“Steve is what happens when the humor of a stand-up comic collides with the inspiration of motivational speaker.” That is how one newspaper described Steve Gilliland, a top-rated master storyteller and brilliant comedian. A member of the Speaker Hall of Fame, Steve talks about the pivot he made to pursue his greatest passion, speaking. In this episode, he shares his love for his craft – which is to make funny stories, not just funny jokes – and the importance of observation and curiosity in being able to do that.
People’s experience differ from person to person. In the last 25 years, there has been a significant rise in the experience economy. In this episode, Stan Boshouwers takes a deep dive into experience design. Stan studied Cognitive Artificial Intelligence at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. He talks about the future of experience design with artificial intelligence and how this will benefit curious minds. He also introduces his book, Worlds of Wonder: Experience Design for Curious People.
I’m so glad you joined us because we have Steve Gilliland and Stan Boshouwers here. Steve is in the Speaker Hall of Fame. He is a master storyteller. He is so funny. He is a bestselling author. Stan is a behavioral cognitive artificial intelligence genius. He’s the Founder of Tinker Imagineers and he’s an author as well. We’re going to talk to both Steve and Stan.
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Making Funny Stories with Steve Gilliland
I am here with Steve Gilliland who is a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame. He’s one of the most in demand and top-rated speakers in the world. He is a master storyteller, a brilliant comedian and I’m excited to have him here. Welcome, Steve.
Thank you for having me.
I was looking forward to this. I appreciate great speakers. I’ve known quite a few just from the 800 or whatever people I’ve interviewed in the last few years and a lot of them have been Hall of Fame Speakers. I’ve got Willie Jolley saying to me on the show. I love the entertainment that you incorporate and the work you do. I want to talk a little bit about that at some point, but I want to get a background on how you got to this level of success. Can you give your background for people who aren’t familiar?
Twenty years ago, I was like a lot of people were working in Corporate America and I decided that there was something missing. For me it was waking up in the morning and having that fire in the belly. I always knew what I thought I wanted to do. I had gone to a seminar down in Tulsa, Oklahoma and when I was watching the speakers speak at this seminar, I was excited about the topic but I wasn’t excited about the speaker and I thought, “There are many more things than I would do. There are many things that I would present, how I’d interact and more humor.” I walked away thinking, “That guy gets paid to do that and I don’t think he has a whole passion for it.
I started thinking about my passion. I started thinking about that and at the time I was in an executive level position that I had a secretary and she posed a question one day it was one of those wild moments. Some people call it epiphanies, other people call it that a-ha moment for me. The context of this was she was asking me this question after I had done a performance review and she was inquiring about, how I did. She was very subtle and little sly about it. She said, “If every job in the world paid the same, what would you wake up and do for the rest of your life?” I didn’t understand the question.
I didn’t understand why she was asking it, but we got into a very deep discussion and then the more I drilled down what she was saying was, “You’re like the chicken that crosses the road to get to the other side. You’re just not as passionate about what you do.” She said, “You’re good at what you do,” but she said, “You’re just not passionate about it.” It made me turn a direction that I today look back and think, “What if I went to that seminar? What if she would have asked that question?” I began to write and I began to see my way through a book, which later would be the book entitled Enjoy the Ride. The subtitle is, The True Joy of Life is in the Trip. The first chapter was all about passion.
You feel the passion when you’re speaking. For me, I appreciate a good speaker who can add humor. It seems to come so naturally and I know it’s so hard to do. From being a speaker, I know the challenges of making the jokes land properly. Have you ever had things just fall flat and what does that help you with the next time? What makes you keep something or drop something from one of your talks?
One of the things, and I’ve told this to other speakers, is to speak more, which is a basic principle. In order to get good at what you do, you’ve got to make a commitment to the craft. I’d say that I’ll accept things that some speakers I know would not, especially speakers who have been doing it for quite a while. That’s where I try new material. I’ll try a new story and my humor doesn’t consist of jokes. My humor consists of funny stories. I might inject something and I’ll say, “Note to self, never do that again or note to self, that went over well.” We’ll test content, especially humor, because the impact it has on an audience is great.
The late Johnny Carson, those that are my age, have a little silver on top. Johnny Carson said people will pay much more for entertainment than they ever will for education. When you think about it, adults spend millions of dollars each year to hear Canadians. Yet nobody has ever spent a dime to see a PowerPoint presentation. I tell people I use the personal funny stories to illustrate points because I believe if you’re laughing, you’re listening and if you’re listening, you’re learning. Literally not to sound too corny about this, I try to relax the mind to enable people to take in the content. Because if they’re relaxed and they’re listening, when you do make a point and you do have that content piece that you want to get home, it drives the point in.
Johnny Carson was a genius. His Carnac, the Sis Boom Bah, the sound sheep makes before it explodes type of humor I loved. I think that there are so many comedians that don’t have that timing. I noticed you have that comedic timing and that’s something that’s hard. It’s hard enough to come up with stories. How do you even come up with your stories?Before you say or do anything, ask yourself, 'Is what I'm about to say or do going to improve the situation?' Click To Tweet
I think for me the key word here is observation. I observe life and it does not matter whether I am in a serious scenario. I could be in the mall. I could be at a car wash. It doesn’t matter where I’m at. Something usually happens that I’ll look and go, “That was weird. That was odd,” but then I take that and that oddity becomes, “What if this would have happened? What if that would have happened?” Sometimes as I’ve told people, you’ve got to make the fish bigger. You catch the three-inch fish, you make it six inches. You take the oddity, you take that thing you observed and thought and give it a what if. When you tell the story, it’s not a what if, it becomes a part of reality.
I tell a story. I stayed in a hotel. I got walked from the hotel and the translation is, they did not have my reservation. They put me in a less superior hotel. When I got there, it was an old hotel. The shower curtain was a straight rod. It was a musty, worn out place. I walked in, there was coffee in the coffee pot and I was like, “Oh my.” What I did was I added to it. I added things like the bar of soap was the size of a Chiclet. When I began to tell the story, I made a situation that I observe, which was like outrageous. I made it even funnier. The $0.50 you put in the little machine that makes the bed vibrate. That wasn’t in there, but I put it in the story and I also put the fact that it’s stuck and I couldn’t get it off. As you’re telling a story, if you make the fish get a little bigger, I think that’s the thing. People observe things and they don’t see the humor in it but I created a scenario where, “What if this happened? That would have been funny.”
My family does that naturally. Whenever they tell our family stories, it seems like they get bigger and bigger. I’ll have to learn from watching that a little bit. I think it’s great to watch your reels. You have some great reels and I love that your video has been approved for all meeting planners beginning of the one. That was a nice touch. You have some great stuff on your site and I hope people check them out because they’re a lesson in how to put together speaker reels for sure. You said in one of your videos that you read 36 books a year. How do you decide what to read?
I’m always listening. People always come up. I think the thing is when you are known as a person who reads a lot, I tell the audience as you heard on my video on one of the clips. People then tend to come up to you and say, “Have you read?” I’ve always got in my pocket a small, not even a 3×5 card. It’s like half of a notecard. I carry that in my pocket. When somebody says to me, “Have you read?” A great example of that is I had never read Halftime, which is a book by Bob Buford and I wasn’t familiar with The Go-Giver, which is a penguin book. Bob Burg and John David Mann wrote the book. Those are just two examples of a plethora of titles that people have said, “Have you read?” What ends up happening is I keep a list and the minute they say, “Have you read,” I’ll just order the book and then I make up a reading list every year. Right now, if you were to say, “What are the top five or ten books that you’ve ever read?” I keep a running list and running total on that.
What’s the top one? Do you have a favorite?
It’s Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy, Intel House Publishers published the book. It’s about Tony as a coach, as a leader, as a father, as a person. He makes a comment in the book and said, “Before you say anything or do anything, ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say or what I’m about to do got to improve the situation?” When you think about that one, if you could just think about that before you say it or do it, ask yourself is what you’re about to say or do improve the situation?” That was worth the price of the book, but the book is filled with that kind of knowledge. That’s why it was to me such a practical book on not just life but on leadership.
It’s good to know. I had to read quite a few books. My book on curiosity just came out. I’m curious if you’ve read books on motivation and drive and curiosity and that type of thing that has inspired you at all?
I love curiosity. The whole innovative piece, the curiosity piece, I think what’s missing sometimes is unordinary. What we do is ordinary. Sometimes we’re not looking outside. I don’t like clichés. Think outside the box. There are so many used ones. One day I said, “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s. They looked at me and said, “Say that again.” I said, “If you’re on passengers, it’s just clear. You’re probably on somebody else’s.” I said the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes, you have to seek a different perspective and curiosity plays into that.
The example I’ve always used is there are 7.5 billion people in the world. Therefore, there are going to be a lot of interpretations and a lot of interpreters and a lot of things to interpret. The curiosity piece comes into play where people look at something and it’s when somebody will say to me, “I’ll take a phrase and I’ll massage it and I’ll say it maybe in a different way. I was curious so I did a little research on it and I wanted to see what everybody was writing about it. I also take a different twist. I’ll give you an example. Everybody’s heard of this and that is that the glass is half full or half empty. Instinctively you say, “I get that. Be more positive.” Look at it like it’s half full. Here’s what I said, the glass is half full or half empty depending on whether you’re pouring or drinking. You have to be curious enough. For me, that innovative piece in defining it was I want people to understand. You need to be positive, but you also need to understand. Perspective says that it’s a whole different scenario if you’re pouring the water or drinking the water. You see it differently. You interpret it differently. That’s what curiosity can do for a person is to make them curious enough that they completely reinvent. They understand something in a different way that wasn’t that plain to see.
In my research on emotional intelligence, I think it ties into all of that as well because of the empathy aspect. You’re able to see things from other people’s perspectives and you’re tying in to all the stuff I’m working on right now for perception. Thank you. That’s helping me as well. I think what you write about is so important. I liked the message of not how you start in life. It’s the trip and that was some of your work and enjoy the ride. Now, you’ve got a new book that I’m very interested in talking to you about and it’s titled The Cherry on Top and it’s about what adds value. What were you trying to achieve with that? What type of value are you adding? Is this a work-related value or life-related value? Just a little bit more on that would be great.The glass is half full or half empty depending on whether you're pouring or drinking. Click To Tweet
The best way to answer the question is to ask a question. I’ve asked people in the book, “Who adds value to your life and how do you add value to others?” I think as I began to do my homework and little research on this, it’s common to say that great companies with great cultures add value to their people, their products and services but it’s not always about money. It’s not about discounts, about giveaways. It’s about the quality. It’s about whatever it is that you can do to add value. That goes in with your own personal life. What do you do to add value to people? That can mean encouraging, investing in them and helping serve them. For me, what I did is I took a broad stroke at this and it took me a long time.
I put down about 211 things. I had them in alphabetical order that I believed as added value. I broke it down and said, “I’m going to get this thing down to top 50.” I thought maybe someday in the future I’ll need to do one a week for something so I thought I’ll do 52. When I finally got down to it, I sent it out to a lot of people, family, friends and said, “Take this list of 211 and mark down your top 52.” It was amazing. 31 of the 52 that I write about in the book were 75% of the people had listed them and said, “This is one of my 52.”
There were some surprises too. When you go through it and you start to think about what adds value, I think for me the obvious ones were there. I was impressed for example with the very first one in the book is acceptance, that when you learn how to accept. It’s the saying, “Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.” I started to write and thought it’s what adds value to you but it also is what adds value to other people. When we learn to accept ourselves, we had a lot of value to ourselves. When we learn to accept other people, we add a lot of value to them. I’ve been writing and reading for years and speaking for years and I’d always said labeling is disabling, but I never put it in the context of acceptance. I was enjoying it because as I was writing I would think, “I’ve never written on this subject.” I think that’s something too that is fun is when you begin to do some research and you begin to have a thought process about something you had never thought about or wrote about.
I love that too. If you ever want to learn something, you teach it. That’s why you try to teach a lot of different courses and different things because you can open up your eyes to so many things. I’m curious about some of the other ones that weren’t things you expected to hear of the 52.
I was waiting for some that I knew. I was surprised how many people felt the mistakes added so much value, yet when I began to think about it, it made so much sense that people would see that as the lesson learned, the wisdom earned. I found that one interesting. Another one, which again I think it was so obvious, was generosity. I didn’t see generosity as one that I thought that’s going to be one of those. I realized that giving generously of yourself doesn’t just help you grow as a person, it helps other people. When it’s all said and done, you look in the mirror and go, “I’m better for having done that.” While your generosity may have helped people, it probably helped yourself even more. As I wrote in the book I said, “Materialism will have less of a grip on your life when you begin to be generous.” Things don’t then seem to be as, “I need this or I want this.” It’s almost like, “How can I help someone else first?”
Did anybody bring up curiosity or tenacity? I’m curious what other ones stood out in your mind.
For me, the discipline came up. When you’re talking about tenacity, you’re talking about discipline. There were some that were crossovers. That’s why I had to say, “That’s pretty close to that.” Discipline and determination were in there. One I found interesting was an adventure. Adventure adds a lot of value to your life. Adventure can add a lot to a lot of other people. There were the optimisms, the passions but then responsibility and adaptability. When you think about a book that has something about adventure in it and something about responsibility, it can be a little bit of a paradox like, “One minute you’re telling me to be adventurous and next minute you’re telling me to be responsible.” Yet when you read it, you realize each of them adds value in a different way. Common sense was one. Quite frankly, common sense was something that I wrote about in the book because as we all know, people seem to sometimes lack common sense.
How do you differentiate between common sense and logic? My mom loves to tell me she’s not logical but then I’m like, “That’s like not having common sense in a way sometimes when she is arguing for it.”
It’s complex. It’s not a simple thought process or ability. Common sense requires you to be flexible. You have to be able to just leave old ways of thinking. One reason is the practice of doing something different improves common sense. It’s all in an approach to it. You make a good point. Common sense is defined as good sense and sound judgment. I’ve met some smart and successful people with no common sense. Some of the emails I received require me to respond with a healthy dose of common sense because I’ll read it and I’d go, “Did I just read that? Did they say that to myself?” I sometimes think if you go to practice common sense, it comes down to this for me. Remove yourself from the situation. You’ll make a better decision and that is what I think helps you with common sense. Also, don’t overcomplicate things. I think some people make it too complicated and it’s like just stay on the side of common sense. Don’t make this bigger than it is. I tell people, it’s about myself. I trust myself and I listen to myself. The biggest one and this is where people struggle, I’m okay with being wrong. When I’m wrong, I’m wrong. Sometimes you just have to practice common sense and those are a few of the things that I myself have done.
I’m thinking of some of the things I see in some of my students and the thousands of courses I’ve taught now and some of the things that get them off track. I see a lot of people who plan the plan to plan the plan and then they never do anything but plan. Were any of the values that you found helpful for avoiding that?The best way to answer the question is ask a question. Click To Tweet
One of the things that I believe to add value was preparation, but sometimes the preparation kills the dream. It’s like you wear yourself out and you overtax the situation and you overthink the situation and then it gets you into diversions you don’t need to be in because then all of a sudden, you’re exhausted and then all of a sudden you doubt yourself. That’s when I told people, doubt your doubts, not your beliefs but if you prepare too much, what’s going to happen is you’re going to think up reasons as to why it won’t work. You’re going to have excuses and before you know it, all the preparation is going to lead you. It’s almost like if you’ve ever been lost, you’re going, “That looks familiar.” It’s like, “You just drove in a circle and you came back to where you started.” I sometimes think over-preparation drives you in that circle as to where you started.
George Land has a great video out there about how we lost our creativity because we overthink. We propose these ideas and then over think them at the same time. You’re putting on the gas and the brake at the same time. That’s similar. I think that what you write about is important because we’re trying to add value. We have such low engagement in the workplace. Is the book for the worker or is it for everybody in general? Who are you hoping reads this?
It’s everybody. I think when people hear me speak, I tell people it’s a balance for me. It’s a balance where I write for people to help them at home and I write for people to help them at work. I write for people to give them hope and to inspire them. You used the word creativity and some people say I’m not creative. Even your new work on curiosity, people are like, “I’m not a curious person. I’m not creative.” I think if you approach it the right way as a speaker, as a writer, you can unlock some things in people and you need to make them realize we’re in this together. We’re alike. For me, when I was writing about creativity, I had said that it’s the ability to see something unpredictable. It is the mirror of how beautiful a person can think in a given circumstance. I think sometimes if you keep saying you’re not, you won’t. If you say to yourself, “I don’t consider myself creative, however,” and then you begin to look at something differently.
As you use the word curious, you become curious about it and then all of a sudden you realize that creativity inspires happiness and you work the one little thing. It’s like, “I wonder what else.” That’s the beauty. I’m not a big internet person. I don’t surf a lot. That whole thing for me is sometimes I think technology has helped and also has distracted. I think for me, when you are curious and you do explore, it’s wonderful. It’s like a wondrous entanglement. How you can be more creative and how you can find out things you didn’t know. When you have that willingness to do something that you think may not work and then all of a sudden it does, abundance comes out of nothing. It’s like, “How did I get here?” This is so cool. I’ve had that happen to my own life. I’ve thought, I’m not that creative. I can’t do that. I mean that in working with tools or woodworking and things like that. Later it’s like, “That’s not that hard if you sit down and you are curious enough to learn something new that you’ve never learned.” You’re like, “That was cool.”
You definitely are creative with your speaking and the storytelling that you do. I’ve always been a George Carlin fan of people who can just come up with witty and twist of stories in a way. I always appreciate it so much. I enjoyed watching your videos and reading your work. I know a lot of people probably want to know more about how they can find your book and see your stuff. How can people find out more?
The name is tricky. Once they get the name, it’s easy. Steve is easy. The last name is the trick. It’s Gilliland. If they go to Steve Gilliland, number one, that’s my website, SteveGilliland.com. Number two, if they go to YouTube and they type in Steve Gilliland, they’re going to find my YouTube channel. It’s ironic now, when you think about social media, when you think about websites, I tell people my YouTube channel is just as important as my website and maybe more so because people then get a feel and a flavor for who I am. I’ve been hired and people have said to me, “We watched all your videos on YouTube.” The power of that medium I can’t even measure is the way I’d like to say it. When people want to find me, just go to my website. There are lots of information on my website.
If they go to YouTube, just type in Steve Gilliland and they’ll find me. For all the books and things and everything, we’re big supporters of the charity. If they go to my store and it’s SteveGillilandStore.com. I try to do as much or more than Amazon does in terms of what you can see, what you can read, what you can listen to and what you can hear. I know there are people who are fans of Audible. All of my books are on Audible.com. It’s just something. I tell people I love Amazon. I’m not putting down Amazon, but if they would like to help me, my family, our charities, I always tell people if you’ll purchase from our store that they’ll be impressed with our store. It just helps a whole lot more. I can’t control what Amazon does with their money. They’re a great company and I’m sure they do a lot of great philanthropic work. I tell people to go to SteveGillilandStore.com.
Steve, thank you so much for being on the show. This was so much fun.Giving generously of yourself doesn't just help you grow as a person, it also helps other people. Click To Tweet
It was a blast. Thank you.
The Wonders Of Experience Design with Stan Boushouwers
I am here with Stan Boshouwers who studied Cognitive Artificial Intelligence at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He’s got a book about immersive experience design. He’s a very interesting person who’s studied some of the same stuff I’m interested in. I’m interested in having you on the show today. Welcome, Stan. I like that you said you’re a lifetime student because I’d like to think of myself that way. I think you can never stop learning. I am very interested in a lot of the work that you do because it includes psychological, consumer behavior, practical steps and different things that tie into the work I do. I want to get a little bit of background on you for people who may not be aware of your work because I know you started in Artificial Intelligence and you’ve got a great background in technology. Can you give some of the background here that led to your work?
My partner and I started as students in artificial intelligence and that was back in 1991 when artificial intelligence was mostly a science fiction affair. It was mostly thinking about artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, there was a jubilee at Utrecht University. It exists for 350 years. It’s quite antique here in Europe. They asked us to build an exhibit an interactive stand about the story of artificial intelligence. My friend and I, students at that time, constructive stand. It was a big computer and it was a conversation with the people with the Student Affair. We explained in the conversation the story about artificial intelligence. It doesn’t use a smart computer talking about artificial intelligence. The creator of that show was very appealing. More people approached us and said, “Can you make something about my story?” It could be something from the university. It could be something from the industry. It could be something for the museum history.
A business evolved that was about experiencing stories of companies. Since we wrote building these environments and interactive spaces, it was called in emergent design or experience design. To our big surprise, a professional business grew out of it and now we employ 40 designers, we build these spaces all over Europe and sometimes abroad. We worked for the National Geographic Society in Washington for their museum. We are opening first outdoor experience on Saint Martin that’s close to the US and in North America. It’s a big ship about the history of piracy in the Caribbean. It was something that surprised us.
I’m not surprised though because you’re a curious guy. You’re the co-author of Worlds of Wonder: Experience Design for Curious People and that’s what caught my eye since I write about curiosity and I thought, “I’ve got to see what you’ve studied.” What is your book about and who is it meant for?
You said that right, curiosity is what drives us. Since we are in a new profession, what we do is quite new. We are students in our own school. We founded a school with students in. We have been learning for the last several years. We thought, “What if we put together all our work since that time?” We put a time to it and then see what we have learned and share it with their readers and customers and students. That’s what we do. The title is Worlds of Wonder. Those are the places we create. The subtitle is Experience Design for Curious People because curious people are our target groups and we think wonder and curiosity are the highest human faculties. That’s what the book is about.
I love anything for curious people. When you talk about places you create, can you draw a picture in my mind of what this look like? I’m just curious about that.
I call on you now from Utrecht. It’s a medieval city in Europe, in the Netherlands and we are now 300 meters from Dom Square. We have a Dom Tower and a Dom Church. On that very spot on that church, people are building houses since the twentieth century. The Romans started living here and ever since there have been buildings. Now we made an archaeological excavation. This a tourist city. You can take the stairs, then you walk down twenty centuries of archeological layers literally in the Earth. You can see what happened there during those epochs. The people who climb one of the stairs, they have a torch. It’s an indirective torch and they shine the lights on the excavations, on what is in the ground there and then out of your story and vote in their headphones so they can be their own researcher going deeper into the ground and finding and be their own researcher and assemble their own story. That’s one example of what we do.
That reminds me of the New York Museum. It was not nearly as exciting or dramatic as that, but you went down a ramp and you would see the dinosaurs or whatever turning into the next thing and to the next thing as you went through and you would listen, you’d see the story as a timeline. I love the timeline idea. That’s fascinating to go straight down though into the actual ground. Did you have to supply any of the things that were along the way or were they already in there and you just explained them? Did you have to supplement at all? I’m curious how that worked.
The point is that we want everyone to assemble their own stories. One person finds different things than other persons. We have coded the difference of things, the collection into all the layers because the torch has to recognize them. The idea was to give people the feeling of being an archeologist. You have the Jones-like character, that’s his or her own discoveries.
Are they always downward like that or do you build buildings that go up and do different designs? Is it always different?Common sense requires you to be flexible. Click To Tweet
It was different. In the Caribbean, we are carefully designing a ship wreck. With a steel ship it is only the on the land. Maybe it was left there since the last storm. You can go in and you can put, you can research the ship and find out about the lives of the pirates, how those lives were when you are exploring the ship. We can do it downwards, we do it sideways, we do it uphill. It’s all directions.
Is this meant for adults or do you do this with schools at all? I’m curious who go to this.
Certainly, these days since people are so well-informed that it is the challenge to make it interesting for everyone. Some people don’t know anything. When they enter a space, they’re just curious and they want to be surprised and other people know all about the history and they want to be inspired as well. Our exhibits, our narrative spaces are based on three layers, like a visual layer that you can see with your hands on your back just for recreational purposes. There’s an interactive layer where you interact with the story physically or by texting or anything like that. There’s a deep layer that is about all the knowledge that is behind it and it has to be made accessible sometimes via your own smart phone or by links we provide in that story. In that same fashion, we are designing a complete museum of natural history in Denmark. In the capital Copenhagen, there will be a very big place where you can be your own NetZero scientist that you can explore looking girls in the botanical garden and beyond and discover all kinds of nature in your own style. We make this for different people. It’s for children and students and professionals as well at the same time.
This is got to be an expensive thing to do. How did you start off creating these things at the beginning? With your company, how did you pay for these right off?
We started from university and what we did there, I told you about the interactive computer rebuild theirs for AI purposes. We tinkered that thing up ourselves. We’ve been using old tape recorders, old computers, old AV projectors. What we did then wasn’t a business at all. I wonder, does your audience know Joseph Pine? The guy who designed The Experience Economy.
I’m sure some of them do and some of them don’t.
What Joe said was, “First, you had to have products but old products could not apply. Other than products, you have services and service is commoditized. Aside from products and services, what is most valuable to people is an experience. After the service economy, an experience economy will arise and this economy will grow and grow.” He predicted this economy many years ago. We started and after many years, he’s proven right. We employed 40 professionals here doing this day in and day out. Even the Netherlands, there are three or four agencies doing this and in the US they’re about ten. It’s a small market, but it’s a very healthy economic niche. If you take the city of Utrecht, their visitors, the tourists have quite a high profile. They’re well-educated people. They want more than just entertainment day-in or day out. They want to learn something. They want to see something. They want to immerse in something. That’s where the client’s questions come from. That’s where our market is created. There is a market in Europe for immersive experiences of a high contextual level. It’s not the only Disney-like recreation, which is super cool and I like that as well. There are also high demands for exhibitions and experience that’s over content and stories.
I’m thinking of the things I’ve seen that I found as transformative experiences. Just even going to see Pearl Harbor and the way they described it and with the audio and you could see the oil coming up from the ship that sunk. It had an impact. It is going to Gibraltar, when you’re going in the caves and you see the different things of what happened in the wars. I could see that would be a huge thing, but it’s got to be hard to organize. How do you do this? It’s very creative what you’re doing. What does that entail?
I start on the point you started, that being curious. I think of a story that will engage with people. It starts with storytelling and wonder and then an interactive process starts. In my team, I have sacrilegious historians and media designers. If an architect, we have graphic designers, we have VR people. It’s truly interdisciplinary way of working. We employ artists. We hire them for freelance jobs, translators and audio people that make the soundscapes. What we do is we create mindscapes. We try to imitate the mind of a curious person and then rebuild that world. That’s an interactive affair.
I am trying to think of the things that would appeal to me and all the things you’ve said are very interesting. I’m curious if you’re going to create anything like astrophysics or microcosmos or moon or mars or some places out in outer space. Some place that is harder to visualize, but that people would find fascinating. Are you going out in outer space at all for the experience?Wonder and curiosity are the highest human faculties. Click To Tweet
That would be a dream job to make. I have tried to sell the experience of the overview effect to different clients. The overview effect is the effect when astronauts are in orbit and approaching the Earth from the spaceship. They look at the Earth, they see the blue planet in the deep space, in the deep black space. This is a transformative moment. A lot of astronauts, when they’re back on Earth, start acting differently with the world. They say, “We are just one. We are a tiny fragile, pristine blue planet.” That’s testing monkey face. That emotion is exactly what we want people on Earth to have to behave more consciously and more sustainably. I have suggested to my client, let’s build a machine on Earth that imitates this overview effect that you are in this spaceship and you look down on Earth by any media technology and then imitate the experience that astronauts have.
That to me would be fascinating. I would love to have the whole weightlessness too. Can you add that to it where you’re floating? I would love to do that.
I think I will. I will not stop trying to sell this one. Imagine we have an overview of the theater on Earth that you can have the experience of an astronaut and you would line up for that.
I think you should build that in Arizona. That would be my vote because I would go to that or at least in the West Coast somewhere in the United States so I could get to it easily. I would like it. You were talking about the perception of the world from that position of seeing it as a little blue dot. I’m writing a lot about perception right now. How do you think that what you work on changes our perception of time and space and history? I’m curious about how all this has affected your perceptions.
It’s very important to remember sometimes that we are all wearing spectacles as we create our own realities. Sometimes as human beings, we tend to forget that we look through the world through a filter because we have life experiences, we have perceptions and we have learned attitudes. We have a special focus on Earth. It’s always fairly refreshing like when you see a very beautiful movie or you’re meeting a very special someone. Similarly, you come in contact with another world. It’s very inspiring and maybe that is because at that moment you become conscious of the fact that there are more ways to look at the world. I think it’s fairly healthy for people to have that experience sometimes. It makes you more open-minded to what can be. Maybe that’s the higher purpose of our work.
That’s a great higher purpose. I’d like to know how we can get that higher purpose in the workplace without having to go through actual experiences like that. Is there a way to make a smaller version experience in our day-to-day life to help us open up our perception? I think we sometimes think of a word more important in the whole scheme of things. We need to be humbled a little bit, don’t you think?
Yes, certainly. The point is I think breaking out of your habits. It’s almost paradoxical to include it in the day-to-day work space. Although it would be a great escape, it would be very refreshing and very predictive. It is paradoxical because you’re talking about the habitual ways. I think you have to say in your professional career and that sometimes you go out with your working team or your whole business and you’re a day out in nature or you have a day out. You’re going to brainstorm and do anything very inspiring. Everyone is very recharged and then they’re back on the office and the day-to-day business starts again. One of the hardest things of people like you or me is not delivering those experiences momentarily. That’s the hardest part. I didn’t invent the machine yet that can induce those states. That would be great.
There’s so much interesting work in the field in AI. I had Jürgen Schmidhuber on the show. I’ve had some fascinating people that have worked in AI and you studied Cognitive Artificial Intelligence. Is this an undergrad or graduate level? What exactly do they teach you? That would be a fascinating degree.
I started in 1991 when AI was a science fiction affair. It was this whole AI and they didn’t even dream of things like Google or anything like that. The weapons even exist then. It was a frame of the philosophy faculty. It was one of their courses. It was a four-year course. I have my Master’s in this. They also called it Theoretical Philosophy. It’s knowledge itself. How does knowledge work? How is knowledge structured? How is it perceived? How is it produced and exchanged between people? It was also a little bit about coding and computers and technology, but it was about the structure behind it. How do you make an intelligent program that plays chess and what does that the computer program differs from what programs that do translations? What technologies or knowledge are out there? It’s very interesting stuff.
I would love that. Computers were happening when I went for my degree in Business in the ‘80s and it wasn’t the thing yet. They had us programming in basic back then. It’s been a while since I’ve tinkered around it in any kind of coding. I’m always fascinated by people who were able to get into it right at the beginning, before it became everything it is now. It’s so exciting, the world. Are you worried about artificial intelligence taking over and killing us and all the things that some of the people are warning against? Do you have a more optimistic outlook for it?Everyone should assemble their own stories. One person finds different things than other persons. Click To Tweet
Yeah, I’m optimistic. I think technology extends us. We have extended our arms with equipment. We have extended our legs with cars and now we are extending our brain, but we didn’t have the cars make a resolve against us or our tools. AI will be not doing these things yet. I’m quite optimistic about this. I hope I live for 100 years to experience all that is going to happen.
My husband makes fun of me because I always say I was born too soon because I want to see all the things that are going to happen. I’ll miss all the cool stuff that they’re going to create and I want to see what comes next.
I would exchange one year of my life for one day in the future. Let me live one day in 300 years and have all that done. I’ll deal with that.
I would take that deal too. I get that. I totally understand that. A lot of people would like to go back and past. I have no interest in doing that but I have a lot of interests in going up in the future and it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens. This was such an interesting discussion and I think a lot of people would be interested in knowing more about Worlds of Wonder: Experience Design for Curious People. How can people find out more about what you’re doing there and your books and anything about you?
Is it in English though? Can they get everything in English?
Yes. The book is also is in English. It’s on the American Amazon as well. It’s a global edition. The website is Tinker.nl. In the book, there’s also the background of connections with AI. A lot of examples of our work. It’s a how-to guide to develop your own experience center because this was a very innovative sector and a lot of my clients do their work for the first time. It is a big company and we want to have an experience center about our brand or about our history or whatever. Someone is assigned with the job to deliver on one. For those people, the book is targeted for them to help them step by step and learn from us because we’re doing this for many years and we just spread our knowledge source for everyone who is entering into this.
I hope whoever is deciding to build that space center design in Arizona or nearby is reading this because I’m all up for that. This was so much fun, Stan. Thank you for being on the show.
Thank you very much. It’s great talking to you.
I’d like to thank both Steve and Stan for being my guests on this episode. We get so many great guests and I’m so excited to have all of them on the show. If you’re looking for more information about Cracking The Curiosity Code or the Curiosity Code Index, you can go to CuriosityCode.com. I hope you enjoyed this episode and I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.
- Steve Gilliland
- Willie Jolley – previous episode
- Enjoy the Ride
- The Go-Giver
- Quiet Strength
- The Cherry on Top
- George Land – TEDx Talk
- YouTube – Steve Gilliland
- Tinker Imagineers
- Stan Boshouwers
- Worlds of Wonder: Experience Design for Curious People
- Joseph Pine
- Jürgen Schmidhuber – Previous episode
- Worlds of Wonder: Experience Design for Curious People on Amazon
About Steve Gilliland
A member of the Speaker Hall of Fame, Steve Gilliland is one of the most in-demand and top-rated speakers in the world. Recognized as a master storyteller and brilliant comedian, he can be heard daily on SiriusXM Radio’s Laugh USA and Jeff & Larry’s Comedy Roundup.
With an appeal that transcends barriers of age, culture and occupation—plus an interactive and entertaining style—Steve shows audiences how to open doors to success in their careers, their relationships and their lives. Presenting to over 250,000 people a year, more than two million have now heard him speak, with audiences encompassing nearly three dozen industries.
Steve has the distinction of speaking in all 50 states and in 15 countries. As one newspaper stated, “Steve is what happens when the humor of a stand-up comic collides with the inspiration of motivational speaker.”
About Stan Boushouwers
Stan Boshouwers (1968) studied Cognitive Artificial Intelligence at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. In 1991, he and his business partner Erik Bär (1969) founded Tinker imagineers, now one of the leading experience design agencies in Europe.
Being around for more than 25 years, they witnessed the rise of the experience economy and made significant contributions to it by delivering many international award-winning designs and concepts at home and abroad. Experience design has become an important part of the well-known Dutch Design.