About Brian Solis
Brian Solis is a world-renowned digital anthropologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author. Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on businesses, marketing and culture. His research, talks and books help executives and also everyday people better understand the relationship between the evolution of technology and its impact on business and society, and the role we play in it.
Brian previously joined us on Voices of CX: Season 2, talking about his book ‘X: Where Experience Meets Design’. Now he’s back to talk about his newest book, ‘Lifescale: How to live a more Creative, Productive and Happy life’.
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Brian Solis is a world-renowned digital anthropologist, keynote speaker and best-selling author.
Solis has studied and influence the effects of emerging technology on businesses, marketing and culture. His research, talks and books help executives and also everyday people better understand the relationship between the evolution of technology and its impact on business and society, and also the role we play in it.
Brian previously joined us on season two talking about his book X Where Experience Meets Design, and now he’s back to talk about his newest book, Life Scale, How to Live a More Creative, Productive and Happy Life.
Mary: Hi, Brian.
Brian: Well, hello, hello. It’s awesome to be back any opportunity to hang out with you in the real world or on a computer? I will take it.
Mary: Our first guest is officially back for a second round, so there you go. Starting something new here with you right now today.
Brian: Oh, see, there we go. Hey everybody. Now this is the worst it’ll get. You can only get better from here.
Mary: So last time you were here, you talked about your Book X: Where Experience Meets Design, and that was a very much focused on customer experience, on designing experiences and all of those things, right?
Brian: No, I mean, what? What are you talking about? Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And it also it also delved into the idea of experience architecture and got, I don’t want to say esoteric, but I think it was really about stoking the imagination to think about if you had to design experiences, whether it was customer experiences
or user experiences or brand experiences or service experiences, in the same vein as how Walt Disney might approach a motion picture or a theme park, and it was a real celebration of imagination or, in that case, Imagineering. And in fact, that I think the book is now really starting to hit its stride.
And just as it did, I went and threw a curveball in my own life by completely writing about something different.
Mary: Yeah, this is your first non-business book, isn’t it?
Brian: It is, and I I didn’t….
Mary: You didn’t plan it, did you?
Brian: No, I was actually trying to write another book and-
Mary: OK, wait, so I’ve heard you say this. What book were you trying to write?
Brian: I haven’t said yet because…
Mary: You want to go back to it at some point?
Brian: I was still trying to get back to it when I was trying to solve the problem that I’m sure we’re going to talk about, and then ended up realizing that what I had stumbled on something that needed to be written. And so I took a break to chase it and to bring it to life.
Mary: Now, that couldn’t have been easy. Putting that project on hold and accepting that coming to terms with that?
Brian: No, no. I mean, for all those who are probably wondering what we’re talking about, I have a new book out and it’s called it’s called Life Scale: How to Live, a More Creative, Productive and Happy life, and it’s a book that is the result of failing on another book.
And so to answer your question, it wasn’t just that. It was the realization, a multi-year realization that I had been on a completely different path than I had thought or that I was on. And that affected everything about who I was, where I was, what I stood for or what I thought I stood for.
It just rocked me to the core of my very being. So, it was very difficult. And at the same time, it’s what had to happen. I don’t know what would have happened a few years later if I had hadn’t had that realization.
So in many ways it was it was a blessing too.
Mary: So Life Scale is about finding ways to bring back a bit of creativity in our lives. Learning to stop procrastinating, stop being distracted by so much digital and just recovering our values, right?
Brian: I think that’s part of it. Certainly creativity. There’s a lot of ways to get to the root of the problem. The problem is, and then I’ll answer the question, the problem is, is that I am a proponent and, as you know, an apologist even for all things tech and have spent the better part of
20 years… actually, not the better part, all of, all of 20 years studying it, using it, writing research and reports about it, experimenting with it, finding new markets and opportunities, pioneering or championing some of those markets. Certainly, having launched a lot of or advised a lot of the technologies that have become the stimulant or the detractors in
our lives. But the thing that I’m a champion for is actually understanding the relationship that they have with us. So our bodies, our brains, our psyche, everything about it. I set out to understand what are all of these things doing to us?
And then also, how is that affecting the decisions we make in life, how we work, how we live, how we love? It turns out that not only does technology without it being checked or manage, not only does it have incredibly negative effects on us. It also has negative effects on our livelihoods, and none of that is necessarily realized because it’s normal that we’re moving, reacting or running around and we’re multitasking and we’ve got 1000 browsers tabs open all the time.
Too many text messages here and there. But all of that stuff whittles away at who you thought you were. And ultimately, if without being addressed, send you so far off your center down a path that we don’t even realize that we’re on.
And something like in my case, where you fail to deliver a book or you have a failing marriage or you have a failing friendships and relationships all across the board. Something has to break, and that’s what happened in my world to snap up and say, Whoa, what’s going on?
Then go through this journey of sort of reevaluating everything, including my relationship with technology and then building on it productively creativity. And I know it’s a long answer, but creativity was the thing that I found to be the champion of all good things because creativity and happiness are intertwined.
And I don’t mean creativity like, Hey, get out of paintbrush and let’s go do the Mona Lisa here. I just mean, creative thinking, creative approaches. Imagination. Anything that breaks today’s behaviors and habits. And then if you start to channel that creativity, more and more, will you?
That leads to all kinds of great things, like better work, better conversations, better relationships and ultimately can get down the path towards things like innovation.
Mary: Let me ask you something, do you feel like the generation that’s up-and-coming, I would say that people refer to them as Gen Z years, right? Do you think they almost celebrate this failure that comes from being addicted to technology?
Like, I tend to see this on the internet where people are like, Oh, I’m alone. Oh, I’m depressed. Oh yeah, same. And it’s almost become not only normalized, but it’s almost become a thing of envy where people are proud that they’re not productive.
People are proud that they’ve, you know, they’re lonely and that they can’t get out there and that they can’t make relationships work. Do you think that’s part of the problem?
Brian: Well, first of all, I just wanted to commend you on your vocal impression of […]
Mary: I’m really good at voices, super talented in that sense.
Brian: So good, especially the “same”. Oh my goodness. So I got to tell you that that observation is huge. Imagine if many parents or psychologists or therapists had that same powerful observation. We’d be so much further along than we are today.
So the interesting thing is that you have parents, teachers, you know, people that like me who are not Gen Z or Gen Y, who actually know what it was like to live an analog-first life and then learned every bit and changed every bit as a result of technology.
Now you have this generation or these generations that actually don’t know anything other than this. So you’re right, to them these feelings of isolation or distraction or even depression, lower self-esteem, for example, these are normal aspects to them.
Anxiety is normal to them, and the disconnect is that the previous generations don’t even know that they’re feeling those things yet, either. So the amount of understanding and empathy and then the resulting solutions that exist or don’t exist, I should say, are prevalent as a result of that.
So when I was when I was going through this exercise, Life Scale, which is, you know, the name of the book ended up also becoming a thing that, I wanted to come up with a name that I felt like we could turn it into a verb, so that I needed to Life Scale.
But my life scale journey is going to be different than that of a 13-year-old. And that I think what I realized, though, it’s still the same thing. We’re all we’re all getting to the same wrong place, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Once you go through the life scale journey where you actually get back to things like, what does happiness look like? What does success look like on my terms? Where do I want to go, not just beholden to the standards of the generations before me, but where do I want to go?
And then how do I use technology? But then everything else that helps to help me achieve these, this vision based on what I stand for based on my purpose and my values and my mission. And so the book itself actually forces you to get back to that core so that then we can live life with much more
intention. And that’s the thing about technology is it sort of robs you of that, whereas we’re living our lives based on the standards of success for the generations and standards of happiness for the generations before us. Today’s youth is living life based on the standards that they see on their small screens.
So even if someone says they’re living their best life, what’s happening when they’re not on the device? Is that really their best life? And if not, you know, then it’s not just fear of missing out, it’s something worse. It’s like this life that we push upon people that isn’t even real, and then therefore they feel the way
that they do and then we feel the way that we do because we’re not actually living the life that we say we’re living. There’s a lot, there’s a lot here. And what it all comes down to is taking a step back and asking what what’s important to me?
Why am I alive? Am I where I want to be and where do I want to be? And just going through the life scale exercise of actually putting your life and your and your happiness and everything about it on a trajectory to get to where you need to go.
And creativity just happens to be this really powerful tool that helps you get from step to step.
Mary: I’m going to put a customer experience spin on this really quick, just because it is a customer experience podcast, but I’m sitting here thinking, you know, it started a while ago where people started talking about customer experience for the first time, and it took a while for the market to get on board.
And then, you know, the market got on board and then people started talking about employee experience and how important it is for the employees to be stimulated and encouraged in their jobs and everything. And it seems like we’re now entering a stage where people are looking within.
Because I’m a strong believer that there’s no such thing as a company like there’s no such thing as B2B. It’s always people talking to other people. So when it comes to people, if you’re not happy, if you’re not fulfilled, if you’re not living your best life, then how can you possibly want to provide your
customers, the people who are coming to you with a good experience? So is it kind of looking at the root of all of that? So even in your book where you’re talking about, you know, design is this kind of designing behavior for our own lives?
Is it just turning the mirror in a bit and taking a good hard look at ourselves before we start looking at the outside?
Brian: I love the question. I actually believe that philosophy needs to be more involved in all aspects of our life and work, because these are the types of questions that without bias, we can actually achieve some really interesting answers, and in those answers, create new movements.
And I always say that experience value is in the eye of the beholder. Innovation is in the eye of the beholder. Experience is in the eye of the beholder. I often talk about customer experience as a possessive, so it’s the customer’s, apostrophe S, experience.
CX, to me, isn’t a strategy. It’s a design challenge. How do we design for someone who thinks and feels differently than today’s journey or engagement standards hold? I think that’s where the magic lies. So for example, if you look at Amazon Go stores, it’s essentially digitized shoplifting and it’s a magical experience and it breaks all of the standards of what a retail experience is supposed to be because it’s catering towards the either said or unsaid needs and expectations of a digital-first customer.
Just because a digital-first customer is in a real store doesn’t mean that they stop thinking like that. That digital brain doesn’t ever shut off, it’s rewired people. So to answer your question, when we think about this as a possessive, the customer’s experience we are designing for people, it’s just that those people have different behaviors and standards and norms and values and the people that we design the existing standards and platforms around.
So it’s a whole new opportunity. We just don’t allow ourselves to see it. Then the more we look at data, the more we apply machine learning or A.I. to that data where we identify patterns, we only see the patterns that our cognitive biases allow us to see and then sort of build on that.
And that sort of regulates us to more iteration than innovation or more invention even than innovation. And that’s where a lot of companies get it wrong. That’s why they use tech for the sake of tech. That’s why they’re always following all the shiny objects.
But when you really look at the human like you said, people, there’s real magic there. So when you’re designing an experience for someone else that takes incredible empathy, but also incredible imagination and creativity that we don’t actually allow ourselves to possess in our day to day workflow.
And a lot of that has to go, yeah, goes back to when we were children, we programed ourselves out of that creativity and that kind of imagination and that inventiveness when we started to get older and school became more linear and then jobs became more linear, and then that became more hierarchical.
So essentially, we had that creativity programed out of us. That’s what I’ve been arguing for going back. I mean, my entire book career. Every book has ways of challenging the conventions and standards around you so that you can allow yourself to think to experiment, to be contagious so that you can inspire those around you and break free
from the rigid thinking and behaviors that we all sort of grow over time because that was normal and life skills no different. Essentially, we’re architecting the experience of our own life while giving ourselves permission to say, Yeah, this is not OK.
What if? What if we could think differently? What if we could do things differently? So I guess it’s all the same thing.
Mary: Do you think – I mean, there are two for me, two very opposing views on what the future and technology mean for creativity. One is that technology is making us all into cattle. It’s making us, you know, like you said in your book, not even look up when we’re crossing a street and forcing governments to
Institute phone user lanes in the streets and stuff like that. So we’re all becoming blind and we’re all becoming robots when it comes to our behavior, almost living a digital life and not living our own lives.
But then there’s another part. A view, which is that technology is coming in to replace the tasks that are more manual or functional or, you know, step by step to allow humans to do what they do best, which is the creative nature, because that’s one thing that a machine could never substitute that creativity, that artistic vein.
Which one do you agree with? Do you agree with a little bit of both? Do you not agree with either? Where do you stand?
Brian: One of the secret motivations for me to become more creative was that my entire job is pattern recognition and sense-making. And, you know, even design thinking, right? You could essentially train algorithms to do that.
And I felt like if I could be threatened in my own career, in my line of work, then everybody can. I have a good friend who’s a radiologist and she has already started training herself in new medical fields that aren’t immediately threatened by AI machine learning.
Creativity is… I don’t think it’s ever been more important, and that creativity, that artistry, that thinking that has to supersede the machines right? And that is totally possible. But what happens is that we get fooled into thinking that we’re probably more creative and productive than we are just based on our everyday behaviors and routines.
And technology certainly fortifies that. But there’s two types of creativity, and I talk about it in the book is big see creativity and little creativity. Even just little creativity gives you enough of that drive. And that experimentation and just enough of those new behaviors and routines that put you on a different path of the cattle because you
are actually expressing yourself in far more unique ways. Whereas everybody on social media who has a filter or who stands in front of a picture of wings that’s painted on a wall, you if you have, you know, you are being expressive, but you aren’t necessarily being as individually creative as you could be.
Mary: Absolutely, absolutely.
Brian: I think that’s where the promises and so the book walks you through creative exercises to break you from that thinking. That technology kind of puts upon us like, yes, this picture looks amazing. You look amazing, but everybody looks amazing.
And when they don’t feel they look amazing or that they aren’t amazing, then they do crazier things. I did crazy research around the standards of beauty because of social media and Instagram and Snapchat, and even have Snapchat dysphoria or filter dysphoria where people are getting plastic surgery at young ages to look more like the
pictures that they’re posting, not how they really look. So there’s a lot of opportunity here to not only fix our own lives and make them even better than they’ve ever been, but also to inspire those around us to live their truly best life.
Mary: Who do you think is the right person to read this book? Like, who’s this book written for?
Brian: I hope it’s written for everybody. It’s the first time I’ve actually tried to write a book for everybody. You know, whether you’re a parent, whether you’re young, whether you’re a manager or an employee or student, whatever, whatever it is, we’re all struggling in our own way with our relationship with technology.
But also what’s happening behind the screen, what we see, what we do, what we share, what we don’t share, and those things are rivaling all of the foundations that life itself in that society itself are built upon.
So that’s why you see so much chaos, especially in politics and world views today is just because all of this stuff is out of check. I hope that whatever context you want to apply the Life Scale journey to,
so for example, I recently went back and reread Life Scale as if I were an experienced designer. So let’s just say I’m an old executive and I’m trying to reinvent the customer journey. Now that I know that people are so incredibly distracted and that they’re so incredibly anxious and that they’re so incredibly impatient, how would I reimagine
the life scale journey as a customer journey? And so you could apply that context to any number of scenarios. But first, it starts with you as a human being and applying life scaling to you.
Mary: Well, I can. I can witness firsthand that, you know, as just a person, as a human, it’s a book that I really gained a lot from reading and from watching your keynote and watching you talk about what you put into this book.
So I do recommend that people go out there and buy it, if not for professional improvement, which I think helps as well, because there’s a lot in there about avoiding distractions to be more productive. And I strongly believe that by increasing your creativity, you become a better employee.
You become a better executive, you become a better everything. When you think about it, you become a better parent and you become a better spouse. I do feel like it’s a book that can be applied to everyone, whatever their walk through life is.
So, here’s me telling our listeners to go out there and get Brian’s book life scale. Well, awesome. Thank you.
Brian: Thank you. Thank you and everybody, If you if you do read it, you can reach me at Brian Solis on pretty much all the platforms. And while that might sound ironic, I don’t champion abandoning tech. I championed actually using all of this stuff just with more intent and mindfulness and purpose.
And so if you do read it and it touches you, share your story online because I’m taking all of those stories and I’m sharing them with my networks because I want people to see that every day people find ways to improve their world.
Mary: Absolutely. So go out there, read the book and talk to Brian. Send him your questions. It’ll be great. Thanks, Brian, for coming. I really appreciate it.
Brian: Thank you, Mary.
Mary: Thank you for joining us on one more episode of Voices of CX podcast. This podcast is hosted and produced by Mary Drumond, edited and co-produced by Steve Berry. This podcast was brought to you by Worth X Discovery Your Worth at Worthix.com.