Season 3 Episode 10 "Beyond the Bootcamp" is now available. Listen now.
March 17, 2022

Ryan Rumsey on re-engineering over re-inventing to make faster business impact

Author of Business Thinking for Designers and CEO of Second Wave Dive, Ryan Rumsey shares his stories of self-work and making business impact through re-engineering successful tools and methods.

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#008 - As designers, we take on the responsibility to make the world better through design and we feel we have to come up with new ideas and solutions. But sometimes, reusing a solution that already works might be a faster and more impactful approach. In this episode, author of Business Thinking for Designers and CEO of Second Wave Dive shares his stories of making business impact through re-engineering successful tools and methods. Ryan also shares his struggles growing as a designer and design executive and how he thought he wasn’t doing a good job. He also shares his advice on building your contextual awareness of your organisation to be a more effective designer. Ryan also reveals the various factors that shaped him throughout his life and importance of self-work in continuously iterating your values and maintaining your wellbeing as a designer. 



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[00:00:00] Ryan Rumsey: What was helpful for me is, letting go of the idea that I had to invent everything, like I had to create the deck from scratch, that I had to figure out all these things on my own. What music and sort of history taught me was that somebody else has probably done this work. What I had to learn was how to use those skills.

[00:00:22] Nirish Shakya: That's Ryan Rumsey. Ryan is the author of Business Thinking for Designers and the CEO of Second Wave Dive, where he trains designers to be design executives, and he himself has worked as a designer and an executive for more than 20 years at places such as Apple, Electronic Arts and Nestle. And I personally have used many of his frameworks from his book and they've definitely helped me connect better with business people who might not otherwise speak the design language. And we've all been there, right? And in this episode, we pretty much chucked out the rule book and had a very emergent conversation together. We go deep into Ryan's world, his values, his biggest learnings, and his advice for designers to make business impact faster without losing your sleep or your sanity.

[00:01:11] Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya.

[00:01:20] Nirish: Hi, my name is Nirish Shakya and I'm a Designer, Educator, and the Host of my new podcast Design Feeling. This show is not about your designs. It's not about the shiny new tools or frameworks either. And it's also not about your customers. This show is about you, the human behind the human centred designer and how you can know yourself better so that you can be more creatively confident, and find more joy and meaning in what you do.

[00:01:58] Nirish Shakya: Ryan Rumsey, welcome to Design Feeling.

[00:02:01] Ryan Rumsey: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

[00:02:03] Nirish Shakya: You have written a book called Business Thinking for Designers and you also run a lot of courses for design executives around in a strategic thinking. OKRs and so on. Tell us a story about how did you get to where you are now?

I suppose I could maybe start and say, like, I never wanted to know how to do these things. I never wanted, I never wanted to like, get semi-decent at doing these things. It was never any part of my career that was like, oh,I want to write about, you know, managerial methodologies and do all these things.

[00:02:40] Ryan Rumsey: And so I think, I suppose how, that sort of focus of what I'm doing right now? which is more around,the experience of moving out of say that individual role as a designer where you're, you're so focused on that sort of craft of making to now, like wanting to have more of that meant that suddenly you become more into policymaking and, relationship building and, how kind of unprepared I felt for all of those types of things. And I think at the time where I was working was not in your, prototypical design type of situation where a lot of the narrative was having. And so a lot of the, the good, great guidance that was kind of out there of how to mature it. Wasn't, wasn't applicable to me.

I started working in house really early, like in 2005. Uh, so didn't really have that sort of agency perspective. And I think a lot of the,instruction or sort of, thought leadership, if you will, around the design industry was really coming out of these agencies sort of consulting models. And, I tried many of them. I tried, I say all of them and they, they weren't quite working for me because, the relationship of a consultant, a hired consultant is, is very different than that, of like a paid employee. And so I suddenly had to learn and try new ways to kind of develop trust or, or I think I, I mostly got to points where I was feeling so anxious and so overwhelmed that I was doing a bad job that, I just kinda got desperate in some ways and said, well, why don't I just try completely other things and see how that works?

So the, the sort of point of writing the book was I think, a response to that, a lot of the workshops, a lot of the conferences, a lot of the things that were being shared kind of weren't applicable to me or that I tried them. And they would give me maybe about three to six months of play before,that novelty kind of wore off. And my colleagues and peers were like, yeah. So what and, and where I sort of had to pivot. So writing the book was, was. About that again, as much of getting out all these things that I had kind of gathered, but also, I had a, a career where I worked at companies where I wasn't really allowed to be part of the industry. I wasn't allowed

[00:05:30] Nirish Shakya: you mean by that?

[00:05:31] Ryan Rumsey: as well when you work at a place like Apple for a while, which was like super lucky that I even got there, like just a weird set of circumstances. But I worked in AppleCare and I worked very closely with the training organization, which meant I was working hand in hand with the people who were developing the training materials for AppleCare advisers, for products that? were like two years away from being announced or launched. And So. The sort of general, guidance that I was given. It was like, you can't go to conferences. You can't really participate in this public forum, this dialogue because there's IP at stake. And, what that meant was that, that sort of, while I, I found that I was developing maturing in a way that just felt so wonderful and fun and challenging and hard was at the same time that I couldn't share any of it.

And in fact, I was consuming a lot of materials that were shared by others, but I wasn't sort of giving back. And so when, when I approached envision about writing the book, it was very much like I want to give away stuff for free. I just want to be able to contribute back in a way that is accessible to anybody who wants to download it.

Yeah. You got to sign up with your email address to, to get it kind of thing. But, it was that combination of, of saying I want to get out some of these things that, that have worked for me say that they're not perfect, give it away for free. And I think in, in hopes of trying to, help others, if, if it was possible with some of the pressures and anxieties that they were feeling,my experience, which is, which is unique and my own was that I felt a lot of shame that I was not doing. My job well, and a lot of the narratives that I heard were like not helping with that shame, if you will.

[00:07:44] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And I've, I've heard, you mentioned this in previous interviews as well. And I think wanting to remember, you seen her saying something like if you could go back in time and tell yourself something, a younger version of yourself, something, and you said, I'm not broken. and that, you're you doing a good job?

w why did you feel like you were not doing a good job?

I think when you make that pivot from the individual contributor where there's a lot of high touch mentoring and development, and you make that pivot to where you're now say in a leadership position, a management position, all of that is gone. They're like the reality I think, is for most. Managers directors executives is that there's just no development.

[00:08:33] Ryan Rumsey: There's no mentorship. and so I think I felt a lot of that is because I was not getting any type of feedback or response, but also I was being asked to build organizations from scratch and places that never had organizations like this. I'd never, I had never seen a model. I had never felt what was good or bad.


[00:09:01] Nirish Shakya: didn't have like a blueprint to follow

[00:09:03] Ryan Rumsey: no, no blueprint. And I think that's, that's a case for a lot of people. when they, when they go into these roles, it's really hard to want to help build or create something better than you experienced. If you've never had that modeled for you? I'm a parent to three, right? It's the same kind of experience of going like, oh my gosh, like There's no book for this.

Like the, the books

[00:09:37] Nirish Shakya: an instruction manual that comes with the baby.

[00:09:39] Ryan Rumsey: The, the instruction manual, like is up until delivery and even like bringing our first child home. Was it like two days after, after birth that I remember consciously thinking, like, they're letting us leave with this child. We have, we have no idea of what to do with this child.

And they're just like, not just letting us leave. They're like, here you go. Good luck. And so, you know, I should also mention that, that, That this brought up a lot of the, you know, I think management and leadership, brings up a lot of the insecurities we have about ourselves, right to the forefront. It just like totally exposed. And so I think a lot of that was, Yeah, I didn't have the mentorship and development and modeling, but suddenly I wasn't, I wasn't dealing with my own stuff.

and that came to the forefront pretty

[00:10:40] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, it's interesting. You mentioned that the insecurities, that leaders and managers, experienced on a daily basis, I guess when I was a junior designer working in a big organization, when I saw managers and leaders for me, they always appeared so confident when they presented themselves and meetings and boardrooms and stages and whatnot.

and that made me really hard to relate to them. Right. In terms of, they must be like superhuman and I could never be like that. I've all these insecurities in myself. I wish I was like them, but yeah, like a Sam, like exactly how you're feeling. I'm not good enough to be like that.

[00:11:16] Nirish Shakya: what, What's been your experience, in terms of the vulnerabilities and the, the emotions that managers and leaders show in organizations?

I think there was some of that for me. and I think a big part of it was me knowing that none of that was real. Like, I don't want to be that I don't want to be a robot. I don't want to be that sort of polished,I had no desire to sort of be that way. And so I think a lot of what I was beginning to see is when you then are moving into different roles and being exposed to those people outside of the keynote presentation, there was a lot of like emperors with no clothes. It felt like, oh my, it was kind of stunning to see, a lot of just guessing and going with guts, even at these higher levels. And then I began to then see those same people present, uh, as if it were all solved as if it were so easy. And for me, I was like, I felt, really, there was a lot of hypocrisy around that and, and I was.

[00:12:31] Ryan Rumsey: I think my experience was like tests like this, not setting us up for, I think, a future that where we're wanting to match our individual personal values with our work and the companies we work for, and we want to show it and we want to see those in two different places. And, and so I experienced that, but it was also like, this is an outdated model.

This is, you know, I see what you're doing here. I can't do that. I don't really want to do that. I'm not going to do it. I'm going to have to forge my own way. and I think that was, so consuming so exhausting too at the same time.

[00:13:15] Nirish Shakya: And how easier or difficult have you found it yourself in your career to bring in your personal values and authenticity into the work you're doing and whether it aligns with the company's values and what they're trying to do?

[00:13:29] Ryan Rumsey: Well, I, I, that's a, that's a much more complicated question for me, because I, I didn't really know who I was as an adult, like just as a human. and so then to show up and say, I want, the values to, at the organization to be the same as mine. Like, I, I didn't know who I was. I, you know, it's still a work in progress. Uh, I'll be 48 in two weeks. And I don't know that it's been for the L until the last like three or four years of really then kind of saying here's, here's What I, I stand for. I think I had a lot of like,

[00:14:13] Nirish Shakya: What do you stand for?

[00:14:14] Ryan Rumsey: Stand again. Uh, what do I stand for?

I think, yeah, again, a complicated question. I, I, I stand for, the communal experience. I think, uh, the collective experience that, we should be doing a better job to, ensure those that do not have the set of privileges that I do as a CIS white man in the United States of America. Right. Have day to day that, that I, I stand for ensuring that the we're doing better when it comes to, the experiences that, that somebody might like me has to ensure that others are, able to as well.

[00:15:00] Nirish Shakya: And how did you distill it down to these things that you stand for? Was it like a continuous process over the past few years

[00:15:08] Ryan Rumsey: it's always a continuous process. And I think that's one of the things that I, I always struggled with, like that old narrative, I was working in this digital web tech space with a lot of leaders who came from the more industrial designed factory line kind of space. And when you're making physical product, it's like, we've done it.

We ship it and you don't really have to think too much. And so I think. Going back to my values. It's always an iteration, right? It's always a work in progress, much. Like any digital thing that we make is like your, there is no done. It's the idea that there's a done is in itself a myth.

[00:15:59] Nirish Shakya: And so, right now that's where I am now. but that's all been an evolution. I think there were things that I I've always believed in, but I lacked the vocabulary, the words, And the self-awareness to put those together into succinct statements, I lacked the ability to express a feeling through language. And why do you think that was the case?

[00:16:25] Ryan Rumsey: for me, well, I mean, this is like my origin story,family systems that I grew up in and, and,having parents who dealt with a lot of trauma, and then being exposed to kind of trauma as a young child. Right. and so learning very on it sort of seven, seven years old of being, exposed to something that wasn't so great to kind of like suddenly now I was an adult and not even having that understanding or that self-awareness until I was like in my forties that, oh, that was the thing. That was the thing that happened. it was always like a picture frame. It was always like a camera still. Oh yeah, that happened. But there was no, emotional connection to that. And so, why these all happen is, is more just about me rather than say a career. And I think that's one of the important lessons for me. And I think in a lot of what I do is you can't separate the self from this. You can't just turn it off you. Can't just, and I, I think when I saw a lot of those leaders that I was, around like acting like robots and turning things on and off, I was like, what why that's that seems like such a, disservice to myself. it seems like such a disservice to those that I work with.

[00:18:02] Nirish Shakya: And what do you think they fear? Like what are they fearing in terms of not presenting their self more often?

I don't know. I, I mean, I think there's, a lot of fear, that living in systems,capitalism and, and, racism and misogyny, that, that, there's a lot of, I think, fear from those who, have power to give up that power or have less power and, or, or,society gives them agency that others don't have. And, but it's also really, really hard and intentional work to work on yourself. And I think. for me, I got to this breaking point of where I had switched jobs for like the third time to kind of do the same thing. But I found my narrative was the same. Like I was saying the same things. I was pointing my finger in the same way and having the same kind of complaints and just suddenly realizing, well, wait, out of those, all those situations, I'm the only common variable in that. And despite kind of getting more, more responsibilities, sort of higher pay figure titles, all those things. I found the, that, that, as it was kind of elevating within me, it was, it was getting worse. And I was having, there was no relief for me out of that. And so, but for others, it's pretty complicated.

[00:19:42] Ryan Rumsey: We're, we're, we're pretty complicated.

so if you could go back in time and speak to a younger version of yourself who is just starting out in the career in design, what would you tell them? What is the biggest piece of advice you'd give them around, just in terms of this knowledge of the self

I think, It's it's not so much going back in time. I don't, the things that have happened to me have made me right. And I, I don't know that I would change them. I don't want to experience them again. It's kinda like high school, like glad, glad I did that.

[00:20:13] Nirish Shakya: It's not just me then.

[00:20:14] Ryan Rumsey: All right. Right. Yeah. But I think, I think to that younger self is to, give them. Give him glimpses that you're, you're gonna be okay. you will, you will be proud of yourself. A you will learn how to be proud of yourself. Yeah. you're there, there are things that are hard, but you, yourself aren't broken. There are all these other things that you didn't perhaps know about that are, contributing to how you feel. but I think a lot of that is like, you also find moments of joy and happiness. Like you've never experienced in your life, just keep going. Right. And I think that was a lot of my childhood experience was not feeling joy, not knowing what that felt like as a child. And so. That's probably what I would, I would say. it's, it's good that those things happened and how I experienced them. I think they've, they've helped me, have some different perspectives and yeah, don't want to do them again.

[00:21:24] Nirish Shakya: And I love it. How you say, like, you're going to be okay. Right. It's cause I remember, when I finished my post-grad and part of that post-grad was in design and I learned the craft of design in that course. And I went in when I actually went into a job as a designer in, I was pretty confident like, Hey, I've learned this at uni.

I know the tricks, I know the craft. And I mean exactly why we do things, but then when you actually go into the industry, you have to deal with a lot of opinion. Right. It's not just about, doing the research, finding, getting the findings, telling the CEO is what the customer said, but then, the CEO and other people you work with might have their own opinions about how things should work.

[00:22:04] Nirish Shakya: And when they don't listen to, you can really impact your own kind of efficacy and confidence. So you might be okay. I did tell myself I was going to be okay, but I'm not okay right now. how would you, suggest that, a designer or a design leader can deal with, I guess swimming in a sea of opinions when, there's a better way to do things, but then everyone else is trying to do something else.

[00:22:24] Ryan Rumsey: Yeah, I think,the, the kind of things that, that, again, have just been helpful to me, and it's going to be helpful or not helpful to others, right. Only the mileage will vary, but What was helpful for me is, letting go of the idea that I had to invent everything. Like I had to create the deck from scratch that I had to, figure out, all these things on my own.

I think one of the that I had, in a odd way was I, I love music. Music is how I, I always experienced the world and I ended up studying history. While in uni, I did not go to design school. I, I, I didn't have any formal education and design. So I always felt like I was way behind everybody else.

But What music and sort of history taught me was that, somebody else has probably done this work, what you have to, what I had to learn was how to use those skills of like, going through a book, seeing somebody site, another piece of work through a footnote, and then go finding that next book, right? Like, or when listening to music that, in the days of cassettes and CDs, musicians would write in the liner notes, which bands they loved. And so just, I think there was this time, I did have a wonderful mentor who sort of just said, it's the art of letting other people have your way, right. To me and said, you don't have to make all this up. You, you, you're, you're

[00:24:08] Nirish Shakya: What does that mean? The art of having, letting other people

[00:24:11] Ryan Rumsey: Well, I think so many of us, when we're young, we're so passionate. And, even when we're a little older, too, we're so passionate about a thing. And we struggled to recognize that other people are passionate about things that are different or in other ways. And so we try to just go directly with like, I'm going to take my passion and I'm going to make you passionate in the way that I am passionate.

[00:24:38] Nirish Shakya: It's kind of like the God complex, right? You're here. You're there to save the world.

[00:24:42] Ryan Rumsey: yeah, I don't, I don't know. I, I think it's more like, and, and maybe this is perhaps more in, in Western society, right. Especially here in the U S where we, we were raised in systems that basically said you could do anything you want. Right. Well, that message was towards, people like me, CIS white men, like me, you can do whatever you want.

Right. And.

[00:25:05] Nirish Shakya: was it a Walt Disney? You said something like, if you can dream it, you can do it.

[00:25:08] Ryan Rumsey: Right, right. sure. Yeah. And, and so, undoing a bit of that, but then like, because I didn't learn design in that formal way, I was always like reverse engineering stuff. And so what I began to do was like, if I saw a colleague who had some type of presentation or some type of spreadsheet that worked for them, you know, they got approval, they got head counts. They, they got a leader to say, yeah, great. Keep going. I knew that The outcomes that I was looking to have was basically to have somebody say, keep going. And so I through, through. I I've exhausted all my means and I've tried everything else. I got to this point where I said, Hey colleague, can I just borrow your deck?

Can I just use your spreadsheet? Would you share that with me? And I got to this point where I was then like, not worrying about the fonts and the colors and the, the sort of narrative structure and the story and all that kind of sudden, I said, can I just swap out some words here? I know that, what I've observed is this vehicle has worked. Can I just see if, if I just deliver my message in that same vehicle, will it work in a new way? And so there was like the small little trick that was so relieving was like, oh, if I just use their PowerPoint deck, I'm married to a. Psychotherapist,a counselor. And so, you know what it essentially is as if I could learn to speak in the love language they receive, oh, suddenly things seem to be going a little bit easier. If I let go of having to invent everything or make something better, the ultimate goal is to provide better access, better information, better availability, better interactions, whatever it is, these things better solutions, right? better problems to solve. That's the goal, not the fonts and the colors, not the, style of delivery, not the tools. And, That was a big sort of little lesson for me was like, oh, this, this art of letting other people have their way was like, oh, they, they love their PowerPoints. They love their spreadsheets.

[00:27:50] Nirish Shakya: Yeah.

[00:27:51] Ryan Rumsey: maybe that would work.

[00:27:52] Nirish Shakya: yeah. I, I mean, I, that thought didn't really cross my mind when I was, in my, career in terms of maybe, I can, re-engineer other people's work. I just thought I had to do everything myself to prove my worth. And otherwise I'm not worthy enough to be here because they're paying me to come up with my amazing ideas, not, take other people's ideas and then re mix it or we engineer it.

what, what, why do you think, Is, is it ego that prevents you from doing that? Or what does that, do you think?

It's probably a combination of things, of, of ego, of, of family, of origin, of,capitalism of society. Like it, depending on where you're at, right? There's these combinations of things. But I think a lot of it even comes down to, I think there's this narrative of what it is to be an employee and the expectations, like when you're sort of saying they expect me to create new things and be this expert in new ways. And I don't think that's what companies think about what they're employing. I think companies there and, and leaders, aren't very good at saying this. I think they often will say the message you need to reinvent the future. We need to innovate. We need to whatever, but I think really companies hire people to do one of two things to help strengthen the position that they have or help find them a new strength, right. A new position. Every employee is expected to help,support the competitive advantage or create new competitive advantage. And I suppose that's one of the lessons that I was fortunate to get an Apple was Apple was very clear about that. They would say, here's the, here's the fence that we're playing in. How you do that, you go figure it out. We believe you, we trust you. And I think then moving into a lot of other companies afterwards was they, they operated in a slightly different way where they would say like, we don't really know what we're going for, but this is how we work. And it was like suddenly like w wait, right.

[00:30:29] Ryan Rumsey: Aren't we aren't we trying to strengthen a position or create some new. And so I think a lot of times as an employee, we're struggling because we can't see or understand, if there's a target that somebody has, is trying to achieve, And what that target is. So there's this, I think there are lots of companies who make lots of money just because of where they've put themselves into a position. And then they have lots of employees who are being asked to create new things, but then leaders who, who can't like elicit or be plain, or be transparent, say, here's the, here's the outcome we're looking for. And I think maybe that's elicited at the senior level. We want to create this much revenue. We want to reduce this much costs, but there's a lot of people in between who Dolly, don't his pain pass the hot potato, Hey, we're trying to do this. And they just become messengers. And I think, Yeah.

This is kind of, my focus of right now is to say like, no, right. you still, you have still have, yes, you inherit that, but you still have to have that clear, plan, that clear strategy in place, that clear, audacious goal that you're trying to get to. That's what the employees, are hoping and looking for. And without that, then they're in their own heads. They can't figure out what's going, why they can't see, how it all fits together.

[00:32:06] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. I mean, I remember working for an organization, a big organization here in the UK where, the goals of the sales team conflicted with the goals of the retention team. So the sales team were basically tasked at just getting people in doesn't matter, just getting them to the tool and what they're doing was basically giving people new prospects, a lot of massive discounts, just so that they can sign up to the subscription that service. And you'd get a lot of flood of people in, but then they would mostly leave, which was impacting the retention teams. KPI's because now there were like looking there it's there was a mic is making them look bad. And I was part of the retention team and I thought the sales team with the bad guys

[00:32:49] Ryan Rumsey: Yeah,

of course. Right. Because that's how essentially the organizational model is set up. one of the things that we have to learn, I think is that a lot of the guidance, the business guidance that has, is put out there,is, is so, or is done through companies who are in the business of remaining consultants, like many consultancies. The job is to. Always get, retained as the consultant, not necessarily like really solve the client problems. A lot of, I, this is me, my hot takes, this is my observations of a lot of the stuff. A lot of the guidance also comes from,venture capital. There's a lot of good guidance, but a lot of that is to serve the investor, the venture capitalist, right?

So exponential growth, growth, growth. That's not healthy for society. That's not healthy for the customer. That's not healthy for the collective benefits, the investor there. Right. And, and I get that and I understand that. And I think one of the, again, the great things about that experience at Apple was one of the main consulting. Sort of strategies, the setups, the guidance that they have given to companies for 40 60 years is once your company gets to a certain size, split it into different business units. And what that means is then you have the leader of the sales team only being incentivized to only do their stuff, the leader of the retention team, only being incentivized to do their stuff. Where's the incentive to work together? And what Apple does so very differently is they're not separate different, not separate business units. There was a, an article written late last year, right? It might've been an H HBR where apple Uh, uh, people from apple talked about this, it's super rare that apple actually talks about this, but Apple is one org and how they separate themselves. There's not an iPod unit or a Mac unit. There's functional units of expertise. And the only way they ship is that they have to work together. And that was kind of where I had a lot of my formational learning. I didn't know it at the time, but I was like, oh, the only way to get a business case approved was to show that it would reduce costs of the support center, reduce costs for the localization team increase employee retention, like do those all at once. So there's a lot of stuff around systems thinking, and this was like a systemic. Right. The only way to get budget to do anything was to show that it would affect more than one area of the business at a time. If you show just one area you would likely not get approved.

[00:36:08] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And, on that note, like we know I've heard you talk about in building your contextual awareness as designers and design leaders and how important it seems to be, to be able to, I guess, work in that organization, more effectively, how, how would you recommend, designers and design leaders build that level of contextual awareness? Let's say when you're in a new environment or a new job in your role.

[00:36:34] Ryan Rumsey: Yeah.

So I think a lot of it depends on where you are, right? Uh, if you are a designer working on a product team, Just see if you can figure out there's all sorts of mapping techniques, like ecosystem mapping and things like that, where you could just see the product that I'm working on. Can I sort out how it's related to another product? Can I sort out where it fits in with say the larger,experience of, of a customer, right. Because a lot of times, uh, and this is perhaps the case of, I, I was working with a client a couple of years ago and I was working with a product team and they were told they were accountable for adoption rates. You know, the PM said we're accountable for adoption. And I said, okay. So just talk about the interactions that you're building here. Like what, what are the, what's the core thing that you're working. Well, we work on the thing that customers use day to day. And I said, well, do you also work on, say the marketing site? Do you work on the page where the customer signs up? And I said, no, that's another team. And I was like, so why are you responsible for adoption when adoption has already occurred? Like the only way a customer gets to this point is if they've already paid. Right? And so I think like that contextual awareness, this was the first time anybody told that product team, that product manager and that the measure that they were responsible for, they had no way, no way, no matter what they did to.

[00:38:26] Nirish Shakya: wow.

[00:38:27] Ryan Rumsey: And, and so it's just takes a little curiosity. It goes down to back some sort of like old school interaction design. Just tell me the task flow. When does this happen? What are the things we're working on, right. To sort of get, build that awareness. Once you get into the upper levels, it's then talking about more like, how the products and channels work together, uh, who are the actors involved? What are the products involved? What are the channels involved? Lots of companies will have like, oh, where are the, the team that works on the iOS app? And then we're the team that works on the web. and they don't work together. And yet you're, you're sort of going like the customers, like how they interact with all these different pieces are totally intertwined.

So I, that's sort of a long-winded way of saying. There's a, there's a way to do this with the tools that you use mapping. I think another way to do it is to take a lot of the prompts from the empathy map and write down your own assumptions about your colleagues. Do I know my colleagues job to be done? Do I know what's painful for my colleagues? Do I know what they stand to gain? If they do a good job?

[00:39:43] Nirish Shakya: I think that that is a very powerful way to put it because in a lot of times we focus our energy and effort on, external users and customers. We tend to forget that, our colleagues are actually also humans as well with

[00:39:53] Ryan Rumsey: Right. Yeah. And that's, that's a lot of what I focus on now is like to build contextual awareness. Yes. You need to learn communication skills. You need to learn relationship skills. You need to build some analytical skills, but it's all situational, right? You don't really know about your colleague. You don't met, perhaps know that demonstrating empathy is the key, not believing you're empathetic. Like your colleague has to believe that you're empathetic, not you. Right. And so there's all these little things to help build those contextual awareness muscles. And what I always say is like, yes, they will help you. And you might see things that are scary and you might see things that, oh my gosh, I, it's kind of like, Alison Wonderland. And as soon as you go down the hole, you see a world that, that perhaps is a little bit frightening, a little bit daunting. but with that awareness, Comes relief in ways that you didn't expect and it helps you progress. It helps you get unstuck. It helps you see, is this an organization that I can really work for? And are these colleagues that I can really work with, rather than, pointing the finger or really pointing it at yourself?

[00:41:19] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, I guess there's also this cocktail of different levels of emotional intelligence that operate in an organization

where,you might go in with a higher level of intelligence, emotional intelligence versus someone else might not have the same level or vice versa. And that probably can make things tricky.

[00:41:36] Ryan Rumsey: totally. I mean, how many executives are probably low on EQ as we would expect as anybody in society. And that makes it, that can make it really hard, right? in those circumstances,None of this is easy. of it is a straightforward men. It is, is like the sort of narrative that I think a lot of what we, we sort of say is as an industry.

And so I think that, one of the things that I'll also say is, is being the partner of a psychotherapist, self work is important and your boss is not your therapist, your team. If you are the boss, your team are not your therapist. if you talk about one of the things that is core to me, it is access to mental health. not everybody has that access, access to mental health is, is a massive, massive privilege. and that should be much more accessible. and. Therapy is pretty good once it, once you're getting able to get in there and you can sort of separate where you begin and end. Um, my, my wife, is really good at her job.

but she has this say, this phrase that I think really always resonates with me, which is you can either build resentment or you can build connection. And, if you find yourself on that one path of resentment, kind of over and over again, that's, that's really, that's about you. And that's where you can, try to start working on yourself.

[00:43:11] Nirish Shakya: Great. I love that Ryan. So you, I'm also doing a course called strategic business thinking

[00:43:19] Ryan Rumsey: Yeah. what a mouthful, right? I've been doing it for about three years. the original tourist course title was designers, meet your business. it's not, yeah, it kind of worked out, but most people were like, is it an MBA? And I was like, not at all. It's not an MBA at all. and then the, the current name is really based because the book got named the business, thinking that I sort of just played off of that, but I would say what the course is really about is yes, it's learning a community, new communication relationship and an analytical skills. My company, Second Wave Dive we've focused, particularly on deliberate practice. You know, do sort of webinars or lots of networking. It is all about practicing new things. getting feedback on that practice. it's, it's pretty rigorous, but the course is then really separated into two halves where we're going to, yes, you're going to be learning those three skills, but what you're going to be learning our, new ways to reflect, to check your own assumptions, to identify how your messaging might be perceived in alternate ways to sort of learn some of those love languages that our colleagues, accept.

And then the second half is really, around how do we connect value to value things like this. And That's where we kind of get into this extended version of OKR is that,I've developed just called POKRs. And it's really around that question. Perspectives. so it's, it's really trying to improve the conversation around quality, which is to say in the OKR model, there are certain situations when it tends to work and lots of situations when it doesn't. And when it doesn't, it's usually because organizations struggled to understand what the objectives have to do with one another. Like at the end of the day, what does velocity have anything to do with costs? What

[00:45:24] Nirish Shakya: So that's why you bringing that perspective to make sense of the objective and the key results.

[00:45:29] Ryan Rumsey: right. Well, it it's sort of that perspective is all there to say, if we do this, then we get that.

And how I, why I teach that is then we flip it around to the design world and say like, let's talk about desirability. There's way too much weight right now. When we talk about quality that is put on feasibility and viability so much weight, all the weight of what is quality is based around like revenue, velocity, right?

These types of things. But we know from research,out there is that when customers have things that are desirable, that doesn't mean happy, right? That means something they are able to do in a way that is better or different than what they're currently doing. That is this sort of magic sauce. But what we struggle with is being concise And,

and using clear language of, to why are we working on accessible?

To giving this sort of framework that says, if we make things more accessible, we expect there'll be more usable. If they're more usable, we expect to increase the trust. And if we increase trust, that's more credible. And when things have those things, we see patterns of adoption and patterns of adoption. We can then tie, correlate to revenue, costs, satisfaction, these types of things. And so it's trying to put these,structure this cause and effect to making the decisions that show when we're showing, lagging metrics like revenue, that those decisions were, going in the right way. we do other things like talk about math. Don't do math, stuff like that, but yeah.

[00:47:22] Nirish Shakya: and tell us about these scholarships that you've been funding through the program.

[00:47:26] Ryan Rumsey: Yeah. So, again, an important part of. What I'm doing or trying to doing is providing access to those who come from marginalized groups, underrepresented groups, and to sort of say this, this should not be only accessible to those who can't afford it. it's a premium price course, and it, it is, so that we can then fund full ride scholarships. So for every five tickets we sell one full ride scout. So we want to ensure that every cohort that 20%, you know, of the attendees are attending on a full ride scholarship. And that's, that's been just awesome. It's not me asking for sponsorship or partnership or philanthropy. It's just me saying that has to be baked into this model.

That I'm just part of the business model. And so we, we increased the prices to those that can afford it, have company sponsoring them so that we can give access, to, to others. Right. And, a lot of the other stuff that I'm working on is just like, how do I continue to provide stuff that is freely accessible, that, that,or much lower price points and, and those things too. And so that's, that's a lot of the stuff that is going on behind the scenes.

[00:48:46] Nirish Shakya: Great. We'll put all the links to the, that the program in the show notes. So can, I'm always going to check it out later on your podcasting app, wherever you're listening right now. Cool.

Thank you so much for that, Ryan. I'm just going to just look at my notes and see what I've learned. And I've learned loads from this conversation with you.

and then one of the things that, I've learned is that it's okay. if you feel that you're doing a bad job because you're not, just how you feel and just accept that fact and do something about it. I think one of the things that you mentioned was there around, you kind of separate your self from, from your work and like consistently giving yourself the reassurance that you're gonna be. Right. what's the worst that could happen. and also what I found a pathway to, to do my work, moving forwards is look at opportunities to reverse engineer solutions that have worked for other people. And then try to remix that in, in your own way. See if that works for you, and not putting the pressure on yourself to be, to have to come up with, the brand new solution or the best solution. every time you face a problem,within your role. And I think that that's something that's, I'm definitely gonna try and then let you know how that goes. I'm

[00:49:58] Ryan Rumsey: My, it, may I jump in, because in, in reading a couple of those, I would say, the first couple of, or first two in particular of sort of knowing myself and it's going to be okay. That's a, that's a, that's a position that I think, myself as a white CIS man, society provides to me, in the sense that, I've been raised in a way that sort of says I'm going to be okay. No matter what I've gone through has been easy mode. Compared to anybody else. And so, I just sort of wanted to mention that, within that of me telling myself, I'm going to be okay is not necessarily the position that I would sort of get, if I was, she'll be fine. Like, I, I, I'm not sure. that I would not do that with, with somebody else. that was more in talking to me and I just wanted to make sure that I called that out because, those sort of statements and how I might talk to others is, is, there are different they've they've they have different, backgrounds and perspectives and experiences.

And so, I wanted to make sure that Yeah.

we talked

[00:51:03] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, I appreciate you clarifying that because yeah. what you're saying is from your own self reflection, based on your own experience, and it might not apply to, other people who might have been entirely different kind of situation. Too, you know what you are in. so thanks, thanks for clarifying that.

and also, the, just the value of curiosity, going in with a curious mindset and trying to dig deeper into what are the different, connections between the different business units or different, goals that these different units might have, and trying to, put together this ecosystem of how things work, seems to be another really powerful way to get a better understanding of the, or the contextual awareness of the kinds of environment you're operating in, rather than just the way I used to do is do things where just go in, just work on your craft, focus on your craft, but you didn't retry to produce designs and realize why no one's buying this. Why is anyone listening to me? Or I've put so much work into this, but then maybe, that work you've done, doesn't fit perfectly into the overall ecosystem. And then the whole importance of self work, how important it is probably like, like you said, like to take time out, to be able to dig deeper into yourself and understanding why you do things the way you do and how you feel about it.

[00:52:21] Ryan Rumsey: Yeah. And all those things, I believe they've been helpful and yeah, I'll just reiterate, having the time and opportunity and space to take time, to be curious, to work on myself, is something that, I'm, most people don't have, most people don't have, And those are the things that, You know, in my personal life working on trying to, adjust. And so where I invest my money or my time outside of the workplaces is more towards those things. because it's, those things are all things that are kind of just given to me on a silver plate.

[00:53:01] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And do you have like a resource or a person that you follow that you can recommend in terms of, the self work that how, people can work on the, on themselves?

[00:53:14] Ryan Rumsey: Well, I there's a lot of different resources, but I think one is one of the hardest things to do is that if you are trying to actively do self work, that this is a resource that's US-based, which might not be great. but hopefully there's something like this in the UK and Europe And other, other places as well. It's really hard to go out and try to find your first therapist or a coach. There are sites out there where their business model is advertising, so they don't, they don't really vet the people who are there, you know, their, their magazines. And so there's, a resource that I refer a lot here in the U S called, and what it allows you to do. It's, it's actually quite nicely designed. but behind the scenes, it's really vetted to take into consideration some real-world things like, are you using insurance or not? And to, want to see a therapist who has particular,accreditation or C. clients, who come from marginalized groups and so therapy group or is this wonderful resource that really, makes it a little easier. Just that big, huge barrier of trying to find somebody to talk to for the first time. just makes it a little bit easier. So that's usually the one that I, I hand out here in the States at least.

[00:54:48] Nirish Shakya: Great. And imagine that it's your last day on earth and someone come, someone comes up to you with a very tiny piece of paper and tells you to write something on that piece of paper and heal and valid, basically go on a massive billboard for the entire world to see what would you write down in that tiny piece of peep paper for the whole of humanity to see

[00:55:08] Ryan Rumsey: I mean, for all of humanity, say I think it would just be a message to my kids and, How much, I love them, how much I believe in them and how proud of them I am, be quite simple. I don't, I don't know that I would send a message out to humanity. I would send a, a message out to my three kids and, yeah.

[00:55:30] Nirish Shakya: Lovely. finally, is there a question that I haven't asked you that you would ask yourself?

[00:55:36] Ryan Rumsey: Hmm. That's a question that I ask,I, now I think you've done a lovely job, and I, I think it's important to, be okay with the job that we've done. We don't need. George Costanza live in regret. I should have asked that now you've done a great job. and thank you for hosting me in and providing the space that you are right now.

[00:56:01] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, thanks for joining me today, Ryan. so where can people find you if they want to follow your work or follow you online?

[00:56:06] Ryan Rumsey: Yeah, basically two places. or that's my handle name on, on, Twitter and LinkedIn is just @ryanrumsey. the other places you can find Second Wave Dive. That's my company. That's where we're trying to create a different type of school for adults. and it's the same, or @secondwavedive on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn,

[00:56:33] Nirish Shakya: Great. Well, thank you so much for joining me in Design Feeling Ryan, and, hopefully I'll see you again soon.

[00:56:38] Ryan Rumsey: Thank you so much. And you will.

[00:56:42] Nirish Shakya: In person over a pint of beer.

[00:56:44] Ryan Rumsey: Yeah. That would be nice.

[00:56:46] Nirish Shakya: Thank you so much for listening to my chat with Ryan. If you're enjoying listening to the Design Feeling Podcast, please do consider leaving an honest review on Apple Podcasts. It'll help people decide whether they'd want to press the play button or not. And if you have any suggestions, ideas, or guests that you'd like to have on the show, please email me at and like always please share the podcast with a Design Thinking friend who needs a bit of Design Feeling in their lives. See you next time.

Ryan Rumsey

Ryan is the author of Business Thinking for Designers and CEO of Second Wave Dive, a foundational school for the next wave of Design Executives. He is a father, a husband, and an avid fan of Liverpool Football Club. His life experiences include working on a farm and acting in a Staind music video. For 20+ years, he worked as a designer and executive at Apple, Electronic Arts, USAA, Nestlé, and Comcast. Highlights include designing a Learning Management System at Apple, using CSS as a security measure, and building teams of incredibly talented and impactful designers, developers, researchers, PMs—humans. He believes it’s good to practice, it’s better to be curious, and best to listen to others. Psst! The best leaders love to be led!