We are rapidly approaching our four year anniversary at PINE. It has been an amazing time of personal and professional growth. In planning for the future, we have been reflecting on why we have seen successes and where we can continue to grow and evolve. 

Why Us?
One of the questions we asked ourselves is why do companies hire PINE? Understanding strengths and weaknesses always helps to determine and communicate your competitive advantage. Sustaining and communicating this advantage is always a challenge. 

The number one reason people hire us is a referral, even if they don’t understand our value as articulated below, they refer us based on the meaningful impact our thinking has had and can have on their business; referrals have been the cornerstone of our business. 

Articulating Value
Articulating this valued outcome to an entirely new group is much harder in practice. We have our core pillars; questions before answers, willingness to question, transparency and trust and whole mind (left and right brain) thinking. This coupled with a portfolio of great clients and projects have often been enough. However, we know that the world is constantly changing and the competition and expectations never rest, so we decided to dig in and look deeper. 

We firmly believe there is something unique. Simply put, we believe we look at things distinctively differently. Our personal philosophies of embracing life and situations with genuine curiosity and questioning assumptions (BEGINNER) and applying a combination of a broad set of experiences (SAGE), what we call a Beginner-Sage Mindset

A beginner’s mindset, a philosophy observed by Shunryu Suzuki (1904–1971), a Zen monk, teacher, and author of the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind relishes uncertainty. It is to not burden oneself by the way things should be.

A sage, in classical philosophy, is someone who has attained wisdom. 

We believe creating and fostering the constructive tension between these two perspectives, the Beginner and the Sage has been the key to our unique approach and has had a broad impact on our work. A hungry appreciation for questioning assumptions and a respect for the wisdom gained by experiencing many inputs across our careers and clients, has helped us succeed.

To the Future
As we continue to think about and evolve how PINE can best serve our clients, we look forward to a future sparked by enthusiastically embracing the many new situations that lie ahead as beginners while being guided by the wisdom from our pasts. 


If you have ever gone mountain biking then you know if you are looking down your front wheel, you aren’t looking out far enough ahead. You’ll be at the obstacle by the time you see it. Many businesses today do just that. They look directly at the marketplace KNOWNS and react to what is immediately happening. Unfortunately it’s often too little, too late and this strategy doesn’t allow you to see around the bend in a constantly changing environment.

A better strategy, just like mountain biking, is to pick a line; get your head up and look ahead 7-10 feet in front of your path. If your company is looking ahead, at GLIMPSES, you are able to more easily see obstructions and changes in the marketplace that will impact your business. Allowing you to move more effectively toward where you want to go and avoid where you don’t. 

PINE routinely sees industry trends reports that call out specific themes and presents them as if they are new and you could react to them. However, to us many of these themes are things that the market has already reacted to. What they call trends, we call KNOWNS

In an effort to stay ahead we believe you have to look for GLIMPSES into the future. PINE uses principles from strategic forecasting like STEEP to create and identify GLIMPSES. We then create design fictions to illustrate how opportunity could be captured by our clients from these KNOWNS and GLIMPSES.

This approach has been successfully applied to much of our client work. It is at the core of our OPPORTUNITY-CENTERED DESIGN where the overlap of Knowns and Glimpses creates future success. 

If you would like to learn more about our process, how we view the world or find the KNOWNS, GLIMPSES and opportunities right for your business, please reach out.  P.S. And if you like mountain biking, here’s the link to a short highlight reel from the 2019 Red Bull Rampage in Utah.

Ecommerce finally moves forward

Ecommerce may be finally stepping into a new era. In 1999, a group of colleagues and I built an ecommerce site for a wallpaper retailer. Sadly, not much on the front end design of Ecommerce sites has changed since then; scroll down, find a product, add to cart and keep shopping. Yawn… wake me when it gets fun. Innovation for the most part has been focused on the backend with the obvious goal of selling stuff as quickly and easily as possible.

Personalization comes to life…

Gucci Live

However, Gucci’s new personalized video shopping may have just changed all that (No yawn)! Ecommerce efforts in social media (Pinterest, Instagram, Tik Tok) have given new hope and life into bringing the emotion back to ecommerce shopping. However they have still not evolved a real-time human connection until now. Gucci’s Live, a new online service brings the advisor to the customer. The new effort allows Gucci to be more present (human) in the lives of its customers, when and where they want it (technology).

Marco Bizzarri, Gucci president and CEO, said in a statement when Gucci 9 opened. “The service is delivered according to the values that define and differentiate our brand today: a human touch powered by technology.”

Democratizing personalization

In the near-term this level of service is a stretch for most mass retailers as they continue to use human associates. Creative ones like Gucci will integrate influencers, major stars, etc and perhaps even charge a premium for exclusive ‘remote’ shopping experiences. However, we ultimately believe this could easily trickle down to retailers like Target

Positive COVID impacts

COVID made remote video a reality overnight. The reality of a remote shopping spree with friends in different cities around the world no longer seems like science fiction. This gets us excited about a whole new possibility for Ecommerce!


At PINE we are always looking ahead for what the future might look like, we call these  GLIMPSES. We help Fortune 100 companies translate GLIMPSES into actionable strategies and implementable experiences. 

Special thanks to co-author John Youger

Over the weekend I had some initial thoughts on the impact of COVID.  For the most part, the degree to which any change happens will depend on the duration of stay-at-home. However, here are Glimpses into where we could see impact, regardless of how much time passes.

New Collaborations
Think about the companies or people who have worked together under duress (e.g. Ford and GE Healthcare). New bonds are developed, processes crafted, methods observed and learnings created; likely shedding light on new possibilities. 

Public Intimacy
When the pandemic slows and people return to their post COVID lives, I think there will be a yearning for being in public but, for many, a desire for an intimate way to do so.  For public spaces, restaurants and the like, this could be different layouts, seating design and service options.  What comes to mind are pods, closed booths or drive-up in car dining. These could start as temporary solutions that gain some ground.  Private Karaoke rooms never looked so good. 

Many businesses have had to make do with less.  Others, such as grocers, have had to keep truckin’ through the storm. Leaders of these companies are undoubtedly going to reflect on where humans were necessary and where humans were a potential weakness and avoidable expense.  I think we’ll see an acceleration of automation across airline, hospitality, retail and restaurant.  And btw, a push for people to use their own devices versus in-store hardware. 

Workers’ Rights
Services workers who worked through COVID will have a renewed sense of confidence but with mixed emotions.  They’ll put up a bigger fight for rights and win in the near-term.  But if they put up too much fuss, the effort to automate their jobs will only accelerate.

From voting to working, during the pandemic, we all realize we can do a lot of things without being in person. I think there will be an awareness that meeting remotely is entirely possible, plausible and sensible.  And we will have to take a hard look at what happens in person and why. *And that virtual happy hours shouldn’t only happen in pandemics.

White-Collar Work Week
When companies and people realize they can do way more with less and in less time, the work week will become more fluid. It is ridiculous that our work (and schools) are built on a 100-year model.  It’s time we evolve, we don’t drive Model-T’s still, do we?

Free-Range Kids
This thought was influenced by an article I came across in the New York Post. Many fortunate families with the means to give their kids some normalcy during this time will see their kids’ creativity and resilience grow much faster than it would in school.  Those “free-range” kids will play more, have less structure and be forced into unfamiliar situations, both positive and challenging. We might also wonder what this would have looked liked before Xboxes, Switches and any other screens. 

I believe we will see even less discovery and travel among Americans, especially to far away places.  The travel that people do take will be to visit family and see other states, trusting they’ll be safer here than abroad.  Over time, I hope that changes. America, now more than ever, needs a population who’ve experienced different cultures and peoples. 

Revisiting Entrepreneurship
I was shocked to learn how little solvency U.S. small businesses have.  This crisis will decimate many of them.  While working for a large business isn’t always secure, as evident by the furloughs and layoffs, striking out on your own is not for the faint of heart.  This crisis will dissuade people from starting businesses for a few years, well beyond the economic recovery.  

Belief in Experts
It’s scary when you have a growing number of people claiming their personal opinions hold equal weight to the opinions of experts.  While I think it’s an uphill battle, we will hopefully reverse the trend and show that there is such a thing as expertise and it should not be ignored. 

Relevant Government 
After seeing the way our Federal government is reacting and the wide differences among State and Local governments’ reactions, we will question the role of government more than ever.  And the arguments on both sides will become more polarizing. 

A Vision for America (even a Vision for the World)
I don’t think Simon Sinek was the first to ask about our Why.  However, he was the first to put it on our radars with such clarity and achieve unprecedented reach. Suddenly, looking for purpose went deeper than a typical branding exercise.  I think very soon, the younger generations will start to ask themselves and each other about America’s “Why”. We’ve never seen a long-term plan, we’ve never understood our mission, we don’t really get our “Why”.  The same people wanting to buy brands with strong Why’s will soon seek that from America.  We already hear the rumblings, it will only increase as time goes on and the impact of this pandemic imprints itself on our psyche. 

Thanks for reading. Feel free to reach out to discuss, debate or comment by emailing me: [email protected]

I had a few hours in Seattle last Sunday morning so I visited Go.

In case you’ve not been, you download the “Go” App, sign in using Amazon credentials and then scan your bar code into a turn style like device. I was with two other people so let them in and the three of us were now shopping under my Amazon account.

The store was smaller than I anticipated but overall a pretty nice, modern design. But while everyone seems to be reacting to the technology of just walking out, I couldn’t help but to think there’s something bigger here. In urban settings, the competitive set of quick and healthy food options generally means heading to a restaurant, getting food delivered or in big cities, heading to Whole Foods, a Co-Op or other local grocer. There aren’t m(any) convenient stores like Amazon Go which are so trusted, easy to get in and out of and offer healthy options that are prepared on the spot or nearby.

Walking away, I had visions of Amazon Go’s popping up on every street corner. Those visions had Amazon competing with Starbucks’ third place. And while we tend to think those third places need human associates to create warmth (think your name written on a cup), I would argue that digital natives might not have that strong of a need for the physical connection. For them, connections can be made through chat, text or streaming and the vibe from others in the space.

The Go has a really small dine-in area — technically it’s probably just a staging space where you can heat up food, get utensils, etc. But if they add a little bit more seating, suddenly you have a small and pleasant community hub, a space people visit daily. And, according to my friend John, maybe it’s the new community kitchen.

What I want you to takeaway is be weary of thinking that the Amazon Go story is solely about technology and checkout free stores. Sure, that’s part of it, but I would argue a smaller part than most assume.

It is nice to just walk out of a store. However, when automated checkout technology is ubiquitous, what’s going to bring you back again and again? The answer to that gives us a roadmap of where Amazon will Go.

Good Food Fast
I do, thanks for offering.
Sunday morning at 8 AM, time to restock

Glad to have finally checked the Go off my visit list, especially after a recent immersion trip to China. I’ll be excited to see what transpires from here. Shoot me an email if you have thoughts to share: [email protected].