Maintaining a childlike curiosity

Fitzgibbon began his career at IDEO, the design firm known for the developing the first Apple mouse. He describes IDEO’s approach as a form of “investigative journalism” where he and his colleagues would go “and meet the people who [IDEO was] building for.” This meant asking great questions:

That curiosity that we have as children gets beat out of us over time and through the workplace. And so [IDEO’s] approach is really to take us back to that inherent curiosity and keep probing in very naive ways, so that people feel comfortable asking, being asked the same question 10 times.

The power of active listening

Building a new brand, and community, requires tremendous empathy for your future customers. However, Fitzgibbon knew that designers often approached projects as: “visionaries [with] the need of inventing something original.” This approach could prevent you from taking “the time to step back to listen to what people actually need.” So Fitzgibbon applied a “simple powerful tool” from his IDEO days: “being an engaged and active listener” and doing his homework to:

“Really understand if other people wanted [the magazine;] talking to people and having my own informal focus groups with friends and with people in queer spaces to understand what people valued and what they cared about.”

The key criteria for his next career

After publishing 10 issues of Hello Mr, Fitzgibbon made the difficult decision to shut down the magazine. In his farewell letter he describes how the magazine became “a powerful form of activism” by showcasing “new stories on a global stage.” And as Fitzgibbon approaches his second career reinvention, his criteria for deciding his next move is simple:

“The most important thing for me will be that I can feel the impact or understand the importance of what it is that I’m building. So, it can be someone else’s product, it can be a completely different industry or demographic. Do we need it? And is it doing anything good for the world? That’s the bare minimum of what I’m looking for whether it’s something that I create or someone else’s product.”

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FWD: Thinking is a new podcast about bold professionals who have challenged the status quo to recreate their careers. They’ve grown out of the cracks in the org chart, punched above their titles, and when all else failed, started their own companies. Hosted by Khe Hy and created by Quartz, this podcast traces the blueprints that lead to a more fulfilling work life. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

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