We are a Strategic Design Unit. Our work bridges disciplines and departments, roles and responsibilities; it is concerned with all of the factors around a thing, and not just the thing itself. How people work on things is as important as the work they do.
As vital as innovation is, the effect it has on an organisation (and the effect an organisation has on it) necessitates the breadth of this strategic design approach, and pulls on all of our experience, and that of the teams we assemble to work on projects.
John V Willshire
John founded Smithery in 2011. All of his work is rooted in the idea that it is better to help organisations make things people want, rather than make people want things.
This is achieved through a nested collection of creative philosophies, processes and tools he has forged over the last decade to generate endless inspiration for the imagination and maximise the impact of ideas.
All this makes John a powerful partner for innovating in any capacity. From multi-year planning for uncertain futures to daily problem solving, designing global programmes to rapid idea generation, shaping the language of key imperatives to building digital platforms for deployment, his breadth of experience is matched only by his enthusiasm for learning new things.
John is also a visiting professor at IED in Barcelona, where he leads their annual summer Innovation and Future Thinking course, and is a guest lecturer at the RCA in London.
Prior to starting Smithery, John was Chief Innovation Officer at PHD Media, and led innovation there from 2007-2011.
Helen joined Smithery as a co-director in 2015, and heads up operations, research and analysis, specifically when it comes to our larger strategic projects.
With a unique background in mathematics and psychology, Helen was previously a Principal Transport Planner in the Strategy department of Surface Transport at Transport for London, where she spent seven years leading strategy and innovation around bus fares and ticketing including a focus on the bus experience from the customer point of view.
Prior to this, Helen worked for the web survey team at TNS, where she specialised in market and customer research, HTML and how much people hate web surveys.
Analysing customer reaction and engagement has been a mainstay of Helen’s career, and is something she is still interested in through Smithery work.
Helen’s public sector experience balances out John’s predominantly commercial background, and so as a rule of thumb she takes the first view on anything with the word ‘policy’ in the title…
Over the past ten years, we’ve worked across innovation, strategy, design, culture, futures and more besides.
It’s led to an unrivalled toolkit and way of approaching problem solving across any domain, with speed, skill and craft. We call this Lightspeed Innovation, and once you learn to see things this way, you’ll never look back. Every problem and every client is unique, but here are some examples of how we might work together.