John is one of those people who I am totally envious of - successful in Adland and then quit it all to start his own thing where he manages to combine innovation consultancy with nurturing and curating his own products. This makes him a rare breed - an innovative thinker who goes through the physical process of innovation every day.
So what made John make the brave decision to start-up Smithery.co? Well in 2011 he was top of his tree as Chief Innovation Officer at PHD but was becoming increasingly frustrated at the quality of the products and services that clients asked agencies to try and sell. As he put it, it was as if “all the product thinking had been done in a bubble, ignorant of how people share information around things they buy and use nowadays.”.
So he decided to set-up Smithery to help clients and agencies change the way they work – from encouraging new mindsets to product and service design. His guiding mantra is wonderful, and I have used it many times during this blog:
And suffice to say he loves it – Smithery.co allows him to think, test ideas and develop new theses on what it is to be a brand today. In tandem it also gave him time and space to give birth to products, including his third child (his kids are obviously numbers one and two) - Artefact Cards. And the fact he both thinks and makes is critical as John believes that through the experience of making you develop your thinking – ideas evolve and become richer. He belongs to Richard Sennett’s “Making is Thinking” school.
So outside of the agency bluster, how does John keep up the pace in his day? Well as you would expect from someone who both thinks and makes – he divides out time for both. Thinking work in the morning – playing with ideas and developing some client conceptual work. Then in the afternoon some making work, like finalising details for his Artefact Cards iPhone app. Or spending time with the Herdmeister himself, Mark Earls, developing a new product to coincide with the launch of his book.
John is so obviously someone you should get to know and spend time with. But let’s get focussed here – get to know him to explore his theories on brands or because you would like to solve a problem unconventionally. Basically if you are someone who’s thinking "we always do things this way, but suspect it might not work for this..." get in touch. Now. He’s in demand.