Transforming The Economy with Art and Design | Dr. John Maeda
In this episode, Dr. John Maeda, speaks about art and artists, the difference between art and design, why parents who sent their kids to RISD thought about innovation, and why, art and design are positioned to transform the economy of the 21st-century economy.
Dr. Maeda is an artist, designer, educator, and business leader. Formerly data visualization research director at MIT Media Lab, board of directors at Sonos and Wieden+Kennedy, partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, head of design and *inclusion* at distributed-work pioneer Automattic, executive vice president/CXO at digital transformation leader Publicis Sapient, and most proudly the 16th president/CEO of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
The transcript was produced by an AI, mistakes might appear.
[00:00:00] Nir Hindi: Hey, John, welcome to the Artian podcast.
[00:00:03] John Maeda: Glad to be here
[00:00:04] Nir Hindi: John, you are an artist designer, technologist venture, capitalist, educator, and business, executive and range of topics to chat with you about are endless, but obviously my interest leans toward, your creative background and mainly your artistic experience.
Now, I don’t know if the listeners know, but you exhibited around the world, including London, New York, Madrid, and Paris. I actually have a book of, one of the exhibition you participated in 2008. Speaking Souls and machines.
Your work is in the permanent collection of the moment in the San Francisco museum of art, the cartel foundation, and many artists. But before the arts, , uh, you study computer science or computer engineering, and there is one moment that I think that’s also the moment that kind of spoke to me.
It was in a Ted talk that you gave. .
I think this story encapsulates the general perception of art an artist. So I want to ask you what led you to art later in life?
How did you start creating?
[00:01:13] John Maeda: I think back to my father’s view on art at that time, um, he had no education. Uh, how no, no money, no, in a wealth. And so art sounds very risky and doing art is something that usually people who have money get to do, they get to take risks. So I think about how I was only able to engage in art when I was able to take risks.
When I, I had enough money to experiment. I think that’s the foundation that I never really understood until now.
[00:01:51] Nir Hindi: You are familiar and recognize with your design work and your education work. And we will mention some of it later, but I’m interested to hear maybe before we discuss those things, what is the difference between art and design or maybe.
artists and designers?
[00:02:10] John Maeda: You know, I used to think about these things a lot, but I note, so it’s kind of refreshing to kind of like, remember how I felt about these things. I think that art is something that is wonderful because you do not have to have a motivation. Whereas design is something much more pragmatic and it solves something.
And so when you think about it,
. And this distinction to me still still holds true. And the problem is you have people who are designers who want to be artists more conservative. And you have some artists who want to make some money, so they’ll do a little design.
So then the average person has a hard time understanding what is art and design because they’re seeing like blends, they’re seeing smoothies of art and design. So the regular culture gets confused too. So that’s. Most people cannot distinguish an artist or a designer.
[00:03:08] Nir Hindi: John, I have a question. If the role of the artist is two kind of form questions and to raise questions and questions are essential to innovation or challenging the status quo in the ability to actually progress forward in business.
Why we don’t see more collaborations between artists and maybe business companies
[00:03:31] John Maeda: while there are so many kinds of artists. And there are so many kinds of businesses. Number one, there’s sculptors, there’s painters, there’s printmakers, there’s jewelry makers. There’s all kinds of artists. Number one in business.
There’s transportation, logistics, retail, energy. I mean, it just goes financial services. It goes like it’s like a rap almost. It can go forever. So. To have an impact for innovation in business, you have to understand the business. So I think many artists don’t understand the business that a business is in number one, number two, because two, a business art is seen as more like a painting.
It’s hard to understand like why I would need a painting. And that’s why what’s interesting about the technology world, the world that makes these apps, you got to be consumed. It’s the unique place where. More technology companies need more design and art to build more sense of an experience that is a new space that artists are collaborating with businesses and innovation is happening.
New kind of culture is being made. New kind of business models are being created, but in tech that is coming much more common, but in the energy industry, No in the container shipping industry? No. If you’re a sculptor of, if you’re a classical marbles sculptor. No, but if you’re a digital artist and if you’re in tech, A lot of innovation is happening at that
[00:05:17] Nir Hindi: You mentioned the fact that artists don’t know business. And one of the things that you did is that you study computer science then art then an MBA. And I kind of wonder what do you think about adding a layer of artistic training in thinking not necessarily how to paint, but how to think about things into the MBA programs?
[00:05:45] John Maeda: There’s quite a few MBA programs that are pursuing that. Like, whether it’s like the popular ones, like Gail or Harvard business. To art schools or I’m creating MBAs as well, like California college of arts. And I’m sure in Europe I’ve seen that as well. But when you were describing that, you may be thinking about how it’s really good to be in one field because you learn it really well.
And so like my life has been split across three worlds, the technology side, the art side and the business side. I’m not good at any one of them. I am. Every day, learning something new. I missed in art, in design or in technology engineering or in business. I’m like, ah, I don’t have enough time to live three lives, but I have had the advantage that I’m a kind of bridge that can connect those three together and I would not give that up for anything. It’s been a real fun thing to be able to be a multi-lingual.
[00:06:48] Nir Hindi: Yeah. First of all, I think you are a very humble person. Uh, your awards, indicates that you are doing great, great things in intersections of those disciplines. So, you know, a few days ago
I published a survey in the LinkedIn and one of the questions that I asked. Could Leonardo Da Vinci find a job in the 21st century work environment? Is a generalist. It sit in so many intersections. And I kind of want to ask you is as a generalist, it sit in these intersection why it’s, how the, for the generalist to actually find this place.
And if we have, uh, among us low, the type of thinking, can they find a place in this job in.
[00:07:33] John Maeda: Well, when we think about a liberal arts education, which is, um, more of a humanities, social science, that’s a very popular major. And I think many people would argue that it’s very robust, that a general critical thinker can do well in this economy.
I think that, uh, a great engineer, can you get a job, but an engineer who can do things like an artist or designer. Uh, they’re very few of them, but they’re highly employable. They’re called front-end engineers. People that are unusual because they can take the surface of this screen or your phone screen and do wonderful, magical things that no engineer could do and no artists or designer could do.
So I think that people who are generalists are in demand. It’s just that they have to find their way to that job because it’s not listed in, um, bold type or
[00:08:36] Nir Hindi: so, you know, you have experience working with a lot of peoples and you speak a lot about leadership and I want to speak with you about leadership.
What would you recommend a manager that actually, or a leader that meet this generalist that not necessarily are good at or excellent in one thing, but actually good at.
[00:08:55] John Maeda: Yeah, anyone who’s good at many things has a potential to be a good manager because they have a diverse set of thinking skills. And when you’re leading a team, the team members are generally very different from each other.
It’d be someone is more abstract or someone is more concrete or someone really is chaotic. And someone who carries different kinds of way of thinking can listen to. To the person who is different, contrast that with someone who can only work a certain way. I know anyone on this podcast knows of a boss who only thinks a certain way.
And if you don’t think their way and the U S we say, you, you get on the highway, you’re gone. So I think good, good managers, good leaders tend to be broad thinkers because they need to adapt to many kinds of.
[00:09:51] Nir Hindi: There is a kind of a certain assumption that we already have the generalist in the company.
And most of the time at the bottom of the pyramid, what you need is executor’s for those generalists, it’s much harder to get into the system. So I wonder from a manager that is not necessarily generalist by herself, what she can do. Well, what will, what will you tell her to look at when meeting generalists in a job
[00:10:23] John Maeda: Well, it depends. I mean, the interesting thing about the pandemic is it’s made supply chain management, a hot topic. And the thing you learned about supply chain management is it’s a way to optimize delivery of something from point a to point B optimization means reduce weight. Optimization means it arrives at point a at time X and it gets to 0.8 0.1 at time X plus one.
And so everything is plotted out perfectly. The problem with supply chain optimization is that if something is wrong in between, then the whole supply chain breaks down. So what experts are all saying is that we need more redundancy in the supply chain. We need more kinds of. The ability to correct from errors, which costs money, which adds a waste to the system.
It’s not optimized, but it’s optimized for resilience. So I think anyone who is a generalist helps resilience because they can play different roles. Anyone who’s too much of a specialist in this new economy needs to know how to work with other kinds of people. Otherwise they will make the system more.
Uh, less resilient.
[00:11:44] Nir Hindi: And that’s what you do today? No, around the
[00:11:47] John Maeda: resiliency thing I do today, I, my whole spaces, resilience at the country scale at the company scale at the individual scale, it’s been entirely humbling because I’ve known nothing about it and had to learn very quickly. And I had no idea that how dangerous the world really is.
When you say about how we live every day and we’re still alive, it’s pretty amazing.
[00:12:17] Nir Hindi: You know, I wanted to also speak with you about the concept of humanisit-technologist that you talk about. What
does it mean?
[00:12:27] John Maeda: Well, that is a thought I had in the nineties, in the nineties, I was at MIT and I felt that at MIT technology was the most important.
That’s cause MIT, the T stands for technology surprise, and I wanted a way to center myself around not technology, but how the human part is the only part that matters. So in the nineties, I declared myself as a humanist technologists. So one of the things about the human impact of technologies, I think today in 2021, it’s very common for many technologists who want to be humanist technologists.
So it’s kind of nice. I like how the world’s become much more, trying to be more human in the technology world.
[00:13:15] Nir Hindi: And what is the role of art in that developing these humanist technologies?
[00:13:20] John Maeda: Uh, I think the role of. If at all, there’s a world of art education. There’s the art market and there’s just people making art.
Maybe you think of the world of the art market. It’s about what the market wants. So it has nothing to do with whether it’s human or non-human put that in another, another bin in the world of art education. It’s a very human, but it’s very low technology. So it’s like humanism forever, which is important to have in the world, because then it will be preserved.
When you think about art that doesn’t fit education or commerce. There are people who are just experimenting. And when you look at the artists online who are experimenting, I think that they are able to exhibit this kind of humanist, technologist feeling. They’re mastering technology. They’re expressing themselves for no commercial gain or no education and blah, blah, blah.
So I love visiting, uh, the, the online world. I find new people all the time. Uh, I love this NFT boom, which is part commerce, part timing, part, everything. And to see that people are curious to express in technology in 2018.
[00:14:41] Nir Hindi: So, where do you go when you want to discover new art? Oh,
[00:14:44] John Maeda: I visit the feeds of different people that I find interesting.
I was lucky in the nineties to be at this intersection of computer science and visual art. And so the, the graduate students that I worked with, they’re doing amazing things and their students are all doing amazing things and everyone they hang out with does amazing things. So I just. I like stocks them all kind of like, what, what is that?
What is that? What is that? And, um, I’m glad to be able to understand the, um,
[00:15:16] Nir Hindi: I think it’s a great moment to mention, to listeners to check your Twitter account. It’s very poetic. You’re famous for articulating thoughts. In very few words, one of the aspects that you, you also relate that to is the world of startups and entrepreneurs.
And in 2014, you joined as a design partner to the famous venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins in Silicon valley. And in your website, you say that you fell in love with startup. Why, what made you fall in love?
[00:15:52] John Maeda: I didn’t understand how they exist. I. I didn’t understand the whole sequence, the series, a series B series C series D.
It sounded so foreign. I thought, is it a vitamin vitamin B vitamin C oh, it’s money. It’s money dropped into the system, like a video game for the company to get to continue. And the fact that they were betting on an idea and betting on a team, it felt very different than art, which is much less team-oriented, but it was very simple.
Because it was always about risk, risk, and reward. And so startup to me represents the ability for a team to take a risk, to do something almost usually always impossible. So I think that is something I fell in love with. It was different than seeing art get made.
[00:16:47] Nir Hindi: And what was your goal as a design partner?
What does it mean? Oh, well, there’s many, there’s many design partners. Now they work with the companies that the venture capital firm funds to improve their design function in relationship to product and engineering, they help recruiting. They help advising, um, they’re basically like a coach available from the VC and what I was doing it, it was still kind of new, but now it’s quite much.
I definitely can’t do what everyone else is doing there right now. I think I’m a good starter.
That’s very important, but, but, you know, what’s interest me to hear from you. What do you think made this change that suddenly venture capital firms understood that they need design partners among the financial operation industry experts?
[00:17:45] John Maeda: Well, it was mainly that startups needed people from the. Because if for a long time, nobody needed a computer for a long time. A computer was a box on your desk and nobody used it. You were embarrassed to have a computer, but after 2009, when the iPhone blew up, everybody began to have a computer nerds.
Weren’t the only ones who had computers. And if you’re not a nerd, you don’t like to type commands into the little terminal window you want to use. Make it easy for yourself. So the user experience boom happened because of the consumerization of computing and many companies were not prepared for this.
They were used to, it’s called, RTFM read the bleeping manual, figure it out, get smart. That was the old way. But now it’s like, if like the Kardashians are using the app, they, they are super intelligent family, but they would prefer it to be easier to use. Just like anybody would, so the demand increased for easier to use application.
And that’s why design became important.
[00:18:55] Nir Hindi: One time I read an article and the main idea behind it was that entrepreneurs are the artists of the business world. And it spoke about the relationship between entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs and artists. And you work with both for many, many years. Uh, and now.
And interesting. And you already started to kind of speak about one similarity, risk and reward. Then when I read your book, I think it was the law of simplicity. Um, it inspired me to write an article about the similarities between artists and entrepreneurs. I really liked how you spoke about the fact that you need to roll your sleeves and go into the house work.
And there were many things that a similar, and I’m, I’m interested now that. I have been in these worlds for many years. What are some similarities that you see or differences that you see between entrepreneurs and artists beside the risk and reward, which I think it’s fairly relevant.
[00:19:51] John Maeda: It’s true.
I have lived longer than I did 20 years ago, so I I’ve, I’ve known different people for longer. I thought that was so I was like, whoa, are you right? But a lot of time with pure artists spend a lot of time with pure business people. Oh, interesting. I never thought about that. Anything I said in the past, I believe is terribly incorrect.
So I have to go look it back. Like what I said before, um, in 2021, I do believe that a classical artist is very different than classical entrepreneur. And that the stakes are much lower for an artist. The sticks are much higher for a, an entrepreneur in one sense, but the artists, the stakes are higher for their own personal wellbeing, their psychological wellbeing.
They are putting their psychological wellbeing on the line in a vulnerable, vulnerable way. It’s very different than an entrepreneur. Not to Brooke and say, oh, my name is on the line. That’s very different than an artist making work. It’s very personal. When an artist is working when you’re making a business.
Yeah. You know, like people will make fun of you fail, but it’s very different than making art. So I have a deep respect for artists who make art. It’s very different than entrepreneurs who make companies.
[00:21:20] Nir Hindi: And in which way, data
[00:21:23] John Maeda: what’s similar is that they are well, I’ll go back to the risk.
Well, I won’t even go to the reward. The it’s the ability to take on risk because of one of two factors. One is you have nothing to lose. Uh, number two is you have everything to lose. And I think that people who want to bet go to the last. And people who are just sort of like young and audacious go to the former and both patterns are the same.
They’re taking on risk. And it’s not that they’re afraid. They’re not, they’re not, they are not afraid. They all have to be courageous in some way, but slightly, slightly.
[00:22:09] Nir Hindi: While you were in a cleaner Perkins, you also launched the design in tech report.
Um, and for me, one astonishing data point was that at least the first one, the 20% of the back then global unicorns had co-founders or founders that came from creative disciplines. And if creative backgrounds can build such strong companies, why we are still biased toward these profiles when they come to raise money when they come to build companies.
[00:22:40] John Maeda: Oh, uh, I think the simple answer is that those creative people had also become hybrids. They were creative people slash business people, or they were creative people slash engineers. I think that’s, what’s special about those people. So if you show up and like, Hey, I have a degree in sculpture fund my company, it’s highly unlikely because they don’t have the ability to build a culture of a technology.
That’s a difference. And
[00:23:08] Nir Hindi: one of the things that they kind of happen, I remember that I listened to an interview with Brian Chesky, um, and he spoke about how the fact that he actually had the design degree was difficult for him to raise funds at the beginning. When they worked on Airbnb, then you were.
Probably a part of the former life is the president of the old island school of design, actually the school where a Brian Chesky and Joe Gabia studied. And if, if at all, which kind of, it makes the question, what makes creative profile potential entrepreneurs beside the fact that they have the business.
[00:23:51] John Maeda: Well, yeah. Well, I think that. Well, there’s always going to be a bias against people are creative because it means they’re risky. So I think that’s, you have to accept that if you want to, if you, if you studied accounting instead or finance, you are low risk to give money to. So if you want to be a low risk profile, just study finance, it’s easy.
If you want a high risk profile, then you know, if you have an arts background, that’s a high risk profile. I think it’s important to note though. Both Brian and Joe share with me how they learn business by doing the PR and business for the basketball team. I say this because most people who’ve studied something.
If they engage in clubs like extracurricular to their studying, the data shows that students who don’t spend time in classes and spend time in clubs. Whether it’s sports or like, you know, play or any kind of like extra club, they are the ones who become successful. So if I were to rewind this perception around and creative people, if you’re a creative person who is an extrovert and who love is networking with other people who are not in the creative space, uh, you love interesting problems, then you’re a low risk to be invested.
Does that make sense? It’s like if you’re a pure creative person who just wants to paint and close the door, you will get no money. No one will invest in your idea.
[00:25:24] Nir Hindi: So now that you said that it’s kind of made me think about the first question that I asked you about generalist and actually maybe how maybe these clubs actually allows you to experiment with different disciplines.
Not necessarily studying them in depth, but definitely engaging. They experience.
[00:25:45] John Maeda: Yeah, no, there’s there’s data that showed something like 80 something percent of entrepreneurs engaged in what’s called extracurricular. So you can be a finance major and you’re in clubs and you’re now in drama club. So now you’re more basically to your point more welfare.
[00:26:03] Nir Hindi: And I wonder what, what is the one thing that you learned at your time at RISD that maybe surprised you about these business? as, as the president of the school, if there is something that surprised you, a learning about students,
[00:26:20] John Maeda: Oh,
[00:26:22] Nir Hindi: because you see like very creative people raise these a very respected school for design out in the us.
[00:26:31] John Maeda: Well, two things, you know, when I joined, I heard that the students would move in. And one day with their parents coming in cars from all over the United States and they would line up for blocks and blocks. And I was like, wow, what happens? Well, we moved them into the dorms. I said, oh, I want to do that. So I showed up in a t-shirt and like, I’m ready.
And that was moving the students in it was great. And then I would talk to them and the parents will always say, You’re the president and the really welcome. And I would say like, so why are you sending your, your son or daughter here? And nine times out of 10, they would say, well, not to be a designer or an artist to be an innovator.
And I noticed this over and over number one. And number two, I noticed that people who’ve been creative all their lives. They are constrained by a normal education. Maybe art class in the United States is like half an hour, a month or something. So once you’re in a real art school environment, it’s 24 7 art.
I noticed that the students were the happiest they could ever be in life. It’s like, you know, like a horse and the horses in a small pen and suddenly they can roam the countryside. So going back to your point about, you know, stereotypes of artists, I would always tell everybody. That, uh, because I would go to move in and I would show up in shorts and a t-shirt and it would all be done and I’m sweaty and I’m like leaving.
And, uh, we would, um, have the, the city police we’d hire them to manage the kind of traffic. And so I was leaving and then one of the police men says, Hey, you know, yes, Are you as a president? And I said, yes, sir. And he said, you know, you know, I’ve got to tell you, like on any given evening, we are breaking up parties like parties at brown or Providence college, or all the local colleges were breaking up parties all the time.
We never break up parties at your school. Instead we drive around at night and we see all the lights of your building on at 4:00 AM. What are they doing? And I said, well, there they’re the happiest they’ve ever been to get, to make work with people who are like-minded and who loved to make work. And that’s what they’re doing.
And they were like, wow. So it changed this idea that creative people are not hardworking. It showed how you give them a chance they’ll work harder than anyone else.
[00:29:08] Nir Hindi: So I want to ask you a question and go back to something you mentioned, because you said that art is something that is being done alone, but when you think about it, even Picasso had the bandit, the Picasso, he needed this influence and to walk with Brock next to each other in order to create.
And you just mentioned that those students, these students kind of work. Until 4:00 AM or 5:00 AM all night next to each other. So how do you look at collaboration
[00:29:39] John Maeda: over here? Well, I, I have a way when people ask me this question, I say, well, you know, software engineers tend to be introverts.
Is it. Tend to be introverts too, but they like to introvert together.
So that’s her question? Well, they may not want to team, but they want to be together and they see the value of being together to learn together. It’s a bit
[00:30:06] Nir Hindi: different. It’s interesting that you said that the parents told you that I want my kid to be an innovator. That’s why I send them to an art and design school, which is a bit surprising for me because that parents associate art in design with innovation.
Why is that?
[00:30:23] John Maeda: Oh, well I think, um, I think we’re lucky to have people like Brian and Joe to make Airbnb who really kind of like popularized this idea that you can innovate in business. Like in culture. I mean, Airbnb is like a culture technology company. So I think that was a big part of it. And also in the, in the nineties, everything apple has done to elevate this idea of creativity and commerce.
So I think some parents were able to see it that way. But I got to tell you, like, um, I remember I was, um, I was in a hotel lobby. That’s kind of fancy and I was working in the lobby and I could hear people walking around and there’s, it was all marble with lights chandelier’s and you know, it’s kind of fancy.
And then I could hear this, um, this young woman, maybe she’s like eight years old, and then she’s saying. You know, mommy, mommy, come look, come look. And the mother’s like, come on, let’s go. We have to go. We have to go. We have to go. I was looking at her and he said, my mama look, the chandelier is light. You know, it hits this thing and it’s dispersed all over the S this beautiful marble.
It’s so beautiful, mommy. And she’s like, I’ll come up and we have to go. We have to go is to go. If I was thinking this young woman has the gift, has the gift to see it. And so that’s, it’s a gift. It’s also a kind of curse because most people will not understand what she’s seeing. And so I think that some parents are able to see that as the ability to see around corners and some parents will see it as, oh, you don’t get it.
So some, the parents I met were the ones who had students who were like, If they could see that as a positive thing,
[00:32:10] Nir Hindi: you know, you mentioned that, um, maybe it’s not the accurate number, but maybe you get half an hour, a month in outs in the U S system. And it’s leads me to the questions about the movement.
From stem to steam from science, technology, engineering, and math to science, technology, engineering, and math and movement, that you were a big part of it to bring out into the studies. And you were saying an overhead I quote art and design are positioned to transform our economy in the 21st century like science and technology did in the last sentence.
[00:32:50] John Maeda: Yeah, well, that’s actually how I felt the year before I joined RISD actually, because I had seen the power of technology post-World war II, and I was wondering along this humanist technology line, how could that change? How could another university reposition art and design the way that MIT did with technology?
That’s why I joined and I remember I spent three years in the us Congress lobbying for stem. And today Steve was a very common acronym, so excited to have been a little
[00:33:24] Nir Hindi: part of that. First of all, congratulations, it became so Komen.
[00:33:29] John Maeda: Well, the best thing that would be in common is, uh, I have nothing to do with it now.
[00:33:35] Nir Hindi: why you found the day important to take it? Why did you find it important to spend three years of your time in the Congress to promote the science.
[00:33:45] John Maeda: Well, I believed in it and I still believe in it. Um, but going back to, how would I measure success as I measure success as has it happened and I have nothing to do with it.
And so I look at things that I’ve done in the past. You were asking like, you, you, you come across as someone who’s done some stuff, but you don’t seem to notice it. And it’s because, um, do you know that I’m saying by, uh, the director, uh, India. Uh, from Birdman,
[00:34:15] Nir Hindi: no, Shannon,
[00:34:17] John Maeda: please. talking about his father and how his father, uh, really kinda ingrained in him this notion of success.
And it was something like, if you feel success, you must spit it out. Like it’s poisoned. And I love it. It’s like, I was like, oh yeah, that’s how I feel. So I feel like it’s poison because once you feel. It’s like you did something it’s, it’s going to prevent you from, from finding something more. So for me, I feel lucky to touch a lot of things and I want to touch more things.
And the more time I spend remembering them, the more time I stay
[00:35:00] Nir Hindi: stuck in, it’s very, very interesting, this common that you just said, because you know, what I feel is that artists. At least that’s what I saw is that every time they succeed, they move to the next thing because they are kind of avoiding success because it means that then they will stay the same and staying the same is not good for some people, not everyone.
Right. I’m talking generally it. The art space. It’s a space that push you to be original because otherwise you are not having a value in a way in the market. If I would say that I remember Miro, eh, when Miro couldn’t understand why his painting are being sold for so much money. So. He started to paint on stones and bones.
And there was a period that he said, I want to murder the painting in kind of all the time moved to the next thing to the next thing. Next experiments. Artist, as you just said, kind of see success. Yes. It’s important for them to have success in order to be able to continue doing what they love, but it doesn’t mean to do the same thing for the rest of the.
[00:36:19] John Maeda: No, I’m so glad I get to speak with you today NIR it’s like a, you’re reminding me how there’s a kind of hope that there’s an original thought out there. And there’s a discovery that there is no original thought out there, but it’s sort of like my friend, he calls it the, the, the rubber ladder of success.
You know, you keep pulling and pulling. You’re looking at the desire to try and find it, to find the original that I think, uh, Look for hope for it’s very human it’s irrational, you
[00:36:53] Nir Hindi: know, get out of this then said out at these, the highest form of hope. So,
[00:36:58] John Maeda: whoa, that’s a, that’s a deep one. Well, I think that because you’re the, you’re The Artian um, there, I think every field has their wonderful quotes, whether it’s art or design or science or business or whatever, I think it’s kind of a, a religion of hope.
Curiosity. It’s a good.
[00:37:21] Nir Hindi: So it leads me to the last question, because you also speak a lot about the leadership and you also wrote a book about leadership, redesigning leadership, and you made it in a visual that you have the traditional leadership and the creative leadership. What is the different between.
Traditional leadership at creative leadership. Why do we need creative leadership? Wow. I haven’t thought about
[00:37:45] John Maeda: this in a long time. I’m
[00:37:47] Nir Hindi: taking you Becky time with my questions.
[00:37:49] John Maeda: I don’t, I don’t remember that person. Um, but I, I will bring them out of the closet cause I have to yes, yes. To answer your question, sort of, um, I think I, I implicitly.
Heard or knew that the computational era was happening that change radical change, whether it’s pandemics viruses, vaccines, CRISPR, VR, AR I’ve been living in this world of technology for so long that I know that change has been so rapid and it classical leader was a popular way to live as a leader when there was very little change.
Like next 10 years, it’s going to be the same next 20 years. It’s going to be the same in the technology era. Everything is not the same the next year, or even like a half a year. So the creative leader is much more agile. They’re more open to change. They’re able to adapt. They are not necessarily more humble, but they understand that they don’t have all the data.
And the only way to get data. So I think of the classical leader, as someone who doesn’t know that technology is transforming our world, but a creative leader is ready for this new digitally transformed world.
[00:39:09] Nir Hindi: You just said, in order to get the data you need to listen. And some of the business leader will say, we don’t need to listen.
We just need to collect the data from all the channels that we have and analyze them
[00:39:22] John Maeda: well. So I spent six years writing the how to speak machine. I spent six years trying to understand technology and what I finally understood. I took everything I learned about in Silicon valley and all the business world stuff that I’ve been doing.
And I realized this technology stuff is strange. It’s like an alien life form. David Bowie said this about the internet in 1999. Amazing
[00:39:48] Nir Hindi: video.
[00:39:48] John Maeda: Amazing. So I took that inspiration to describe the alien. The alien is. Larger than anything we could ever imagine. The alien never gets tired. Like a human man.
The alien can show up in your living room, half finished and it’ll finish in your living room. It’ll get incomplete and then grow. The alien can have like a wire to listen to what’s happening in the Archon studio. Right now. This new technology is so different than our previous. That the leader who said that before is no longer going to be around because they don’t know how to speak machine.
[00:40:33] Nir Hindi: It’s the latest book that is available on Amazon and we will make sure to add it to the show notes.
[00:40:41] John Maeda: Wow. Thank you. Um, well, it’s, it’s a book that I didn’t have any time to talk about, but I think about it now. It’s like everything I know about technology is in the. People always ask like, oh, how does a cloud worker, how does AI work?
No, it’s in there, but I wrote it for myself because I didn’t understand it myself. And, you know, I think, oh, I remember now I was with an artist art teacher. We’d like to art education. And, um, I used to visit a lot of, uh, art teachers because I was advocating for esteem. And so I talked to so many art teachers, so somebody art teachers hated.
They’re like, ah, I don’t need any stem. Stem is bad, but some would be like, oh, thank goodness. You’re talking about steam because we need budget from our art class. Anyways, I was at one event and there was an art teacher, pulled me aside and wanted to talk to me. I said, oh, what is it? What is it? What is it?
He said, you know, if it’s one thing I learned about teaching art is what. You teach students are some of them try to make what you tell them to make. And I have been teaching it for like 30 years now. And I began looking at all the art my students made, and I realized the art that set apart the best students is it was never about like what it looked like or felt like it was the result of the student’s pursuit to understand something and every kind of art where an artist tries to understand some.
It’s very different than an artist making something. So to me, that book is some people hate it. Cause like, what does it say? It wasn’t for them. It was for me. And through it, I’ve learned what David Bowie described and I feel more empowered to make better business decisions today than I ever did. You know, five, 10 years ago, making things helps you learn things.
And I think artists know. And that’s why I think your podcast is important because it reminds ourselves that consuming is easy. Creating is not whether you’re making a question or making a solution so much harder.
[00:42:56] Nir Hindi: John, I think there is no better way to end this podcast with this inspiration from you, um, that we need to remember.
Yeah. Consume it. It’s easy. Creating is difficult. So I will just have to say. Thank you very much. Uh, really I know that you’re a very busy person and I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with
[00:43:21] John Maeda: me so I can NIR, I didn’t know all these things that you’re describing. So I’m really happy to thank you.
[00:43:27] Nir Hindi: Great. Thanks to.