An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Chase your dreams and goals fiercely: the world’s greatest innovators weren’t satisfied with the status quo; they had a vision for something better and chased it relentlessly. So if you want to be successful, don’t settle for mediocrity, chase your dreams with everything you’ve got.
As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Hussain Almossawi.
Hussain Almossawi — a product designer, visual effects artist, and author who has worked across industries and around the world, consulting for companies such as Nike, Apple, Adidas, Amazon, Intel, and Ford Motor Company, among others. He is a regular keynote speaker on innovation and design and has taught at several universities. In 2019, Hussain founded Mossawi Studios, a multi-disciplinary design studio specializing in creating memorable, iconic, and bold experiences. He loves blurring the lines between product design, visual effects, and storytelling.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up, I was always passionate about design and sports, and I would dream of either making it to the NBA or working for some of the world’s biggest and most innovative sports brands — in hopes of working with professional athletes. That dream, along with persistence, took me on a journey around the world, filled with different experiences, exciting people, failures, and successes. After many, many tries, I was finally able to get my foot in the door and intern for the world’s number one sports brand: Nike. Fast forward to shortly after my internship, I had a chance to consult with and work for some fantastic brands, including Apple, Nike, Adidas, EA Sports, Ford, Amazon, Pepsi, and others. I also used my experience to set up my own studio, Mossawi Studios, which focuses on building experiences through product design and VFX.
Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There have been many interesting stories and milestones, and there continue to be new ones along my journey all the time. A significant milestone in my career would be when I got into the Nike Design Internship program. I was told that there were about 10,000 applications submitted, and only 12 design interns were ultimately chosen. It was a life dream come true.
One of the reasons I actually pursued my Master’s degree was to become a student again and become eligible to apply to this internship — which I put my heart and soul into the application I submitted. What made this milestone an important one in my career was that I always looked at good design through the lens of aesthetics first — but at Nike, my mindset shifted 180 degrees.
The big question was always how are we innovating, what is the innovation story, and what’s the consumer experience. It’s been over ten years, and it has significantly impacted my process and approach towards not only design but any project — whether it’s writing a book or building a strategy and vision. So as a designer, business owner, and author, I always start my process with how can we make innovate and bring something new and exciting to the table.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
There are quite a few. The first is that a vision and a plan are extremely important and necessary to make your goals and dreams come true, except that it becomes worthless without execution. Execution is key, and if you have a dream, then you shouldn’t just talk the talk but walk the walk.
The second principle is persistence. With persistence comes the understanding that failure is nothing but an experience and a road bump that gets you closer to the end goal. Failures actually give you an advantage as to what not to do the next time you are trying to solve a problem or reach a goal. Persistence also leads to the third principle, which is being focused and flexible in your process. Focus is extremely important as long as it comes with awareness, and with awareness, you know when to pivot and when to shift gears. If you don’t, you could find yourself running around in circles and wasting your energy on nothing.
Finally, the fourth principle is to “Stay hungry and humble” the moment you think you made it is the moment you fail, and being hungry for what’s next and willing to raise the bar is what will keep pushing you forward. Doing all that throughout your journey, and through your success, the ups and downs, while being yourself and humble, is what really matters because, as human beings, it’s easy sometimes to forget where we came from. On that note, giving back to those who are just starting out or those who want to be in your position should be in your DNA to give back, and your struggles starting out and become a driving force of good to everyone around you.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
Growing up, I always thought to myself that innovation was an extremely hard and overwhelming thing. Every time I saw a great idea, regardless of how simple or complex it was, I would think to myself. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
The process of innovating and being an innovator feels somewhat overwhelming when you are first familiarizing yourself with it. But having worked with some of the world’s most innovative companies and teams, I came to realize some repetitive patterns across different companies and industries that made the process of innovating much simpler and easier to approach. Innovating is for everyone — for anyone wanting to think outside the box, anyone looking to come up with a new idea in any discipline they might be in.
In my book, The Innovator’s Handbook, I share some of these insights and try to give the reader a front-row seat to what an innovator’s mindset looks like inside these giant innovative companies. Sometimes, it could be very simple tools and hacks that give you that innovator’s mindset to better unleash and supercharge your creativity.
Some lessons from the book include the importance of knowing that you don’t need to re-invent the wheel every time, and building on what already exists with your spin on it to improve and elevate the idea could be extremely powerful. Knowing when to lead and when to follow, and the implications of both. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Leonard da Vinci who never stopped being curious and was always asking questions and asking how we can become curious sponges in our everyday lives. How can we bring in amplify our teams with more diversity to give us more profound and rich perspectives? When focusing on improving an existing idea, how can we be more laser focused on the specifics vs. the product as a whole? Such questions, ideas, and stories cultivate a better innovator mindset for the next time you are looking to innovate or come up with your next big idea.
How do you think this will change the world?
Making anything more accessible and less overwhelming is what will always move the needle. As a designer, I had to learn some very complex programs when I was first starting out in the early 2000s, and the reason they were complex was that the learning material was very limited, the best things I could get access to were in monthly printed magazines or some tutorial websites that made written tutorials, and you had to follow step by step looking at a bunch of text and small images. Fast forward to today, you can find tutorials for almost any program, in many languages, all over YouTube and the internet in full HD. What’s the result? The number of emerging young artists and designers is just outstanding, thanks to the fact that learning materials are much more accessible, easier to follow, and allow many doors to be opened in terms of opportunities and growth. Now, why is making the idea of becoming an innovator and having an innovator mindset more digestible necessary? For the same reason, the more innovation we can have, the better our lives would get in terms of living, experiences, economy, business, you name it. So I’m all in for simplification and accessibility.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
I’m a big advocate for giving back, which also comes in the form of teaching and giving talks at different creativity and innovation conferences and running innovation workshops.
Those who attended my workshops felt an instant shift in their approach towards problem-solving and coming up with ideas, and all I was sharing were simple tricks and hacks of things I had experienced behind closed doors in some of the world’s most innovative companies and working with some of the most brilliant minds. As a result, I was really interested in collecting all these ideas and insights, along with practical exercises that I saw as most effective, into a simple, fun book that made the idea of innovation both approachable, engaging, and not overwhelming. My whole idea was to give the reader a front-row seat into how we did things in the industry.
A lot of us look at companies as these giants and can’t figure out how they do such great work, and the reality is that no matter how big the company is, at the end of the day, you are only working with a small group of people in a bubble and it’s all about how you function as a group and ideate together. The company’s culture, vision, and management definitely help steer its employees in a particular direction.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
First and foremost, people need to be aware that this book exists and that it can help them in their innovation journey. Second, people need to understand that innovation is not some magic formula or something that you’re born with, but it’s a muscle that you can train and get better at with practice. And lastly, once people start reading the book and practicing the techniques, I would love to hear feedback so that we can continue to iterate and make the book even better! I hope this book will be a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their innovation skills — and that they will soon be able to see the world with an innovator’s mindset.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
- Network! — Networking and expanding your connections only helps you get to know very interesting and diverse people. The more you can collaborate with people who are very different from you, the more interesting your innovations and ideations will be.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel — I always thought that innovation meant reinventing the wheel, but the reality is you can always build on an existing idea or merge 2 ideas together and come up with something new. Innovation doesn’t require squeezing your brain till you are fatigued and left with no groundbreaking idea. Sometimes the simple ideas make it, with good execution and storytelling.
- Working for the big brands is not the end goal — I always thought that making it into my dream company meant I made it. But the reality is that some companies will elevate you, and at others, you will find yourself stuck in a toxic environment filled with egos and politics. Huge brands are unique, and you learn a lot, but if you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world. You can always learn, push, and become great at what you want to do through other means. Some of the greatest innovators and entrepreneurs never worked for any household names, and we look up to them for all their success today.
- It’s never too early to innovate — I never thought I could innovate when I was younger because I always saw it as this thing that only adults did in the “big world.” But the reality is that kids are the best innovators because they’re not encumbered by years of experience and expertise. They see the world with fresh eyes and aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. So if you have an idea, don’t be afraid to pursue it, no matter your age.
- Read — reading gives you a lot of depth and knowledge, along with exposure to new ideas. Not only does it give you something to talk about, but you learn about different cultures, time periods, and worlds that you would have never been able to experience otherwise. It helps with your writing, your storytelling, and your ability to think critically. So if you want to be an innovator, start reading right now.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
- Be happy and enjoy the process: often times we focus too much on the destination and not enough on the journey. We become so fixated on becoming successful that we forget to live in the present and enjoy the ride. We need to remember that success is a process, not a destination, and every step we take helps us get closer to our goal.
- Be persistent: you will face a lot of setbacks and failures on the road to success, but it’s essential to never give up. Every “no” is one step closer to a “yes,” so don’t let rejection stop you from pursuing your dreams.
- Know what you want: it’s crucial to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. This will help you stay focused and motivated when things get tough.
- Put yourself first, it’s ok to be selfish sometimes: we live in a world that tells us we need to be selfless and always put others first, but the reality is that you need to put yourself first sometimes. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself first and foremost.
- Chase your dreams and goals fiercely: the world’s greatest innovators weren’t satisfied with the status quo; they had a vision for something better and chased it relentlessly. So if you want to be successful, don’t settle for mediocrity, chase your dreams with everything you’ve got.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Our world is hungry for true innovation, yet too many world-changing ideas die in the brainstorming stage because their creators lack the resources to bring them to fruition. With the right skills, knowledge, and connections, I can be that bridge between visionary and success. So if you’re looking to invest in the next big thing, invest in my newest resource — The Innovator’s Handbook. If we could get this resource into the hands of every would-be innovator, there’s no telling what they could achieve. With your help, we can change the world.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Hussain Almossawi’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.