One day, you wake up and you realize the world has changed. Then you admit to yourself that you haven't. And you want it to change back. But it never does.
The other day, our soon to be 8-year-old, Max came home with this artwork. And it made me think about a post I had written about him when he was just 5. I was a bit disheartened about a very seemingly insignificant comment which brought me back to my own childhood. I've always colored outside the lines a bit—have consistently looked at things differently, and while I know his teacher was doing her job to ensure good motor skills, I wondered what things could look like if we could harness little imaginations right from the start as well as enforcing the basics.
So as I looked at Max's latest artwork, it occurred t me that as his motor skills improve with time, his creativity is still what really matters. I'm consistently in awe of how he sees the world and how it gets reproduced in his eyes. Even a skull can be a thing a beauty (well, I think so—but I'm biased).
Coloring inside the lines may get you accepted. Coloring outside of them may get you noticed. Coloring around them may help you actually get things done.
Thanks for the inspiration son.
Marketing maven Seth Godin once said something along the lines of "safe is risky and risky is safe". While I'm no guru, I'd like to make an addendum to this statement.
Everything is risky.
But it wasn't always this way. TV once portrayed perfection—fantasy, and radio told us what we thought we wanted to hear. There was no way to provide instant feedback. If you wanted to pick a bone with a TV or radio personality, you'd have to call the hotline, and chances were slim that you'd get on. Risk in these mediums could be managed with a degree of precision. Time delays and *beeps* over unsavory language ensured it. We got used to how the mediums worked and mastered their rhythms.
The internet is slightly different. And it's evolving. It's unpredictable, messy, organic, empowering, addictive and pervasive. It's good and bad—highly interactive, responsive, connective and alive. In fact, it's a lot like life. And like life, with it everything is risky. Each time we step outside our homes, we put ourselves at risk. The world can take us out at any time. A car accident, a virus, an act of nature.
The Web is a lot like this. Put something on it that you think is provocative—try to get people talking and you risk being ignored. Put something out that looks "safe" and you might inadvertently upset someone who you never new existed. Put something out that you think will appeal to everyone and you risk appealing to no-one. Stay away from the internet and someone will capture what you did with a mobile phone and put it on there anyway. With every post I write, I'm taking a risk.
Everything is risky.
When all roads lead to risk, there's only one thing we can do. Live. We live life by learning, by trying, by falling down getting up and learning from the best teacher we've ever had—life itself. Everything is now risky, every piece of media we upload can come back to haunt us. Everything can be frozen through a screen capture. In life we deal by going out into the world and navigating it's customs. Those who barricade themselves indoors thinking they avoid risk end up risking the quality of their social interactions.
If everything is risky, then nothing is safe. There is no safe anymore. What's left looks a lot like living. You live, you learn. You get up in the morning, tie your shoes and cross the street looking both ways. But you cross it—because if you don't, you can't live. And every once in a while you take a chance. Because everything is risky anyway.
Here's an e-mail I recently got from Mike:
"I am currently in Orlando attending Educause (an education technology show) and decide to try out some of the restaurants up-scale Disney offers at Walt Disney World. Last night I went to their "Flying Fish" restaurant in the Boardwalk area next to Epcot. During the already fantastic meal, the chef came around to all the tables to check in on us and to visit. At one point, he asked if this was my first visit to the Boardwalk and I answered something like "No. we've been here many times but this visit is so much better than the last. That time we got stuck on the Boardwalk in a horrible rain trying to get back to pick up our kids from the Disney Child care facility. We got them, no problem, but along the way I misplaced the cinnamon rolls I had purchased from the bakery as a breakfast treat for the kids for putting up with my wife and I going out to a nice dinner without them. This visit, I might not be with my family, but I sure wasn't going to miss out on the food again!"
He made a joke about me being responsible for bad weather... rain last time and "cold" this time (60 degrees as a high yesterday and the locals were in parkas). Then, he was back to visiting.
About ten minutes later, I was paying the bill and the chef came back with a white paper bag as "a little treat for later." After a "thanks" I headed out. When I got to my hotel, I unwrapped the surprise to find a cinnamon roll and a note: "a little something to warm your morning. Just keep the rain away. -C"
Yes, I know that it was not expensive to have someone add a $4 cinnamon roll to a $80 dinner, but it was done so quickly and with such personalization that I stood stunned thinking about it. Not only was he concerned about my interaction last night, but he made up for my own stupidity a couple of years ago. Disney wasn't even at fault that night... but he tried to correct the wrong in such a classy way.
Will Disney get something out of it? You bet. I'll tell that story as an example of top-notch service whenever I can. I'm sure my wife will be sick of hearing it. I have a talk coming up about changing how a school's Help Desk should refocus their thinking to be an positive service to their constituents. They need to be the folks people want to talk to, not those people have to talk to. This simple Cinnamon Roll story will be at the heart of my example. Many folks will hear how Disney is at the top of my "best service" list.
I'll be back to Disney over and over, but I suspect my Cinnamon Roll will end up being served to hundreds of folks over time who, I hope, will come away with an even more powerful respect and desire for the Disney brand.
I thought you should hear the story. thanks for giving me a framework to tell it to someone who understands the power of a simple action.
Do the little things really matter? You tell me. Thanks Mike for letting me share your tale of a micro-interaction that mattered to you.
I just wrapped up 2 days at the IDEA conference in Chicago and one of the highlights for me was getting to spend some time with Dave Gray, founder of XPLANE and a wonderful advocate for visual thinking. One thing you should know about me is that I watch people very carefully and make mental notes about what I can learn about them. Here are a few things I picked up:
It's The Delivery Stupid
Dave's talk at IDEA was very good—he explored the notion of analog benefits which have not yet translated digitally (for example comparing books and browsers), but aside from an interesting topic, what I noticed most about Dave's talk was that his delivery of it really made it extraordinary. Dave's spontaneity, conversational style, enegry and animation were instantly picked up by the audience. They fed off him, and in return he fed of them, and the amount of chatter going on in the back channel served as proof.
Show And Tell
I watched as Dave took notes and drew everything in his notebook. If he wasn't jotting something down as you were talking to him, he was pulling out his notebook to SHOW you something he was either thinking about or start drawing as he discussed something with you. A conversation with Dave was like an exercise in interactive show and tell.
Use What You Got
If Dave didn't have his notebook on him, he'd write something down on his hands and even in one case, his arm. I watched Dave do this more than once. The true sign of someone who understands improvisation—you use what you have as opposed to trying to create the perfect environment.
Dave is well over 6'5" and has a deep voice that easily carries. Yet he's not intimidating when he easily could be. Why? Because he's inquisitive and generally smiles a LOT. It's a great quality and instantly disarming. Watching Dave taught me that you can be smart, talented AND approachable.
Smack in the middle of Dave's talk—someone from the audience challenged him on something he had just said. Dave had invited people to to this at the beginning of his talk and responded by saying "I stand corrected". By Dave not only inviting the critique and giving it credibility, he was able to quickly move on with out disrupting the flow of his talk. And the audience responded even more positively for it.
So that's what I learned. And if you're open to a tip from your truly, consider this: don't always listen to what people say. Watch what they do—and how they do it. The insights you get from all three are more potent that just one.
By day Melissa Pierce acts as a creative coach, for entrepreneurs in the Chicago Area. On the side she's got an interesting project called Life In Perpetual Beta. A few weeks ago, Melissa turned the camera on me and the video above is what resulted. We talked about a few topics including creativity, authenticity, design thinking and personal branding. Other contributers to Melissa's video project have been Dan Pink, author of a Whole New Mind, entrepreneur Gary Veynerchuck, designer Carlos Segura, Jason Fried, Jim Coudal, Liz Strauss and more. Have a look at the videos. Worth checking out. for sure.
What's a story? There are so many definitions that I won't even try to define it here. But I do know one thing—good communicators are good storytellers, and good storytelling is memorable. I'm still fairly new to public speaking and so I try to weave in short stories to my presentations mainly because I can't present something effectively unless I can relate a personal story to it. A story that means something to me. It's why I brought Randy Paush into my micro-interactions presentation. It's why, when I'll talk about "personal brands"—I'll probably pepper it with stories I've heard before or maybe something I've experienced myself.
Being an effective storyteller isn't easy—but it's much easier to tell a story that matters to you. Stories that stick can influence decisions, inspire people to take action and persuade people to see things in a different light. Next week I'll have two opportunities to tell a story. Hopefully, they stick.
Andy Warhol's prophecy was fulfilled with the advent of MTV's programming and widespread reality television. We're now seeing a new kind of micro-fame which lasts well beyond 15 minutes. You don't have to have thousands of friends on My Space, Facebook or Twitter to feel like a "Weblebrity"—you can be the celebrity of your own social system regardless of size. Here are the top 10 signs you just might be a Weblebrity. :-)
1. You have signature clothing such as a certain T-shirt, hat, tie, sunglasses, boas, and occasionally ascots.
2. At internet parties people follow a "drink for link" policy—they buy the drinks, you provide the links.
3. Your internet friends treat you like a star while your real friends tell you to go F@*k yourself.
4. You stopped thinking about yourself as a person years ago. Now you're a "brand".
5. At family gatherings you receive regular taunts like "can the internet superstar please pass the casserole??".
6. You've considered getting your Facebook photo shot professionally.
7. Total strangers you meet at conferences know more about you than your significant other.
8. You fight back the urge to say "do you know who I am?" almost daily.
9. People actually think you're friends with Scoble.
10. No-one in the real world has ever heard of you.
Standing on a telephone wire hooked up to a couple of trees suspended 30 feet above the ground can give you a new perspective—even if it's after the fact. When my seven-year-old expressed his reluctance to move forward, I said what came natural.
"don't look down"
In retrospect, the first thing I did myself was to look down. That's right, I found it impossible not to and it was the opposite of the advice I was giving. The hard part wasn't avoiding the temptation—it was deciding that I wouldn't be paralyzed by it. There's no point in pretending that the reality of your situation doesn't exist because it does. It's better to embrace it and then take the next step in a direction that moves you forward. We just can't linger on that moment that we look down and realize the gravity of our situations.
Look down. Then quickly move forward.
This is the last slide from the most recent version of my POV on "micro-interactions". After reading Randy Pausch's book, "The Last Lecture", I was influenced and inspired by how he shared the memorable moments in his life with the rest of us—so much so that I kick off my presentations with his story about Disney. His account of what mattered most was a combination of life's key moments, mixed in with lots of little ones, the things we often take for granted. Randy isn't with us anymore, but his influence can still be felt. At least with me. I'll need to to a better job in my own life if I really want to make every interaction count, as I state in my last slide. But I know it's the right thing to do. For people, for organizations, and for the rest of us.
Thanks for the gift of The Last Lecture, Randy. My thoughts go out to your family.
I'm in lovely Amsterdam the first part of this week. What an interesting city. It's everything you'd expect from the bicycles to the weather (changes every few minutes) to the "cafes". At night it has a really laid back feel and the canals add an unexpected vibrancy as they reflect the lights around the city. Hello from Amsterdam.
You're probably familiar with Randy Pausch. If not, you should go and familiarize yourself with his story. Randy is both a a tenured professor at Carnegie Mellon, a scientist, a husband and father. And he's dying of cancer. His last gift is for all of us, in the form of a video that's made it's way around the internet—as well as a precious book titled "The Last Lecture". There are many stories worth talking about which Randy has put into words, but I wanted to take a moment to highlight one of them as it's helping me think through the idea of "Micro-Interactions".
The $100,000 Salt & Pepper Shaker
The story is simple. At 12 years old, a young Randy Pausch was exploring Disney World with his family and he and his sister decided they wanted to show their parents their appreciation for the trip. So they did what any other grateful children would do—they pooled their allowance money and headed straight for the Disney gift shop. A few minutes later, they emerged with the perfect gift. A ceramic Disney salt and pepper shaker featuring two bears in a tree holding the salt and pepper (not the ones in the photo above.) Randy and his sister left the store excited to see their parents faces when they opened the gift.
Minutes later, a mini-tragedy struck when Randy accidentally dropped the shaker, breaking it on impact. A nearby adult suggested that they should take it back to the store and they did so hesitantly, not expecting a positive outcome. To their surprise and delight, the Disney employee who had sold them the items apologized for not wrapping them appropriately and gave them a new set, no questions asked.
So why is the Salt & Pepper Shaker worth $100,000?
As an adult faced with his own mortality, Randy looks back to that event with a unique perspective. His whole family including his parents were so taken back by their "micro-interaction" with Disney, that they appreciated the institution on "a whole other level" to use his own words. By Randy's calculations, over the years his family has enthusiastically spent over $100,000 with Disney brand over the years and they never forgot the symbolic importance of that one specific interaction. In recent years as a consultant, Randy would often ask Disney executives this question:
"If I sent a child into one of your stores with a broken salt and pepper shaker today, would your policies allow your workers to be kind enough to replace it?"
Randy says, "the executives squirm at the question. They know the answer: Probably not." After Randy passes, his family will still have that salt and pepper shaker, and more than likely the memorable story that goes with it. As we continue to look at the holistic relationship between marketing, products and the experience—it's worth noting that the little things really do matter. More than we know.
I'm really fatigued by the whole left brained/right brained debate—while I think it's worth debating, it's not the issue of our time. I believe the issue of our time is how quickly we can successfully adapt in an era of rapid and dramatic change. Anyone who's worked in technology related fields understands this—only the difference is that technology's effect has permeated nearly every nation in the industrialized world. It's like breathing now.
This is what was at the core of my "Fuzzy Tail" POV from which the above visual was pulled. Each time I think about how overwhelming change is—I remind myself that the qualities outlined in the visual are becoming the critical soft skills that will allow individuals and business not to merely survive—but thrive.
That said, I look around and realize that while change appears to be rapid—we still tend do things the way it's always worked for us in the past. This may be the dilemma of our time. Either way, it's still worth assessing your "light brained" qualities. If you have them, worst case scenario—you'll be able to utilize them when needed. If you don't—it might be worth taking the time to do or learn something new. Maybe it's something you don't really understand and it makes you nervous. If so, all the more reason to take it on. So Are you left brained? Are your right brained? Are you a little of both?
Don't forget about being light brained.
I'm Wrapping up my time spent at ID's Strategy 08 conference held at Chicago's MCA. It's been a great couple of days filled with nuggets of inspiration ranging from the topics of designing for the other 90 percent, and changing the culture of corporations through design thinking. But hands down for me, the most intriguing talk was given by John Seeley Brown also known as "JSB".
JSB's talk was aimed out how we are learning and being educated and how much change is happening in this area. His framing of the subject matter was to think about education as an institution which needed to be re-built from the ground up. In essance, his call was to re-define what an actual instutuiton is—from something which is controlled and overly structured to something that still has shape but is more flexible and pliable.
But for me—John's talk came down to one statement he made.
"We are going back to the one room school house"
I believe JSB was pointing out the irony of what's happening with how we learn. In the one room school house, the teacher acted as a guide and students learned from each other. The setting was obviously intimate because it was small and the students all knew each other. I'm taking a few liberties with his metaphor, but the one room school house is a really interesting way to look at things. JSB called out that there is a renaissance in "tinkering", a soft skill which in the past has been marginalized, but is being taken seriously as a way people learn. Some would call this learning by doing. How do you think I learned what I have about "social media'?
Lastly and possibly most importantly JSB discussed a shift from instruction based learning to "interest-driven participation". While he did not define this in depth, I believe that it reflects other shifts that are happening in all types of fields. Connected and empowered individuals are no longer content to sit back and be lectured to. Information has been set free. Monologues have been replaced by conversations and increasingly we learn by doing—from watching what our peers do, from using what's been made into open source. So the classroom got a lot smaller—and we're back to influencing each other directly.
Some really great discussions happening in the halls. Wish you were here. :-)
Walking by the train tracks on my way to work one day, I noticed a tiny tree sprouting from the rocks alongside the tracks. Headphones on, and power walk in place, I saw it—but really didn't "see" it. But a "whisper" told me to stop. So I did. Taking off my headphones, I knelt down and took this picture. The whisper said "there's something here. something to think about... How can tree grow in a place like this?".
With the image captured I went about the rest of my day but couldn't stop thinking about it. And it made made me realize a few things. Life thrives in unexpected places and beauty can be found anywhere. Technology helps us capture a moment, but it can also keep us from hearing the whispers that are so important for our own development.
Life's whispers are often soft and subtle. They come without warning. The whispers are always there—but we're not always listening. The noise we surround ourselves with often keeps the whispers at bay. We become incapable of hearing them, until we choose to. At this point we see through fresh eyes.
I'm choosing to listen. But first I had to slow down and stop in order to do so. I had to be willing to miss the train if it meant learning something, even if just for the day. The whispers are there, waiting for us to notice them. But only if we're open to turning our own volume down, even if only for a brief moment in time. For me, this moment just happened to be the right one.
"Several weeks ago, approximately 90 people got together in New York City to socialize, network and discuss the future of marketing communications. By the time the weekend was over, many would have established strong bonds that will likely last years. Some will do business together. Others will have made investments that will pay over time. All of them left feeling a sense of "belonging." And most of them had never met in person prior to the weekend. Sound familiar?
We're All "Internet Dating" Now
Well, not so much in the romantic sense, but if you've ever known someone who has tried dating over the internet they will describe a phenomenon where you spend a considerable amount of time getting to know another person virtually. Even though you've never met them before, you feel intimately connected to them through your interactions and communications online. Then one day you actually meet them in person. The "F2FD-Day" (Face to Face Date Day). And you have a million thoughts racing through your mind. Will they be as you envisioned them? Will the relationship be as rewarding as it was online? Will it be better? Or will you be disappointed?"
Read the full Article at Advertising Age (Digital Next)
The more I connect with people who identify themselves with all things "2.0", the more I wonder—what did we all do before "social media"? The thing is, that it's absolutely fine to be providing a service where lots of people need help figuring things out, but as I look at business cards and meet and greet—it tells me little about what's really your core passion. Or even simply where you came from.
I'm terribly excited by the mainstreaming of social networks. I consider it to be THE innovation of our time. It has global implications—it's significant. It's transforming how we connect, relate and even do business. And it has downsides too. But I have to ask, are we losing ourselves to the word social? And if we are, what's next?
What did we do before "social" became such a desirable word to be attached to? Were we writers, analysts, designers, etc? Maybe before starting that blog—you dreamed of doing something that never even included thew word social in it. What did we really care about before "social" entered our vocabularies. It's worth thinking about if nothing other than this perspective. What we did before "social media" took over tells us a lot about the things we care about and what abilities and skills we have to draw from. These are the things that help define what we do—more so than "social media". So if I run into you at a future event—don't be surprised if I ask you what you did before social media rocked your world. It'll make for an even better conversation.
Before I went social, I was a "creative director". What did you do?
1. You type "@" before names in e-mail, blog comments and data fields.
2. Your written communications have become extremely short. 140 characters or less.
3. You change your Twitter avatar at least 3-5 times a week.
4. You don't use your phone to make calls anymore.
5. Your blog hasn't been updated in weeks/months.
6. You check your Twitter account daily/hourly to see if you have new "followers".
7. New followers = euphoria while no new followers sets off mild depression.
8. You tell your friends to just "Twitter it" to you.
9. You experience panic attacks if Twitter is down for more than an hour.
10. You experience "Twitter remorse" due to having a high number of updates, but still can't stop doing it.
1. Personality is just as important as policy.
2. It's better to believe in something vs. everything.
3. Words do matter. The delivery of them matters even more.
4. Positive trumps negative.
5. Authenticity is hard to fake but easy to harness.
6. Leadership trumps politics.
7. The internet isn't a channel, it's THE channel.
8. Influence is contagious—so is hope.
9. You can't force people to like you.
10. Anything is possible.
It's Valentine's day. Instead of sending candies, flowers and cards with hearts. Send a special person a picture of the "Heart Nebula". Yes, it really exists—and will get them thinking about the wonders of the universe. Nothing says "I love you" like the cosmos.
Here we go again. Just when I was getting into a groove—life kicks in and lets me know that it has other plans. Late last week it was announced that I was getting a significant promotion. It's probably the most important in my career thus far, as I'm making a leap from leading teams to leading an entire department of over 40 people. And you know how I feel about departments.
I'm not taking it lightly. It's a serious vote of confidence and I had to think about it for a bit before pursuing. I'll now be accountable for the collective creative product that gets produced out of the Chicago office of Critical Mass. Yikes!
These are the times in life where you ask yourself questions:
Can I do this?
Is it the right thing to do?
Am I ready?
But sometimes you have to go back and dig up the things you believe in. You have to ask yourself—"am I willing to do what it takes to make this a reality"? So I went through some materials and found this in a document I had helped write.
"At the end of the day, we’re focused on relevant, groundbreaking solutions that fuse style and substance—insight driven creative, supported by technology, which ultimately leads to measurable results. Not merely flashy creative or fleeting viral campaigns, but rather, applications that shift consumer behavior, brand experiences that deepen customer relationships and game-changing strategies that meaningfully impact the bottom line."
Yes. I believe in this. But the questions remain...
Can I do this?
Is it the right thing to do?
Am I ready?
I honestly don't know. But how will you ever uncover the answers to any question if you never try to find them?
You didn't need a visual to get the not-so-subtle message sent to both parties in Iowa. But while we're at it, we might as well face the reality that this one word may define the future of the world's largest superpower. And while the candidates try their best to use the word to their own advantage—the prize will most likely go to the one who actually embodies it.
Change. It's just a word.
Wait. No it's not.
Want to change the world? It only takes one random act of kindness at a time. It's pretty simple really—what this is all about. As most things on the Web, it starts with people and then more people. In this case, someone shared a story. That story spread and through Blogs, Twitter and e-mail and people began to show support through peas of all things.
Susan Reynolds is undergoing surgery today as part of her fight against breast cancer.
She shared a story of how she used a bag of frozen peas to soothe herself after her biopsy. Then the news came. But there's hope in the form of community and a symbolic gesture of adopting the pea. Changing the world is hard because nobody wants to start with just one person. Where's the glory in that?
Because peas do help.
Just found out that the company I work for (Critical Mass) is giving 100 Laptops to children in developing countries. I have to tell you—it feels pretty good working for a place that gives back. And it's got me thinking about how I can go the extra mile this holiday season. Whether Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child effort ends up being a case study for success or failure, at least it's an attempt to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters in places far away—and what a great way to demonstrate that although worlds apart, we are still connected. When we're given opportunities, it gives us a great excuse to give back the gift of opportunity. Thanks CM.
A while back Stephen P. Anderson asked me if I could share "what's in my bookstack". Well, it's not just books—but here are a few paper products that I reference on a fairly regular basis.
Passage To Liberty
An well-designed book that reminds me of my heritage and the things that my parents faced as Italian immigrants. It helps me to remember where my roots lie.
A Whole New Mind
An enlightening piece that reminds me to use all the parts of my brain on a daily basis.
One of the most comprehensive books on what the "prosumer" movement is really all about.
The story of Kyle Maynard, a boy born with no arms and legs who became a champion wrestler. A reminder that I have no excuses in life.
Made To Stick
One of my favorite reads on how to make ideas memorable.
The Myths of Innovation
A great way to look at innovation as a process.
The Brand Gap
One of my all time favorites. A must have for anyone looking to bridge the worlds of design and branding.
The Laws of Simplicity
An interesting read that lays out how complex simplicity really is.
Something I reference when looking to communicate with color.
IDEO Method Cards
A wonderful source of inspiration for the creation or mashing up of different methodologies.
Creative Whack Pack
The "Anti IDEO Method Cards", I use this as a counterbalance to IDEO's cards. The Whack Pack is less about methods and more about good old fashioned inspiration.
I'm speaking at CanUX today and you're looking at the first slide which I just added to my presentation. Ironically, it's going to be an "icebreaker" that actually involves ice. I snapped this photo yesterday in the middle of a frozen Lake Louise in beautiful Banff Canada. You see, I'm a terrible ice skater. My ankles buckle, feet get sore quickly and heaven help you if you get in my way because I couldn't stop if my life depended on it. I ended up going ice skating with Julia, a co-worker. Our original plan was to do a little snowboarding and have a business lunch after. I'm a decent snowboarder and was looking forward to it. But Julia convinced me that I needed the true Canadian experience of getting out on a frozen lake with a couple of hockey sticks and a puck. Go figure. ;-)
So when faced with the unexpected prospect of ice skating, I suddenly realized that this is exactly related to the stuff I talk about. You plan for one thing, but it's usually your ability to improvise that determines how the story ends. Mine ended up in the middle of some breathtaking scenery. Sometimes being agile and adaptable means being willing to skate when you really don't want to—and not being afraid to fall on your ass. Once you get to that point—you'll end up just fine.
"Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."
In the past several weeks, I've been noticing a pattern. I've seen words like "Guru", "A-lister" etc. next to my name—and it's freaking me out. Don't get me wrong—this aint about coming across as humble, nor it is an attempt to dictate how I'm labeled. What makes me nervous is what would happen if I started believing these labels.
Here's the thing—I believe in "The Curse of Knowledge" as Dan and Chip Heath put it. And I believe that when you know too much—it takes away from your creativity and your ability to see things from different perspectives. I've been thinking about this quite it bit. I've been having mixed feelings regarding the specialized degrees that are being marketed to us, promising to turn us into design thinkers, creative strategists etc. Steve Jobs, the original design thinker was a college drop out. What does this tell us?
I'm happy to see the business world take creative problem solving seriously and I'm certainly not against higher education or any of the new programs. But I'm also wary of what happens when we perceive ourselves as experts who have been trained in the black art of [insert profession here].
I started this blog because I was hungry. I was most certainly foolish. I had no idea what on earth I was doing—and that sense of wonder freed me from any restrictions or limitations I might have otherwise been put upon myself. There was no "Guru-sim" involved, and no formal education or even work experience could have taught me to open a Typepad account and make the transformation from spectator to participant.
That was an act of foolishness on my part. I was foolish enough to believe that people would come here. I was hungry enough to spend my downtime producing content and talking to people vs. watching the tube. So, you can call me whatever you like—but for my own sanity check, I'm going to stay hungry and foolish. Sir Ken Robinson put it best—we sometimes "live in our heads". That's what the curse of knowledge can do to us. If you have 20 minutes to spare, I'd stop what you are doing and watch his video. Good for the head, soul and absolutely 100% foolish.
Yesterday I was part of a communications exercise where we had to tell a story. I told the story of how a single conversation with my Mom in the middle of the night made it possible me to attend design school (Pratt). In short, I stated that had that conversation never happened—I wouldn't have been in that meeting room sharing my story to them. Which made me think of this post as well as the power of a single conversation. So here it as again—and thank you Mom for helping me pursue my dreams.
Originally posted on 9/25/2006
For every Ying, there needs to be a Yang. A while back, Design Observer re-printed, “The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School.” by New York-based architect Michael McDonough. It’s a great read and all too true—sadly schools of any type don’t often prepare us for the real world. But what about the things we DO learn in D-school (Design School)? How are we influenced during this pivotal moment in our lives? And does it carry over into life after D-school? What about values that are instilled in our developing hearts and minds?
I was fortunate enough to attend Pratt for the better part of three and a half years. I received a very unique education which consisted of pioneering the usage of computers in design, cooking fillet mignon in the classroom, welding in workshops, and even posing in the buff for a figure drawing class (I'll explain in face your fears). I learned a great deal about urban living in the middle of some pretty rough neighborhoods (got mugged at gunpoint in my second week). But I also learned how privileged I was to be able to receive this kind of education in one of the greatest cities on the planet.
What I learned in D-school has served me well to this very day.
Here are a few highlights. All of the images included in this post
were created during my time at Pratt.
What I Learned in D-school:
Work really hard.
Pratt’s Mantra was “Be true to your work, and your work will be true to you”. This phrase has been branded deep inside my soul. And we lived it daily at Pratt—the proof was in the amount of lights on during the night. Everyone stayed up late working on projects because we believed in what we were doing. Same goes for me today. If I believe in the work, there is nothing I won’t do to see it through.
When we pinned up our projects in front of each other in the classrooms—make no mistake, we were competing. We were competing against each other because there was mutual respect for our fellow students. We sharpened each other’s skills this way. If we were going to put something up on that wall, in front of our professors and each other—it had better be good. If it wasn’t, or at least didn’t have the potential to be—we had let ourselves down.
Having your work up on the wall, in front of your peers taught me how to take criticism. Yes, my work was shredded to pieces by professors who studied under the likes of Milton Glaser. Sometimes I took a beating. But I always dusted off and picked myself up. I learned early on how to take criticism and use it to make a better product. D-school taught me how to listen and value the opinions of others and become better for it.
See things differently.
My visual communications professors constantly challenged us to look at things differently. To never be satisfied with our first ideas—they were merely stepping stones to something better. When I facilitate ideation sessions, I remember these lessons. The first ideas can sometimes be really good—but the more ideas build upon each other, the better the chances of ending up with something wonderful.
Embrace new experiences.
I learned how to use computers early on when much of the design world was cutting and pasting away. If I wanted to do something like create an animation—it might mean learning a new program, doing things like creating 3-D models. I didn’t know any of this stuff before coming to Pratt, but I left there with a "learn by doing attitude" which enables me to put myself in the shoes of users—do what they do, and a desire to experience things for myself.
Face your fears.
A group of students who wanted to get better at figure drawing agreed to meet one a week after class to continue drawing. There was only one problem. We didn’t have models. So we modeled for each other. I really didn’t want to get up in front of my fellow students with nothing but my bare assets—however I did want to learn how to draw better. So I got up on that platform—in full view of my classmates. But once I did it, I felt a sense of accomplishment in staring down my fears—and to this day, it takes a lot to rattle me. After all, once you do something like that—even the most demanding work experience seems tame in comparison.
The mask I designed here was created in one evening. But before I started working on it, I had to show a sketch to my professor. The initial sketch didn’t do the actual mask justice—my professor wasn’t very impressed at the idea until he saw the execution. This taught me the value of executing ideas rapidly. Sometimes people need to see, touch and feel to believe.
Having fun is probably THE most important thing I learned in D-school. One of my projects was to design a better “choking victim poster”. So I thought, why can’t a poster about choking be fun? And with a little inspiration from Keith Haring, I did just that. Work doesn’t have to feel like work—I had a lot of fun at Pratt staying up all night working on projects. My roommates and I would wake each other up in the middle of the night if one of us was working, just to get feedback. We had fun with our work and with each other. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously. All things that should ring true in our serious corporate settings (but don't always).
I guess that’s about it. And if you think about it, you really don't need to go to Design School for any of this—but for me, it did the trick. And the funny thing is that if you look at this collection of thoughts and images, you see very little which directly corresponds in a literal fashion with my actual practice in digital experience design (at least not how it’s practiced today). There are no flows, sitemaps or personas. These are skills I had to learn on the job. Marketing, user-centered design, copywriting—these were all developed through real work experience in the field. However I still tap into the core values I leaned at D-school. Maybe what it comes down to was being influenced. But as we know, a little influence goes a long way.
Ever had a hard time describing what your job is to someone else who actually works directly in your industry? If so—you may be living life in the overlap. Here's the thing—life in the overlap 'aint always easy. With community playing an important part in how we relate to each other, how do we pick and choose communities that we feel like we "fit into"? Or even more importantly—what communities will accept us when we can barely define ourselves.
This blog is an overlap blog—meaning it doesn't go very deep on one topic (though if you are an avid reader, you can detect the patterns). But one of the things I grapple with on a regular basis is should I even try to target an audience? Marketing teaches us to target audiences—to go after "key" segments and prioritize our offerings to the wants and needs of that group. What I've experienced here has been mostly the opposite. I didn't choose my audience, you chose me. I'm always fascinated by the types of people who will come here. Librarians, planners, UX people, Ad people, Tech people, Strategists, Psychologists and even Preachers—the list goes on as I get a pretty eclectic mix of folks.
That's life in the overlap for ya—you never know what kind of people you'll attract. But I said it's not easy and it isn't—professionally you have to be at the right kind of organization if you work this way (thankfully I am) and in my experience, the "down side" is that you don't always get invited to the industry "parties" or "clubs" that you'd love to be a part of. Doesn't matter how much of an audience you have—if you can't be packaged neat and tidy, sometimes that's just how it goes.
But life in the overlap has it's advantages if you put yourself in the right frame of mind. I've been thinking about some of the conferences I'm either speaking at or attending and how different each one is. One minute I'm cavorting with promo marketers, the next I'm hanging out with design strategists, then I'm teaming up with Microsoft, getting my b2b groove on and even playing UX keynote in Canada.
And this is where life in the overlap gets interesting. I've always framed my true passion as being a creative problem solver—and that's painting with a pretty broad brush. But at the end of the day—one of the perks of life in the overlap is this: You get exposed to very different types of people. And if you are observant enough, they rub off on you—the next thing you know you are taking what you've learned and applying in in a totally "unrelated" context. And this comes in handy with that whole "problem solving" thing.
So life in the overlap isn't that bad after all. X+Y+Z=OK.
Tip of the hat to Ryan. The story is now national and CNN has video footage.
The teen who grabbed the woman out of the car is Tommy Foust. Read more about it here. Would be nice if this got more than local coverage--we all need to hear about more stories like this.
A few hours ago I witnessed something incredible.
While riding my motorbike I pulled up to a red light adjacent to a train crossing minutes from my home in Glenview IL. Across the intersection I could make out a few teenagers running across the tracks. There was something on the tracks—it appeared to be a car, but I couldn't be sure. The next thing I knew the train crossing lit up and the guards went down.
It all happened within seconds.
I saw 2 young men dash away from the car and literally dive into the weeds next to the tracks. They were holding something. SECONDS later—no more than 5 or so, TWO diesel trains ripped the car to shreds. It might have been a scene out of a movie. I pulled over my bike to where the teenagers were and two boys emerged from the weeds carrying an elderly woman. Turns out she mistakingly made a right turn on the tracks and ended up facing an ongoing train. Her car was stuck on the tracks and she was disoriented.
You won't find any of these details on the story that recently went up on the Chicago Tribune because they are most likely fact checking. But I was there, and I captured what I saw with my own eyes via Twitter. There are some very special heroes out there that may be getting some attention from the press in the days to come. I went up to those young men and could only say this:
"You did something good here—you did the right thing"
Below is the transcript from my Twitter account. What's worth noting is that it's times like this when we realize the potential of a tool like Twitter. For the field journalist, Twitter is something to investigate.
...And for the rest of us, I'll say this:
Heroes still exist—and the real ones aren't on a television show and don't have special powers, they're people like you and me. Those were a couple of brave kids. They cheated death by SECONDS. They didn't think, they acted. Tonight, there's a family and possibly some grandchildren out there who can be very thankful that a couple of outstanding young adults "did the right thing".
Atlantic City, located smack dab on New Jersey's coastline is a gold mine for ethnography. If you can filter out the sensory overload of sights sounds and the smells of fried everything, the people watching is fantastic. It's a essentially a bubbling stew of people, activity and human behavior--you can observe pretty much any type of situation from gambling to surfing to just about any form of street performance.
But my favorite part of the trip was walking along the famous (or infamous) Boardwalk at 6:30 in the morning. At this time the usually bustling Boardwalk is eerily quiet with the exeption of a few runners and local stragglers. The stillness was perfect for appreciating some of the more authentic establishments in Atlantic City. Hundreds of tiny storefronts still exist among the newer tourist traps and commercial chains and each time you take a look at one, it's as if you've entered a mini time warp as the signage and interiors look as if they haven't been updated in decades. In a world of change, it's refreshing to see that some things don't.
This is Buca (the name is short for Sambuca, an Italian after-dinner drink). She's a 10 year old Boxer. We got her as a puppy and at 6 years old we gave her to my sister who doesn't have children and provides Buca with an adventure-filled life complete with plenty of attention and exercise. They tell us that we are attracted to animals who exhibit personality traits that are similar to our own. I think if I were an an animal, I would probably be a Boxer.
Boxers in my opinion are a special kind of breed. Part clown, part protector, and a bundle of unbridled enthusiasm, Boxers were bred as both working + companion dogs vs. sporting dogs which means that while they can appreciate a good game of fetch, they basically don't care what they are doing as long as it's with you. Buca is the classic Boxer in this sense--she will follow you from room to room as you move around the house and she hates to be alone. If you want an independent pet who treats you with indifference, never get a Boxer. They bond espcially tight to their owners and want to be with them at all times.
Upon researching Boxers and dogs in general, I discovered that canines, more specifically working dogs can be classified in two groups. "sharp" and "dull". German Shepards are considered "sharp" which essentially means that when they are trained, their response time is nearly immediate--the time from thought to action happends in milliseconds. Working dogs by and large are considered to have high intelligence levels--whether it's guarding or herding, their "jobs" require certain competancies. "Dull" dogs, like their sharp counterparts are also very bright, but less reactive. They tend to take a little more time processing things before acting. You can see this in Boxers (Who are considered to be in the dull catagory). Their expressive eyes, head tilts, and wrinkled brows tell the story. They will sometimes pause and look at you as if to figure out what you are thinking. I swear, there are times when I can actually see Buca's little gears turning. "Dull" dogs are also responsive, but come at things a little differently.
You're probably wondering why I'm writing about this. I'm not really sure. One reason could be the gray hairs you can just make out on Buca's fawn and white coat. She's nearing the end of her life and though she doesn't act like it, probably won't live for too much longer. Boxers don't have a very long life expectancy--12 years is considered long by most accounts and Buca is already 10. But another thing about her which is also a classic Boxer trait is that she still acts like a puppy. At 10 years old, Buca will curl up her body and do a wiggly kind of dance whenever she sees you for the first time. Her little stub of a tail will vibrate so fast, it becomes a fuzzy blur. And she "growls" when happy. It's really something to see. She's a great dog--fun, awesome with kids and entertaining. While I do think I would be a Boxer if I were an animal, I also know that some of this is aspirational. Fact is, that while I pride myself on being spontaineous and fun loving, I'm probably a bit more serious than I used to be--a side effect to becoming a "professional". If I were really like a Boxer, I might process things for a bit, but not think twice about having a good roll in the grass when the opportunity presents itself. There is something to learn from this.
Well, I'm off to the beach. Maybe you can think about what animal you might be? What qualities about that animal draws you to this conclusion? Is any of it aspirational? And do you consider yourself "sharp" or "dull"?
I'm making my summer pilgrimage to my hometown (Long Island, NY)—where me and the family will hopefully take in some beach time, bond with the grandparents and meet up with some childhood friends. For those of you have been following this blog for a while—you know that I don't promise to either stop writing or continue, but every once in a while an "offbeat" vacation post will show up. No promises either way—I've always approached the content here from a "post as inspired" perspective.
Couple of things. I've made it easier to subscribe to Logic + Emotion in a way that best works for you. In addition to e-mail and the regular ways of getting the feed—I've added two buttons that make bookmarking and adding feeds really simple (talk about content distribution). And the bookmark feature has a mouse-over option which supports spaces like Digg, Stumbleupon Etc. The options (shown below) can be found on the left column of the blog.
I've been told a couple of times over the past few months to "grow up". Not in a malicious way--maybe in a bit more dismissive manner. But what do the "grown ups" know that I don't? Do they drop what they are doing to make time for life's little "puppet shows"? Have they kept their sense of wonder--and humor? Do they still dare to dream?In my limited experience in life I've learned that there is a subtle difference between being a responsible adult, professional, citizen and being a "grown up". As children we aspired to be "grown ups"--we couldn't wait until the day it was our turn. Then one morning we woke up and wondered what the fuss was about. If you've lost your appreciation for a spontaineous puppet show, then chances are that you've probably "grown up". Is it everything that you thought it would be?
Hello. This post is for you. Yes, you. You're here listening—watching—observing. You read our thoughts, sometimes even follow along in our lives. You wonder how we can share so freely, in blogs—through the full spectrum of social media venues. You watch the memes spread and find out even more about us—about our personal lives and past experiences.
You sign up for our e-mails and feeds. You supplement your daily flow of mainstream information with what we have to say. But you don't talk back—even though you can.
The current meme traversing through our networks asks us to share 8 random things about us. It's so easy for "us" to pull up our instant publishing tools and throw our thoughts out to the Web. But you can too.
Take a good look at that comment box pictured above. It's instant publishing. Just like what "we" have—only with a few less bells and whistles. What are you waiting for? Tell us about you. Use any name or identity you want. Go ahead—get it off your chest. "We" do it all the time—and now it's your turn. Aren't you curious to see how it feels?
Paul Armano was born in Polizzi Generosa, Italy in 1936. Like many immigrants —he came to America looking for a better life. And he gave us that life—working pretty much every job you could imagine until eventually opening his own business as a barber. Here I ask him "what's the secret"? His answer is simple:
"You gotta dig."
You can just make out the slight chuckle in my voice as I repeat his reply. But like many fathers—dad has a wisdom that's not always as obvious as his answers may initially seem. When I planted last year's garden—I didn't go nearly as deep as he did. Not even half as much. And the plants didn't do very well. Sometimes the obvious isn't always... obvious. But my dad, the barber wasn't finished teaching me that day. He also taught me that we can connect without words. Later that afternoon we went out and bought a chainsaw of all things. We have trees on our property that needed some large, dead branches to be cut down. So we spent a good portion of the afternoon doing just that.
It's probably something I'll always remember—and we barely spoke a word.
Dad and I haven't always gotten along. Not an unusual story—many fathers + sons have difficulties relating. But there comes a point when you look at the bigger picture and you realize how short life is—and you make choices.
And those choices make all the difference.
Food for thought. Think about who you work for (assuming you aren’t self employed). What’s in the DNA of the company? Did your company start out as a traditional ad agency? Maybe it’s origin was in graphic design? Or it could have started out as a consulting business? How about direct marketing? Promotions? Software? Hardware? Environmental displays?
What’s in the DNA of the place you work for? Is it digital? Did it start analog?
You hear the story over and over again—companies evolve over time. Business models change. New services are offered. Mergers. Acquisitions. But what if DNA really makes a difference? Is it possible to evolve and stay true to your roots? And is this a good thing?
What’s in your personal DNA?
How are you wired? Left brained, right brained, all brained? Where do you excel? Where do you need help? How does your personal DNA affect what you do for a living?
Does your personal DNA align with that of your employer?
My brief respite in between jobs is just about over. Here's a few thoughts while my brain is still in "vacation mode".
1. Recreation is what you make it
The photo that goes with this post was taken at Starved Rock state park near Utica IL. It's one of the natural waterfalls that are situated through the numerous sandstone canyons throughout the park. We took the photo on our second trip there (I'm the small black speck near the orange and blue specs over to the left). Our first trip was short lived due to both boys getting really sick. But I learned an important lesson in all this. By choosing a destination only two hours away, we were able to re-visit and pick up where we left off. If life is in beta, so is recreation. And though we weren't far from Chicago we might as well have been exploring the forests and caverns of South America. A little imagination and a lot of relaxation can go a long way if you let it.
2. Live in the moment
Today I dropped what I was doing and had a watergun fight with the boys. They won. Life's too short to hesitate. Live in the moment and take some water on the chin every now and then...
3. Take pictures
We took some pictures and video. We didn't overdo it. But I'm not the most proactive at taking pictures when having fun. Probably because I like "living in the moment". But occasionally you gotta capture those moments. You won't regret it.
4. Savor everything
Sometimes simple meals like Fish-n-Chips and a slab of ribs can be gourmet experiences when the setting and company is right. We had some great meals in good company while overlooking wonderful scenery.
5. Be spontaneous
One of my favorite moments was sharing a motorbike ride with my wife. She usually shuns doing this with me for safety reasons which I totally understand. But one afternoon she surprised me with the idea of hopping on the bike. So we rode off a couple of towns over, dined outdoors and rode back. It was an unexpected treat and one I won't forget.
OK, I think I'm ready for work now. :)
On Friday afternoon, I took Max to the local hardware store with me to pick up some gardening supplies. I could have gone a few extra miles to the Home Depot, but I opted to save a little time despite paying a bit more. Plus, I just like the feel of our local mom 'n pop store. It's friendly and I don't feel overwhelmed by choice.
On our way out I picked up two small American flags. One for Max and the other for Mason. We spent the rest of the afternoon on Friday doing chores and planting in the garden. I quickly forgot about the flags.
Saturday morning was cool and overcast. It had rained heavily during the night--severe thunderstorms actually, which I vaguely recall interrupting sleep. Despite the cool and moist morning air--I engaged in my weekend ritual of stepping outside with a cup of coffee wandering around the yard. And there on the kid's playground, in the double swing--were the two little American flags. One of the boys must have put them there the day before and I never noticed it. They were probably playing on the swing together with the flags propped that way.
The rest of the story is pretty obvious. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a shot of it. I'm not exactly sure why. Something about this image speaks to me and I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it has something to do with the children. Maybe it's knowing they put the flags there. Maybe it's the stillness of the playground without them--the hushed silence of the early morning hours. Maybe it's the drops of rain slowly trickling down the swing. There is almost a sadness to this image. I can't figure out why I'm drawn to it.
Regardless, today seems to be a good day to share the photo. So this post is dedicated to all who have served. To all who have fallen. To all of the families. I didn't plan on writing something about Memorial Day. But as I always say, life is about planning + improvising. Today--I'm improvising.
Enjoy the photo--as well as the day.
Today I had the pleasure of meeting Jackie Huba in person. Jackie of course is co-author of Citizen Marketers and Creating Customer Evangelists not to mention co-owner of Church of the Customer along with Ben McConnell. OK, now that I got all the formalities out of the way--here is what you really need to know. Jackie and I had a really nice, relaxed conversation at a local Starbucks in north Chicago. Obviously we chatted about our respective blogs, Jackie and Ben's books and our personal experiences in the space, but mostly we just talked about what was going on in our lives. I even got to see a picture of "Mini", possible the cutest toy poodle pup around (having owned a Boxer in the past, I'm more of a big dog guy--so this is a huge compliment).
But here's the thing. I've been fortunate enough to meet lots of folks lately at conferences and stuff. Designers, bloggers, designers who blog, journalists, businesspeople, city representatives etc. I've been "networking" as they say. But there is one thing I've discovered through all of this.
There is no substitute for one-on-one conversation.
What do think my biggest take away from our afternoon was? Did I "pick Jackie's brain"? Did I find out the secret to writing a successful business book?
Nah. Not really.
My favorite part of the afternoon was that Jackie and I unplugged for a bit and talked about whatever was on our minds at that moment. Well, there was a very brief demo of Twitter mobile performed by yours truly--but that was the only time either of us looked at a screen. Today I found out that Jackie loves her Mini (both car and canine), Ben loves the color Silver (Jackie likes Red) and one thing that we have in common aside from blogs and time spent at interactive agencies is that we're not the most effective self promoters. But that's where the idea of citizen marketers comes in. Create something that is worth talking about and you don't have to market yourself. Your community will do it for you.
Well, I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know. But the nice thing about having your community do your marketing is this:
When you don't have to market yourself, it frees you up for the things that actually matter more. Like sitting down and enjoying a cup of iced coffee over some casual conversation in good company. I'll take that over marketing any day.
Of all the visuals on this site—this has to be my favorite, simply for the reason that it captures the essence of life. We can plan—we certainly improvise, but life ends up being somewhere in the middle.
Today is my last day with Digitas. I planned on staying here longer than a year and eight months—but as the saying goes, "life happens". I have an incredible opportunity ahead of me which I have recently accepted from Critical Mass, an agency based out of Calgary Canada (I will be working out of the Chicago office). Critical Mass has deep roots in user-centered design and excels at architecting the consumer experience across multiple touch points:
I'm thrilled to be joining Critical Mass who continues to be a leader in the space—earning praise and high marks from organizations such as Forrester. I'll be joining Critical Mass in a relatively new role (VP, Experience Design) and could not be more pleased with this, as it is a perfect fit for my background and the way I approach the work. The new position will also allow me to continue developing thought leadership and all of the stuff you've come to expect here.
You've probably got some questions—so I thought it would be best to treat the rest of this post in an FAQ style fashion. But before I do, let me just say that I've had the rare pleasure to work alongside some of the most talented people at Digitas in all capacities. Together we've launched several initiatives under tight deadlines and we've delivered innovative solutions through prototyping concepts and pushing the execution of our ideas. Thank you everyone at Digitas for the experience. And a special thank you to Executive Creative Director Mark Beeching, who accidentally stumbled upon this blog in the early days and embraced it immediately (I never told Digitas about it—I just launched it) . Mark, I won't forget your support. :-)
OK, on to the "FAQ's"
Why am I leaving?
Simply put, Critical Mass presents a unique opportunity to grow in areas that I am truly passionate about (multi-channel consumer experiences). I've had many discussions with the people there, and we posses a shared vision. This opportunity is a perfect fit for me.
How will this affect Logic + Emotion?
It shouldn't. This is still my personal blog, I'll just have a different employer. Theoritically it could get even better as I'll be tapped more often in the thought leadership area. The topics discussed here will probably be pretty much the same. Of course posting could get lighter while I adjust to the new role—but we'll see...
When do I start?
I start on May 30th. And Yes, I'm taking some much needed time off. A little over a week. Not a huge amount of time, but it will be enough to slow down, take a breath and bond with the family. I'll be doing a lot of that. This move comes at a good time as I've been working at a pretty fast pace between Digitas and this blog. So I'm looking forward to a break!
Will I become an honorary citizen of Canada?
If Canada will have me. Over my break, I will be renting large quantities of Hockey DVD's and audiobooks. I plan to know all about Hockey before I begin on my first day. If anyone knows about Hockey, please send me an e-mail directing me to some good resources. ;-)
So as you can tell, I'm very excited and even a bit nervous. This past year has produced amazing professional (and personal) growth for me. Thanks for coming along for the ride. Life—with all of it's planning and improvisation, goes on...
It's Friday. Everyone seems to be talking about Coke in Second Life. That's great. But I'd like to talk about a subject even more dear to my heart. Two of my favorite thinkers recently got together for a chat. Author and inventor Roger von Oech and BusinessWeek's Bruce Nussbaum. Roger is 59 years old. Bruce is 60. One of the priceless things about my blogging experience is the access I now have to minds like this. Roger and I connect fairly regularly and Bruce and I correspond every once in a while.
But I don't want to talk about their age or my relationships as much as I want to point out something that I feel these individuals have in common. In my opinion, based on my interactions with both Roger and Bruce—I believe both posses very rare minds which I would describe as "young brains". Each time i interact with and observe Roger and Bruce I see the willingness to experiment. To take risks. To speak their minds and say what they really mean. To be open to other points of view regardless of the source.
For example—whenever I talk with Roger, he tends to ask a lot of questions. The only other person who asks me more questions than he does is my six-year-old! And the way Roger took to blogging was fascinating to watch. He experimented, tried out different things, tinkered etc. Bruce has been interesting to observe as well—as someone who's been around the block a few times, he's met all kinds of important people through his career as a journalist. But from Bruce's writing's, I don't get the sense that he's easily impressed. I often think about how my boys would react if they met someone famous. They would be unimpressed too. Oprah or Bono would be just another "grown-up" to them. And as Roger mentions in his write-up about their meeting, Bruce has gradually been modifying his blogging style on BusinessWeek. He's engaged his audience a bit more. I've seen comments from him on other blogs. He's allowed himself to be influenced and as a result his behaviors have been altered. I believe he's "un-learned" some habits that no doubt have served him well in the past.
My point is this. In the past, I've worked with inflexible people who are set in their ways. I'm sure we all have. The thing is that these folks were much younger than Roger and Bruce. But their brains didn't always reflect this . They possessed "old brains". Brains which crave the familiar. The routine. The status quo. Brains that tell them that they know what's best because of their past experiences. One of the things that blows me away about people like Roger and Bruce is that they think and act a little differently. They take in viewpoints from not only peers, but from people outside their immediate circles. In my opinion, they posses "young brains"—not so different from the kind of mindset I describe above. I'm inspired to do what it takes to keep my own neurological clock from ticking along too quickly. Maybe I can turn back the clock a little. Maybe we all can.
CK's mom has a name. It's Sandra Johnson Kerley. Not only did Sandra raise a wonderful daughter, but she was generous and kind. One of her favorite charities was Habitat for Humanity—a well run organization dedicated to providing housing options for those who have none.
You may be seeing this badge on a lot of familiar blogs in the days to come. It's not to make us look good. We want to honor the memory of Sandra by collecting funds which will then be donated to Habitat for Humanity. Even if you don't know CK, this something worth doing. The badge should link to the site where we have Paypal set up. You can also go to the site we have dedicated here.
If you know CK through her blog, this is an opportunity to show her you care. We talk about conversation—let's not forget that action is a part of it. This is a community.
Thanks for listening.
I'm not big on long goodbyes so I'm going to keep this short. After much thought and consideration, I've decided to stop blogging on Logic + Emotion. There are a number of reasons for this which I really can't get into—I hope you'll respect this decision as it wasn't an easy one.
I just want to say THANK YOU, all of you for everything. It's been an amazing year and I've learned so much from all of you. I can probably go on and on, but it's just better that I don't. Hopefully you can understand this even though I'm not giving you much to go on.
Please know that I will always be available via e-mail, and I'm still keeping my Twitter account open. I will also keep this Typepad account open for as long as possible to serve as an archive etc.
Again, thank you for everything. The conversation will still go on—just not here. I've done one last visual, for you to download.
Thanks again for everything.
Wow. I just finished doing a Webinar for Marketing Profs and I have to tell you I'm not so sure I could do something like that again. I spoke to a bunch of slides for almost an hour and a half, and while it seems to have gone over OK for the most part—I think I just found out something about myself that I never realized.
I don't do monologue well.
Here's what I mean by this. I've presented on conference calls and have done Web presentations before—but when you get close to 1.5 hours with nothing but the sound of your voice to keep you going, you can lose focus and flow. At least that's how I started to feel at minute 35.
I speak in front of people all the time, so I left the experience wondering what was different? Then it hit me—I may be more of a conversationalist vs. a monologue presenter. Even if you are presenting in front of a live audience without active participation—you get feedback. Body language, nods or the even the lack of. You get eye contact. It's all non-verbal communication. I never realized how important that was to me until today.
So that's my finding of the day. I fare much better with a live audience of some sort—especially when things get past the 30 minute point. What about you? Have you had similar experiences? Maybe the opposite? Have you figured out what type of forum you do best in? What you struggle with? Ah well—guess you live and you learn. Talk about life in Beta...
My last post regarding Kathy Sierra was a bummer. Luckily for us—there is a lot of fun stuff happening within the boundaries of emerging media which demonstrates our finer qualities as human beings. Last night I changed my photo into a Koala in response to Scoble, Winer and Rubel changing their Twitter photos to birds. Why should birds have all the fun I thought? So, I went Marsupial as did a bunch of friends. It was Marsupial Madness.
We all had a good laugh. Its was fun to see folks like Steve Rubel play along. That's one of the things I like the most about the new social spaces. We can explore, play, experiment and laugh with each other and at ourselves. The picture that goes with this post isn't about Twitter. It's about grown people acting like little kids—but in a really good way. Personally, I think we have a lot to learn from kids and most of us have probably forgotten what it feels like to play. We're all too busy working, and trying to get ahead. Even if it involves stepping on others in order to do so.
Yes, life has an ugly side and technology can sometimes intensify that. But if we don't take ourselves too seriously, if we try to treat each other well—then maybe we can have a little fun with all this and nobody will get hurt.
Wishful thinking I know, but hey—I'm in a Marsupial kind of mood.
Roger just tipped me off to a very disturbing post over at Kathy Sierra's Creating Passionate Users. I won't go into the details, you'll have to read for yourself—but in short, Kathy has been receiving death threats combined with perverse imagery. It's not good. Not good at all.
This hits me hard because as you know, I'm a pretty big fan of how we're able to participate and connect via social media etc. I'm not naive though—I'm fully aware that with any kind of advancement comes the potential to misuse and abuse. But this just makes me sad. Is this what we have to look forward to if we're fortunate enough to attract a following or cultivate a community?
I hope not. I hope this is an isolated incident. This isn't Hollywood people. Those of us who choose to share our thoughts in this format aren't paid millions of dollars and we don't get bodyguards. In fact, most of us don't get paid to do it at all. Death threats and obscene gestures are not part of the deal.
Take a moment to read the post over at CPU. Then take a moment to show Kathy a little support regardless of how you feel about her blog etc. I'm sure some kind words will go a long way. I'm not sure what else to say. I'm just really deflated after reading about this. It makes you want to put up walls.
How often do we step into the shoes of others and what do we learn from it? How often do we take ourselves out of our self-defined “comfort zones”? A short while back, Roger von Oech and I were having a chat and he asked me how frequently I read fiction. He was appalled to find out I didn’t and he was right to point out that I was missing out. As I digested this—I thought to myself that as we travel down paths like this in life, they tend to be two way streets vs. one way, so I challenged Roger’s assumptions about some of the technology he has never used and has dismissed, namely Twitter.
So what I proposed was that we co-enter a “Analog-Digital Foreign Exchange Program”. Over the next two weeks, I’ll be reading The Piano Tuner as recommended by Roger—it’s a fictional/fantasy based novel. In turn, Roger will be using Twitter which he recently signed up for. It’s going to be fun as each of us will report our findings at the end. Who knows? We’ll probably Twitter about it as well. I’m sure of that.
But here’s the really cool thing I want to point out. I am consistently impressed at Roger’s ability to have an open mind, a sense of humor the ability to be good sport. He could have totally taken the position that reading a novel is time better spent than Twittering. He’s got a lot more life experience than I do and yet he’s willing to be influenced as well as influence. Imagine if brands acted more like this.
So here I am at a bricks and morters Borders book store with live people all around me. I had to dig through the book shelves to find The Piano Tuner—there was no search box. The soft-cover wad of paper feels odd in my hands. I'm a little out of my element. :)
Roger thinks that I am getting the better end of the bargain, but who knows—maybe we’ll both come out of this with different perspectives? Anyway, if you’re interested in following along, here is where you can find us on Twitter.
Roger & Me