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

art-culture_metricv5

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.



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  – www.employeesfirstbook.com. (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  www.madltd.com
  • 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?

 



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


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.



happy sails to you
September 22, 2010, 1:15 pm
Filed under: Great Stuff, passion

Click Here to View The Video Titled: The Unseen Sea
Click the image to watch The Unseen Sea by Simon Christen- it’s intensely beautiful.

This collection of time lapses taken around the San Francisco Bay Area was  roughly shot over the period of one year. It got me thinking about ebb and flow. About our own unseen seas. (thanks Stig)

I’m fascinated by people choosing to live their lives with passion, truth and rigour. Setting sail on uncharted waters but with an internal lodestone and a clear eye on the imagined destination. Charting by the stars.  People who take the time to know themselves and have the courage to be themselves.

Mark shared a link to this wonderful story of the journey that TK recently went through to reduce the gap between his desired and current realities the process of making a principled and conscious life decision:

If you squint at the picture, you’ll see the rough process that he followed:

  • Starting by answering “What are my values?”
  • Based on my values, then “What do I want my life to be about?”
  • Thinking hard about what the first two columns meant and elaborating on the things that had the likelihood of being buzz-wordy, undefined, or just plain untrue.

Image 001 Copy

  • You can’t see this part in the picture, but I then thought through where I am now in my life and reconciled the differences between what I want and where I am today.
  • Finally, I formulated a plan that would allow me to make the changes I need to make to my life to get to what I want in and out of my life.

Happy sailing my friend.



What matters is saying yes
June 23, 2010, 10:33 am
Filed under: Great Stuff, passion

This e-mail is making the rounds. I’d reblog it from someone, but that would seem pointless. What I really like are the bits about the Flaming Lips and “saying yes”:

The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it’s corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I’ll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no’s you’ve said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say.

No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message.

What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand. What matters is that the Flaming Lips’s new album is ravishing and I’ve listened to it a thousand times already, sometimes for days on end, and it enriches me and makes me want to save people. What matters is that it will stand forever, long after any narrow-hearted curmudgeons have forgotten their appearance on goddamn 90210. What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who’s up and who’s down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say.

Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.



Visible and invisible arts
March 3, 2010, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Experience, passion

I am having a look at motion right now.

How people move, in relation to all other things.

In a lot of martial arts there is a notion called “ukemi”

A common take is that ukemi, (which Aikido calls “the art of falling”), is thought of as the passive, difficult, or the less desirable aspect of practice. The “fun” part is throwing people. The boring part is getting thrown.

The action of uke is called “taking ukemi (受け身).” Literally translated as “receiving body”, it is the art of knowing how to respond correctly to an attack and often incorporates skills to allow one to do so safely. These skills can include moves similar to tumbling and are often used as a valid exercise in itself. In aikido and judo training for instance, many classes begin with ukemi training as conditioning.

But there is a different way to approach ukemi that is not only more interesting, but much more effective. It means shifting your mindset from passive to active around the practice:

(At its simplest) Instead of being pulled around and thrown to the ground, you realize a tremendous advantage if you actively following an aggressor’s (nage) lead, moving under your own power and direction. At some point, nage may do something to take your balance beyond recovery. Once you notice that your balance is going, you actively disengage your interaction with nage and lower yourself to the ground! Notice who’s doing what in this description. Uke should always feel in control, even when being thrown.

The meaning I learned describes a practice that brings awareness and facilitates control in relationship to physical things in your environment. Most people who know me would say that my relationship with stairs would belie any knowledge of ukemi- but that’s where the practice bit comes in- you need to be mindful in order to get the benefits.

I’m thinking a way to describe it is perhaps ‘the art of response’. One of key benefits is that it prevents fear in the moment- most people are terrified of being hurt in a physical confrontation and that overwhelms them.  Quite a bit of the practice for a female is evasion- not only how to get out of a physical situation but how to get some degree of control over it: how to manage it, to prevent it happening or defuse escalation. It’s an invisible art.

I like the tension between visible art (flashy, shouty, look at me stuff that happens in the moment)- and invisible art (tone, consistency, awareness/thoughtfulness that happens over time). I like that the everyday practice of ukemi changes experience and enjoyment of a moment- it also should positively impact the moment of all those around the practitioner.

I think we all focus quite a bit on form and attack- on the aggressive ‘nage’ expressions of advertising. And of course we need to have these skills, but when we combine these with the invisible arts of ‘uke’ we can create something a bit different. What can be achieved when these two skills are applied in concert is a duet where people can feel the harmony and wander off thinking that they are singing their own tune.




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