Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Skyler Mattson on Understanding Human Experience
WONGDOODY President Skyler Mattson discusses their ground breaking methods of capturing the Human Experience, providing deep insight for innovative product design, specialized client service and effective branding.
Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
“I think that creative democracy, the idea that a good idea can come from anyone, which extends to members of our creative department, to our receptionist, to our clients. It is one of the best things about working at WONGDOODY and it will always be a central part of our culture.”
- Skyler Mattson
As a global thought leader on human experience, Skyler Mattson understands the dynamics of this equation. Skylar, can you define what you mean by “HX,” human experience?
How did COVID-19 change the language of marketing? And do you think this change is permanent?
How has social justice as well as COVID-19, changed the C-Suite dynamic, and how senior executives work with each other?
Do you think there's a gap between the consumer rhetoric or expectations and the reality of what's possible and what will actually play out, and how does a brand leader, a marketing leader, reconcile these gaps?
Our research shows the pandemic as a pivot to accelerated migration, to remote digital selling, how can companies keep up with the speed of this migration and how can I get it right?
Jeff and Skyler discuss the origin of the name WONGDOODY
What are the changes you've seen during your time at WONGDOODY and your employees, what gets them excited and also how you make an impact with your customers?
For all those people who have these creative instincts out there that are part of some larger firm, what advice do you give them on how to stay just a little bit crazy and independent while still operating the rows and columns of a large organization?
You said before that WONGDOODY has always believed in a “creative democracy.” What does that mean? And what does it look like now?
Let's go back to the headline here, human experience. If we say it's a combination of customer experience, user experience and employee experience, how do you harness all these together and actually elevate the brand and drive revenue and loyalty?
In your view, how is how can a business leader make long term decisions, long term impact in a short term, highly uncertain environment.
If you're talking with a young person today, that's just beginning their career, maybe even in college, what advice or perspective might you give them as they look to their own career?
If you have to go back in time, let's say January 1st of this year, anything you'd have done differently so far in 2020?
What is The Sounding Board and how is it making a deep impact for your clients?
You mentioned mothers, we've all worked from home in recent months. Looking ahead, how does this shift in work patterns impact the working mom and business overall?
You also play a role as a trustee for the Infosys Foundation USA… can you comment on that for a moment and on experiences there?
Every time I speak with you, you are not only upbeat, but also have a lot of energy. And so people might be wondering, how do you achieve a healthy work life balance and keep this going?
Skyler recommends online resources and shares her contact information
Jeff Kavanaugh Human experience, integrating customer employee, and user perspectives. That's the focus of today's Knowledge Institute podcast, where we talk with business experts, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. I'm Jeff Kavanaugh Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute. And today we're here with Skyler Mattson, WONGDOODY President and Founder of The Sounding Board. Experience is now the differentiation here, driven by insight and forged by creativity. Skyler focuses on the humans her clients want to reach and influence. She and her team reimagine the data, platforms, brand and experience to transform client interactions and build their business. As a global thought leader on human experience, Skyler Mattson understands the dynamics of this equation. Skylar, can you define what you mean by “HX,” human experience?
Skyler Mattson Human experience is a business strategy that puts humans at the center of everything that we do, because if you think about it, business problems are usually human problems. And how we do this is by understanding the clients or customers or employees or vendors, you know, whomever that human is who you need to connect with. And then we develop insights and we use creativity to bring those to life in a way that improves the experience from end to end and executing this human experience has two components, experience engineering and experience design. And the experience engineering portion is really taking this wide look at the entire customer journey and re-engineering it to meet business objectives and experience design is the UX that brings that journey to life. The work of experience engineering can really be the cornerstone of the CMO and CIO partnership because you have to pull in people from various disciplines, marketing and tech in order to take a holistic view of the experience. You want to look at it digitally, physically, emotionally, and experienced engineering can look at everything from how your attracting new clients or customers to data gathering and analytics to what actually happens in story really is this comprehensive, end to end look, and you cannot have that look without people in both tech and marketing
Jeff Kavanaugh Skyler, thanks so much for joining us because making sense of human experiences, what we'll be exploring in today's conversation. Skyler, how did COVID-19 change the language of marketing? And do you think this change is permanent?
Skyler Mattson Gosh, it's such a great question, Jack. You know, one of our copywriters early on, this is probably in April, Jennie Moore. She wrote this really funny article about all of the clichés that were coming out in marketing at the beginning of the pandemic. I mean, you saw these like at the start of every commercial, it was like, “we're all in this together.” And you know, “times may be tough” and there was like the same sort of melancholy piano music behind it. That change is not permanent, thankfully that is not permanent, but you know, even more than COVID-19 when I'm thinking about the last few months, the last six months, I think the most significant occurrence has really been the political uprising and the protests after George Floyd was murdered by police. I mean, that really sent our world into a spin that that really needed to happen.
Skyler Mattson I mean, I think marketers, like leaders in really every industry, had this wakeup call that really language isn't enough, that you have to take concrete action to change. And I also see consumers scrutinizing the values of the companies with which they're doing business, you know, from Facebook to Amazon. So I do think that the best brands will make a permanent change and that change will be to be more transparent, to be more inclusive, to be more authentic in the way that they communicate with their customers, in the way they craft experiences for their customers. And yes, this is partly due to COVID-19. Um, but I think more so due to this increased focus on racial equity and this is a really positive change.
Jeff Kavanaugh Yeah. Pendulums swing and the often swing well pass the midpoint. So we'll see where they settle. How has social justice as well as COVID-19, changed the C-Suite dynamic, and how senior executives work with each other?
Skyler Mattson Well, I think they've all realized they need to work together better and they need to work together in a different way. I mean, the stakes are really so high. We know a lot of companies aren't going to make it through this. And, you know, I really liked the idea that came up in the research where CMOs are responsible for brand resilience and CIOs are responsible for business resilience. They’re both responsible for the survival of the organization, so they have to work together. That's changing the dynamic, it's becoming more and more important. But I do like that, even though they're working together on this common goal, survival, resilience, they're each bringing their own skills to the effort in this collaboration.
Jeff Kavanaugh You talked before about changing expectations or focus from consumers. Do you think there's a gap between the consumer rhetoric or expectations and the reality of what's possible and what will actually play out, and how does a brand leader, a marketing leader, reconcile these gaps?
Skyler Mattson You know, I think it's that customers get used to a specific set of interactions and then those interactions aren't universal. So a great example of this is the work that we do with employee experience. So employees are humans who interact in their personal lives with apps and services that are often intuitive and elegantly designed and easy to use. You know, think about it, you, how you order an Uber or Lyft or a Door Dash. Then these humans go to work and their most basic interactions are on systems that weren't designed with them in mind. And that impacts the way they work. So, there is a problem between expectation and reality, but I think the bigger challenge is that there's an inconsistent implementation of digital transformation. And most companies are focusing on it for their customers and not all of their other stakeholders of which employees so important.
Jeff Kavanaugh Our research shows the pandemic as a pivot to accelerated migration, to remote digital selling, how can companies keep up with the speed of this migration and how can I get it right?
Skyler Mattson That's a great question. It's a difficult question. I mean, we know that partnership between the entire C-Suite is key and of course companies want to increase speed of how they're migrating to remote in digital sales. That's our new reality. And we have technologies and we have processes for that. That's almost the easy part, finding the technology that's going to help enable that. But the more difficult part is really making sure they create a culture of innovation. We'll build playbooks for companies we work with, ways of implementing changes in cultures or systems. And it's important to realize that existing cultures and legacy systems can be the roadblocks to change. And companies really just can't afford that now.
Jeff Kavanaugh You've, for some time have led the operations at WONGDOODY. And it's a very interesting… in case people don't know out there, WONGDOODY is not some, some crazy term. It's an actual agency that's won all kinds of awards, including Super Bowl commercials and all kinds of great things…
Skyler Mattson And founded by Tracy Wong and Pat Doody. So before you really become incredibly confused, or, you know, doubtful about… there's a very rational reason behind the name WONGDOODY.
Jeff Kavanaugh Ah, you just pulled back the curtain, but anyway, we’ll keep going. All these things that have gone on, I think you're a great microcosm of changes in industry demographics, even the employee base. What are the changes you've seen during your time at WONGDOODY and your employees, what gets them excited and also how you make an impact with your customers?
Skyler Mattson You know, since we are part of Infosys, we're in a more stable position than some of our independent agency friends. And we have been undergoing transformation becoming a part of this large global company for a couple of years. So we've actually gotten pretty used to change as a constant. But you know, I will say one of the biggest things within WONGDOODY that has changed recently is us really taking a hard look at our diversity and inclusion and learning the many ways we have to grow and evolve. We've added, at a time when nobody's adding staff, a diversity consultant and have included specific goals against diversity and equity as part of our company goals. And so I think like when I look at what has changed during this time, that is one of the most significant and important changes we've made.
Jeff Kavanaugh Going back to what you said about being part of a larger company, ‘cause you were independent for many years, then you became part of something larger. For all those people who have these creative instincts out there that are part of some larger firm, what advice do you give them on how to stay just a little bit crazy and independent while still operating the rows and columns of a large organization?
Skyler Mattson Oh, I love that question. I think when you realize that creativity can solve business problems, that you don't analyze the assignment as much. I think the work that we're doing with Infosys clients, they're global clients, they’re many of the Fortune 500 businesses, and we have different business challenges to tackle, but that doesn't mean creativity isn't a part of those solutions and creativity remains such a part of our DNA that we continuously look at the innovative ways to come at a business problem.
Jeff Kavanaugh You said that word creativity. So we're going to go off on that one for a little bit. You said before that WONGDOODY has always believed in a “creative democracy.” What does that mean? And what does it look like now?
Skyler Mattson I'm glad you're asking about this. I think that creative democracy, the idea that a good idea can come from anyone, which extends to members of our creative department, to our receptionist, to our clients. It is one of the best things about working at WONGDOODY and it will always be a central part of our culture. And the cool part has been watching it spread to other groups within Infosys, as they start working with us. You know, now creative democracy extends to how we grow our business, how we integrate new companies. It's not just about creating ads. It's about creating the culture we want as we grow. And as we grow and as we evolve.
Jeff Kavanaugh Let's go back to the headline here, human experience. If we say it's a combination of customer experience, user experience and employee experience, how do you harness all these together and actually elevate the brand and drive revenue and loyalty?
Skyler Mattson I mean, it's tricky. You know, it's always about understanding the human being at the center of the experience. And if we sort of go back to that North Star, it helps us to stay focused. Our insights about their needs inform our creative approach. So we're never just creative for the sake of being creative. We're being creative based on a human need that we understand. And then we design and we build based on that understanding. You know, we're also looking for ways to be more efficient in this process and we know that it can come at multiple points from process automation to AI, to machine learning. That's what's great about Infosys. We're able to do those things because of the scale that Infosys brings. And with that partnership, we just have multiple opportunities for both efficiency and creativity. And that's really a sweet spot for businesses right now.
Jeff Kavanaugh You still have to fight to make sure that creativity doesn't get pushed into a corner, but that's interesting to see that back and forth, that duality of creativity and efficiency. Speaking of dualities, there’s short term/long term. In your view, how is how can a business leader make long term decisions, long term impact in a short term, highly uncertain environment.
Skyler Mattson We know that companies that invest in marketing and R&D in the tough times, do better than companies that don't. And that's likely true now. I mean, we certainly have to be good financial stewards, but this is really the time to think long term and invest where you can. And we're also sort of forced to cut in places that are no longer relevant, like conferences and travel. So in the short term, cost cut where you can. In the long term really focus on coming out on top with your innovation and your marketing.
Jeff Kavanaugh One of the things I admire about you, Skyler is the optimistic attitude. There's an edge there, but optimistic attitude. If you're talking with a young person today, that's just beginning their career, maybe even in college, what advice or perspective might you give them as they look to their own career?
Skyler Mattson You know, I, my dad had said to me, “Do something you love because when you are able to enjoy something, you put your heart into it and then you are successful at it.” And he did something he loved, he shaped surfboards and built up a surf business with stores in California and Hawaii. And I think I have been incredibly lucky to have landed in a profession that I love. And so I always want to give the advice to try to find something that you love doing. And, you know, it's funny, I think, you know, during this, the shelter at home time, kids are playing way more video games than they should be. But now they're asking me about coding classes and now they're on code.org and I'm starting to see this future where my kids are coders and it's something that they love. And it is a skill that is so needed for the future. So maybe that's a silver lining of us all being at home that maybe they'll become little coders.
Jeff Kavanaugh If you have to go back in time, let's say January 1st of this year, anything you'd have done differently so far in 2020?
Skyler Mattson Well, Jeff, we would have invested in hand sanitizer stocked up on the essentials in January, you know, had we had we known…
Jeff Kavanaugh The toilet paper run, yeah…
Skyler Mattson The toilet paper run. I'm thinking back, what would I have done differently? Were there other things that perhaps I could have prepared for? I think from a business standpoint, we were really well set up for this time. Our teams were already using Zoom. We were already using Teams. We had so many digital tools because we service clients from around the world. So I felt like, I actually feel like the remote working transition hasn't been as challenging as the life at home transition to having our children here and needing to homeschool them. I mean, if I could have somehow prepared for that aspect in January, I don't know what that would have been, but that would have been some nice foresight to have.
Jeff Kavanaugh Going from you as a “sounding board” for your family at home, to The Sounding Board as a tool, we haven't really dug into that one. And I wanted to make sure we did that while we were talking, what is The Sounding Board and how is it making a deep impact for your clients?
Skyler Mattson So The Sounding Board was born from The Motherboard. And if you'll allow me for a moment, I think the origin story is important to what the tool does and the value it brings to clients. And The Motherboard was born from a business problem that the women, the moms in particular, our agency saw, and that's that moms are incredibly powerful consumers. They make 85% of purchase decisions yet only 77% feel that brands are resonating with them. So there's this disconnect between how companies are communicating with moms. And we thought, well, we could fix that. What if we had this ability for all of our clients to talk to real moms from around the world and we created a digital community where they could be always on to answer questions about use ability of digital tools, how they shop at retail, do blue sky ideation on the product products that they wanted to see.
Skyler Mattson So we built The Motherboard and it was really, uh, it began with all moms, and created by the moms at our agency. The Motherboard was recognized by Fast Company as a world changing idea, which was amazing. We quickly learned that many clients, although they would, uh, recognize that moms are powerful, wanted to talk to other demographics. And that's where The Sounding Board came in. The Sounding Board has additional functionality, which allows us to build custom insight communities for a particular customer. So we could have an automotive customer who wants to reach their dealers, as well as some of their vendors, as well as customers. And they want to have a community with all of these different stakeholders who they reach out to on a monthly basis to get input. So then we recruit for this very specific community for them. It's part of The Sounding Board and they can regularly go back and forth to get input on their business. I mean, it's really how you become a true live enterprise by having access to a tool that allows you to get real time feedback from all of your stakeholders.
Jeff Kavanaugh Feel the need for speed. That's important right now, moving fast. You mentioned mothers, we've all worked from home in recent months. Looking ahead, how does this shift in work patterns impact the working mom and business overall?
Skyler Mattson I think working from home, homeschooling from home, doing everything from home has really been a huge burden on everyone, but it has hit working moms especially hard. I just read an article in the New York Times that showed that among married couples who both work full time, 70% of the childcare burden still falls to the mom, and many moms have had to drop out of the workforce so that they could care for their children or educate their children during this time. And they're going to have a hard time getting back in. And right before the pandemic hit, women made up just over half of the workforce, and now we're taking huge steps back and this will affect business because we all know how important it is to have diversity of thought and opinion, and you know, not just gender, but race and age and sexual orientation. Cutting out a huge demographic is definitely going to hurt our ability to get diverse input.
Jeff Kavanaugh You also play a role as a trustee for the Infosys Foundation USA. And that's an interesting complimentary hat that gives you a different perspective into stakeholder needs. Can you comment on that for a moment and on experiences there?
Skyler Mattson Jeff, I would love to. The Infosys Foundation is close to my heart, as is The Motherboard. See, look at it in action- love what you do, and this is what happens. So the Infosys Foundation educates the teachers of K through 12 students, and it educates them on computer science and maker education so that they can then give that knowledge to their students. And it focuses, specifically on teachers and underrepresented communities. One of the key accomplishments and initiatives within the Foundation is their Pathfinders Institute, which used to be an in-person intense training Academy, but now it's online, which is actually better because it gives us the opportunity to reach even more teachers. And, you know, as I've mentioned, I have three of my own K through 12 students. So it's incredibly rewarding to be a part of an effort that is educating the educators on computer science and make maker education, the skills that the future workers are going to need. So I love being a part of it. Our next initiative is to create an ambassador program with the current, loyal teachers who are a part of it, so they can reach out through their networks and recruit more teachers to come. Our goal is to go from hundreds of participants to thousands of participants and, you know, perhaps another silver lining, but the Institute is now online. We are going to more quickly be able to invite more people to benefit from the Foundation.
Jeff Kavanaugh Every time I speak with you, you are not only upbeat, but also have a lot of energy. And so people might be wondering, how do you achieve a healthy work life balance and keep this going? Is coffee a part of it?
Skyler Mattson Coffee, sometimes two cups a day, sometimes three, don't judge.
Jeff Kavanaugh Oh, I've got my own caffeine, yeah.
Skyler Mattson You know, it's not easy and this is, you know, a bit of a boring answer for it, but I'm truly intentional about a work life balance. Whereas I'm scheduling time to take for myself. I know if I don't block it out, it won't happen. And I think it's very hard for people, I think for women, especially, to do this, but when you recognize I'm going to show up better for my WONGDOODY family, for my Infosys family, for my “family family,” if I feel good and am well, rested and inspired and healthy, when you realize that you're actually doing it for others, people who don't like to take time for themselves can, I'm one of those. So I block things out. I block out a little lunch break on that calendar so I can go out and eat with my kids. And if I didn't, somebody would take that time. Or I block out 30 minutes in the morning before that first call. so I can do an online workout because if I don't block that out, someone will schedule something and I won't do it. On the weekends I love to go places where I can't use my phone, like the beach. It's really just too sandy to respond to emails, or on hikes with my family where my cell reception doesn't work. So I sometimes get forced into that disconnect, which is just so important.
Jeff Kavanaugh Well put, well put. Wrapping things up, what online resources do you recommend and for learning, for inspiration, what are some sources you'd recommend?
Skyler Mattson I do like McKinsey articles that I get straight to my inbox that I've signed up for, main topics I’m interested in… should I not say that ?
Jeff Kavanaugh that's correct. This is where the editing helps is part of our outreach to employees, our 259 assets we already have that you haven't read yet.
Skyler Mattson I'm trying not to look down at your face, but I was looking at your face while I was saying that. And you had such an obvious, just, like, oh, I could just tell that was not the thing…
Jeff Kavanaugh It does show, though. See, this is The Sounding Board in action.
Skyler Mattson This is The Sounding Board in action. For online resources. I love the Harvard Business Review. I love the bite sized chunks of great information. I also like an online resource called Calm, which has me do deep breathing between meetings, and sometimes I only turn on this app for one minute and it is the best sort of palette cleanser between meetings so that I can show up present each time.
Jeff Kavanaugh Awesome. How can people find you online?
Skyler Mattson LinkedIn is the best place to reach me. Skyler Mattson, as well as Twitter at Skyler Noelle.
Jeff Kavanaugh Got it. And you can find details for everything that Skyler mentioned on our show notes and transcripts at Infosys.com/IKI and our podcast section. Skyler, thank you again for your time and a highly interesting discussion.
Skyler Mattson Jeff, it's always great to connect with you and I look forward to doing it again.
Jeff Kavanaugh You bet. Everyone, you've been listening to the Knowledge Institute where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. Don't forget to hit the subscribe button, and provide a rating and a review. Thanks to our producers, Christine Calhoun, Catherine Burdette, and the entire knowledge Institute team. Until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Skyler Mattson
Skyler has overseen the growth of WONGDOODY over the past 17 years. She has built her career leading award-winning work and several female empowerment initiatives. Including #TheReal10 which aims to close the gender pay gap and #IPumpedHere, which encourages workplaces to provide better facilities for breast-pumping employees. She is Founder of The Motherboard, a platform that provides global input to help brands drive digital transformation.
- Connect with Skyler on LinkedIn
- Connect with Skyler on Twitter
- WONGDOODY’s Human Experience, “HX”
- The Sounding Board: a practice that allows WONGDOODY to quickly and efficiently gather qualitative data and build better brand engagements centered around human experience.
- “Opinion: In these uncertidented times, we're all thanking forward, together” Jennie Moore, Ad Age, April 27, 2020
- Tracy Wong
- Pat Doody
- The Motherboard: a platform that provides global input to help brands drive digital transformation.
- Fast Company’s 2020 Best Workplaces for Innovators
- Infosys Foundation USA
- Pathfinders Institute
Mentioned in the episode