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Unserious

Author: J.B. Skelton and Molly McMahon

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Welcome to Unserious, a podcast that explores how creative people create and communicate to achieve uncommon results. 


Join hosts J.B. Skelton and Molly McMahon as we try to have some fun with the changes that fall into our laps. Because when we can get some distance from the seriousness, we see problem spaces in new light and opportunities we might not have otherwise. And, lowering the stakes helps us take care of our teams and ourselves.


Tune in and follow Unserious wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow us on Instagram at @unserious.fun.


14 Episodes
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At work we constantly have to stand up to tell our stories, advocate for resources, and convince our teams and leaders to join us. Navigating internal and external workplace communication can be daunting, but in this episode Elisabeth Diana, Head of Communications at HR one stop shop Deel, shares her playbook for developing messages that are on-point, authentic, and strategic. And using examples from recent press events from Calista Flockhart, Taylor Swift / Tree Paine, we work backwards to dissect and speculate on the stories behind the stories."You cannot spin your own stuff. You have to be able to own when something is not going well. You are the truth teller. You're not paid to say yes. You are paid to tell the truth." - Elisabeth Diana0:10 Intro3:01 Strategic Communications for Influence13:55 Hire, Fire, Boss!17:37 Data and Anecdotes for Persuasion21:25 Pop Culture Communications Critiques31:08 Reflections and OutroConnect with Elisabeth on Threads @ediyorkMentioned in this episode: Deel Global Trends reportCalista Flockhart New York Times interviewTaylor Swift Eras Tour BonusesSwift Skips the Times GalaFollow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
Great relationships are crucial to producing great work - at home and in the workplace. Striking the perfect chord between personal life and a demanding career with high-profile notables is not an easy task. In this episode, J.B. and Molly explore the delicate balance with guest Adria Marquez, founder of Latidos Media and former Director of Digital Content in the Obama administration. Adria's approach to life's juggling act is inspiring, offering up a blueprint for blending love, laughter, and a touch of style into success. She shares strategies on managing relationships with stars from Michelle Obama and John King to Eva Longoria and America Ferrera,  bringing one's full self to the professional table, and the alchemy that transforms her relationship with fiancé and comedian Jésus Trejo into rocket fuel for learning and personal growth."Relationships are one of our strongest assets, not just personally as humans, but also in our career...  I have been through the journey that I've been through in large part because of those relationships." - Adria Marquez0:10 Intro2:22 A modern romance11:10 Hire, Fire, Boss!16:01 Pro-tips for busy partners21:51 Navigating high-profile relationships24:34 Bringing full self to work32:56 Reflections and outro Connect with Adria on LinkedIn. Mentioned in this episode:Papa's Magical Water-Jug Clock children's book by Jésus TrejoFollow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
We’ve all complained about office politics… someone was able to influence a decision or get a project over the line through the shear force of their personality or relationships. But what are we really complaining about? Power. In this episode, Ebele Okobi, CEO of The New Humanitarian, discusses the dynamics of power: challenging it, finding it, using it, and sharing it. This conversation takes you through the importance of rest not just as a form of self-care but as a powerful act of resistance. If you're feeling off course, Ebele's deep wisdom and challenging insights will point you in the right direction."My interest in power is, how do I bring people with me? How do I use this power to create a more radically loving world?" - Ebele Okobi00:31 Intro 02:06 What is power? 04:05 Developing personal power 08:21 Power through platforming and sharing 11:00 Hire, Fire, Boss! 13:56 Power sharing through team building 16:54 Joy and community 21:30 Rest and the sabbatical 28:35 The New Humanitarian 33:18 Reflections and outro You can connect with Ebele on LinkedIn and Instagram.  Mentioned in this episode: The Igbo have no king 2022 Venice Biennale Chinedu Valentine Okobi Sabbatical ProgramThe Future Plate (African & Caribbean Catering)Loophole of Retreat symposiumFollow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
Embracing failure as a force multiplier for growth and creativity is a core belief here at Unserious. So in this our final episode of the season, we journey back to the origins of our podcasting adventure, reflecting on some of our favorite moments and valuable insights we learned along the way. In this episode, Unserious producer Micah Vono joins J.B. and Molly to talk about storytelling and narrative building from his unique angle of human-centered design. We talk about our hopes and dreams for the future and offer a sneak peek at what we're thinking about for next season. Join us as we celebrate new beginnings and let us know what suggestions you have for Unserious! "Being able to take that step back and say ‘this thing that I’m working on is not me’ is table stakes for producing great work.” - Micah Vono0:12 Intro1:24 Learning and Growing Through Podcasting4:36 Great Moments From Season 112:41 Hire, Fire, Boss!15:48 Storytelling for Humans22:24 The Future of Unserious27:43 OutroYou can check out more of Micah's work at micahvono.com and connect on LinkedIn.Mentioned in this episode:- Julie Zhou on loving the problem- Storyteller Sarah Kuck of Present Medium Productions- Dieter Rams' Ten Principles for Good Design Follow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
Research shows that joy and high performance are tightly correlated, so it's worth asking: why don't we play more? And how can the power of play help us produce better, more innovative, and more personally satisfying work? In this episode, J.B. and Molly speak with Lauren Cooke, the creative director behind diverse brands like Alamo Drafthouse, Mondo, Snap Kitchen, and Bestow Life Insurance. Her insights reveal the transformative power of joy and play in creating ideas that are just weird enough to connect with. We also dive into the stickiness of using AI to drive creativity and close with thoughts on working with or being introverts in the creative process. Grab some Play-Doh for this one!"You have to consciously decide to carve out time to be silly, to do something weird... Going through some paths that won't work out makes the final product sing." - Lauren Cooke0:13 Intro3:20 Give Me The Weird6:49 Hire, Fire, Boss!12:11 Encouraging Play in the Workplace19:17 Introverts in Structured Brainstorms22:02 On Ambition24:52 AI's Impact on Art and Creativity31:05 Reflections and outroCheck out Lauren's clay animations on Instagram and connect on LinkedIn.Mentioned in this episode: - Lauren's favorite fidget clay (don't forget the eyeballs)Follow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
When we think about our best work, the things that come to mind are probably about the work itself, but guest Denise Burchell poses that team member relationships are the real determiners of success. In this episode, J.B. and Molly learn how to design those relationships for maximum impact and innovation as Denise shares valuable insights garnered from years spent leading cross-disciplinary teams. They also explore shifting focus from products to people and how to plan for the relationship dynamic, remote or not. "You can do anything with a distributed team that you can do with an in-person team... you just have to make up a lot of the serendipity with orchestration." - Denise Burchell0:10 - Intro1:22 - Shifting from product first to relationship first7:30 - Aligning with executives13:53 - Hire, Fire, Boss!17:38 - Ways of working and macroeconomics20:48 - Team ideation for the TED conference26:35 - On distributed and in-person teams30:42 - Reflections and outroConnect with Denise on LinkedIn.Mentioned in this podcast:- Create Inclusive Collaboration Experiences During the Design Process training by Molly and Denise on Salesforce TrailheadFollow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
Creative processes and frameworks are often presented as neat and linear orders of operation. But looking closer, we'll find a circuitous mess of unexpected twists, turns, and detours that we hope are worth it in the end. In this episode, J.B. and Molly explore with rogue creative director Mary Michael Pringle the crucial roles of joy, play, and vulnerability for fostering creativity in the workplace. She shares her approach to creativity, from drawing on her inner child and using toys, games, and stories to spark fearlessness, to creative briefs and verbal dreaming, to creating emotional connections that truly resonate with audiences. Get ready to unleash your inner child."It is about returning to your younger self. The word 'make believe' is perfect, because you do have to believe in what you're making...  it's about really believing and wanting to try.  You get back to that and you've got yourself your creativity back." - Mary Michael Pringle 0:10 Intro2:25 Play in the workplace5:39 Accelerating creativity and positivity12:55 Hire, Fire, Boss!17:05 The creative brief and brainstorming21:45 Case study: Egypt Air26:43 Friendships at work30:29 Reflections and outroConnect with Mary Michael on LinkedIn. Follow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
At the advent of a transformative time in technologic history, skills like empathy, compassion, collaboration, and curiosity are becoming more crucial than ever. In this episode, J.B. and Molly speak with magician-turned-technologist Ryan Modjeski, the driving force behind the top-grossing literacy app, Reading Rainbow's Skybrary, as well as UNICEF KidPower and most recently, Empatico. Ryan shares advice on building empathy and emotional skills at scale and the power those can have in creative problem solving. He also reveals some illusionist secrets that have surprising application to user experience and technology."The culture I try to build is one that is unafraid to try and the only real sin is making the same mistake over and over again." - Ryan Modjeski00:01 Intro01:24 Social-emotional learning and empathy08:43 Hire, Fire, Boss!12:55 Skills for a better tomorrow15:49 Empathy at scale22:11 Embracing diversity on teams23:41 UX tricks from a former magician31:00 Final thoughtsKeep up with Ryan at @rmodjeski on Twitter / X and learn more about Empatico at Empatico.org.Mentioned in this episode:- Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami- The Power of Moments by Dan & Chip Heath- The War for Kindness by Jamil ZakiFollow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
In this first episode of Unserious, J.B. and Molly speak with design leader and coach Courtney Kaplan about practical ways to manage creativity and personal growth during a particularly difficult time in the workplace. She shares advice from founding design operations at Facebook, highlights how leaders can create safe spaces for their teams and manage stress effectively. Finally, Courtney discusses coaching and the benefits it can bring from navigating fast-paced work environments to working toward larger personal transformations.“The promise of being your best self or transforming that self - people get excited about those promises. But the truth is that true transformation comes from practical ways of being a little bit different over time.” - Courtney Kaplan00:00 - Intro03:02 - What’s keeping creative people up at night?06:30 - Demonstrating value to the business12:24 - Hire, Fire, Boss!15:24 - Creativity through structure25:44 - Navigating stress and finding moments of calm27:56 - Transformational coaching35:58 - Wrap-upFollow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
Introducing Unserious

Introducing Unserious

2023-10-3108:02

Welcome to Unserious! Get to know hosts J.B. Skelton and Molly McMahon as they kick off a season of exploring how to manage and manifest creative impact in an era of constant disruption. Also, there are fireballs. Follow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
We’ve all heard the stories of that young person who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, made it out of that small town or that rough neighborhood, and moved to the big city to make something of themselves. That concept of “I made it out” is so prevalent that we accept the premise without much thought. In this episode,  Nancy Gutiérrez, Lead Executive Officer & President of The Leadership Academy and co-author of the new book  Stay and Prevail, questions the value of the "leave to succeed" mindset for people, community, and the workplace."When we realize how similar we are, we're able to advance work with perspectives that will help to do it in a faster, more productive, more enlightened way." - Nancy Gutiérrez00:00:10 Intro00:01:48 Leave to succeed00:12:17 Hire, Fire, Boss!00:15:40 Bringing diverse teams together00:19:50 Affinity groups, mentorship, code-switching00:31:42 Reflections and outroLearn more about Nancy at leadershipacademy.org.Mentioned in this episode:Stay and Prevail: Students of Color Don't Need to Leave Their Communities to Succeed by Nancy Gutiérrez and Roberto PadillaFollow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
We've all struggled with delivering or receiving feedback on work. Feedback given at the wrong time or in the wrong format can cause all kinds of problems. In this episode, Sarahlyn Bruck, an award-winning author and professor of writing and literature, introduces us to an ingenious solution. The Feedback Barometer is a game-changer for navigating the murky waters of feedback in the creative process. She breaks down how this simple rating system empowers her students to own and guide the type of feedback they receive. Plus, Micah gets the inside scoop on Sarahlyn's latest book, "Light of the Fire." "It's a way to set boundaries from unwanted or unhelpful feedback... I think everyone wants to feel heard and not just talked at." - Sarahlyn BruckCheat sheet @ bit.ly/upshotsbruckConnect with Sarahlyn at sarahlynbruck.com. Mentioned in this episode:"Light of the Fire" is available everywhere books are sold.Follow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
Do your team icebreakers ever elicit a groan? Have you ever stressed out being asked to share your innermost feelings at the top of a meeting? In this episode of Upshots, learning experience designer Lauren Vono shares a treasure trove of strategies for creating inclusive team-building icebreakers that aren't just fluff - but generate real connection and lay the groundwork for better collaboration."Some folks connect on the surface level and other people by going really deep. The secret sauce is for both of these groups to be able to harmonize.” - Lauren VonoCheat sheet @ https://bit.ly/upshotsvonoConnect with Lauren on LinkedIn or Instagram.Follow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
Introducing Upshots, a new Unserious short format to kick off your Monday morning with one quick idea that you can put to use today. Have you ever unwittingly held your team back by being overly hands-on? In this first episode of Upshots, producer Micah Vono is joined by Ian Saville, a coach and founding partner at the collabic, who casts a spotlight on the counterintuitive effects of leaders rolling up their sleeves a bit too far. Ian's tactics can help you shift your approach to leadership, providing a roadmap from being an 'unconscious expert' to a cultivator of empowerment. "It’s the best intentions... but if you’re going and doing the work of your team, how are they going to learn how to do the work?” - Ian SavilleCheat sheet @ https://bit.ly/upshotssavilleConnect with Ian on LinkedIn and at thecollabic.com. You can catch his live gaming and coaching stream at twitch.tv/thesavillian. Follow Unserious in your podcast app, at unserious.com, and on Instagram and Threads at @unserious.fun.
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