Julie, in conversation

Dan Soltzberg: Welcome! Talk a little about what drew you to Portigal Consulting..

Julie Norvaisas: I have been really impressed by the way Steve has built his business over the years, with a lot of integrity, and his own very active brand. so when I saw that there was an opening, it was really exciting. The Bay Area has always been really attractive to me, so it was a real convergence of opportunity!

DS: What would you say your brand as a researcher or consultant is about?

JN: My brand is about humane collaboration. It’s about not using consult-y words or being intimidating or too intellectual. The process that I enjoy participating in is gentle; everybody is comfortable coming together and sharing ideas and they feel safe doing that. And as much as I want to bring insight and enlightenment I want to guide people to have their own insight and enlightenment, especially clients, so that they have more ownership of the end results. They lived it, they believed it, they discovered it themselves!

DS: What do you like the most about the kind of work that we do?

JN: I love being proven wrong. I love it when my assumptions are completely off and my own biases are exposed. I love it when I am able to go into someone’s home and learn something that is not only insightful, but human. That not only makes me think about the project and the project objectives in a different way, but also about people. You can’t judge a book by its cover is the oldest cliché, but I think we all do. I know that I do, and I love that my job gives me the opportunity to challenge that on a regular basis.

Another thing that’s so fascinating about the work we do is that human beings are wired to fix and solve and improve and evolve things. So all the companies that we work with are putting things out in the world and once they are out in the world people are starting to work with them, fix them, identify what’s wrong with them, discover their own needs that are adjacent, use them in different ways, work-arounds, whatever you want to call it. We get to identify that process of evolution and bring it back to clients; this is what you intended vs. this is what’s happening in the real world.

DS: Do things make you mad or irritate you, things in the built world?

JN: One of the things that we all have to contend with is the fact that on just about every research project that I’ve done, one of the conclusions is that people are overwhelmed by how many choices they have. I don’t care if it’s a service, technology, shoes, toothbrushes, it doesn’t matter. Consumers are overwhelmed. And our job is to help our clients bring more to the marketplace. That is a challenge we face as participants in the design process, and we can work with our clients to communicate that it’s not enough to just bring something new to the market. It has to be a compelling enough offering to eliminate other things from the marketplace. It’s something we can conceivably do to help society and help the planet.

DS: And sometimes it’s about helping them redefine what “more” means. More isn’t necessarily more in number. It might mean better, or more focused. There’s so many directions you can go with that.

JN: How do you feel about another person coming on to the firm?

DS: It’s cool to get an injection from outside. For the same reason it’s nice for our clients to hire us to come in and get that external perspective, it’s great to have that happening in the firm as well. We’re both excited to see what you bring in terms of approaches to doing things, methodologies, and different perspectives.

Interview edited and condensed by Dan, Steve, and Julie


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