Benjamin Stromberg

Experimentation is key

Interview with Design Leader Martin Wezowski

“Experimentation is key. You need to allow people to experiment and sometimes they don’t need to have a firm goal, just an interesting direction,” Martin Wezowski comments during our two-hour conversation in Berlin a while ago.

Wezowski represents a productive match between art and business. He was born in Poland and moved to Sweden at age fourteen. That’s also where his career between beats and business started. He soon began to play music and ended up as a member of Majestic, a Power Metal Band from Malmö in southern Sweden. But he also chose to work in business where he served many years at Sony Ericsson in their consumer business division.

Now a Design Leader at software giant SAP he still remembers the artistic process that shapes how he operates until today: “If you create a piece of art, it can be down to earth or very sad. This is the big picture. But then you try to look for it through instrumenting and setting lyrics. That’s experimentation, it is searching and it doesn’t always take you to what you imagine. Actually it doesn’t in most cases.” Consequently Wezowski suggests experimentation as mandatory in both disciplines — art and business — in order to get creative: “Experimentation is key. You need to allow people to experiment and sometimes they don’t need to have a firm goal, just an interesting direction. But there must be a frame for it, otherwise they will just get lost. This frame can be underspecified. If you specify too much, people won’t get creative but if you don’t specify at all, people won’t know what to do. This is art and it does require experimentation.”

For experimentation, lots of ideas are required. To Wezowski the secret of getting good ideas is primarily through an open mind. “If you’re an artist you walk through life with very open eyes all the time. You look at stuff without knowing where the opportunity will meet you. It’s all stored, it’s all associated and sometimes the trigger comes in an unexpected moment. All what is required is time and freedom to think.” But “ideas come along with association, one of the pillars of the innovator’s’ DNA which means that you have to consume lots of ideas of others too”, he continues and adds that ideas are not of sustainable value if you don’t work with them and reflect them. “I’m questioning if the ideas we investigate are good or not because otherwise I will hear from other people if they are bad, and I need rationales to have a point of view. That’s what happened to me all the time in rehearsal. When I played in a band they did it without any pardon. They asked immediately: “What are you doing? That is a song from the Rolling Stones!” Or they say it’s really good but how could we play it? And then you just start trying. What follows is a constant feedback.”

In the business world Wezowski misses the willingness to question things. “In business you have to question what you do: Why are we doing this? Very often in business you start with the “What”, which is totally different.” Wezowski considers curiosity as a key competence in order to question and doubt objectives that are set. “Strong curiosity refers to the “Why”. People must understand other people. They have to understand their customers. With it comes experimentation, questioning and so on. And you have to be a great observer. Just being a process driven person is not enough.” Wezowski continues to illustrate the change that is required for many organizations: “I come from consumer business. I remember many years ago design was really separate from engineering. The designer in the room says we need to produce a phone and this is how it should behave and how it should look. And the engineer says: ‘Well, the camera module is this high, so you will have it sticking out at the back. And we cannot have that because then it won’t fit into a pocket.’ And then they say it was designed the wrong way. The designer says: ‘You engineered it wrong.’ The engineer replies: ‘We did not engineer it, we just got it this way.’ ‘Well, then go get the supply guys!’ And now the fingers are pointed across the room. It’s really bad human behavior. Who is right and who is wrong here? The only thing you need to do is to bring in the user. You need to have this idea of the user needs and if you can’t then bring in the user. You have to reach the market and you need to figure out what the users do not yet expect that they will need. It’s all about that. Coming back to having an educated point of view, through investigation, questioning, association and experiments.”

As our quality coffee break with Wezowski at the Berlin SAP office comes to an end he leaves us with a final thought to ponder: “Art is delivering an experience, it is a moment and not a thing.” What a nice way of looking at things — and time.


Text by Benjamin Stromberg.
The interview was conducted by Dirk Dobiéy.
Image source: Martin Wezowski.

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