I first met Adrienne when I worked at Sabre, and from there, she went on to AT&T, and now at Southwest Airlines. She brings interesting insight into design thinking, and how we all might be just a little bit more human with each other.
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Read the full transcript below:
Tony: Friends, welcome to the podcast. As always, I'm your host, Tony Daussat, and I want to thank you for listening and before we get started, if you like the show, please do subscribe and leave a review because it really helps me out and gives the opportunity for more people to enjoy the content around this big old globe we live on. Now for this week I got the opportunity to talk shop with Adrienne Guillory from Sabre to AT&T to Southwest. She's full of life and knowledge and a joy to talk to and add some unique insight into design thinking. So with that, let's jump into the interview.
Tony: Adrienne Guillory!
Tony: How are you? I'm so glad that you're here.
Adrienne: I'm glad to be here Tony.
Tony: Thank you for taking the time out. You and I, we work at Sabre at the same time. I think you were there before I was, but we never actually worked together. The one memory I have of you there was like, we were getting shirts for usability day.
Tony: And you were passing them out and I was like, Hey.
Adrienne: Where they the black ones or the green ones?
Adrienne: Yes, those are my favorite. I love the green ones.
Tony: Anyway. So before we get into all the things. Tell me a little bit about your background, how you got here, what you do now, and all that.
Adrienne: So background. I accidentally found this field. So my degrees are in interdisciplinary studies because I wanted to be a teacher. I was working on my master's degree in human resources, very people focused. Um, but I started working for a temp agency and it was started at usability sciences. I didn't even know this field existed, so I was literally born into the field by happenstance. Um, I started as a usability analyst. Did that for a very long time. And then I went to Sabre where I got to meet all of y'all. Um, and at Sabre I stretched a lot. So what is user research? What should it be? Um, and started doing activities that eventually became kind of Design Thinking, right? We just called it human centered design. But then it became Design Thinking and then because of that kind of traction there, I went over to AT&T to build out or help build out their Design Thinking practice specifically - - What does research look like? What does project management look like? Like what does facilitation look like? Um, so I did that for a long time. Um, and then more recently, um, I transferred over to Southwest Airlines where I'm on their innovation and strategy.
Tony: And what is that, what are you doing there?
Adrienne: Oh my gosh, you saw on Linkedin - I didn't even put like a job title and just like, what am I doing? Um so- I've only been there a month, but basically I think my, my job title says something about human centered design discipline. So if we have a problem, how should we be looking at that? Do they need a design thinking workshop? Do they need a certain methodology? How are we going to structure that work? Who's going to do that work? Um, so it's everything I've been doing kind of on steroids.
Tony: What is the team liked there? What's the size of it?
Adrienne: So we are - i think we're like five or six of us, it's really, really small, small but mighty is what we like to say about ourselves - but it's really, you know, Southwest already has that very people centered focus, right? But we're still trying to figure out what does that look like 5, 10, 15 years in the future. How do we use the resources we have today to really reimagine what all of this is gone look like. And they call it human centered design at Southwest Airlines. Um, so we're really, all of our practices are based out of what is the need, what is the pain point, who is it? And then how do we design around it. My favorite part is a lot of my work is not even on the screen anymore.
Tony: Oh love that.
Adrienne: I'm in the airport watching people because it's not enough to just design this thing, especially in the airport environment- this new device, this new interface impacts everybody else. So we, in addition to kind of doing the discovery and the design work, we actually have a maker incubation piece as part of our program
Tony: What is that?
Adrienne: So let's look at concepts like Dual Door. So Dual Door is something Southwest Airlines was working on, which is basically how do we get people on and off the plane faster? So there's a second door on these planes. What if we just use that second door? Right? Great concept in theory and it's probably still going to be very effective. But what southwest does is, okay, well let's go test it. So let's borrow a few planes and see what this looks like at an airport. Let's watch our customers, let's watch how the staff has to now re accommodate for this different process and let's see what that looks like before we roll it out to everybody. So there's this incubation piece where we make it as real as possible. Um, another kind of example of that is at Southwest Airlines, or sorry, at Love Field, they put up these signs, digital wayfinding signs and it's great to have it there. But then how does that change how you, how people interact with agents? How does that change with how people interact with the airport? So they have this- A big piece of what we do is now this incubation space as well.
Tony: That is really cool.
Adrienne: I love it. I love because you know, we, we always worry about that. We can come up with all kinds of interfaces, but what happens in the world with the rest of the ecosystem, right? What changes are going to have to be made and how do we prepare people for that. So we get to do all of that
Tony: And of all places, like if you think of a place that has all the problems to be solved is the airport and its airlines-
Adrienne: Oh my gosh, and everything can happen and needs to happen literally in a matter of minutes, right? There's not. A lot of times when we think about retail, oh, that first deployment it wasn't quite right. We'll get into the next one. We don't have that kind of time. The airport, we have to get this right because there are so many people depending on us to get it right. So it's, it's amazing. It's amazing.
Tony: That is too cool. So you said design thinking, and on your linkedin because I stalked you- um, you were a facilitator for design thinking. So what is, let's start with what is design thinking to you?
Adrienne: Okay. So design thinking, as I mentioned, is an evolution of human centered design. And I say that because it's not new that we say - if you're going to design something, you should actually include the people who have to touch it. Right? So that part is not new. What is new, or different, better. I would say it's, it's now, it's not enough for designers and researchers to be a part of that process. You really need your user. You really need your stakeholders, internal stakeholders. You need development at the table ahead of time. You need everybody there from the beginning. Um, if for no other reason you need everybody bought in.
Adrienne: I need you to understand our customer pain points so that, you know, when it comes time to ideate and come up with a solution, it's less about what can Adrienne do and more about what does Tony need. And really, really looking at everything more holistically.
Tony: Making sure everyones on the same page too.
Adrienne: Absolutely. I mean, how many times have we run into, and let me go back.... So at, Sabre, I kinda stretched this way because at Sabre, I realized we had some issues where product managers weren't necessarily trained to be product managers the way I was trained in school, right? What all goes into that and part of that is understanding your people, understanding how those needs evolve and change and how making a change to that experience can really throw everything off. Right? They weren't thinking about that. Um, I also found that there wasn't a whole lot of alignment. So by the time my group got involved, you have 50 different people giving 50 different directions and it's like, you realize that's kind of contradictory, right? So it was, I say I hijacked projects, so I'd say where I got really good at hijacking projects. For this to work, I need everybody to be on the same page and the best focus is our customers because that's who pays our bills.
Adrienne: So it doesn't really matter. You know, we can't point fingers when something goes wrong. Oh, well dev did that or design didn't do this. Our customers don't care one way or the other, right? We're all responsible for that experience. So that's why I loved and got really into design thinking facilitation. Um, because as a researcher we tend to hide in the back, Oh, here's my research and then we go off, right? No. Researchers have, can have, um, because that is our primary focus, right? All the time. That's what we do. Um, so that was my way of kind of controlling the conversation. It won't go too far off the rails if you have somebody who's always like, okay, but where's our user in that?
Tony: What kind of design thinking workshops have you been a part of?
Adrienne: Oh my goodness. I've done a lot of these. Let's see. So, um, what does our product needs to be? Right? It can be very product focused. It start, at least it starts that way. We want to change something. We just don't know where to start. There have been others where there was something that happened- Post-production. Customers were very unhappy. We need to get this back on track right now I'm, uh, I've done some that were really more about team building really then trying to get a design out of-
Tony: Oh so team building, using design thinking?
Tony: Whats that about?
Adrienne: So when you have teams that. I'll give an example of AT&T.
Adrienne: We worked with teams who have been working on projects six, seven years. They've been working on the same process for 20 years and have never met in person.
Adrienne: Never have met in person. They talk to each other everyday on the phone and they sit in meetings with each other but they've never seen each other face to face.
Tony: That's bizarre.
Adrienne: And then you hear it. So then they're using acronyms and if you're sitting in listening to their conversations, you realize they're using the same words but they don't mean the same thing at all and their conversations are doing this, right? Just completely missing each other. So some of those design thinking workshops we came in with a user need, but from my perspective, really what we needed to do is align that team, um, and humanize the people on that team. Because it's just, you know, we have different teams have different motivations and, but we're all on the same projects and we haven't necessarily acknowledged- you may be needing something or driven metrics that I don't have. So when you bring all of those people together, now it's, Oh, Tony, a person who likes to do these cool things-- We have the same shared problem. Let me now work with him as a human and not a person coming out of a box.
Tony: I love what you said. And I sometimes even struggle with-- I'm sitting at my desk and there's a person right next to me or like two down and I Slack them.
Tony: And I'm like, why wouldn't I just go just-
Adrienne: Just - Yep-
Tony: What is that about?
Adrienne: People are little weird. So what I used to do, it was really funny at a and t, because we have buildings, you know, we have like four buildings downtown and I'm calling people I'm, IMing them and they don't respond, or I feel like what I'm saying and what they're seeing is getting lost in translation. So I just go find them. I like literally walk over to their desk and their eyes get huge. Like you, you actually came over here. Yeah. Because we're two people connecting.
Tony: It makes a difference.
Adrienne: It does. It absolutely makes a difference. You know, where I learned that I was crazy. I was doing a study at Usability Sciences and I had a client that we just couldn't get on the same page. We just, I would say something and then she just didn't get it and I just was, okay, this is not going to be a good project. But I was trying to get my computer up and my son a picture of my son popped up and like instantly she changed like-- Oh, you are a real person and you have responsibilities outside of work and maybe you're not just being, you know, hardcore about this because you know you're a mean person. Maybe you just have a process. It was instant. So that's- from that day I work very hard to meet people on a human individual level and not let all these devices get in the way.
Tony: Um - We actually touched on this a little bit earlier with the Dual Door thing, but how else can design thinking be applied to everyday things instead of digital products? What's the first thing to identify when you're, when you're-
Adrienne: What's the need? What is the pain point? What are we trying to do? So a lot of my work, especially at AT&T it was, it was one of the things that I had to do was get people to understand. Design thinking is not necessarily just on that screen. It's what the process needs to be in place. A lot of the things that we're dealing with now, um just in general is more, more about a process change-- There are inefficiencies where we'd been doing it the way we've always done it. Um, so a lot of that design thinking work really is going to impact there, the most more than even the UI, right? Definitely more than the UI - So it can be used for, like I said, process changes... Are there uh continuous improvements we need to be thinking about, right. Maybe we realize our technology that supports the system is - we need to turn it off in a couple of years, okay, let's go ahead and start thinking about now how are we going to tackle that? What's the right technology, right? But before you can get there, you need to figure out who are our users, who are customers, what are their pain points? Um, and in addition to that, what do they like about what's already happening? Because sometimes I find that people just get rid of everything and all the good stuff people like now it's gone. And that's sometimes worse than adding in new things that people just don't understand.
Adrienne: So really understanding and then also what's happening before they get to your experience, what's happening after all of those things come into play, but you won't know that if you're not having someone really dig into that user experience. Um having a user experience researcher. Having some data and analytics to tell you kind of see what that behavior really is. And then more importantly actually having that person, those people there to speak for themselves. Right.
Tony: Do you ever apply design thinking to your house?
Adrienne: I learned, I think I have perfected a lot of the things that I do at home. So um thinking about getting your stakeholders involved. Right? I have a nine year old that is a very amazing stakeholder. So before I can say go do X, Y, and Z, I have to anticipate all the reasons he's going to give me why he's not going to do it.
Tony: Oh yeah.
Adrienne: All the things that he might do to get out of that. Right? Um, and then how might that affect behavior overall? It's all smoke and mirrors and really trying to understand the people and how they move in that space. So absolutely - the only, only person I can't do it on the dog and I think that's because he has me trained.
Tony: We just got another puppy and let me be frank... It has some diarrhea right now.
Adrienne: I think about how that's changed your behavior. Having a new dog in the house, it's probably changed a whole lot.
Tony: And I have-
Adrienne: Poor baby...
Tony: So I have two kids, two and a half, and one and a half - they're 11 months apart. And you and your brother are like 10 or 11?
Adrienne: We are 10 months, so he turned, his birthday was Thursday, so for the next 34 days we're the same age.
Tony: Happy soon birthday.
Adrienne: Thank you.
Tony: Isn't that amazing? I thought my wife and I- thought it was the closest they could be. And then when I was talking to you when I was on the panel- you're were like, actually were 10 months?
Adrienne: 10 months, 10 months.
Tony: Bless your mother.
Adrienne: Mom, what were you doing? What? Why? Why? I called him yesterday. As a matter of fact, I said, why do you keep stealing my age? Like I, I can't have anything for myself.
Tony: That's funny.
Adrienne: Yeah, it's, it's fun.
Tony: Do you watch, um, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo? It's on Netflix and it's this, um, she's a professional tidier.
Tony: And one of the things that she sort of preaches, she goes into the house and first of all, she thanks the house for all that it's given and all these things. And the couples use her to help tidy. And so for each item that there is, she asks, does this spark joy? So you have to feel it and look at it, think of it. And if it sparks joy, you keep it in. If it doesn't spark joy, you get rid of it. This leads me into a question that I like to ask all my guests that I end with.
Tony: And it's- what object or thing that you possess that's non-digital...
Tony: ...means the most to you or has added the most value to your life- And why?
Adrienne: Non digital does that mean I have to, I can't use my car? It's not the digital parts of my car that I liked the most, but I really like my car.
Tony: Well unpack that.
Adrienne: So let me say why I bought this car. So. - And it's not an amazing car. It's just amazing to me. So when I got a job at Sabre, I had just bought a house out south. Like six months before. But I really wanted that job at Sabre. So that meant I was going- I was signing up for an hour and a half commute every day. One way, one way, an hour and a half. That's, that's a good day... If the Rangers weren't playing, if traffic wasn't crazy. Please don't rain kind of a thing. Right. And I had a, I had a car that was cool. I love Kias and I had the little Soul, you know, the little car-
Tony: Oh I love the Kia Soul.
Adrienne: -with the hamsters get out - and it was cool, but I was like, I feel kinda cramped. So I went and got an Optima. But I didn't just get the optima. I got the one with the, the leather seats and the heated seats.
Tony: You went there.
Adrienne: Super, super comfortable because if I'm going to commit to driving 100 miles a day, I'm going to be as comfortable as I possibly can. So my car brings- and It's the kind of car- it's one of those purchases, you know how sometimes you regret it? I never regretted it because I can walk out into the parking lot and I see a car and I'm like, oh, that is so- that is such a nice car. And then I'm like, that's your car.
Tony: Oh, it's mine!
Adrienne: That is my car.
Tony: Isn't that funny?
Adrienne: And so it's- It's none of the cool - None of the digital stuff in there it's none of the screens in there. It's just I bought that with this idea that if I'm going to have to ride in this thing all the time, I needed to be uber comfortable.
Adrienne: Yes. And then I like to drive real fast. And it has a speed mode on it. Yes. Shooooooom!
Tony: Well, thank you so much for coming in.
Adrienne: You're more than welcome. I always enjoy hanging out with you.
Tony: Hey Oren, will you get into the mic until these kind people listening to subscribe and leave a review?
Oren: Hello, my name is Oren - Adrienne's son. Leave, uh, leave a like and subscribe down this video and give- and I'll get back to you soon.
Tony: You heard the kid, you heard him!
I want to thank my guest, Adrienne Guillory - one more time for coming out and talking shop with me. Also. Thank you. You awesome people for tuning in. If you want the full show notes and the transcript, just head over to the xdpodcast.com. Otherwise you can hit me up on instagram or facebook at xdpodcast and I can't wait to hear from you. Until next week... Friends, stay curious.