I’ve always been amazed at how Sir George Martin fused together the epic 16-minute medley for Abbey Road. The Re-thinking, Re-working, and Re-assembling of leftover scraps intended for the White Album never cease to dazzle and delight – each time coaxing us into a dream-like state.
Mysteriously, the very words on this screen have simply disappeared on multiple occasions. It would seem as if they came into life when being written and just as quickly decided they would be better off if they leapt off the computer – perhaps onto another web, or more aptly into the physical universe. I sure as hell don’t blame them: They dreamed a better dream.
And the point? – well that’s the thing: When you daydream there doesn’t need to be, a point. The luxury is in not having to be concerned in achieving a specific outcome, but in the unfettered freedom of enjoying the process. And when we do concern ourselves with the end results, whether in business, sport, integrative thinking, or cooking – we can begin to bring our dreams into focus. After all, if we don’t exercise the choice to paint our own masterpieces, we mine as well let George Martin conduct our orchestra.
..There certainly were no jet airplanes over our heads, no honking horns from commuters with road rage, no quirky beeps of microwaves in kitchens, no retro sounding rings from iPhones. And there assuredly were no phantom vibrations in our crotches (At least once per week smartphone users feel a vibration in their pocket when there is none, and 40% of those feel this vibration when in fact their smartphone is IN the palm of their hand).
If only we could suspend it all (for just a moment of course), in exchange for a type of blissful silence. A return to The Garden. The wind is ruffling through the trees and the soothing sounds of the sea saturate our senses. Of course we could do without the seductive slur of the snake and the permanent pain in the ass form predators. But until such time, let us laugh in unison:
I asked a friend, “Hypothetically speaking if Lance Armstrong were not alive, and his Tour de France deceit was exposed – how might it have been treated differently? I thought of this with Mr. Saville in mind (I have stripped him of Sir even if Cameron can’t). There is something about moral culpability that shifts when someone is alive versus when they are six feet in the ground.
Serendipitously, I came across an article the following day commenting on the two disgraced culprits. What struck a chord was just how much corruption, deceit, and wrongdoing, is rampant in the media: TV personalities, Athletes, Businessmen, Bankers, Journalists, Politicians- you name it. Human nature may be to blame, surely it’s just the ones that are well known and get caught, that we hear about.
But when those exposed of evil are still alive, we as citizens witness them shamed. We can demand for an explanation or a reaction no matter how feeble it is. But then came along (Sir – Really?) Conrad Black making a complete douche of himself – threatening or at least saying that he would bash a BBC reporter’s face in. Check it out for yourself here
We are officially in a period of time famine. I read it in Newsweek. Or The Economist. Or somewhere I’m sure. I don’t remember, and I don’t have time to look it up right now. And I don’t even have time to write this blog post for that matter.
OK, maybe I’ll borrow some time via the Olympics simply by refusing to go anywhere albeit my kitchen, so that should save me several lifetimes by avoiding commuting all together. And I will refuse to watch the closing ceremonies but rely on a recap from BBC Sport or on the words of a trusted friend. Wait a second, I don’t have any friends I trust – I’ll just rely on The Sun. And yes, that should give me plenty of time to write breeze…
Back to our hunger for time. While many now fast for Ramadan, us others continue to suffer a deficiency in time. Not a spare moment to loiter with friends or family. No time to connect with estranged acquaintances on Facebook. No time for the park, or movies, or napping. What ever happened to napping? Or travelling for that matter? Who’s got time to travel now that they got rid of that Concord – I mean really?
And yes, what about that activity called eating? Walk into any M&S and witness the disproportionate amount of ready made meals glaring at you. It reminds me of the day I walked into HMV and to my dismay, finding all the music replaced by rows and rows of DVDs. I mean seriously do people still even go into HMV – are they still around? I must admit that lemon encrusted chicken breast with sweet potato and caramelised onions is different than a special limited edition blue-ray re-release of Usual Suspects – but still it baffles me how our ancestors had time not just to eat food, but to actually hunt, kill, prepare, and cook it!
That reminds me – my Pizza delivery is here. And truth be told the Mens 100 is on, and I really have to go…
“…Many of us at the moment, are spending money we don’t have, on things we don’t want, in order to impress people we don’t like.”
Recently I went to St. Paul’s Cathedral to see Michael Sandel speak on his latest book: What Money Can’t Buy. The public debate held in the awe-inspiring venue addressed the role market mechanisms can play in our daily lives. Do they corrupt our social values and poison the sacred areas of our civic life? Well perhaps that question is posed with an inherent bias, but it does capture the sentiment. If you have an hour and a half to spare it is well worth your time watching the debate: here
If you are short on time (after all, time is money), here is a recap of some standout examples I have selected that really illustrate how far this market mayhem is all going:
1. Cell ‘upgrades’ in Santa Ana County Jail Yes that is right, for just $82 bucks a night, if you happen to be a nonviolent offender in Santa Ana, California - you can pay for a clean, quiet jail cell. That means all the non-paying prisoners won’t disturb you while you get caught up on your beauty sleep.
What? Yes, you can bet on other people’s lives. Through investing in someone else’s life insurance policy, should they die, you stand to benefit financially. In Sandel’s own words, ” The Sooner they die, the better the payoff.”
This is such a fascinating moral dilemma that if you aren’t convinced simply watch this:
3. Pasty Tax
I must admit I was a bit clueless on this one. The ill-conceived move to add 20% to the cost of hot pies and pasties, is perhaps the least forceful example of this bunch - but worth including if only just to ridicule.
It certainly ticks the box of a personal vendetta against pastys that I hold from a near death experience. Sparing the grotesque details, I can say it involved an uncooked beef pasty orgininating from Clapham Junction station masquerading itself as a healthy late-night veggie option. Whatever the case, the argument might go as follows: Should taxpayers money and thus a market mechanism surrounding the price of Pasty’s be a justified way to garnish more money for the government to spend on a well over budgeted Olympics? Or were they simply:
“Desperate to find yet another way to take more money from the taxpayer, the idea of raising more than £35 million from pasty eaters must have felt like taking candy from a baby.” – Falmouthpacket.co.uk
More on this terribly exciting topic: here – or for some total buffoonery from David Cameron try: here
Where this leaves us really is exactly where Sandel wants to take us: to a space of public discourse and debate on these absurdities. For all of us, to take a firm stand for where and when it is wrong for markets to impede and infringe on our values – whoever we are, and whatever those may be.
Yes, values are subjective and will evolve over time, but today, in a totally jaded economic world – we can still express our views on where markets do serve the public good, and argue for where indeed they do belong.
A snapshot from interviews with creative businesses that we conducted as research for the think-tank Demos on their ‘Risky Business’ project.
Trailing around London we interviewed two-dozen entrepreneurs with the aim of capturing their views on risk and success within the creative sector. We had a diverse range of respondents from the secluded milliner to the international media firm, from the tech start-up to the independent record establishment. Here is a snapshot of what we discovered:
All of the entrepreneurs we talked to were able to take risks, have faith in their creative staff, identify new business opportunities, and anticipate and adapt to changing market conditions.
Take considered risks. Although some respondents were quick to label themselves as naive when starting up, when probed further, most felt that they had taken calculated risks based on the information available to them at the time. In the majority of cases, there were no other stakeholders in their ventures, and therefore little was at stake besides reputation and personal investment.
Businesses develop over time. Successful organisations adapt to changing situations in order to survive and thrive, and our studies exposed how in practice this varies between creative sectors. In the music industry, one company moved from a strictly sales and distribution operation to include in-house labels and an array of new artist services. In the fashion sector we saw a company move from own-label creations to designing more accessible clothing for third party manufacturing and distribution. This growth strategy is a carefully calculated one involving tailoring the right designs to suit a new market as well as partnering with the right retail channels from the outset.
In the TV and Film world converging media and cross platform services are permitting original content to yield revenues from a range of previously untapped sources. In the video games sector there is a distinct user-centred approach to gaming development as companies use real time data, incremental feedback, and ongoing validation to meet consumer behaviour. The end result is that in a highly competitive market these companies can respond and stay relevant to what the market and the consumer desires.
We found that a significant factor in enabling businesses to produce output with high commercial value was that their leaders consistently made decisions that upheld the integrity and sovereignty of their creative talent. This skill to spot, nurture and develop talent was present in each entrepreneur, and contributed to a positive and healthy work environment.
The interviews enabled us to also identify some common factors underlying success. Strong creative businesses are:
1) Values Driven: possess a higher sense of purpose that informs why the company does what it does beyond just making a buck;
2) Profit making: an underlying business strategy to turn a profit so that it can at least adapt and sustain itself;
3) People centric: emphasis on creating a collaborative culture in the workplace along with building long-term affinity with customers
These lean and flexible businesses that maneuver smart and fast within their specific sectors are led by entrepreneurs that are first and foremost, creative thinkers. Most are content working on a present-day model of borrowing bits of time from highly skilled specialists over amassing an impressive number of employees. The end sum is a striking balance of preserving a general sense of purpose, creative autonomy, and the ability to grow a profitable business – organically.
The report is led by Helen Burrows and Kitty Ussher and can be downloaded here.
The first issue of the new Smack magazine is now out on store shelves. The fiction / non-fiction / photography / poetry / politics / economics content ensures that there is plenty of reason to realise the motto and, ‘Take smack regularly for a clear head.’
With contributions from a motley crew of writers, Smack (the brainchild of Alex Shniedeman), also provides stunning images from Alex’s Hard Light exhibit – an array of photographs all taken in Taroudant, Morocco. We also see our friend Babycakes Romero enlighten us with his ‘Allure of Filmaking’ article. Well worth picking Smack up just for these, here is a small sample of ‘Social Something’ to give a taste of what to expect:
“I hear a global murmur with a sensuous slur of s’s concerning social media, social space, social capital, social innovation, social business, social change, social design, social this, social that, social me, social you, and just plain ol’ social. What exactly are all these voices saying? Pretty much all the same thing.
Social design, no longer operating as a fringe discipline, is gradually paving the way for a new generation of conscientious individuals who are adamant about creating a future that they would want to inhabit. At its core, the voices are all singing the same tune: we need to improve livelihood – now. From Michael Young’s ‘Open University’, to Nicholas Albery’s ‘The Institute for Social Inventions’, through to John Bielenberg’s ‘Project M’ there are countless examples of so called unreasonable people taking the lead in doing absolutely magnificent things.
By 2014, the European Union’s goal is to have a cohesive ‘Social Innovation Europe’. The remit of this initiative and any programme involving social design for that matter, is to bring together and invest in those that consensually want to improve society, and work collaboratively to design a sustainable future. Appealing to those who share values and a wider sense of purpose, this networked hub is attracting entrepreneurs, policymakers, innovators, designers, and many more. As these new ways of thinking spread and permeate the wider public consciousness, we move away form mere talk, to un-coerced collective action.
What distinguishes today from other ages in history (certainly a tired sentiment every generation abuses) are two things: 1) We are absolutely f*cked if we don’t do something about the state of the world immediately (global debt, the environment, energy, overpopulation – take your pick) and; 2) modern technology makes it more feasible for anyone to trigger and enable systemic change. This new mindset may be best captured in the youth of today who just might look back in 2050 to today, a ‘golden age’ that was increasingly less about ‘me’ and more about ‘we.’
The party pooper in all of this is that the view from Mars might tell us a wholly different story: a world littered with dots representing the disenchanted through to the demoralized, from the disillusioned to the discarded. Regime changes, peaceful demonstrations, violent protests, flash mobs, economic uproars, invasive strip malls, social injustice, trade unions, – there is no shortage of causes for which to get behind. After a year of demonstrations in Greece, this powerful sentiment from blogger Alex Andreou, captures the spirit of Greek frustrations as they occupied Athen’s central plaza this summer:
“We will not suffer any more so that we can make the rich, even richer. We do not authorize any of the politicians, who failed so spectacularly, to borrow any more money in our name. We do not trust you or the people that are lending it. We want a completely new set of accountable people at the helm, untainted by the fiascos of the past. You have run out of ideas.”
We may still be making sense of what happened in the London riots but we do not doubt the role that social media played in drumming up rioters. The author and futurist, Douglas Rushkoff, saw this possibility long ago but was much more optimistic in how we would opt to harness the new tool:
“…[Social Media] offers us the ability to play an active, conscious role in the development of our networked human future: from distributed communications networks impervious to the censorship of corporate or government regimes to new modes of value creation and exchange, or new open source democratic participation to collective consciousness and expression.”
While the Greek demonstrations may be demanding a call for fresh thinking, the London riots incline to abuse and corrupt freedoms. Yet still, the escalating Libyan protests aim to bolster and protect basic freedoms.
Reaching a global consensus on how we will chiefly utilize our surplus time is not the point – it’s merely to acknowledge that like voting (for those that have that freedom), it’s a decision we each can make. Having swapped one-way television sets for hyper-connected iPads, the digital generation collectively has a trillion hours or so per year that could be used socially and constructively if desired. We are left right back with the commandment of social design: let us congregate to play an active role in increasing the resilience of our communities.
“Technology is clearly changing us, and the way we connect with our friends, our families, and the world around us” -Tiffany Shlain
Our friend Tim Laurel based in San Francisco mentioned this movie was coming out months ago, and it is finally here. Also available in a shorter 15 minute version for educators – we cannot wait to see this.
We just completed of a project for the upcoming Shoreditch Unbound festival and book launch. Lots of exciting things all to be revealed and celebrated next month. In anticipation, we have been surveying why people like Shoreditch – and getting back some of the stupidest and some of the cleverest responses ever. Have a go for yourself here
Our friends in NYC have been running RECESS for sometime now. RECESS is a new paradigm in cultural event marketing that bridges gaming and sportsmanship with creativity and the community – don’t sleep.
Whether it’s trying your luck to win Olympic tickets for next year, preparing a keynote slideshow for a client, testing out the new Situationalist App, we really are living in the ‘Always On’ mode.
Besides feeling and being connected, one of the reasons we may find ourselves constantly switched on is to satisfy our insatiable appetite for speed and keeping (or looking?) busy.
If you find yourself running around doing too many things at once, thinking about the next thing you need to do, while you are currently doing the thing you are doing, just know it’s OK to slow down. One of our designers, now completely refreshed, wrote “..I’ve had a much needed dose of greenery and fresh air and unplugged from e-mails for a couple of days! It was great!…No skype/phone calls/e-mails/texts/tweets/likes/pokes etc allowed!”
For sometime, Douglast Rushkoff has been urging us to obey a new commandment for the conceptual age: ‘Thou shall not be Always On.’ Breathe. Real air. Or the consequences could be as severe as iPaditis. We all know that unplugging and disconnecting from digital life is something we should do but indeed being (hyper) connected, we rationalize, just feels natural. The prescription? It does not mean we all need to take up Chi Running, nor does it mean that we need to toss our smartphones off the nearest bridge. It means that until our digital life is totally and absolutely embedded into our existence (and if that sounds scary then let’s not let it) – we can spend our time plugged in wisely. Rushkoff, who himself is about to unplug and tuck himself away to write another book captures the essence of what all this social media hoorah really means, really:
“…[Social Media} offers us the ability to play an active, conscious role in the development of our networked human future: from distributed communications networks impervious to the censorship of corporate or government regimes to new modes of value creation and exchange, or new open source democratic participation to collective consciousness and expression.”
What are the chances? This saying seems fitting to capture what happened this past week in more or less the following order: I lost something of great sentimental value and then found it (because it was never lost in the first place), I spoke to a leading futurist on well, about the future, a complete stranger befriended me and unabashedly recommended Sandler’s Rules, Jalapeño juice squirted directly in my right eye causing a fair amount of discomfort, an 18-year phenomenon in the Supermoon looked down over London, and the UN declared war on Libya.
Scientists and Statisticians alike may be able to map out and explain the week’s events as a systematic series of plausible events or a ratio of possible combination of things happening versus what actually did. Simply for my own sanity, I am willing to entertain and even embrace any explanation. In life as in business it is certain that things happen, it’s just not evident what, when, and how they will. Perhaps this is the beauty of it all…
I mean seeing your average Stormtrooper ride the tube home one evening isn’t that bizarre is it?
“If we don’t change our direction we are likely to end up where we are going.” – Professor Irwin Corey, American comic and actor.
This sentiment rang loud in a recent pitch when championing that corporations (the really big ones) will incrementally open up to become more transparent, and indeed to embrace change. Stuffy, traditional, megacorporations will need to become comfortable with ambiguity if they are to stand a chance against their leaner emerging counterparts.
A case in point, are the values of the biggest UK phone company (no names necessary) - Bold, Clear, Open, and, Trusting. But in a rapidly changing landscape these same values will need extending to become more akin to Disruptive, Purposeful, Social, and Co-created. The skeptics of this necessary shift for big businesses rely on the age-old reluctance of corporations to relinquish control, often with ultra-conservative CEOs at the helm of the ship. Yet attempting to maintain control in a new economy where it either becomes illegal (a la Rupert Murdoch) or alienates your customers, simply ain’t good business.
It was over thirty-five years ago now that Charles Handy was prescribing that organisations need to adapt to changing situations in order to survive. When he explains that what may work today may not work in 5 years time, he could not have foreseen the warp speed at which a digital revolution could manifest. The 60 months in 1976 that passed, could arguably be equated to 6 months in today’s economy. The question really is then how do conservative businesses begin to embrace change? Big businesses – private, public, and voluntary know that they need to evolve but many aren’t exactly sure how. The answer would be easy if it bared no risk, but here are 3 questions that could be a good place to start:
1. What kind of culture does our corporation cultivate? Do employees refer to the company with a “They” or a “We” terminology?
2. What small steps can we make towards a value creation process that genuinely involves our customers?
3. What partners can we strategically align with who are willing to co-create products and services together?
WHAT’S MINE IS YOURS from rachel botsman - we posted about this some time ago but just caught wind of this viral. Well, we have started by putting more energy into being froogle, not merely motivated by recession busting inclinations, but because it can bring a sense of connectedness as well being fun. Botsman makes the key distinction that we are becoming increasingly concerned with access rather than just ownership (see www.airbnb.com) So lets get moving on the bartering, lending, trading, swapping, and sharing as not only is it a more resourceful way to live, but it also make good sense.
Due to some of our friends working in TV (and knowing the good from bad), we have been mildly addicted to Lie to Me. Tim Roth brilliantly plays Dr. Cal Lightman, a renown Scientist who can read people’s faces. Far out there cases and twisted employee dynamics make for a captivating recipe. However, it’s the telling the truth in a creative partnership that is really interesting. Highlighted with layers of intelligence and complexity, the relationship between Lightman and Foster as business partners – demonstrates the fine balance that is required to make a partnership work. As the audience waits for them to slip up, kiss, or for Foster to get fed up and take her talent elsewhere, the writers make it apparent that they really do need each other. It’s total business transparency, not because of a conscious choice to unveil the truth, but simply because they can’t hide it.