Get Shouty

Creativity and the meaning of ‘now’
July 3, 2014, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Digital Strategy, Experience, Zeitgeist

Have been part of the Sydney Social Media week advisory board ( top geezers) on crafting how we can explore our theme of The Future of Now: Always On Always Connected.

For me creativity, and  the future are inextricably linked.  We just won’t make it unless we fully harness the limitless resource of our creative potential.

“As deep knowledge becomes a common asset, creativity will be the differentiating factor. Creativity is not a ‘nice-to-have’ attribute anymore, it’s a prerequisite for performance, development and growth—supporting us in our ability to innovate and drive change faster and better.” –Ben de Vries, Head of Brand Management, Ericsson

But we also won’t make unless we share, we collaborate and we inspire each other with our different perspectives. I believe that social technology and behaviors may well be one of the engines that will provide the forward momentum  to allow creativity to really be embraced.

The team I’m part of  have been doing some global research on this (on Slideshare here) talking  more than 7,000 people in 11 markets and we found that creative thought was  defined as: solutions to problems that are unexpected in any field of work, not just within traditionally creative fields such as writing, design or the performing arts.

Some of the key outtakes of the research (Collaboration, Play, Freedom to fail, Ego support, Space to think, and Idea Collection)  are helping me build my approach to the panel sessions I’m involved in, and these are the notions I’m looking at:

  • How can we achieve more through collaboration and co-creation?
  • How can we facilitate meaningful conversations, practices for devoting time to creative thinking and mindful contemplation?
  • How can we balance and preserve humanness — meaning the ability to listen, empathize, engage, focus and be present in the moment — despite the constant disruption that technology enables?

Would love to know if you find the research useful. Am looking forward to my own Eureka moment. All anecdotes welcome!

how do you value culture?
January 9, 2014, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Digital Strategy, Experience, Get Friendly, Great Stuff, passion, Zeitgeist


It’s Festival time in Sydney. While I’m super excited about taking my inner child by the hand and having a bit of a frolic on Sacrilege, the true sized inflatable bouncy castle Stonehenge in Hyde Park’s Festival Village, I was interested to read this in The Australian

FESTIVAL organizers measure success in terms of ticket sales and economic impact, but a new cultural metric may be tweets and pictures on social media. Last year, an enormous yellow duck was a hit of the Sydney Festival, where 1.7 million people could not have missed seeing it at Darling Harbour. Some 14,000 images were posted on Instagram using festival hashtags.

Mmmm. ‘Cultural Metric’. Good notion. Loads of tension in it:

  • What is culture?
  • How might culture be measured?
  • How do we value it?

The NSW Government is investing more than $5 million to ensure the success of the 2014 Festival,

“Last year the Sydney Festival attracted more than 500,000 people with more than 120,000 tickets sold to paid events, including more than 33,000 people who attended events in Western Sydney. In 2012, it injected almost $57 million into our economy

From that perspective an arts investment looks like a pretty good return to the taxpayers hereabouts. I wonder how they’d value those tweets.

Early last year MoMA curator of Architecture and Design Paola Antonelli led a discussion about Culture and Metrics, (which I’ve entirely re cut below):

  • why bother?
    • the reality is that cultures come and go over time. If we don’t know what’s valuable about a particular culture, we run the risk of losing it forever.
    • not all art is concerned with culture, and not all culture is arts-based
    • it’s the best way to create a future that human beings want to inhabit.
    • MoMA has been one of the most important cathedrals of the imagination in my life since childhood, and envisioning it as a driver of R&D across society at large is extremely exciting.
  • measurement
    • Kate Levin, the Commissioner of The Department of Cultural Affairs for New York City: measuring culture, is mostly about objectives and outcomes. She used The Gates as an example of a valuable, measurable project funded by the Department for Cultural Affairs. Four million visitors to this 16-day installation created $254 million in revenue for NYC.
    • Measuring culture will require us to think of new ways to measure and share the story of a project’s insights and impact.
  • culture and value
    • “For me, The Gates was never about whether the saffron curtains and plastic frames were art. Some people argued that it was a hideous monstrosity while others loved it. Instead, I just felt lucky to be part of the flow of conversation and people as we passed together through The Gates on a beautiful blue and gold day. I felt lucky to be a New Yorker. And that’s the point of culture. It gives us a sense of place while at the same time evoking a deeply personal experience of the universal. “

As Rita observed, and who was at the MoMA talk, it brings to life one of Andy Warhol’s statements:

  • “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.”

Creating a deeply personal experience of an enterprise, creating a real and vibrant culture, feels like a bit of an art, and has the same kind of challenge:

But, how do you measure that?

Answer: With great difficulty.

Then again…. people are the only metric that really counts.

It’s hard. Really hard. Most companies can’t do it. The ones that can, make a fortune. Life is unfair.

getting into the swing of things
November 26, 2013, 9:02 pm
Filed under: Digital Strategy, Experience

Trying out the lovely Haiku deck….

These are my notes from a breakfast meeting with the lovely Megan Brownlow from PwC.

She spoke about their interesting report: PwC’s NextGen: A global generational study, Millennial Workers Want Greater Flexibility, Work/Life Balance, Global Opportunities

This comprehensive and global generational study conducted by PwC, the University of Southern California and the London Business School looks into the aspirations, work styles and values of “Millennial”/”Generation Y” employees (those born between 1980 and 1995).

The study, which included more than 40,000 responses from Millennials and non-Millennials alike, captures the various forces at play that are influencing the experience of Millennials. These include: workplace culture, communication and work styles, compensation and career structure, career development and opportunities and work/life balance.

I followed with these notes on how the existing behaviors and first language of millennial employees can be harnessed to meet both their needs and that of their employers.

Since. Sometimes. Say it.
January 14, 2013, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Experience, Zeitgeist


Life just bites you on the ass sometimes.

I’ve been trying to write this for ages: since receiving the phone call a couple of days before Christmas; since working on releasing the shock and pain and disbelief at the news; since writing that first condolence card; since the first time I could get together with my oldest friends face-to-face to share the wtf-ness; since standing blacked up and bare faced nursing a whiskey and hearing his Dad desperate for some insight, any scrap, at the wake, as to why.

Since, since, since.

I lived my 20′s in a little run down terrace in what is now SOGO, but was then the cheapest place we could find. It was dark, falling to pieces and smelled in the damp, but filled with what became a chosen family, and for me, a true home.

None of us had money, but we were all working doing stuff we loved- art, music, architecture, design. We all were good at creating something out of nothing: the kitchen transformed from a peeling crack lab into a place where mermaids played; a bare wall turned into an ever moving pop gallery of avant cards; a back yard that hosted now famous ‘drinks by the pool’ parties where the blow up wader was just an excuse for ridiculous cocktails and costumes.

There was dancing. Cooking. A million late night conversations. A million bottles of red wine. One very scrappy cat. Sometimes the dishes didn’t get done. People peeled out as they met their partners, or their career took them off to different horizons and eventually the place got sold and we moved on.

That was sometime ago. It lasted about 7 years and felt like forever.

I thought everyone had grown up since then. Not me, obviously, but other people had mortgages and businesses and children and partners. Eventually I only saw some in back yards, with tired eyes and gentle, humorous self deprecating stories of the domestic hurdy-gurdy their lives had become.  Tucked in, I thought. Safe, I believed. Happy, I dreamed.

I can’t remember the last time I told my friend I loved him. That he was important to me. That knowing him has made my life better every day since I met him. That his take on silly and serious and determined and disciplined was a benchmark for me. That I respected his work, was totally crazy about his choice of partner and his children, in awe of his practice and held deep affection for the past we shared and held a desire to co-create memories for the rest of our lives.

Now I won’t get that chance. He is gone. He took himself off the merry-go-round. I don’t know why. No one seems to. I will never understand. I’m trying to come to terms with that. I’m not looking for a silver lining. It’s just crap.

Sometimes we let go of the gold in our lives, the people that we love, to pan for shiny trash. Sometimes the people that we think we know are very very good at hiding their pain. Sometimes the things we don’t say haunt us.

Since. Sometimes. Say it.

sweeping statements
September 6, 2012, 11:40 am
Filed under: Digital Strategy, Experience, Great Stuff

I love it when you come across a sweeping statement that just takes your breath away.

In Australia there’s been a doozy this week- which you can follow here, particularly if you think that humor is a good way of addressing misogyny….

Anyhoo…and before I get well distracted….

I came across a notion that UX didn’t exist before digital – that the spirit utility, interaction and participation was ‘invented’ by introducing digital to brands.


It might be surprising that the discipline of mapping out optimal interactions between humans, machines and contexts has been around since the 1940′s. Participatory design’s been around since the ’60s.

I can’t help but agree with Jon Steel’s refutation of the statement

…these days everything has changed, planning has to change because advertising has changed, nothing is the way it used to be, everything is digital now and if you propose anything other than digital solutions then you’re old-fashioned and generally hopeless…you should drag your sorry old ass out of the business and work somewhere else.

I believe that’s completely wrong, because in the end in an analogue world, in a digital world the key to success is understanding the basics of human communication.

In order to most effectively influence a group of people “you don’t target them you engage them as willing accomplices”

I think the best brands have always inspired individuals to become willing accomplices…

Mr Steel also mentions the amazing work of Howard Gossage in the 1950s.

In short the example of Gossage has never been more possible to follow and more needed, particularly as dreary advertising drifts from our televisions to the places we spend time online, his idea that you should never confuse the product and the message becomes even more powerful. Howard would build his messages around something he thought would interest people and then weave the product into this story – the first international paper airplane competition for Scientific American being a brilliant example.

If you haven’t the slightest clue what all the fuss is about ….it would not be an exaggeration to say that Howard Gossage:

1) Invented interactive advertising (as opposed to direct response advertising) in which the audience is invited to get involved with the brand’s life and participate in its activities
2) Invented the idea of creating communities of interest around topics and then galvanizing those people into action through advertising
3) Invented the PR stunt as a marketing tool using advertising to catalyse and popularise the activity
4) Created the fee based remuneration model in place of the widely used but utterly discredited commission system
5) Invented the independent media planning agency with the Kick Back agency
6) Discovered Marshall McLuan and made him a household name in ‘60s America, a man who predicted the rise of the connected global village that we all live in today
7) Saved the Grand Canyon from flooding with advertising that changed the way that environmental campaigning forever
8) Helped create the modern environmental organisation and both named and housed the Friends of the Earth
9)Helped start the anti-globalisation movement
10) And almost won independence for Anguilla

And so to wrap up this rather long rant:

  • If a brand wants want people to play with (and they do)
  • Think
    • What do we need people to do?
    • Why would they do it?
    • What are we going to make or do that will enable them to do it?

Let’s go to work
May 17, 2012, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Experience, passion

I was really intrigued this piece when I saw it over at swissmiss, which was created by W+K.

Its running as a pre-roll on YouTube, it’s over 2 minutes- and it’s been played (in addition to its ad spend) 1.775 million times since its launch in February.

It’s message: 

Its 8 am… MILLIONS of EMPLOYEES.. show up each day..for their names on a register…. The world we see around us..countries..and ..continents..have been built.. on the back of these signatures.. The future too will be written by these signatures.. Signatures of the EMPLOYEES… You.. are an EMPLOYEE.. Your BOSS is an EMPLOYEE… …….. … TRUTH is every EMPLOYEE is a HERO… Enough said… Let’s go do…what we all do our best.. Let’s go to work.. A TRIBUTE TO THE MAKERS OF OUR WORLD.

It’s a big call. A very big call. Who are these HCL guys? Who are they to say they speak on behalf of the millions of employees who turn up to work each day? Who are they to champion the overworked and unsung?

A bit of digging….

Employees First Customers Second (EFCS) is a journey of experiments which HCL started in 2005. It is a simple  philosophy that, at its heart, states that in the service industry, true value is not created by top management. Since employees are the closest interface with the customer, they are the new ‘value zone’ for companies: the place where value is truly generated for customers. And it is therefore the duty of the rest of the organization to foster and engender this value zone by creating the requisite enabling infrastructure.

Vineet Nayar (the head of HCL Technologies), wrote in Forbes that he does not do it to make his employees happy

The idea came from observing our company closely. We create value in one very specific place: the interface between our HCL employees and our customers. We call this the “value zone.” Every employee who works in the value zone is capable of creating more or less value. The whole intent of Employees First is to do everything we can to enable those employees to create the most possible value.

HCL decided:

  • to put its employees first and made every effort to provide them with a work environment and culture that they can take pride in.
  • employee development focused on giving people the tools and enabling the infrastructure they needed to succeed

Is it about employee engagement?

EFCS is not about making employees happy or comfortable. I don’t even really care if employees are happy. I don’t think that employee “satisfaction” is something a company should strive for. Satisfaction is a passive state, isn’t it? Satisfaction doesn’t produce change or improvement or innovation or much of anything.

As for employee “engagement,” that isn’t much better than satisfaction. I would hope that everybody, no matter what their job is, would be alert and paying some attention to what they do, would be engaged.

We have found that the Employees First approach produce s far more passion than any motivational or recognition program. Why? Because it proves that management understands the importance of the work being done by the employees in the value zone. It demonstrates that we are actively helping them in ways that make it easier for them to do their jobs. It shows that we trust them to do what needs to be done in the way they believe it should be done. And it shows that we respect them for the value they bring to the company.

We give them understanding, help, trust and respect–which is much better than potato salad and cold cuts.

The key enablers that made EFCS work -

  • Smart Service Desk (SSD) was introduced to make the enabling functions accountable to employees and resolve any issues that they may have within a stipulated time.
  • Directions, an annual interactive event, where the senior management along with the CEO meet employees to discuss company strategy, new processes and policies and what they think is the right agenda for HCL to adopt in the coming year.
  • U&I, an online discussion forum where every HCLite gets an opportunity to raise issues, share thoughts and ideas, as well as debate directly with the CEO.
  • Spot 360 Feedback was launched to make the management accountable to employees and to increase organizational accountability. A system where anyone could rate managers on various aspects.
  • Employee Passion Indicative Count (EPIC) assits employees in identifying their passion drivers – factors that drive an employee to excel at work.

Results?In the past three years,

  • HCL grew at a CAGR of 24 per cent
  • Market cap increased by 186 per cent
  • Number of $10 Mn, $20 Mn & $50 Mn customers doubled, and the number of $100 Mn customers tripled
  • Revenue per Employee is amongst the highest in the Indian IT segment today.
The EFCS mantra  – (Read it-it has some lovely storytelling)

The book explores the steps of HCLT’s transformation as the company recognized the need for change, created a culture of trust through transparency, turned the organizational pyramid on its head, and shifted the responsibility of change from the office of the CEO to the employees using small catalysts, or “blue ocean droplets,” that produced big results.

The journey had four steps:

  • Confront the Truth
  • Build Trust
  • Support the Value Zone
  • Change at the role of the CEO

I think it’s interesting to note how this journey has facilitated their next step:

Employees Driven, Management Embraced [EFCS 2.0]

Employees are increasingly taking the lead in driving innovation. We call this phase EFCS 2.0 where we’re witnessing a change in ownership – Employees are taking charge and creating innovative programs in and around HCL, which are producing big impact. Here are some of the notable programs.

  • Meme: A platform created by employees to go from official to social at work; it now boards over 59,000 members.
  • MAD JAM: “Make a Difference” a bottom-up initiative designed by front line employees, for front line employees, that recognizes and celebrates the most innovative ideas at HCL.
  • MAD LTD: “Make a Difference, Lead the Difference”, a platform focused on nurturing young leaders to showcase and implement ideas for social impact. For more details, please visit
  • Power of One: A social responsibility initiative where HCLites spend a day with the community and donate a Rupee a day, which adds up to an avalanche of positive social activism.
  • arKMedes: A platform focused on making knowledge the currency across the organization by bringing together communities driven by passionate employees.

I think work is changing: as a ritual, as an enabler of identity, as a method of survival, as a framework for community- the horizon of change is vast. In Australia 40% of our workforce are employed on various insecure arrangements, casual, contract or through labour hire companies and in this climate we might do well to think about were value is generated, how it is created and where it can be amplified. Who makes your world? Have you told them they’re anything special lately?


Challenging Leadership/ Leadership challenges
April 24, 2012, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Experience, Great Stuff, The Rules

Over on Seth’s blog today was this morsel

A good employee says, “I know that this is a serious problem, it’s hurting our customers and we can do better, but I can’t do a thing about it because it’s run by a different department.”

A version of this might conclude with, “And I don’t even know the name of the person who’s responsible.”

This is a sure sign of systemic failure as well as a CEO who is not doing the job she should be. When smart people who care get frustrated, something is wrong.

There’s an intesection here and a paper that Deloitte relased yesterday:

Based on a global study of investment bankers, private equity companies, and financial analysts, the paper, The Leadership Premium: How companies win the confidence of investors, puts a hard metric on the “intangible asset” of leadership, revealing that, in some sectors, good leaders can account for more than one-fifth of equity value.

The gap between the value of an effectively-led and ineffectively-led company could, says the paper, be as much as 35.5 percent.

It’s a pretty good read, and one that full of steal able insights about the core components of value building leadership and the importance of leaders taking their teams along for the ride:

“All employees should have the same goal and process in mind… the same direction”

Investment analyst, US

Here are my notes:

Many major corporations have found that orthodox management practices and organizational principles are not well suited to the modern era. Our view is that current conditions don’t demand a revolution so much as a renewed focus on the fundamentals of leadership

Three value delivering components

  • Strategic Clarity
  • Successful execution
  • A culture of innovation

Strategic Clarity

Organizations need to decide on where and on what basis they will compete. e.g

  • Virgin Media’s decision to focus on it’s network as its core strategic asset was the beginning of an impressive corporate turnaround
  • Southwest Airlines’ early use of the internet and online booking and check-ins has helped consolidate its positions as a low cost, low fares carrier.
  • Apple’s relentless focus on ‘insanely great’ products allowed it to transform consumer electronics
  • FedEx Ground’s emphasis on service and its early use of tracking systems (as RPS in the 1980s) enabled it to challenge UPS

Strategic clarity involves delivering a vision of what the organization needs to achieve

  • and a framework that leaves enough room for people to create the future
  • with consistency and commitment

Successful Execution

Common to organisations is the belief that the only long term differentiator they have is their people. The priority for an organisation has to be getting the best out of its people by ensuring that they are willing and able to fulfil its aims

  • Believe: compelling reasons, communication and bulid commitment
  • Belong: leaders need to articulate a long term purpose beyond just making money
  • Behave: adaptive, value driven, team building, respectful,
  • Able: capabilities, resources infrastructure

A Culture of Innovation

Great ideas are generated and developed through interaction.

  • Commitment to enterprise; an environment for ideas
  • Collaboration culture
  • The freedom to experiment (and fail)
  • It’s not about hiring new radical thinkers
    • It’s about realizing the potential of the thinkers you’ve got

I liked this check list:

Effective leadership characteristics

  • Capabilities
    • Driving competitiveness and innovation
    • Providing direction and purpose
    • Making effective decisions
    • Inspiring others to act
    • Developing people
    • Building high performing teams
    • Personal qualities
      • Integrity, probity and humility
      • Moral courage

why is it so hard to change?
April 18, 2012, 3:54 pm
Filed under: Experience

I read Change or Die over at Fast Company…

The conventional wisdom says that crisis is a powerful motivator for change. But severe heart disease is among the most serious of personal crises, and it doesn’t motivate — at least not nearly enough. Nor does giving people accurate analyses and factual information about their situations. What works? Why, in general, is change so incredibly difficult for people? What is it about how our brains are wired that resists change so tenaciously? Why do we fight even what we know to be in our own vital interests.

and I loved this bridge:

Changing the behaviour of people isn’t just the biggest challenge in health care. It’s the most important challenge for businesses trying to compete in a turbulent world, says John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor who has studied dozens of organizations in the midst of upheaval: “The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behaviour of people.”

I can’t help think that we focus so much on message, on story, on information that sometimes we forget that we’re not just trying to get people to take notice- we’re trying to get them to change. And it’s hard. And they don’t like it…

It reminds me a little of this presentation…


what if we could…..
October 24, 2011, 4:03 pm
Filed under: Digital Strategy, Experience, passion

s written a piece on Creatives, strategists and music about the territory between strategy and creative and his journey away from being the kind of strategist that says ‘no’ and why an idea won’t work towards “looking at every single possibility to make it resonate.” I love that he draws on his experiences with some of own creative and crafty passtimes to find his ‘yes’.

I like to remind myself that one of  the roles of the Creative Strategist is to promote collaboration and innovation, to lead the improv disciplines of “what if’ and “yes and” (and make sure the creativity killing Nupski monster doesn’t get fed too much)

What if’s….

Sydney’s pretty full of ‘what if’s” right now. This year, Art & About Sydney put out a call, asking people across Australia to send their responses, in ten words or less, to that one simple question – what if? – two words that put the power of imagining back on the agenda, and inspire us all to think beyond the here and now.…(see the entire list here).

Yes, ands

When it comes to creative and development, improv is critical….

Here’s another way of looking at it: Improvisation is all about viewing your failures (“I don’t like it” or “it doesn’t work they way it should”) as positives that lead you in newer and better directions. The messy, circular paths we have to take in order to reach our goals oftentimes show us things we normally wouldn’t have seen before. And that makes us a lot better at doing our jobs.

Build improvisation into your thinking. Saying “Yes” makes everyone into the good guy and gives you a better chance of delivering what you hoped to. It’s also more fun

How are your tools helping to shape how you understand your world?
September 30, 2011, 10:46 am
Filed under: Experience

Baking is a wonderous thing. I’ve been doing it for more than 30 years (yikes!) It’s both a wonderful way to show off and a deeply satisfying exercise of creating something from not much.

The I’ve learned so much

  • The importance of balance and ratios.
  • The impact of temperature
  • Context. Recipes are designed for specific cake pans, placement in the oven is important, fan forced makes a difference.
  • How lightness is achieved through chemistry
  • How overworking something can start to diminish the result
  • How fragile things are when they’re just cooked

I know how to bake, I don’t need a recipe now (but I love reading them for inspiration) and I can look in a pantry and see a bakery of the potentials.

And as I’m preparing to be chief baker for a weekend away with mates, it’s got me thinking: how do I remember stuff? How do I pull together what I know and what I have to get a treat on the table?

I’ve asked a bunch of people what their process is, and the response has been varied from “I don’t know how I do anything” to the lucky duck who has an eidetic memory.

I’ve written about personal taxonomies, my Bowerbird ways, and general bricolage and pirate treasure pursuits for crafting creative strategy before and now I’m wondering how great the impact is of the things that I do (and not just the things that I see, read and save) that help me create delights.

“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” Marshall McLuhan

I love the video below. How are your tools helping to shape how you understand your world?

Watch Teach and Do
May 24, 2011, 6:40 pm
Filed under: Experience

Creative strategy time management plan:

  • Watch 1
    • Observe, read, reflect, see patterns, notice gaps.
      • “our job is to turn human understanding into business advantage for our clients
        “understanding of human behaviour is invaluable in creating advertising that truly works…we live lives full of irrationalities. The human brain is not the Oval Office, making authoritative decisions. It’s the press office — issuing post-rationalisations after the fact.”
    • Watch yourself too
      • “Empathy is like a universal solvent. Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble.”
        - Simon Baron-Cohen
  • Do 1
    • Make stuff. Get your hands dirty. Experience the stuff you make. Walk it through to the end.
    • Don’t just make friends with the creative team- be part of the creative team
      • “efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right thing.”
      •  Have experience of both
    • Be active- see all kinds of music played live, watch plays, go to all kinds of markets, take every opportunity to taste  what people are doing for fun and to express themselves. Participate in the culture of your city.
  •  Teach 1
    • Share, present, mentor, write, and help people embrace new ideas
      • One of my favourite ruminations at the moment is: “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together”.
      • There’s not much point in running ahead of the pack and streaking over the horizon if no one is with you.
      • Embracing a teaching discipline will help you (and your project and your team) go far.

data isn’t king
May 13, 2011, 2:51 pm
Filed under: Experience

My inexhaustible crush on Jonathan Harris continues:

Data is extremely limited in what in can say about life.  There is a popular belief nowadays that roughly goes, “Give me enough data, and then I will understand.” This is only true for certain kinds of superficial insights.  There are other deeper, more essential and ineffable insights, which have to do with the heart and soul of things, and you will never find these hiding in data.  They are to be found only through personal experience, solitude, and contemplation

I’d have to agree with Mr Shirky that we don’t have an information problem but I’m not sure that answer is merely filtering. It’s what you do with it that counts.

Today and the spaces in between
April 18, 2011, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Experience, passion

I am such a huge superfan of  Jonathan Harris. I saw Phylotaxis in 2006 when I was researching unique interfaces and ever since I’ve been entranced by how he tells stories: his own, like The Whale Hunt  ; or all our stories, like We Feel Fine or I Want You To Want Me , which I was lucky enough to see at New York’s MoMA in 2008.

This project,  Today begun when turned 30, encompasses a simple ritual of taking one photo a day and posting it to his website before going to sleep, along with a short story.

This is a short film about Jonathan’s project, made a few weeks after he stopped it, by his friend, Scott Thrift which I found to be a glorious contemplation on the passage of time and the nature of memory and flexing your remember muscles:

  • your greatest creation is your life story
  • story as a technique to organize your past
  • I’ve grown as a result of this project, but I’m not sure what I’ve grown into
  • we need time to create our stories and time to make sense of our experiences
  • we need privacy and space to grow

The whole piece and Harris’ thoughts reminded me of a marvelous concept: the Japanese notion “Ma”

Ma (間) is a concept of absence and in-between.  Apart from space, ma is applied to the discussion of time as well, revealing that in Japan there was ‘not even a distinction between space and time like in modern Western thought’. The word ‘ma’ essentially refers to ‘an “intervalbetween two (or more) spatial or temporal things and events. Thus it is not only used in compounds to suggest measurement but carries meanings such as gap, opening, space between, time between

This spatio-temporal principle of ma underlies all traditional Japanese art forms. However, Like other Japanese aesthetic principles, ma goes beyond just being a ‘way of seeing’, but is a ‘way of life’ as well, for, as Japanese architect Arata Isozaki puts it, it is a ‘fluid term able to encompass many aspects of life in Japan. [Ma] describes both time and space through a notion of interval. (source)

The Taoist philosopher Lao Tse wrote extensively on the concept of Ma including his poem The Uses of Not :

Thirty spokes meet in the hub,
but the empty space between them
is the essence of the wheel.
Pots are formed from clay,
but the empty space between it
is the essence of the pot.
Walls with windows and doors form the house,
but the empty space within it
is the essence of the house

I’m a big believer in making the time and space to look at the clouds drift by…and now I know I’m just drinking in the ‘ma’ and letting myself grow.

blank page despots
September 30, 2010, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Experience

I was thinking just how much of our best work gets done when you don’t colour in inside the lines, and this has  lovely tension with the notion “a picture tells a thousand words, but you can’t control the order”.

It’s always a challenge to try to tell the story, to create a jumper out of all the wooly information you might have.

Forget the blank page. Bring your scrapbook, let people into your process, put forward building blocks of stimulous and create the destination together.

research and the illusion of knowledge
September 20, 2010, 12:51 pm
Filed under: Experience

Love this site:

Some of the hardest things I ever learned to say are “I don’t know” and “I don’t understand”. As a maker upperer I can fill in a lot of gaps- and my dad-fact-ability is pretty frickin’ high. What this means that I can  have blind spots.

It’s a constant battle to cut that shit out.

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. Stephen Hawking

I also like this one:

Walk in stupid Wiedenisms: rules we live by

In both work and play, for your own good, ask questions. Don’t pretend you have to know.

by the light of the silvery moon
September 17, 2010, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Experience

Love discovering a new blog….in this presentation Alexander Chung highlights a lovely piece of insight from Aaron Dignan

“one of the great unsettling revelations of the digital age is that we are not snowflakes, that humanity comes in just a few hundred models”

An earlier post examines Experiments without consequences

In 1994, David Hahn began building a nuclear reactor. He would eventually receive international recognition for his work, and a nick-name to boot: the ‘radioactive boy scout’.

Indeed, David was a teenager playing with radioactive materials in his mother’s backyard shed. And his recognition was for creating an environmental hazard not a new source of energy.

In later life, his bootstrap experiments led to some emotional and physical harm–exposure to radiation leaving severe scars all over his face.

The need to discover is usually a positive trait.

But, when your subject matter is dangerous and your lab doesn’t protect you or others, experiments are a bad idea.

My impression of this David Hahn chap is that with the addition of those scars he was radiating more than just the breakdown of nuclear particles he was also clearly communicating one of Nature’s Natural Warning Signals. Stay Well Away is loudly written across his face.

In my head then, these two pieces started to create a harmony with an earlier post of mine: foundations of taxonomy

In the Amazon….. hunters who could smell animal urine at forty paces and tell you what species left it behind. You look at the Polynesian seafarers who could, just by reading the ocean like a series of rivers which is how they saw the currents, by looking at the rhythm of the waves, they could sense the presence of a distant atoll far beyond the horizon. You talk about how, even the taxonomy of the Amazonian shaman, when they begin to characterize and systematize creation, particularly with some of their sacred plants. For example, one of the most important Amazonian plants is something called Ayahuasca, which is a Liana and, to the botanical eye, there’s one main species that’s used. But that species is actually, by at least one tribe that I know, the Sienna Sequoia(?), they recognize 17 different types of it. Now, to our scientific taxonomic eye, they’re all referable based on morphological traits to the same species. Indistinguishable. They consistently distinguish them and from great distances in the forest. And you ask them what is the foundation of their taxonomy? And they’ll say to you, “Well, you take each one on the night of the full moon and it sings to you in a different key.”

The notion that I’m chewing on is taxonomies of humanity how the ‘few hundred models’ of people could be a visual map, how you could gauge a person with a ‘taxanomic eye’ and be able to parse morphological and behavioral traits and be able to consistently distinguish species.

I’m thinking that it’s pretty handy to use a practice of bricolage and pirate treasure to start to characterize, systematize and distinguish not only the person but the context that holds them.  I can’t help but notice that it’s only by shining the light on behavior in context (or ‘by the light of the full moon’) that allows you to hear the song that they’re singing.

Sausage factory
August 19, 2010, 11:34 am
Filed under: Experience

(via Kirsty)

Can’t say anything cleverer than this today….

Read it. Remember it.

complexity and innovation
August 11, 2010, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Experience, Great Stuff

Some of the things I love, love, love about what I get to do for a day job are the opportunities to examine workplace cultures and develop ways to influence them to exhibit resilient positive outcomes.

It’s not a simple process, it’s not even complicated. It’s complex and sometimes chaotic. Mostly though where I start is Disorder.

I recently  got asked by my friend Matt Granfield to comment on what he put forward as an hypocritical action from a holding company about the contradictory behavior and promises of two of their brands, and did I see anything wrong with that.

I thought it was an interesting notion that we might hold advertising to greater standards of morals and ethics than we hold ourselves. I thought that it might be valid to ask if that was right.

In I tweet therefore I am, Peggy Orenstein shares her experiences:

Each Twitter post seemed a tacit referendum on who I am, or at least who I believe myself to be. The grocery-store episode telegraphed that I was tuned in to the Seinfeldian absurdities of life; my concern about women’s victimization, however sincere, signaled that I also have a soul. Together they suggest someone who is at once cynical and compassionate, petty yet deep. Which, in the end, I’d say, is pretty accurate.

Anyways….Won’t steal his thunder (it will be published in Marketing Mag)- but ultimately my call is that brands reflect the culture of their target audiences. They don’t create culture.

Because they can’t. Changing culture is extremely difficult, time-consuming and you need to have a very strong vision and a mandate to do it.

It’s only because I’ve worked across a number of these projects that I’ve had access to a whole bunch of new tools and new thinking about how groups people behave and had the experience to understand how long it takes and how agile, responsive, brave and patient you need to be to shift the course of thousands of people.

One of the things I see as the person responsible for planning and creative strategy at an agency is that this role is becoming more and more responsible for the workplace culture.

How that outcome is described is usually around building a culture of inspiration, innovation and  collaboration.

I’ve shared some of the experiences and experiments I’ve had in Do you do your best work at your desk

I can see a link between designing these experiences and how Dave describes organising a children’s party:

I’m chewing on this cynefin framework and how I can use it to frame briefs….more later. Geoff Brown has put together a fab post Great use of YouTube by Dave Snowden:

Why do we still see policies in workplaces like, “You Tube banned on Government Servers to stop staff wasting time!”, when staff could be learning stuff as rich as these videos from Dave Snowden? Dave is the Founder & Chief Scientific Officer at Cognitive Edge. His blog is very heavy, often amusing and well worth following.

Dave is working with an Australian video producer to help communicate his models and frameworks with the world. The videos bring a subtle and effective use of visuals and graphics to illuminate the key points that Dave is making. Dave’s confidence and sense of humor shines through as well.

I have embedded a series of videos from Dave (and others) to help you understand the world of complexity. Another place to visit is Dave’s series of posts on the Origins of Cynefin.

one page brief
August 3, 2010, 1:51 pm
Filed under: Experience

A number of people have asked to see my one page brief.

Here it is:

To me the planner’s role in giving a creative brief to a team is to tell team a the story- set up the protagonist/ the consumer, outline  their obstacle and the part you have for them- the hero.

Give your story a beginning a middle and end. Allow the team to collaborate with you as you tell the story.

Show the landscape that the story takes place in (and how your choice of landscape drives the narrative).

It might look like this at the end:

But it won’t look like this:

Imagine: immortality
July 19, 2010, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Experience

I’m thinking a thousand years again- work that might still resonate after that time, what do you need to do to make it, how is it different from the ephemeral stuff that we churn out every day…

The above image is John Lennon’s original handwritten lyrics to the 1971 song ‘Imagine’, written on a piece of The New York Hilton Hotel’s stationery paper. You can see that it’s just dashed out- and yet I can’t help think it might last forever.

I’m ruminating on this article and this notion:

What is art for? (from The Marine Corps’s Combat Art Program –

It’s the pact we make with the warrior: You will live forever and we will remember you…and to me the best way to do that is through art. We can’t give him his life, but we can give him that immortality.

I like the idea of your output being a pact that you make with your subject- that there’s a sence of gravity there. I’m intrigued by the notion of exchange (immortality for heroic sacrifice, like an ancient greek notion of Elysium) and the fact that the expression of the subject through art elevates/immortalises it.

And then when I take this comment into context:

“The thing I hate most about advertising is that it attracts all the young, bright, creative people, leaving us with only the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.”- Banksy

…..I wonder…I wonder if there is a piece of advertising that will last a thousand years.


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