M-C DEAN

Designer

I'm a product designer with a passion for user centered design. I am also an advocate of creative thinking approaches and design thinking.

I specialize in experience design for software. I've worked on lots of websites, web applications, mobile and social media products, applying principles and techniques from psychology and social sciences, human factors, human-computer interaction, visual design, accessibility and usability. My Ph.D focused on natural language generation and human communication with machines, a combination of AI and HCI.

I have a strong drive for innovation and have designed, envisioned and created new products for different market places and industries from scratch, as well as the strategy for bringing them to market and gaining user adoption. I bring the power and energy of design thinking to both startups and big companies. I like to focus my efforts on large-scale industry disruption.

I love to draw, take photos and skateboard. I'm a student and teacher of Yoga. I'm always exploring new things.

So you're a Guru...really?

Guru NanakCreative Commons License photo credit: harminder dhesi photography

There are so many job titles these days with the term "Guru" in them. I have seen countless business cards with the job titles "Management Guru", "Programming Guru", Innovations Guru", "Analytics Guru". Linkedin Chief Scientist DJ Patil wrote an interesting piece on the rise and fall of different job titles. He writes that the term "Ninja" is on the up, as is "Evangelist" and that "Guru" declined as from 2008. It looks like the "Ninjas" are killing off the "Gurus", but there's still a lot of them about.

Occupations that didn't exist previously and emerging more and more. I think we like give contemporary names that fit the Zeitgeist. I'm pretty sure we will see more creative names in the next few years, but for now I really wanted to explore the job title "Guru".

"Guru" is a Sanskrit word meaning "teacher". Literally, it means "Destroyer of darkness", because "Gu" means "darkness" and "ru" means light. The idea is that the Guru dispels ignorance (the darkness) and brings you into the light. In the yoga scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, a Guru is someone who guides you to spiritual enlightenment. S/He is a devine teacher who has realised the Self and can now guide others to do the same. In fact, in Buddhist and Hindu traditions the Guru is regarded as "God on earth". In the west, traditionally it has loosely been accepted that Gurus are people who have followers. Gurus are not self-appointed, they are selected by their students and they are essentially very very sought after teachers.

Some things Gurus do:

  • They teach 24/7
  • They look after their students
  • They don't preach
  • They have no ego
  • They work for the good of all mankind
  • They are self-realised
  • They don't bless you, they make you work hard to gain knowledge
  • They are very ethical
  • They are highly knowledgeable (and this knowledge is not just intellectual)
  • They are great communicators
  • They show you the way
  • They have great humility

Modern Gurus are the Dalai Lama, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Paramahansa Yogananda and Thich Nhat Hanh for example.

T.K.V Desikachar (a very very senior yoga teacher) describes a Guru like this:

"A Guru is not one who has a following. A Guru is someone who can show me the way. Suppose I'm in the forest and I have lost my way. Then I'll ask a person "Is this the way home?". That person may say "Yes, you go this way". I say "Thank you" and I go on my way. That is a Guru. There is an image in the world today that the Guru has a following and that his students follow him like the Pied Piper. That is not good. The true Guru shows you the way. You go your own way and then you're on your own, because you know your place and you are grateful."

It's interesting because Krishnamacharya, T.K.V Desikachar's father, is remembered as a great Guru, but he never thought of himself in that way. My own teacher Pattabhi Jois was affectionately known as "Guruji" meaning "little Guru". He also never thought of himself in that way.

Before meeting Guruji, I didn't care much for the fanfare surrounding the fact he was a Guru and all this. The minute that I met him I got it. It's not what someone like that stands for, it's more about how they make you feel. I believe we can choose our own Gurus. Like Desikachar says, someone who shows you the way is a Guru. I don't think that you can apply to be a Guru and I reckon that even if they don't get a pay check, Gurus will still be Gurus regardless.

I have met a lot of very very special people, highly trained and knowledgeable people, incredibly talented people, hugely inspiring people...but I have only met one Guru. It's a heavy title.

"Flash pirates", "Java monkeys", "SEO ninjas", "Process black-belts" and non-religious evangelists are sought after for their "stealthy methods" and "warrior skills". They populate our job boards and I like the tongue in cheek-ness of it all. But if you think you're a "Guru", you're probably not.