Smashing Spotlight: Devon Burns, Strategist Extraordinaire

Wonder what makes Smashing Ideas just so smashing…it’s our people (officially known as Smashers!). We sat down with Devon Burns, Strategist extraordinaire, to talk shop, why your business can’t afford not to work with her, what she’d do if a reanimated Ed McMahon showed up at her doorstep.


What is the best part of your day at Smashing Ideas?

Definitely the people! It’s a pleasure and a privilege to work with such smart, creative, and driven colleagues. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t change my perspective or come up with an idea so crazy… it just might work! It’s truly an inspirational place, which can be seen in the quality of our work. And the view of Mt. Rainer and the Olympics from the office on a clear day isn’t so bad for inspiration either.


You’re a Strategist, you strategize. Yet strategy is a broad term. In the digital world how does it apply to what you do and Smashing Ideas?

I see strategy here at SI as the harmony between business goals and customer needs. I uncover customer and market insights that become guiding principles for the given product. They provide a decision-making framework – ensuring each product features ladders up to both the end-user’s needs and my customer’s business objectives. It’s finding that dual insight that helps drive us to create not just the best product possible, but the right product for our customer.


On a more serious note…a reanimated Ed McMahon just showed-up at your doorstep. He hands you some serious $$$, but the catch is that you must use it to go on a trip, and you have to leave tomorrow. Where would you go, why, and what would you tell your boss?

After overcoming the shock of seeing a zombie Ed McMahon at my house, I would be both thankful and relieved that he handed me a ton of cash instead of making me his dinner. Then I would promptly book a trip around the world because there’s too much out there to see and experience and so little time to visit it all. Sample itinerary: a few US national parks to start, followed by Iceland, Ireland, Northern Europe, Vietnam, Singapore, Hokkaido, & New Zealand.

I would use the Duarte method of storytelling when relaying this news to my boss. He will be so relieved that zombie Ed McMahon didn’t eat my brains and/or turn me into a zombie that he couldn’t imagine anything better for me than to go travel. Of course, I would bring him back a souvenir as a token of my appreciation.


Our conference rooms are rumored to be named after mythical creatures. What is your favorite mythical creature and why?

Hobbits, mostly because I’m jealous of their lifestyle – feasting 5-6 times a day, drinking copious amounts of cider, never in a hurry, and consistently able to enjoy the simple things in life. However, while that sounds awesome, I would be totally bored after about 5 days of being a hobbit. So I’d probably end up like Bilbo Baggins, traveling on a harrowing journey just to spice things up a bit.


Favorite piece of technology?

GPS. While I somehow managed to pass the navigation course through the Mountaineers, I can barely find my way out of a paper bag… let alone the woods!


What was your last truly smashing idea?

Inspired by The Stranger’s silent reading night, I host a monthly silent reading night for my friends. With manhattans in hand we simply read for a few hours and then catch up on the latest gossip over dinner. The best part – it’s not a book club. Everyone brings whatever they happen to be reading and is there to simply enjoy their book. No homework, no discussions, no debates. We just get to revel in the joy of reading…and the joy of a good manhattan.


We now know you’ll be handy in the zombie apocalypse and won’t get lost when you’re getting out of dodge. Beyond those key traits, how do you make your clients’ lives easier?

I arm my clients for success and eliminate potential landmines down the road. The data I uncover becomes a key part of the decision making framework for the product. With clarity around the problem space and informed data-driven decision making, our clients are able to win internal support and are set up to achieve success with their product. A successful product might look like high usability rates, no performances errors, 4+ star rating, etc. My contribution starts at the very beginning and doesn’t end until I hand my clients a spot-on set of analytics and recommendations for the next steps in their product lifecycle.

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