How Mick Jagger and the mountains inspired my next chapter.

The gig: helping design thinkers become leaders with an unforgettable experience.

Photo: Zach Dischner via Creative Commons.

I recently came across a clever nugget on performance. Rock writer Rich Cohen had just finished a book after covering the Rolling Stones for decades, and in the Travels in Music podcast he mused about the foundation for the Stones’ legacy of unforgettable gigs.

His theory: three elements make for a great show: location, venue and content.

Location: pick a destination city. Play where people really want to be.

Venue: same, with conditions. A mediocre venue in a great city = dud. A fantastic venue in a dud city’s a little better. A great venue in a phenomenal city: you have a winner.

Content: that’s cake. However, no matter who you are or what your style, you never play a spectacle, stadium-style show in a smaller club. The inverse also holds true.

It’s a simple structure for organizing an unforgettable experience. As an experience designer, I’ve come across many similar structures. Nearly every creative industry has its own: theater, architecture, sound design, digital product development, etc.

The Stones’ structure is simple and relatable. So I’m stealing this for my own next chapter.

I’ve been plotting a series of design thinking workshops. But I’m also nagged by the limitations of many design workshops and conferences, where one of those three elements is usually off.

Ironically, many design thinking workshops seem to suffer from a lack of design thinking.*

Chalet Workshop is an experiment in inspired design thinking and collaboration, tucked away in Boulder, Colorado. I’m doing this to help design thinkers grow into leaders. And I’m designing it as the design retreat I’ve always wanted to participate in.

Location: foothills of the Rockies. Sunshine, snow, food, beer.

Venue: Colorado Chautauqua. It’s rustic, intimate, and cozy. Hiking, cabins, all inside a National Historic Landmark.

Content is star of the show. I’m sharing strategies and tactics that have fueled innovation initiatives for Domino’s, Spotify, American Express, Turkish Airlines, Microsoft, Aspen Dental and All informed by my consultant life; my six years at CP+B (VP/Director of Experience Design); and my experiences as founder of Carbon IQ, San Francisco’s first user experience consultancy.

Along the way I’ve helped good designers and strategists become great. I’m proud to play a role in their growth.

My ask: find that person in your organization who needs to level up as a strategist, UX designer or creative. Perhaps they just need one nudge to move from good to great. And send them my way.

April 5–6: Map the Experience: See the System, Change the System. Make your customer experience visible and create alignments that lead to change.

May 1–3: Love Your Unspoken Truths. Design for Massive Change. Find the issues that matter, devise impactful ideas and implement your vision.

Each session will be unforgettable. That’s how we experience designers roll.

*More concerning: the growing cash-and-carry model trend in design education. Pay the bill, and in 10 weeks voila, you’re a UX designer. Another topic for another day.