Stories Connecting Dots with Markus Andrezak

Stories Connecting Dots by Markus Andrezak tries to discover the many different ways businesses navigate in an environment of change. Stories Connecting Dots versucht die unterschiedlichsten Wege zu entdecken, auf denen Unternehmen erfolgreich mit drastischem Wandel umgehen..
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Stories Connecting Dots with Markus Andrezak






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May 14, 2017

I am incredibly happy and proud to have Jan Chipchase as the guest of this show! I have followed Jan’s work and steps since years and years.

Then, he was first the Executive Creative Director of Global Insights at frog and then Principal Scientist at Nokia. For me, it all started when I wanted to get deeper into understanding how I can learn about the clients that use my products. When guessing wasn’t enough and guessing how to get closer also wasn’t enough. I sucked up all the writing and presentations by Jan, that I could find in the Internet. For years, I (we!) had to guess how he is doing things and were impressed by his decisiveness and his uncompromised search for exploring the boundaries of what he (we) knows and how he approaches extending that knowledge through experiences.

He pushed the boundaries of field research and goes to where the potential clients of his clients are: From the streets of Tokyo to the highlands of the Hindu Kush or small towns in Zimbabwe. He does that with what he calls Pop Up studios.

Now, finally, after 6 years of work he has funded his next book - The Field Study Handbook - on kickstarter. And he has done this with huge success but much more with lots of experiments - again - and the most interesting kickstarter rewards, like a walk on The Hindu Kush with him or a three day mountain retreat.

Also, beyond owning, managing and driving his innovation and research consultancy, Studio D, he „discovered“ his own luggage brand - driven from the requirements of his road work. This company - SDRTraveller - now also, has transformed from an - as he says - expensive hobby or side line project - to a business.

Please enter with me, the world of Jan Chipchase, and learn how he helps companies discover what to do next, drive their organizational wisdom and how he makes all this his reality - in places ranging from San Francisco, Tokyo and Berlin to Tajikistan and Afghanistan.


  • 00:00:26 Intro - Those Projects
  • 00:11:04 Organizational Wisdom - How to figure out what to do next
  • 00:19:14 The Art & Science of those projects
  • 00:28:17 What can we learn from remote experiences on the edges
  • 00:32:17 Many ways of doing research - from light to intense
  • 00:36:59 Finding people for those projects
  • 00:40:01 Creating a luggage brand: SDR Traveller
  • 00:45:30 The Field Study Handbook

Chapter Notes

00:00:26 Intro - Those Projects

„(Our clients) normally have a lot of data at hands that reveals what people are doing and how people are doing. And what we provide is the Why.“

„I personally want to push myself and part of that is taking me into places that I am less comfortable“

„Something I learned a while ago: If you are the first person to go into a place and start to ask questions, you can have a disproportionate impact, because the learning curve is really steep. I love to be in that environment where I know little and have to get a lot done.“

00:11:04 Organizational Wisdom - How to figure out what to do next

The cone of possibility - the sense of where an organization is now and what it thinks is possible in the future.

Work on the fringe of the cone of possibility: „Turning a hunch into data into information into knowledge into insight - and that’s typically what that first phase of a project is.“

„A really great project will turn that insight into organizational wisdom“.

„Sometimes the highest accolade for such an early phase of a project is that people say that it’s common sense.“

„And then, of course, common sense changes over time“

„What we as a studio do, is make them understand (the things) they can not measure.“

00:19:14 The Art & Science of those projects

„How do you structure projects so that every one from the CEO down to the intern know they will come away from a project knowing they experienced something they won’t experience again in their life?“

„And everyone who was in it will become an advocate …“

„The science is understanding how humans absorb information and energy levels and all these other things. And the art of it is when to step away from process and let things play out.“

00:28:17 What can we learn from remote experiences on the edges

The example of understanding money transactions on mobile devices in Zimbabwe.

00:32:17 Many ways of doing research - from light to. intense

„There are many different ways to figure out what to do next.“ „Everyone who sells a process without trying to figure out what the client wants is an idiot, frankly - or is a traditional consultancy.“

00:36:59 Finding people for those projects

„Two people flying in, hire a local team of 10 in three cities, then bouncing between these local teams - that’s a fairly typical setup."

„In my experience, I only need one local I trust to build up a local team.“

„I would hope that pretty much every person we’ve hired over the years, we could go back to and they’d be comfortable continuing to work with us.“

00:40:01 Creating a luggage brand: SDR Traveller

"The trigger for it was: I was on a trip to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. And the piece of luggage I had, which is their really nice ArcTeryx bag: Two people died to steal it and every single boarder crossing I went through they searched it inside out. And I said: OK, I ant a piece of luggage that people ignore and does the job.“

„Ultimately I created an absolutely minimal Duffle called the D3. … It is designed to be ignored, fundamentally. … when people see it, we want them to dismiss it.“

„We started the brand three years ago, and then last year ago it transformed from an expensive hobby into a business.“

„We have a bunch of products that are quirky, wonderfully quirky.“

The story of the money bags: „We built the product based on a real need, and then we brought the product out there and it’s really interesting to see the people who buy that stuff. … it’s what you would imagine and then times 10 in terms of diversity of use cases and places.“

00:45:30 The Field Study Handbook

„With this projected, I decided I want it to take as long as took. I thought it would take two years. The whole project, what it took was six years. … it was for three years, every single day between one and eight hours.“

„And then, 2 years ago, I decided that I want to design the book.“

„This project was not about hitting a deadline. It was about taking as long as it took to get the job done. And recognizing that I will probably never be able to do another project like this again and recognizing that I should probably enjoy the moment.“

"And then Dan said I should consider kickstarter. And then two weeks before we did the kickstarter, we said, maybe should launch a kickstarter.“

„Two weeks before we hadn’t anything in place. … we created a bunch of rewards. I woke up, I think, at two am. I set the reward total two 22.000. We thought that would be right goal to aim for. I have to say, I never thought I will get the money to pay the book off. And that’s not ultimately the motivation. Then at 6am we pressed the button and started the kickstarter. Went away and had a coffee. Came back and 4 hours later we hit the goal.“

„The reason to work with kickstarter is really to learn how kickstarter works.“

„(The motivation to put artifacts out there) is really driven by the motivation to attract interesting conversations. Because interesting conversations lead to projects. And this projects then affect ten of thousands or millions of people.“

„(One of the rewards) is to sign up to a borderland expedition, which is to Tadjikistan. And if you’re maybe a little bit more on the edge, a reward is a short walk in the Hindu Kush. So: come with me to Afghanistan.“

„When someone clicks on that button that says „I pledge 10.000 Dollars“, really, they are committing to something that is far greater than merely a trip. And I’ve been through it myself and I understand the psychology of it. That process is in itself a thing that will shape who you are.“

Links to people, things and places mentioned Jan’s activities


Presentations & Articles by Jan

Now, with this being sad, if it is still before May 27 2017, I urge you to visit the kickstarter page of The Field Study handbook and see which reward you want to choose rather than if you want to choose any. Participate while it works. If you listen to this podcast later than that, I am sure there will somehow be a way to obtain the book. An epic like this deserves it.

In any case, take a look at the luggage by SDR Traveller and whatever might have triggered your interest. Also, the homepage of Studio D and Jan have great inspiring content, well written and enriched with awesome fotos, giving a great impression of what is possible.

If you liked this episode, please don’t forget to share my podcast, send me feedback or give me that five star review on iTunes!

If you are new to this podcast, have a look at the older episodes. There are some gems amongst them.

Thanks for your interest and hear you soon! Markus

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