“Technology doesn't let you sit in the same room with somebody else.”
This is Jo Montgomery’s mission - to change our relationship with technology.
Jo - an interaction design specialist - is the founder of Little Riot, an organisation that inspires greater human connection through the use of wearable technology. Everything that Jo does is fuelled around her frustration of how we use and consume tech. While everyone was caught up in the excitement of mainstream technology, Jo was always hyper concerned and aware of what this might turn into in the future. Her much-loved product, Pillow Talk is testament to her success as a pioneer, engineer, leader and creative mind on a journey to solve this problem.
Pillow Talk is a wristband that connects people who cannot be in the same room as each other through their heart beats, which can be heard and felt through the wearable device. The device has been successfully used by long distance couples, military families and parents whose children are sick in hospital.
When we sat down to talk with Jo about Little Riot, the success of Pillow Talk and how she has come to view the state of leadership, one thing was apparent: Jo is succeeding in transforming the ways we view - and use - technology as consumers. We’ve extracted some of the perspectives and tools that Jo has optimised to overcome the adversity that came from starting her own highly successful and human-centric organisation, so that you can, too.
The Leadership qualities that matter
While Jo did not consider herself a leader, she has come to experience great expectations on her part to lead this movement. From receiving hate mail to excessive demand for her product - Jo has taken on her fair share of pressure and learned her fair share of lessons, two of which we have listed below.
1. Authenticity: In the business world we hear a lot of success stories, particularly about overnight success, but rarely the struggle. What makes Jo authentic is her honesty - talking about all sides of being a human being - the good days and the bad.
2. Transparency: If you visit Jo’s website, you will see how transparent she is about her entrepreneurship journey. It is through her willingness to share her mistakes and lessons learnt with her readers and consumers, she can not only manage expectations but can create a more human and understanding readership and consumer base.
Transparency is a great tool to create amore understanding and human culture in your organisation. People relate to mistakes (maybe more) than they relate to success.
Creating tech-free connection
“Technology should sit in the background, make our lives easier and facilitate things but it shouldn't distract us.”
While Jo is championing more human-centric technology, she also believes in creating more opportunities for less screen time. When we asked how we can create human connection without technology, she suggested 3 things:
1. Converse: Engage in open and honest conversations with people. This is one of the simplest ways to create connection.
2. Share: Not all human connection needs words. Shared experiences or activities with family or friends is a great way to bond. This can be anything from walking outdoors in nature to running mundane errands together.
3. Eliminate: Not up to an activity or conversation? Connection can be created just by being present with someone. Put your phone away when you have company to avoid all temptation for reaching for your (distracting) device.
Technology needs to do better. We need to ask for better
Jo believes that the future of technology is everyone's problem and responsibility - not just the engineers who make it but the individuals who use it, too. As consumers, we need to demand technology that is aligned to the interests of humanity. If we don’t push back and question how we consume tech and confront its effect on our relationships, health and wellness today, change won't come.
Make smarter consumer choices and educate yourself on the implications for the use of technology, specifically on your children.
Mundanity is good for creativity
Today, we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to be bored. All too often, we choose to replace downtime (boredom) with scrolling or consuming something which is distracting our brains. This then implicates how we process (or don’t process) information. If we want to promote creativity and innovation in the workplace, then we need ‘good quality’ down time that supports this.
Instead of reaching for your phone, read a book, make something, cook something, do something. Be more mindful about what you let interrupt you. When it comes to the workplace, leaders have the opportunity to intentionally design good quality downtime through facilitated activities.
The above is a just a taste of the lessons we have learnt from Jo. For the full interview, which is packed with plenty of wisdom and practical advice on bettering your leadership, subscribe to any of our channels below. And don’t forget to share with your community!