feedback, working into the next prototypes, whether that's another, you know, pro Low, low level prototype is, you know, it could be low fidelity, that's what I meant to say, right? We're not talking about designing screens, designing apps, designing the final solutions, or anything near it, but just continuously listening iterating taking those new ideas on board, right, because we're now going to spout thoughts within the customer themselves. And, you know, really developing and continuing to iterate and we start to develop, you know, maybe a mid fidelity or a high fidelity solution. And that, you know, that process that designed Double Diamond, and really getting to the heart of what the problem is defining that problem clearly. And then working on solutions that address that problem. And continuously iterating with with the source with with the consumer at the heart of it. That's that's how we're going about and trying to provide those solutions and products and services that our customers out there need.

Roy Sharples:

Purpose, autonomy, and mastery are what people need to optimize their creativity. You need to think with your own mind, feel with your own heart, and create with your own hands. Strive for simplicity, to remove inefficiency, never to complicate design for people, not machines, know what technology can enable, and that there are times and places where technology is not the right answer. I love paper pen and whiteboards because they are a blank canvas, which is the most powerful tool and that's one of the components that really stood out. Within your creative process. There is getting back to that primal feeling of what it means to be a human and to create, in that raw sensibility seek freedom, not compliance and respect standards, but thrive by breaking the rules to find and realize the best solution to the problem and vent, make mistakes, improve, seek excellence, and reject conformity and mediocrity. The other thing is that I would like to see a lot more of Ghulam is we've spent a lot of time as, as humans, of applying technology in a way that it replaces the work that humans do. And again, there's been a lot of good in that. But there's also been a lot of disadvantage in that. But most importantly, I'd like to start seeing people and companies using technology to do things that humans can't. So for example, the car is a great example of that what the Wright brothers did with aviation and created the aeroplane are prime examples of things that humans can't physically do. But it's creating something to the world, but it's improving humans life, and also has taken society forward in a very positive way.

Ghulam Rasool:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, how long does it take to fold a piece of paper? So you've fully twice and you've got eight players now come up with a ideas in two minutes, right? Like everyone can do that, you know, and there's no, there's no judgment, there's no such thing as a silly idea. That's, that's amazing. And that's, that's what we all need to do, you know, in all parts of our lives, not not just at work,

Roy Sharples:

From your experience, Ghulam, what are the key skills needed to survive and thrive, and product design?

Ghulam Rasool:

Communication is the most important to survive and thrive as a product designer, as a leader, as a team member, right? working on these types of solutions. And within communication specifically, is listening, right? It's not about it's not about verbalizing and talking about what we know we're going to do this, and we're going to do that. And you know, the process that, you know, we've just been talking about the design toggle time, and at the heart of that is, is the customer getting to the root of the problem. So listening is very, very important. And it's listening to what people say. And it's just also listening to what people don't say, right? Yeah, that's so important. And you know, how just how being, being curious having that sort of inquisitive mindset. Having a passion for understanding customer needs, appreciating the subtleties of the way that someone's expressing themselves, is appreciating the subtleties of the product, or the area itself, that that's being explored. I think those are some of the key skills and, you know, I'd be interested to hear from you know, if you agree with me on, or if, if you think that there might be other things, you know, based on some of the other guests that you've had?

Roy Sharples:

Communication is the most important of all life skills for a human, it's what we do, as humans. And so, effective communication enables us to pass on knowledge and information to other people, and for them to understand what is said and communicated. And in the simplest form, it's the act of, of transferring or translating information from one person to another, from one place to another, and within that, as well, that the tone as well, and the style, and the clarity, that needs to be conveyed within communication is really critical, combined with the energy enthusiasm that should be generated to drive work in business can afford and region the desired outcomes. So communicating helps people to express their ideas and feelings and at the same time, it helps us understand our emotions or thoughts and simply just to connect with one another, and to ultimately get work done!

Ghulam Rasool:

Of the things that people kind of forget or they have that misconception and maybe I have that misconception too right? When it specifically when it comes to design, right? Whether it's product design, service, design, industrial design, all of these things, you're fulfilling a need right? And you could have a very blinkered view and say, Well, hey design is just you know, that that person over there sitting on their MacBook, with with their, you know, software, you know, with their figma or their sketch, and designing the way and making, you know, the colors and the fonts and the screen look really, really beautiful, but there's a whole process you know, that that gets to that point, right? and being part of that process. You can't you know, you can't do any of those things that lead up to that Eventually designing, you know, a screen or a product or a mobile app screen. Without having to go through that process, which meant that you had to communicate, you might have had to speak to someone on a one to one basis, you may have had to run a workshop. But it's all it's all input, and it's collaboration. And all of you know, getting that to happen is great communication and listening and, you know, being being open and encouraging others to be open as well to express themselves and not be shy about, actually, you know, this, this isn't, you know, fulfilling my needs, I need something different. I need something that works in a certain way or makes me feel a certain way.

Roy Sharples:

Yeah, absolutely. I think on that you don't like to feel a certain way, you know, like, so things like aesthetics is so important, right? In terms of how does it connect with people's emotions, and how does it make them feel, and when you go through pretty much everything in life, everything that you go up in the morning, and you know, your alarm clock rings you up, and then from that moment on, through the through the time you go back to bed at navionics, you are experiencing a state x, whether it's an alarm clock, a bathroom, a car, a poster, a billboard, there's someone have the grass car, they don't is the window smashed in a bus stop, shower, all that's really intimidating, is it's making me feel quite angry, or all those things matter. And it builds up to how a person feels, and any given can a day. And so it paying attention to detail. And the impact of watercolor, a type an image will impact upon a person within a day couldn't dependent on that state of mind of the person can have quite extreme effects. And so I think it's a really important capability to acquire as a state. And that doesn't just mean being a designer, being an artist, it involves anything that you're involved in making or or am creating, it will inevitably have an aesthetic impact of sorts on a person. And so being empathetic to that is really important.

Ghulam Rasool:

Yeah, I would totally agree with that empathy. And putting yourself in that person's place, understanding things from their perspective, that's such an important part of this process. And you can really tell when a company has, or an organization has really put themselves in their users or their customers place. You know, in terms of the experience, or the product that they end up with, it's, it's very, very easy to see, you know, the companies are being successful, and that are disrupting the, you know, causing disruption out there in their particular industry. And there could be new entrant or there could be an established already in that industry, it's really clear to see why some companies are doing better than others, completely.

Roy Sharples:

That's an interesting point, because the world has became so much more socially conscious, and quite rightly so. And especially the GenY-ers, and even by interviewing candidates Go on, they ask questions around what's your perspective on globalization, the carbon footprint on carbon, you know, carbon emissions and asking all these like, fantastic questions, but they're not just seeing it to try and sound in Vogue, they deeply mean it. And they're making decisions, career based decisions based on whether their values connect with these kind of companies, or are the people that they want to be associated with and work with. And I think that's a great thing, you know, and I think the companies that truly and authentically embrace diversity and difference are the ones that are like you say, that they're doing well, because at the end of the day, they care about people that care about society, and they care about doing the right thing, you know, and they're not obsessed with wealth and greed. They're, they're obsessed with contributing something meaningful to society, and the right ethical way, when we work together, and our mid 20s Ghulam, I learned a lot from you, especially in terms of embracing diversity in a way that helps us understand each other and ourselves by recognizing and respecting individual differences and gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religious and political beliefs, and other ideologies, and that they need to be the norm, and accepted without question. And when people feel included, they build meaningful social relationships have a stronger sense of belonging, and ultimately, it inspires creativity and innovation and in themselves, and others. And I learned that the more you interact and collaborate with people from different cultural backgrounds, disciplines, industries, and geographies, the more you understand respect and value them. And the more enriched and fulfilled your life experience becomes, we all benefit from learning from others.

Ghulam Rasool:

Thank you. And I really appreciate that. And it's kind of the luck of the draw, isn't it, you know, in terms of who we are and who we end up working for, who we end up working with, as our as our colleagues, or other people who interact with. And you know, likewise, it was an amazing time and working working with you at that time, it really, you know, my views could be quite blinkered, in terms of, you know, doing things in a set way. And I've always done things in this way. And, you know, I may have been less likely to kind of think thinking of doing things differently in an open minded way. And that's something that I would definitely say rubbed off, you know, for working with you, in terms of, let's be ambitious, let's, let's think of the bigger picture, let's not necessarily think of the set ways of doing things or the rules, if you like, even and think bigger than than, what are you really trying to achieve here? And what what could we do you know, what could we actually do if we really put our minds to it. So, you know, that that wants, you know, kudos to you right, for, you know, helping put those seeds into, into my mind as well,

Roy Sharples:

Thank you! I honestly didn't mean to, I tend to do things because I have the inclination to just do them, and then understand why I did them after. Though let's face it - that was such an inspiring time and age. And we immersed ourselves in the future by anticipating what the future could be, and how technology could be used to enable what we were trying to create. And we were forever crossing the frontiers of many disciplines, and places to ultimately just seek inspiration and get new ideas. We were obviously lucky to live in London, and have access to such inspiration and great reference points, regular finger points. And like just taking those whimsical day trips to the tape Museum, the BBC to start off the tech companies, the Cambridge university life, but a university, which all of which was a catalyst for inspiring innovation and creativity because you're experiencing different cultures, different perspectives, gaining diverse insight across multiple experiences, which really forced us to depart from the familiar and take on a whole new world of experiences, and ultimately gain in a more integrative worldview. And it was such an extraordinary project to be involved in where we were helping build a revolutionary engineering and manufacturing center that included research skills and education, training, startup business, incubation, and acceleration, combined with just working with great people. And our management team at that point as well, when I look back now, and this was about 20 years ago, they still remain to be the best unit from a management perspective that I've had the pleasure of working with. And ultimately, the fundamental job of management is to remove the barriers to let great work happen. And we had that an abundance and felt really empowered and supported from our management. So john tobot, and Richard thwaite, who was the then CIO of Ford of Europe at the time, and also Sean Michael Veen, who was the chief people Officer of Ford, Britain, and all three of them and their own unique way inspired, empowered, and stimulated us to achieve the unexpected and exceed the normal performance levels. Shawn was like Bill Shankly type in his ideals, and was a first rate communicator and motivator, although he'll probably get pissed off at me for that reference, given he's a Sheffield Wednesday fan. And kudos to the core team that we helped build there - Brandon Adams, Gavin Phillips, Ajay Pamneja, and Chris George.

Ghulam Rasool:

Yeah, it was a really interesting period of time in my career, and in my life as well. I would say one of the biggest things was, you know, the excitement of what we're on a brownfield site. So we're literally starting with zero, right, and the ground has been prepared. We've got a vision in terms of what the structure could look like. But you know, it's open, you know, what, what are the requirements while we're trying to build here, what we what we try to the experience units that we're trying to create for our students, what's it going to be like? And what can we do to impact that in terms of the curriculum that's taught in terms of what they'll be doing on a day to day basis, and, you know, those students, we're going to be doing some classroom learning, and then they're going to be working in the workshop areas as well, working on vehicles working on, on on products, to learn certain skills as well, right. And the real challenge that we had at the time was, you know, how can we make the technology work, to best meet their needs, so, you know, and then best meet the needs of the people working in the organization. So, you know, thinking, thinking of things like using interactive smart boards in classrooms at the time, you know, those are very common now, but they weren't that common, then, you know, that was revolutionary, you know, at the time, in terms of, you know, using that in an interactive way, letting students and the lecturers interact with those screens, and being able to save the output for them to take it away, for them to not have to, you know, take lots of notes, right? Yeah. So that was revolutionary. But the technology itself, you know, I think we did the first Voice over IP implementation within Ford at the time, it's really moving away from our traditional forms to fight forms, and all of the advantages that that gave to us as well. So yeah, it was just being able to think freely, not being constrained by the technology, but more using the technology as an enabler.

Roy Sharples:

Compelling visions draw people in, and high performing teams are self organizing, the performance emerges from the experts joint actions within the project, they share a vision and commitment to the mission at hand, people who have the expertise and passion will step up at the right time in the creative process, to lead and drive the completion of their respective input and add value to the team and solution. And so the creative atmosphere cultivated, provides autonomy and space, and it generates energy and success within that, because there's a liberal, inclusive and meritocratic culture that stem from that yet, it's entirely focused and motivated to expedite the mission at hand, fostering the right creative culture means having a strong sense of acceptance, belonging, and connection to a greater purpose and whole, you feel safe, valued and empowered with ownership of what you do and how you do it, which was an evergreen moment, a staple in our careers, where all the stars just seem to align. But make no mistake, there was tons of adversity and constant swimming against the tide, which was fantastic, because what we were really doing, and we probably didn't realize this so much at the time, as there was no blueprint that we were able to reference and, and truly follow because we were breaking the mold by creating our own. But the output of that, that became a benchmark for success that you start to then see similar establishment emerge, not just within the UK, but across Europe, and also into the US.

Ghulam Rasool:

it was definitely there. I mean, if you think about who we were working together with, right, we had ourselves Ford Motor Company, right. And we had this vision of creating a really modern and modern and center, you know, a modern and fulfilling in terms of the requirements of our apprentices, the people that we're going to learn there, right. So fit for purpose, that's the word I was looking for, you know, experience in terms of a teaching establishment and learning establishment, but, you know, the partners we worked with, in terms of, you know, our own our own organization, and having the backing of Ford, Ford at the amazing leaders that you describe it, I totally agree. But working with some of our partners, right, you know, like Microsoft, like Cisco, and many others who I'm going to forget right now. And just being really, you know, unconstrained, and you know, what, what are some of the things that we might not traditionally have done that we could we could do here? What are some of those consuming? Obviously, the colleges themselves, right, that we're that we're going to be teaching there and working with them and trying to understand what what are the things that you really need to make your life easier and to make teaching more effective for you as, as as an educational establishment and you know, what will help your learners to do better, and putting all of that learning and requirements into place in terms of what we eventually delivered? It was amazing

Roy Sharples:

Upon reflection, Ghulam, what are your lessons learned in terms of the pitfalls to avoid and the keys to success as a product design leader,

Ghulam Rasool:

I would say again, you know, we're talking about designers here, but it would be in common with a lot of other other It always comes down to the customer, right? Listen to the customer. And when you're not listening to the customer, or if you're negatively being influenced, you know, in terms of what I've been talking about and what we've been discussing, right? We haven't really kind of touched on what are some of the distractions that can happen, right. And sometimes the distractions that can happen, it could be the organization itself, could be people within the organization saying, are we we think we should do this. And that's like, jumping ahead to the solution, before you've even had the problem definition phase, right? before you've even talked to the consumer who might be a user of that product. One of one of the biggest pitfalls that can happen in organizations is having pre empting ideas, right? And people who don't have that customer insight, putting themselves in that place and saying, Well, I have an idea. And I think we should do it this way. And, you know, the thing that we constantly have to do on a day to day basis, when that happens is to kind of then bring it back and say, Well, what is the consumer insight that this is trying to address? What's the problem that we're trying to address here, and if there isn't, one, we've got to ignore is a strong word. But we've got to kind of put ourselves back in that mindset and say, well, let's go and ask the customers, right, and maybe it's something that is worth exploring. Because we do have, we do have intelligent insights and experience from within our organization, or within our project project team. And we might have an really amazing idea that we need to explore. But let's go back, and let's talk to the customers, let's put ourselves with them, and ask them in a way to see if that's something that they want us to explore if or if that's something that resonates for them. So I think that's really important.

Roy Sharples:

Ghulam - I really wanted to spend a little bit of time exploring your past, in terms of you grew up in the northwest of England, you studied in Manchester, and Manchester in particular holds a special place in my heart, and especially around can music, and what that's going to brought to the world, and also just being an industrial city and being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. And where Ireland terrain invented the computer. That was the main driving force behind the British indie music movement in the 1980s. And obviously, the Manchester scene. But the bottom line is, even to this date, Manchester still has the swagger an attitude, and a maker endure ethos that just seems to be ingrained within its, its, its ecosystem, and culture and DNA

Ghulam Rasool:

I love the way you've described it. And, you know, it does have that rich history, you know, from, you know, almost being the center of the world at one point, you know, for certain industries, like the textile industry, and certain other industries out there. Having that history, the way that the city came about, and the way that it's structured with, you know, with the canals to support the city, and transportation, trams, you know, that the connections with the rest of the UK and the rest of the world, and that the the migration of people that that came, there's, you know, to help fulfill their, you know, their needs and fulfill the needs of what was being produced there and the needs of the economy. So, yes, is a really amazing place. You know, I arrived in Manchester in 19 9094, I think it was, yeah. And in the music scene, the artistic scene, it was just one of those places, like when I visited, right, because I knew I wanted to go to university in an area that was vibrant and happening and, you know, you just got that feeling when you came to Manchester that it was, it was one of those places that you want it to be, you want it to be a part of that you know, and part of that, you know, historical kind of scene around, you know, Manchester and the Hacienda nightclub and The Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays and new order and a lot of that stuff had kind of happened or you know, it was happening and I think there was a film about that 24 hour 30 people that goes into a lot of detail. And you know, totally recommend that people should watch that if they want to put themselves back in that time. But you know, even in terms of like the the music scene, right, I think you know, you know, hip hop music and jungle and how that was developing at the time. And then the Asian the Bandra scene. Yeah, it was an amazing point of time in terms of being there and you had to be there to experience Use it. And yeah, definitely find a time machine, it'd be a time that I would want to go back to, and see and explore things in even more detail, right. And it's, it's not a mistake, or it's not coincidental that there's a number of universities, right, that are in it that are in that locality, you know, you've got, you've got Manchester University, you've got you missed, you've got Manchester Metropolitan, you've got Salford University, where I attended. And that's bringing people not just from around the UK, but bringing people from around the world, right. And, and you tend to find that, you know, when there's people coming in, from around the world for a common purpose, you know, whether it's to learn or be artists, or to make music? Well, that's when the magic happens, you know. And so it really was, you know, a cultural, you know, if you think about the foods, that those people brought, the experiences that they brought, the music that they brought with them. And, you know, that's not that's putting, you know, to one side, the, you know, the great kind of sporting history. And what happens around around sports still on a deal in on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. And what, what that brings into the city. Yeah, it was, it was amazing. And, you know, there was so many, you know, music venues, affiliated to the universities, or generally out there that, you know, had their own kind of genres attracted unsigned artists, for people to perform in for anyone that wanted to make music, or share their culture with others, you know, whether it's theatre, comedy, music, whatever, right? You give people the ability to do that, and it's still so vibrant and interesting, and continues to develop, you know, to this day, putting myself back there now, right. from, from the, from my perspective of, you know, I was born in Pakistan, I grew up in Yorkshire, and spent the majority of my life there, right, and then coming into somewhere, like Manchester, that was totally different than seeing that kaleidoscope of colors, you know, visually, this the smells, the sights, the sounds. Yeah, it was, it was totally different. It was out there, it was amazing,

Roy Sharples:

Somewhere within telling your story there, you provided a nod towards having a time machine. So let's just say you do have that. And it's moving forward as opposed to backward now. What's your vision for the future of product design, especially within the car industry. And I guess, you know, if research comes to fruition, over 50% of the cars in the next 20 to 30 years, will be electric, and will disrupt and significantly reduce the need for oil is one example. So as we envision the future car, the signpost point toward the electric, autonomous and connected vehicles, empathetic to benefiting society with improved safety, less pollution, freeing up time, and customized services and experiences through intelligent technologies. And, again, back to our point at the beginning around when you look back at history, and even like modern history, how so few companies survive without embracing both radical and incremental innovation. And it's not just within business, every successful artist entrepreneur needs to innovate continuously, or risk being surpassed by competition, and the long term. What's your vision for the future, Ghulam?

Ghulam Rasool:

We've talked about aesthetics, you know, during this conversation, people do think about that it's not just about function. And doing things, you know, we need something to do X, Y, or Z generations, right? But it's to do it in the best, best way it needs to fulfill its function. But it needs to be aesthetically pleasing, as well. Right. And aesthetics isn't just things that you can touch and feel, it's things that you can, you know, interact with, it's things that you can see on the screen, right? So I think that's going to continue to evolve and evolve. The devices that we interact with in the future will be different to devices, right? Right now, you know, right now, a lot of our interactions are with a mobile phone, or with let's say, a device, like a wearable, like a watch, but who knows what those devices will be in the future. Because it will continue to evolve and change. So the form factors will change, but I think the desire to fulfill whatever those needs are of those human beings at that time. I think that's what's going to be exciting. And if you bring that to the automotive industry, I think, you know, we've already talked about how people's needs are evolving. You know, we've talked about those mega trends and the things that they will lead up to so you know, surely the future is going to be one that certainly Unless it's going to be a much greener future in terms of how, how those automotive devices, if you like, are going to be powered. That's that's going to be, you know, a very interesting evolution. And, you know, how will we use those use those modes of transport, and they will be multimodal, you know, that's, that's for sure you know, we will, we're already doing this, we're already taking into account the different types of, you know, transport we might use for a particular journey, if I wanted to travel into the centre of London, I can go outside, I can use my app, I can rent to rent a spin scooter, this is one of Ford's companies that that you know, is providing legal, has scooter, electric scooter services out there, I can take that scooter to the station, I can hop on a train. Depending on where I want to go into London, I might use tubes, I might use a boat. And that's going to evolve, right? When the fact that we might not necessarily need to own a vehicle in the future happens that might encourage you know, different behaviors in terms of how we interact with the with the modes of transport, do we even need to learn something, you know, might it be a subscription model instead. And that's what we're doing, you know, with a lot lots of parts of our lives. So you know, right now we subscribe to things, products that we buy on a regular basis, whether it's through Amazon, whether it's through the pods that we buy for a coffee machines, it's you know, possible that the way that we use transportation services in the future, that might be more of a subscription. And it might not just be a subscription for a car, it might be an all encompassing subscription that covers whatever mode of transport that we might need to use on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. Right. And, you know, just just what's happened in the last 18 months in terms of the pandemic has showed us how much we've needed to adapt our behaviors, what we're doing on a day to day basis, no, we're not commuting to our workplace every single day that we used to like like we used to. And I don't think we'll ever go back to that. I don't think we'll completely work from home, either. But we'll be some will be somewhere in the middle dependent on the needs of our day and the needs of the work at the time. So I think those things will also help shape consumer behaviors. But I think Above all, when it comes to product design and automotive solutions in the future, the companies are going to succeed are the ones that are going to be listening to their customers observing the trends that are happening, and providing the best solutions to make people's lives easier and better, you know, we are going to be a more aged population, generally, you know, in the future. So the needs of that population are going to be different to the needs of population that has a lot of young people in it. Right now,

Roy Sharples:

Young people and children of this revolution are the canvas onto which our values will be imprinted and shaped, seamlessly woven into this is the responsibility to pass the baton. By leaving the world better than we inherited it. Our next generation needs to be nurtured by being committed not to repeating previous generations mistakes. It is important to be socially conscious, self confident, achievement oriented, ambitious, technologically sophisticated, inquisitive, and driven to demand that those with authority accept responsibility and accountability. But above all, future generations should question explanations like because this is a way it has always been done and ask, but is this the best way it can be done? Algorithmic thinking, computational thinking, judgment, decision making emotional and social intelligence, critical thinking, problem solving, and having a creative and innovative mindset will continue to be more critical than ever, the types of

Ghulam Rasool:

people are going to help organizations really succeed in the future. You know, we've we've touched on design, right? We know that designers are going to be instrumental. But there's also another kind of person, right? And that's software engineers, you know, they're they're the ones out there, translating a lot of what designers learn about, you know, the consumer insights they get. They capture what the needs are of what what what product needs to be created. This really software engineers that are helping to code that and actually turn into a product working side by side. You know, it's not a case of designers throwing over designs and coders you know, doing doing the same. They're working hand in hand in hand on a daily basis to create those meanings. products that people need, you know, everything that we touch and use on a day to day basis, whether it's an app on our phone, something that we're interacting with, on on our TV or a digital TV service, a bus stop, you know, with an interactive sign. Well, a designer has worked on it. And software engineers have worked on hand in hand. So, you know, I'd go so far as to say that the people who are going to be leading companies in the future are going to be you know, the designers of now. The software engineers have now if you think about some of the leaders in the companies are doing amazingly well and publicly succeeding, and have got huge visions. A lot of those people have come from a software engineering or a design background,

Roy Sharples:

Just how soon is the future? One thing for sure is the future is unwritten and everything is possible! You have been listening to the Unknown Origins Podcast.