Kia Höök on challenges of success & value of slowing down and re-connecting

Kia Höök is a professor in Interaction Design at KTH in Stockholm Sweden, director of the Mobile Life Centre and an ACM Distinguished Scientist. We talk about her early research career, and her experiences securing a large amount of research funding with some colleagues then co-leading a large research centre, building a culture, and managing relationships with industry partners. She also talks about how her year-long sabbatical gave her time and space to reflect on the challenges of success and to reconnect to what is important, to re-set her own rules and to re-think how she wants to engage as an academic.

"You end up in a situation where everything you do you do in order to be able to work more…and that is not a good life.”

“All of that stuff that you get worked up about, is it really that important, or even if it is important, can I have a different attitude.”

“It is about finding your core, knowing yourself, slowing down, and being more empathic with other people.”

She talks about (times approximate) …

 [Research background]

1:57 Evolving research foci from information searching to social navigation to affective computing – carving out new research areas

8:57 Developing the proposal for 10 years funding for the Mobile Life research centre

[Shaping and running a research centre]

11:27 Learning how to interact with industry to win their funding support, what are their drivers, who to speak to

15:57 Learning how to manage a large research centre, learning the hard way – IPR, growing a research group, sharing the funds among the four leaders, the challenges of cross-fertilisation across the four groups

19:07 Reflections on wishing they had shared research methods across the groups more and thoughts on what they could have done instead

23:17 Strong culture based on seminars, the Swedish Fika – the ‘enforced socializing’ every week -, joint trips

25:07 The challenges when some of the four leaders leave and the changes in dynamics

27:28 The challenges when some of the key company partners are no longer there and contributing matched funding; now knowing what to look for to see something going on with industry; being able to shape relevant research agendas

29:32 Practical suggestions for how to work with industry partners, e.g., needing to communicate what the research means, connecting the dots for them (“what are we seeing that they should care about, translating that”), making everyone work for 3 months with a partner and having people from the partner sit in the research centre, joint workshops

34:12 Lessons on managing people, building a culture – the challenges of having researchers from different disciplines, putting together teams based on competences and personality and creating safe creative spaces

36:40 Moving from being a researcher who can control the research to being the vision person - scaling up the vision, seeing the connections, … but then losing contact with the reality of the research

[The sabbatical experience – reconnecting with what is important]

40:34 The amazing invigorating sabbatical experience, time for reading, writing, connecting with the passion, sitting under a tree talking philosophy – “reconnecting with why we are doing this”, why it is important

44:22 Not only reconnecting with research, reading etc but reconnecting with herself; time alone, being lonely, unraveling strong personal ‘survival’ rules that were about being productive and efficient to function managing a household and work

46:35 “You end up in a situation where everything you do you do in order to be able to work more”

47:09 “And that is not a good life, you don’t live to constrain yourself in this way. It is not helping your creativity.” But taking time to get down from this, crash landing in Florida

48:27 “I actually do believe that one can change” - now recognising the emotional state and what might be an alternative emotional state she could transfer herself into … feeling collected, slowing down, listening to very small signals in your body, the benefit of Feldenkrais at work

51: 27 “What you have to remember is that all of that stuff that you get worked up about, is it really that important, or even if it is important, can I have a different attitude”

52:00 Being leader, the worked-up Kia did not spread a good work environment around herself – strong bodily signals you give off – so trying to listen to the alternative self that is more collected

54:21 Being flattered as an academic with invitations, awards etc but not being able to do all of it, needing to make choices, have new rules now about what to say yes and no to

56:39 “You have to know why you are doing it so if you do it because you are flattered and because it’s a notch on your belt or are you doing it because you are actually learning something important or you are communicating your research or whatever. So I have to think about that.” Making people email her so that she think first before replying/agreeing or not

57:42 Other changes – putting effort into the book she is writing, accompanied with the kind of exercises that connects her to what she is writing about, trying to do things she enjoys

59:00 Conflict of caring for students, keeping promises and looking after her needs, needing to promise less

1:00:21 Also needing to think about what the organization tells us we need to do to be a success and taking a stance about what is important, and what is enough funding

1:03:19 Risk of being flattered by recognition for your work, by prizes, “but if you don’t have a core, if you don’t know why am I doing this research, what is it that I am changing in the world that I actually believe is good” … “it is about finding your core, knowing yourself, slowing down, and being more empathic with other people ... it is a much slower way to success but one I do believe in … If you don't have your core, then it doesn’t matter if you get to be the ACM distinguished whatever, that is just shallow”

1:06:02 Hard to get recognized internationally when you are in Sweden, longing for that recognition, now not taking that so seriously

1:07:27 The struggle that comes along with the success, the sick leave because of stress, the colleagues who aren’t always supportive or happy for successes, the gender aspects

1:12:28 End

Related Links

Mobile Life Centre http://www.mobilelifecentre.org

The first iphone was released June 29 2007.

Fika: https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/fika/

Lars Erik Holmquist http://blog.siggraph.org/2012/07/qa-with-siggraph-2012-mobile-chair-lars-erik-holmquist.html/

Oskar Juhlin http://www.mobilelifecentre.org/people#oskar-juhlin-

Annika Waern https://katalog.uu.se/empinfo/?id=N13-228

Barry Brown http://www.mobilelifecentre.org/people#barry-brown