Karl Smith is a polymath, influencer, authority in UX, UI, AI, IoT & Founder Director Human-Centered Design Society. Karl is also a Fellow of the British Computer Society, a member by invitation of BCS ELITE (Effective Leadership in IT) the CIO & CTO group and European CIO Association. He mainly works as an interim consultant, CIO, CTO, CDO or CXO but also joins companies on a permanent basis to deliver the change they are seeking.
1. An introduction from you - background, overview, education… How did you become a serial entrepreneur, thought leader, Polymath personality?
2. Can you highlight some of your career highlights
3. What are the biggest challenges you have faced when it comes to UX, UI and its impact in business and our society at large?
4. How do you see the challenges when it comes to UI and UX - user interface, user experience both for devices and for data driven processes?
5. What are your views on our society, technology and digital transformations, special AI ?
6. What are your views and goals and how do you see the future of work and the main trends in tech and society, special with Covid-19?
About Karl Smith’s background. My CV might look as if I have had a career disaster, to someone looking for a single job title or area of expertise because I tend to move from one complex project to the next one. I don’t do one thing well, I do lots of things well. I’m a problem solver, I have always tried to master one thing, solve the issue and then move on to the next problem.
I have been interested in the arts since I was young, as the expression of self. I write music, poetry, paint in oils and have been inspired by Leonardo da Vinci to combine many skills and this is a perfect example of my mindset. I went to University to study design and the design process and that had a great impact on me: I always had the impression that I didn’t know anything but wanted to learn. I have this dissatisfaction feeling inside that makes me keep on wanting to know more and more.
I am writing a book about how our economics and societies have not evolved in 100 years. One of the things I have found is that we try to reinvent the wheel in every generation instead of trying to solve what doesn’t work. For example, there are more than enough resources in the world for everyone to live well, we accept this on some level and yet we do very little to discover the “why”.
Career’s highlights. I was always interested in design (because of my desire for functionality) so I started my career in designer roles. I like things to look beautiful but also being functional and useful for people. I have worked in various sectors on critical path transaction systems including the banking, publishing, government, social media and defense. I utilise researched and validated concepts of understanding customer behaviour and have set the strategy, design and built solutions based on their needs. And that has catapulted me in my career.
I think that one of the biggest challenges I have faced throughout my career is that people do not always do the right thing. I see that sometimes business people have bigger egos than ideas or knowledge. When I go to the doctors I listen to what they say but that does not always happen in business. I have seen business people using buzzwords and broad ideas that they have heard of but never really understood. I am aware that there are many things I do not know and I declare it with clients offering what I do know.
For example, digital transformation. In the last 15 years businesses have gone through this process of digital transformation. Businesses adopt technologies but most fail to adapt their processes and ways of working to become digital as well, to realise the true potential. Digital transformation is about opening a dialog and communicating with customers, not talking at them. We got to think about what forces drive change: what drives digital transformation so businesses and industries are able to adapt to what people need. We see this in banking for example: open banking means that ownership of a customer account is shared by financial service providers. Ownership is changing then. Customers' behaviour is constantly changing too and businesses need to be able to adapt to them.
Apple is a good example of what I just mentioned. Apple’s major success was to translate people’s experiences in real life and the way our brains have been trained into a computer experience. Apple actually created the ICON system that was later licenced to Microsoft.
About UI and UX. UI is what you see and UX refers to how a system works. They are related, with UI being part of UX. Big corporations like eBay, Alibaba, Amazon, etc really try to tailor their products, their systems, their UX to make sure that they keep selling. And they have adapted every part of the customer journey to make sure they complete the transaction. Everything matters in their system: the user experience in the platform, the way the information is presented, the supply chains, the products, transportation, etc.
Social media has become less and less social. It has become a way to express ideas that weren’t allowed to be printed on paper. And I believe that technology can be blamed for that to some extent. How it works right now is entirely data driven which encourages people to be in touch with people that are aligned with them while in the real world is the complete opposite: we are in touch with people that respond with other variables like location, cultural norms, familiarity its called Society.
One of my career highlights is a solution we built to be used by the UK Government gathering data through the Office National Statistics in the first UK online National Census. The solution we replaced was just the printed form scanned and we transformed it into a digital communication and engagement. Our solution was to make it dynamic by using autofill and create the next page of question based upon the prior one. For example if Peter Smith was filling in the form the labels related to their information was personalised making their next actions easier to understand to streamline the filling process online. We needed to make things easy for the users so they would complete the task, provide the data, so the Government could effectively plan for the nation. We focused on engaging with people who don’t complete the Census as everyone else already did which was the main point of making these services digital.
Karl Smith is a highly creative and motivated person with keen insight ability. He is a critical thinker and is able to rapidly discover the essence of problems then define, communicate, create buy-in and deliver solutions. He positively motivates those around him and is able to engender a great team dynamic by leading from the front. He has business experience spanning 27 years at comparable levels in fields including defence, industry, construction, fashion, finance, banking, FMCG, property, publishing, healthcare, travel, policing, crown office, local and central government.
He is a Founder and Director of The Human-Centered Design Society which is directly involved in central government policy in The House of Commons and The House of Lords through a number of committees including Associate Parliamentary Group for Design and Innovation.
He has a wide experience in management consultancy and digital technology including business management, strategy, innovation, marketing, advertising, governance, change management, project management, definition, design and delivery. He has been honoured by the British Computer Society for his eminence in IT leadership over the last 15 years with a Fellowship.
He mainly focuses on customer experience engagement and management in both B2B and B2C sectors. He works with directors and stakeholders whose main focus is increasing efficiency, transaction frequency and accuracy through the provision of knowledge driven, context focused, user-centered and responsive, future proofed (IoT, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence), progressive interactive organisational change, innovative business processes and technology systems.
He is involved in defining new business concepts, strategies, requirements, governance (ISO/IEC 38500) and solutions that support businesses and organisation’s involved in transforming themselves to be adaptive and future proof themselves for market disruption.
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