Archive for February, 2009

Twitter As Personal Wire Service

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

It’s really interesting how quickly those that I follow on Twitter have become an invaluable, customized, expansive resource for news, information, humor, and conversation. For a time I thought Twitter would amount to not much more than a time suck, but increasingly I find it an indispensable tool for keeping me connected to cool, smart people and progressive thinking and ideas. And in a very rapid fire fashion, like a firehose that I can talk to. It has also brought me face-to-face with some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, but only after first connecting via Twitter. If you’re not already following me, I’m , and please do.

Thanks to everyone, all 280+ of you.

Ten Laws of Constructive Capitalism

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I have watched Umair Haque’s presentation on at the Daytona Sessions three times in the last week. Since getting turned on to the thinking of Haque, it’s been a somewhat immersive exercise. I wrote about Haque’s Smart Growth Manifesto just a few days ago. His presentation on Constructive Capitalism, though, has kept me thinking and going back to watch it again. This is because Haque puts together a tight and compelling package that not only illustrates how we have arrived at current state (there’s plenty of that), but also illustrates some incredibly smart thinking on unwinding the challenges we now find ourselves in. I love that this is summed up succinctly in one of his first slides simply as:

The Ten Laws of Constructive Capitalism

  1. Strategy is a commodity
  2. Competition is obsolete
  3. There is nothing more asymmetrical than an ideal
  4. Tomorrow is today
  5. Connections not transactions
  6. People, not product
  7. Creativity, not productivity
  8. Outcomes not incomes
  9. Advantage is in the DNA
  10. The next revolution is institutional

He goes into detail on what is behind each of these, but I believe they are incredibly self-explanatory. Either way, you should definitely free up an hour to hear what Haque has to say on this, his presentation is excellent:

from on .

Credit Crisis Visualization

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

from on .

This excellent visualization is by Jonathan Jarvis from his thesis work in the Media Design Program, a graduate studio at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Jarvis lays out the complex mess that is our economic meltdown in a very straightforward, understandable, and well designed manner. Well worth the time to watch this piece.

Which Way is Up? There is No Up.

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009


Ahhhh… Optimism! The Future is Shiny.

Siting a recent , at optimistically offers that we may be close to the “bottom” of this economic crisis, and that we should prepare for the upturn. The operative word there is “may”. Actually, he qualifies this by saying whether or not we are approaching bottom, now is the best time to begin planning for an eventual upturn:

“Living through a downturn is not a process of grinning and bearing it; it is a matter of working the objectives toward your goals as well as planning for the good times that will occur someday. And if your organization does succumb, you will have learned valuable lessons that can be applied to future leadership roles.”

John Baldoni

Bottom? There’s No Bottom.

Then there’s the harsh reality offered by , that in the best case is merely the opposite end of optimism. Soros proclaims that the global economic crisis we are immersed in likely has no “bottom”, and therefore no signpost for signaling a return to happy times, and that this crisis is actually more severe than that experienced during the Great Depression, and analogous to the demise of the Soviet Union. He also offers this cheer:

“We witnessed the collapse of the financial system. It was placed on life support, and it’s still on life support. There’s no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom.”

George Soros

Collapse 2.0

Soros went there, drawing a connection between our situation and the demise of the Soviet Union. In a massively interesting presentation from way back in 2006, “Closing The Collapse Gap”, tries to make the case that this is so, and recommends that we look to the unwinding of the Soviet Union for insights into the imminent collapse of the United States. Orlov’s perspective on this analogy:

“I anticipate that some people will react rather badly to having their country compared to the USSR. I would like to assure you that the Soviet people would have reacted similarly, had the United States collapsed first. Feelings aside, here are two 20th century superpowers, who wanted more or less the same things – things like technological progress, economic growth, full employment, and world domination – but they disagreed about the methods. And they obtained similar results – each had a good run, intimidated the whole planet, and kept the other scared. Each eventually went bankrupt.”

And this dark insight:

“Economic collapse is about the worst possible time for someone to suffer a nervous breakdown, yet this is what often happens. The people who are most at risk psychologically are successful middle-aged men. When their career is suddenly over, their savings are gone, and their property worthless, much of their sense of self-worth is gone as well. They tend to drink themselves to death and commit suicide in disproportionate numbers. Since they tend to be the most experienced and capable people, this is a staggering loss to society.”

Dmitry Orlov

Nothing like predictions of nervous breakdowns, rampant alcoholism, and mass suicide to instill confidence in us as we face these challenges. Given the range and diversity in opinions regarding the financial crisis I think it would be a safe bet to assume that everyone is both right, and wrong, and that nobody has a clear idea on how exactly to fix this mess. My advice?  Get busy and plan for both the bad and the good.

Thanks to @andrewkorf for pointing me to the Soros and Orlov articles.

No Rules, Just Architecture (NRJA)

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

from on .

Great video from NRJA, an aggressive, smart, young practice (avg age is 25) from Latvia. Also a great use of the song “Exploration” from Karminsky Experience. That song is like ten years old now, but it still sounds good.

More on .


Umair Haque’s Smart Growth Manifesto

Saturday, February 21st, 2009


Over the past couple weeks I’ve been pointed several times to check out the perspective of Umair Haque, pictured above, on his blog at (a big thanks to ). Umair is Director of the , as well as founder of , both worth checking out. He’s written several articles that are required reading, but it was his piece, , that was a kick in the head for me. This is because it wraps together so many of the changes we are seeing in our society, culture, economy, and business in ways that relate these changes to each other, and their relevance to our own business and the economy at large. Umair makes the point that the situation we confront today demands a rebooting of capitalism, and a departure from the now irrelevant capitalist growth principles of the post-WWII economy. He calls the post-WWII economy “capitalsim 1.0″, and you know where that’s gotten us.  So, we face a rebooting of capitalism, and this reboot is itself being driven by the reality that interaction, and subsequently community formation, has exploded in exponential ways and fundamentally changed the way we form institutions, and in the ways we exert influence and can inform growth. Despite the efforts of governments, companies, media, and everybody, there will not be a return to situation normal as we knew it before, to capitalism 1.0. Whether we know it or not we’ve just jumped off a cliff together, and some get this and others don’t. This is the chasm that now exists between relevancy and irrelevancy in the global economy today, explained simply as the difference between old ways of thinking and new ways of thinking. New principles have changed capitalism and how we compete, and are themselves formed from this revolution in interaction. Think about your own business, and how the concepts of strategy, competition, and creativity have altered the ways in which you work, compete, and engage. This has happened in a very short period of time. Haque refers to this change, to capitalism 2.0, as , and provides more detail in a talk he gave recently.

It’s from these principles we get Haque’s four pillars for smart growth, concepts that any company desiring relevancy in the modern marketplace should give serious consideration to (I edited down Haque’s explanations for each one, so please refer to his article for full text). Together, these are a paradigmatic shift in how we look at business:

  1. Outcomes, not Income: Dumb growth is about income. Smart growth is about people and how better or worse off they are. Smart growth measures people’s outcomes. Economics that measure financial numbers, we’ve learned the hard way, often fail to be meaningful, except to the quants among us. It is tangible human outcomes that are the arbiters of authentic value creation.
  2. Connections, not Transactions: Dumb growth looks at what’s flowing through the pipes of the global economy: the volume of trade. Smart growth looks at how pipes are formed, and why some pipes matter more than others: the quality of connections. The goal isn’t just to trade, but to co-create and collaborate.
  3. People, not product. Smart growth isn’t driven by pushing product, but by the skill, dedication, and creativity of people. People not product means a renewed focus on labor mobility, human capital investment, labor market standards, and labor market efficiency. Smart growth isn’t powered by capital dully seeking the lowest-cost labor — but by giving labor the power to seek the capital with they can create, invent, and innovate the most.
  4. Creativity, not productivity. Smart growth focuses on economic creativity – because creativity is what let us know that competition is creating new value, instead of just shifting old value around. What is economic creativity? How many new industries, markets, categories, and segments an economy can consistently create. Think China’s gonna save the world? Think again: it’s economically productive, but it’s far from economically creative. Smart growth is creative — not merely productive.

This is all pulled together quite well, touching on so many things we face as we think about the sustainability of our businesses and our relevance to the markets we operate in, by this quote from Haque:

“Smart economies are driven by smart growth. The four pillars of smart growth are design principles for next-generation economies. 20th century economies are limited to unsustainable, unfair, brittle, dumb growth. Smart growth is more sustainable, equitable, and resilient.

Capitalism 2.0 cannot be powered by growth.1.0: that’s why the race for smart growth is inevitable. The economic pressure — the potential for value creation, in a world being ripped apart by value destruction — is simply too great.”

Umair Haque

To Haque’s point, getting smart is indeed a preferred option to staying dumb.

Workspring & The Workplace of The Future

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Workspring meeting, innovation, and collaboration space

I was in Chicago last week and took advantage of this to investigate , a recent offering from Steelcase that gets to the heart of the collaborative meeting and events space. I had heard about Workspring during my visit to Steelcase headquarters last September, and was looking forward to checking it out after it launched in November. As a company relentlessly focused on innovation, and imbued with a passion for creating valuable user experience, Steelcase has become a highly valued strategic partner for my team and I, and I had high expectations for my visit.

The team at Workspring (Frank, Courtney, and Faith) were waiting for us when we arrived, and welcomed us with typical Steelcase hospitality, which is to say… excellent. Courtney gave us a tour, providing much detail on the different meeting and collaboration environments that they had created. Workspring is a perfect showcase for an entire spectrum of innovations that Steelcase has developed for the workplace, and that provide insights into the valuable “workplace of the future” for which we share a mutual and passionate interest. The meeting studios integrate technology in ways that support idea and information sharing and capture, and utilize systems that make this technology seamless, intuitive, and non-intrusive. This was technology that was presented to me last September, but at Workspring I was able to really get hands-on with it and benefit from actual use. As an example, in the image below of Studio 3, you can see the meeting surface oriented towards two large flat panel displays, which are themselves very easily connected to each meeting participant’s laptop via a Steelcase technology (developed in partnership with IDEO) called the “Puck”. This Puck enables very quick and efficient switching between desktops empowering each participant to share information. The orientation of the meeting surface also democratizes the seating by replacing a person at the end of the table with the content on which the meeting is focused:

Workspring Studio 3 collaboration space

As impressive and well designed as it is, and it really is a beautifully designed space, I wasn’t there to see the furniture and the technology, or even to appreciate the excellent design. I was there to understand how Steelcase had gotten to Workspring as a physical reflection of their research into the workplace and into meeting dynamics and interactions. There were several reasons why I wanted to see and experience this for myself, from its relationship to co-working environments to opportunities with new hospitality models, and much of this was covered during our discussion, but there were three main reasons I wanted to make this visit:

  1. Workspring is a manifestation of workplace research and innovations from a human factors, technology, and systems standpoint, and the integration of these three is the future.
  2. As such, it offers the opportunity to experience the cutting edge in meeting and collaboration design, and how this supports the goals of the individual, the team, and the organization.
  3. To be positioned for the future, organizations must improve on the limitations presented by the traditional office environment, and Workspring provides a living lab of what this could be like, and how they can benefit from a similarly executed workplace strategy.

As great as it was to tour this space, it was much more valuable for me to sit with Courtney and Frank for an hour and discuss how Workspring had become what I experienced that afternoon. Frank provided a very detailed timeline and history, dating back to the mid-90’s, to demonstrate how Steelcase had been thinking about a number of innovations in the workplace that intersected to yield Workspring as it exists today. Steelcase was actively working with clients over a decade ago in how the design of the workplace, and the systems that support this design, could elevate the workplace to the level of a strategic asset in how it supports the individual, and as a result productivity, innovation, and collaboration. There were a number of events that seemed to connect iteratively and point Steelcase to creating Workspring, which is very clearly a beta for many other analogous opportunities. We also discussed the relationship between Workspring and an approach to workplace strategy that might enable companies to potentially reduce their real estate footprint, and subsequently the associated costs of maintaining traditional office environments, something that is definitely pervasive now as organizations critically assess all aspects of their operations and overhead. In addition to saving money, this is also driven by the belief that the ways in which we work and interact on behalf of business can be more effective, efficient, and healthy for the employees, and ultimately very successful for the organization, thus also enabling it to MAKE more money. This stands to provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace, and when executed well this is a transformative experience for organizations.

I was impressed with how very consistent this visit was with my interactions throughout the Steelcase organzation. There seems to be a unified focus at Steelcase on user centered design and the development of holistic systems informed by thorough observation and research. This informs the ways in which Steelcase engages its customers and partners to result in greater value creation, and relevance in an industry that works hard to rise above a commodity mindset. This motivates me, and is directly aligned with my own thoughts about workplace design and strategy. For Steelcase, there is tremendous value in how they can work with architects, designers, end users, and human and business factors researchers to create an ecosystem of knowledge around their offerings in order to challenge and change legacy thinking as it relates to workplace design, to contribute to the creation of environments that support us in our needs, tasks, and desire to have better quality experiences, and to help companies benefit from their workplace in ways that are probably unexpected, and probably quite invaluable. In this way, Workspring makes concrete a dense array of thinking and research, and provides all of us with a window into what a truly effective work and meeting environment can be like, and the chance to experience the value this provides in a way that eliminates abstraction, and gets us closer to understanding how we might actually be able to love how we work.

Architecture In Beijing Is On Fire. Literally.

Monday, February 9th, 2009

CCTV Tower Fire

This morning I awoke to news that one of the towers in OMA’s CCTV complex, the not yet completed TVCC tower and the future home to the 241 room Mandarin Oriental Hotel, was burning. I have written about this high profile architectural project several times previously, so news of the fire definitely got my attention. Actually, by the time I had gotten news of this event the tower had been completely destroyed by the fire, and authorities were fearing that it would collapse, with news that the fire spread across the entire building in less than an hour. This is what the 34 story tower looked like before the fire (TVCC is the building in the middle):

TVCC Tower

The fire was started by a fireworks display, and this video seems to actually catch the start of the fire on the rooftop of the building, though this is not yet verified:

Some incredibly shaky video of the building burning and disintegrating:

No word yet on anybody injured or killed by the blaze. More on this at the and at , where there are several more videos of the fire. BLDGBLOG gets in a jab with .

Update: Here’s a much better video showing the building ablaze with the sound of fireworks in the background:

Update 2: There are some incredible images, like this one below (which I saw at ), available at :


Update 3: Holy crap!

Update 4: An excellent article in the bringing a bit more detail to this architectural tragedy, perhaps the biggest revelations being that the fire stemmed from an illegal fireworks show being put on by CCTV in very close proximity to the TVCC building (see first video above), and that the Chinese government and media went into overdrive trying to prevent news and images of this fire from surfacing in any of the Chinese news channels. There is also an excellent slide show with the article, some of the images in which depict the burnt aftermath of the TVCC fire.

There are many more detailed images of the burned out TVCC tower .

A Life Experience Measured By Change, and The History of The Internet

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

My wife and I were talking yesterday about her grandfather, who was born in 1898 and lived for nearly an entire century. We were reflecting on the incredible change he experienced in his lifetime, a lifetime that coincided with an age of exponential technological discovery, innovation, and advancement. We quickly listed some of the major innovations and technologies that her grandfather experienced, it’s a pretty incredible list:

  • electricity
  • radio
  • powered flight
  • motion pictures
  • automobiles
  • the telephone
  • commercially available air travel
  • the highway system
  • jet powered flight
  • the guided rocket
  • nuclear energy
  • computers
  • television
  • satellite communications
  • manned spaceflight
  • unmanned, robotic solar system exploration
  • networked computers
  • manned moon missions
  • hypersonic flight
  • robotics
  • humans continuously living in orbit
  • disco
  • fax machine
  • personal computer
  • GPS
  • Hubble space telescope
  • mobile phones
  • the internet

All of that, experienced in one lifetime. It’s astonishing, really, and this list is by no means complete.

The list above ended with the internet, the history for which spans just about half of my wife’s grandfather’s lifetime. Out of all of these, this is perhaps the most revolutionary in how it has paradigmatically changed the human experience for a rapidly increasing percentage of humans on our planet. From communications to research, from community to connectivity, and from education to entertainment, the internet has altered our reality. The video above is an excellent backgrounder on the history of the internet, the history of how we’ve gotten to this point. Given the relative ease and pervasiveness of accessing the internet today, it is easy to take it for granted and forget the culmination of events that have led us here. Think back 10 years. Think back to your daily life 20 years ago. Much has happened in a very short time to radically change the ways in which we communicate and access information, and this is only the start.

About Community, By The Community

Friday, February 6th, 2009

View more from . (tags: )

This slide show is a presentation that was actually crowdsourced by (you can get the background at his site) about online communities, a truly excellent and inspired idea. Neil gave this presentation at a conference yesterday, and set it up like this:

“Almost everything I’ve learnt about how online communities work have come from being part of one, so I figured it would be best if I let them tell you how it all works…. So I put a post up on my blog asking people to contribute one slide on what they felt was important. Within 2 days, I had almost 30 slides from planners, digital specialists, strategists, researchers – some of the most reknowned thinkers in social media strategy. So these are mainly their words, not mine – I’ve added my own slides for the sake of context and cohesion but these are the words of the community, so as I go through please note the credits at the bottom of the slides.”

And the result… well, it’s pretty damn cool. Check it out.

Thinking Through 10 Dimensions

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

It’s safe to assume that most all of us are challenged in our understanding of those dimensions that theoretically exist beyond our own, wonderful, and seemingly complete 3rd dimension. This video, somewhat similar in approach to those by , does a superb job walking us through dimensions 1-10 in a way that is clear, concise, and pretty incredible to contemplate.

Found via .

The Sport of Commerce

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

The Bird's Nest at night

I’ve not been able to confirm this elsewhere, but is reporting that only six months after opening for the Beijing Olympics, the Beijing National Stadium, or “Bird’s Nest”, is now going to meet the inglorious end of anchoring a shopping mall. This is apparently driven by the high costs of maintaining the stadium, and by the fact that there is only one event scheduled to be held there for all of 2009.

Somebody needs to send a couple very strong drinks about now. I cannot imagine that this is a desired end for this project of theirs.

I had written about the design of this building a few times previously. I have greatly enjoyed the many incredible pictures taken by during her time in Beijing.

Chris Bangle Moves On.

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Chris Bangle

Wow! Chris Bangle has left BMW. This is surprising news, in many ways, but perhaps most of all because I think many of us were beginning to think that Chris Bangle WAS BMW. So, yes, I was very surprised early this morning when the automobile sites that I follow were buzzing with news that after 17 years leading design for BMW, Chris Bangle had resigned. Being a loyal customer of BMW’s for almost exactly as long as Bangle has been directing design there, I have to say that this news made me a little sad. Yes, Bangle has had a controversial tenure at BMW. Yes, some of the designs that came from his leadership were not well received. But many, many others were, and it was under Bangle that BMW saw both its brand awareness and its sales rise to fairly incredible levels. Bangle was not only responsible for numerous designs for new vehicles, but also for incredibly visionary and forward thinking vehicle concepts (like the GINA Light Visionary Model). All of these, the good and the bad, found their DNA in the cohesive design language that Bangle developed in the 1990’s for BMW (anybody remember “flame surfacing”?) This language, and its evolution, is still in place. While controversial, Bangle’s influence on BMW is unmistakable, and is best summed up by Klaus Draeger, BMW’s Board Member for Development:

“Christopher Bangle has had a lasting impact on the identity of BMW Group’s brands. His contribution to the company’s success has been decisive, and together with his teams he has mapped out a clear and aesthetic route into the future.”

Another impressive accomplishment by Bangle was the successful creation and direction of BMW’s design consultancy Designworks USA. Designworks is now a formidable design agency in its own right, working with international brands and companies in a wide variety of industries and doing work that is innovative, cutting edge, and very impressive.

Apparently, Bangle is leaving BMW but he is not leaving design. How could he? His stated plans are to continue designing in a non-automotive related industry. I wish him the best, and am excited to see where he goes next.

Strangely coincidentally, just two days ago I decided to watch, again, Chris Bangles’ presentation at TED from back in 2002. It’s excellent, has some great back story on the design of models that seriously influenced cars that are now on the road, and benefits from his passionate use of profanity:

A Thousand Words by Ted Chung

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

from on .

I was pointed to this video by a recent contact of mine, . I really enjoyed it, and thought it was really nicely composed. The premise:

Every day: so many opportunities to connect…

What if you took just one?