Archive for the ‘innovation’ Category

Marc Newson: Gun For Hire

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Strange that we live in a world where rockstar designers can walk the landscape of commerce as design mercenaries looking to be engaged by big companies that just can’t figure it out. That’s how Newson views himself. I’ve posted previously about Marc Newson and his work. He’s prolific, really, and comments himself on his expansive approach to designing object experiences. There’s something fetishistic here. Some are suspicious. Others get it. But it’s the work of designers like Newson that provide indicators to possible futures, and that address challenges that greater society is not yet aware we actually face. It’s as if design has become the new science fiction. His work is also imbued with an optimism that I enjoy, and I feel embodies that childlike enthusiasm for the future, and for figuring it out.

The video above is a brief interview by with Newson for the recent exhibit of his work entitled Transport. There’s also this short exhibition video showing some detail on the various pieces installed in the exhibit:

I’m pretty sure I am supposed to have that jet.

A Treatise On The Future of Publishing

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Gutenberg proofs the printed piece

To borrow from Douglas Adams, it’s time for the publishing industry to stop worrying, and learn to love the internet. As one thing winds down, so another winds up.

A Little Background,  A Little Context:

The publishing industry has had 500 years to focus on the production of the printed piece. How is it that 500 years of industry could be in such crisis?

About 570 years ago, Johannes Guttenberg invented movable type, and shortly after that the mechanical printing press. With these innovations he essentially created the printed medium that we still interact with today, though increasingly less and less. These were enormous innovations, but beyond printing books and pamphlets this was the inception of something bigger and much more revolutionary. Guttenberg really created what was a superior information distribution system over the laborious production of the hand written manuscript, previously the cutting-edge of information distribution in the 15th century, and a distribution system controlled by just a few powerful institutions. The ease of distributing valuable information to people provided by the printing press was the catalyst to both the Renaissance and to the scientific revolution that followed. It was also behind the Reformation. It stoked a raging fire of literacy in people who had previously had little need for the ability to read, mostly because there wasn’t anything around for them to read. Mechanically printed content fundamentally changed the ways in which we communicate, collaborate, and learn. It changed the ways in which we interact with information, and changed the course of human history as, for the first time in the collective human experience, great numbers of people had access to information and to enhanced knowledge. This tends to empower us. However:

Print as a distribution platform has had a good run, but, as it disrupted the status quo of the 15th century, so it also has been disrupted by change at the end of the 20th century.

The Situation At Hand:

The proliferation of the internet as an information distribution platform has displaced print as the most efficient platform for delivering information to people. Guttenberg would have it no other way, I believe. Yet, in the face of this disruption the modern publishing industry seems resistant to the opportunities that the internet presents. The simple reality is that the pressures and challenges facing publishing have been a slow moving train of change over the last decade, and yet the industry seems to have still been caught unawares. This presents an environment of opportunity for publishers savvy enough to exploit it. Quite simply, here’s why:

Print and publishing are two different things. Print is an information distribution platform. Publishing is an industry that creates and delivers information over platforms.

Today, and increasing at an exponential rate, the platform of choice is the internet. From the perspective of the audience, the end user, the individual, the internet is an ideal platform for finding the information they seek, or for bringing that information to them. It should be an ideal platform for publishers, too. However, unwinding old habits and tradition is a difficult proposition, and this has created the crisis state that many publishers now find themselves in. Instead of innovating, they’re forced to react under duress.

All of this has occurred in an incredibly short amount of time. Yes, the internet as we know it has evolved from a real inception point of about 10-15 years ago, though the ARPANET dates back forty years, but practical and meaningful applications of information and content distribution via the internet have only been occurring within the last five to ten  years or so with the advent of a range of supporting technologies like RSS. Over the last five years, especially, things have changed very quickly, and the internet has disrupted multiple industries at the same time. Think about the challenges to traditional broadcast television presented by online streaming and online video distribution, by the imminent convergence of your television with your computer driven by the internet as a content delivery platform. Think about financial services, and how it is not only possible to manage your finances without ever setting foot inside a bank, but also that we are now more connected to our finances and the surrounding ecosystem of information than we have ever been before, all because of the internet. Similar change and disruption has occurred very visibly in shopping and in the music business. All have been shaken to their core by this still relatively new distribution platform. The publishing business is not special, and it certainly is not immune. The reality is that the internet will eventually replace a great deal of print media. For some publishers, if they survive, it will replace ALL of their printed media. In an interesting example of going back to the future, we are living in an environment incredibly similar to that which inspired Johannes Guttenberg, and for us the internet presents an information distribution platform capable of delivering information qualitatively better to exponentially more people. Without question, it is a superior distribution platform, one that is at our disposal if we so choose, and it is important to remind ourselves that the goal of any information distribution platform is simple, to enable the largest number of people to have access to information when and how they need and want it. Should that not also be the goal of the publishing industry?

As this played out in the 15th century, so it plays out now. For the future, at least as far as most of us can predict, the internet wins. Given this, there is no reason to see declining print numbers and think that the world is ending, the current state of reaction within hundreds of publishing firms at the moment. Declining circulation and subscription rates do not mean the end of publishing and it most definitley does not mean the end of content creation. Actually, it means quite the contrary and is in reality just the winding down of the print platform. What needs to be addressed is the fundamental business model of publishing, and the overarching monetization strategy of the content that is already being created. The three critical elements in a successful publishing business model still exist:

1. Valued information
2. The audience for this information
3. An optimal distribution platform

For many publishers, these three critical elements just need to be connected, and I guess it is rather startling that for many they still are not. While this sounds simple, there’s some important work involved.  Here’s the deal, though, it’s not rocket science. It’s very straightforward, with a few savvy, smart publishers and media companies already executing informed multi-platform strategies that successfully leverage the internet as a central distribution platform. The challenge is in thinking about key aspects of the publishing business model in very different, seemingly radical, ways. It is also the complete embrace of digital while moving focus away from print. There is significant opportunity here if we take valued content and maximize, enhance, and refocus it. The immediate opportunity is in bringing a cohesive, immediately executable, and profitable digital strategy to print focused, and probably terrified, publishing companies, a strategy that is designed to deploy content across multiple devices and enables people to access the information they need and want when they need and want it. Importantly, it will appropriately monetize content based on its utility to a specific audience. This is not limited to your computer, ereader, or smart phone and provides the opportunity for publishers to think and plan beyond the next quarter for the first time in a very long while. It also affords publishers the opportunity to again have a future. This is because the internet is medium and device agnostic. It’s screen agnostic, really, and the valuable content already being created by publishers should exist on whatever device is available and preferred by the audience publishers seek to reach. This is the best, truest manifestation of “be where your customers are,” which seems to be the exact opposite of the publishing business model that has evolved over the last five centuries.

My advice to publishers is to stop trying to protect legacy platforms and legacy thinking. Stop focusing on site traffic and acquiring audience. Get back to the heart of what is of value, refocus yourself on the content that you are creating and ostensibly trying to provide. Understand that our behaviours in how we interact with information have fundamentally changed. This is not a fad, it is the new reality, and the normal you have experienced for the balance of your career will not be returning. The time to accomodate this new reality is right now.

Forty Years Ago.

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

Almost exactly 40 years ago in 1969 the world watched with excitement and anxiety as the Saturn V rocket of Apollo 11 shot skyward from Kennedy Space Center. The launch of this rocket was the first step in Apollo 11’s mission of putting NASA astronauts on the Moon, the commitment of a nation to deliver on President Kennedy’s call to do so not eight years previously in 1961. Obviously, this endeavor was incredibly risky, and the astronauts knew very well that there was a significant reality that they would never return. The entire world knew this, too. And yet, we sent them, and they went willingly.

I was born in January of that year, and was almost six months old when Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong would conduct the first ever moonwalk. Obviously, I cannot remember the event, but this single human achievement has played an enormous role, and been of huge influence, on my entire life. It is exciting to be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, and I am amazed at how absolutely relevant this achievement still is. I will spare you the history lesson, as there is an abundance of these seemingly everywhere. I will say, though, that it is interesting how things have developed since this historic moment.

Not Yet Four Days Ago.

In a case of either appropriate or ironic timing, depending on your perspective, NASA launched Space Shuttle mission STS-127 on July 15th after several delays. The Space Shuttle has been an important program for NASA, and for all of us, really, but in the shadow of the achievements reached by the thousands of people who were part of the effort to put humans on the moon you cannot help but feel that, for NASA, time has gone backwards. Regardless, the video below of the launch of STS-127 is incredible, and I am pleased that we are still sending brave people into space to help us learn, dream, and explore, even if they never actually leave Earth’s orbit.

Disrupting Urban Development

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

from on .

I have enormous respect for architect/developer . He’s a living, breathing case study for sticking to your guns and pursuing what you believe in, even at great risk if required. Segal has chosen a rebel path for his life’s work, eschewing the safe route, the established process, for a professionally trained architect by instead choosing to design and build what he wants, for himself. He’s certainly nothing if not incredibly confident. Very early on Segal was determined to not waiver, compromise, or work under the direction of another. He’s been profoundly successful as a result. Personally, I love his design and the environments that he creates. I love the disruption of his properties in areas that seem to have been overlooked, are in transition, or perhaps may be close to tipping to a more “suburban” style of development. Segal’s buildings stand out not because they are loud, sharp, or trendy. They shine because they are design and experience uncompromised. His work is the slamming of a fist on the table, the pounding of the podium with a shoe. Jonathan Segal knows that urban development does not have to suck, and he’s going to make sure that know this, too.

The video above is about 12 minutes of interview with Segal about his work. It’s excellent, and illuminating of the power of disruption. Rock on. That Segal is also rumored to ride a Ducati and pilot a … well, those that know me well can easily guess what level on the badass scale, from my perspective, Segal comfortably occupies.

Transmedia & Convergence Culture

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

from on .

Last week I spent some quality time researching and learning more about the concepts of transmedia storytelling and convergence as it relates to marketing, advertising, and content authenticity. I came across this video of , the director of MIT’s Comparative Media program and author of , and in it he succinctly explains the impact of transmedia on our culture, and ultimately on how we engage/create/distribute information. Essentially, the convergence of technologies and cultures is creating a new media landscape. Jenkins not so subtly relates that we are at a paradigmatic moment, one where an old form of media is dying at the hands of the new. To his point, the old media is one where storytelling has been held and controlled by big corporations who leverage arcane revenue models for distribution, and the challenge from new media is by contrast diffuse, networked, and empowering of the individual and democratizing of the story. This is happening in news, advertising, movies… it is happening everywhere. I love this stuff, this change happening right before our eyes. The video is brief, but dense with ideas and articulation. Jenkins is also great at putting some memorable statements out there. Like this one:

“George Orwell imagined a world where Big Brother is watching us. We, instead, with little cellphone cameras are watching Big Brother every moment of the day.”

Henry Jenkins, Director of Comparative Media Studies at MIT

I’m Counting on Being Surprised.

Monday, June 15th, 2009

That headline is a quote from the video above. It’s only one of the many great lines from one of the many smart people interviewed in this thought-provoking video from Honda. They were asked the simple question of what they thought transportation might be like in 80 years. It’s crazy, fun, and absolutely vital that we speculate on the possible answers to questions such as this. Projecting out a few decades unbinds us from the constraints of now, of the current state, and empowers us to not only stretch our imaginations, but to tap into the collective desire to unwind the status quo and envision something that is truly better for all of us.

Via .

Data: Seduction and Sculpture

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

View more from .

Above is an incredibly interesting presentation from Matt Jones of . In it, Matt digs into the opportunities presented by the growing river of data presented to us by the abundance of devices now ubiquitous in our world that do nothing but monitor, collect, and regurgitate endless streams of data. Making use of this data, and making it useful, is an increasingly necessary skill. This reality would coincide with the gathering momentum around data visualization, and the incredibly creative ways in which designers are beginning to represent the seemingly mundane with graphics that both engage and elucidate. Some are referring to this as “data sculpting”:

“Can we explore Data as a seductive material in the same way as stone, wood, metal can be used for beautty as well as structure and commodity?

What happens if we look at Data through lenses comprised of the sorts of properties we find in precious, seductive physical materials?”

Matt Johnson of Dopplr

Originally came across this series of slides at , the killer blog of Neil Perkin.

What is The Future of Business Development?

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

radar as BDRadar

I have spent much time over the last few months digging deep into the business processes that support business development management. I was surprised to learn just how prime this space is for innovation as so many of the “accepted practices” utilized by people focused on business development for their organizations are arcane, inefficient, and lacking the advantage of effective supporting technology. There seems to be limited discussion and effort focused on “next practices” in this area, which is itself a tremendous opportunity. Glaringly, one commonality I have observed is the struggle by the business development community to force CRM tools to work in support of their efforts. Universally, I have heard of much pain around this effort. Another commonality is a belief in the power of social media and open networking, but limited knowledge or experience in how to do this effectively.

This all compels me to  propose the development of “business development radar” (BDRadar) as a tool that truly supports business development management (or BDM), and that integrates a priority set of functionality in support of open networking/marketing/business development goals. A tool that is accessible via the web, and is perfectly designed for easy use on mobile devices, that is cost effective for the soloist, independent, or smaller organization that realize the value of collaborative networking,  and that seeks an alternative to the limitations of a closed enterprise tool. Essentially, a tool that can surface business intelligence, visual network maps, and patterns whenever and wherever we need it, and that is seamlessly integrated into the networking and business development workflow. From one unified interface, a tool that provides:

- Open, collaborative network mapping
- Custom profile building with selective sharing
- Intuitive filtering and sorting
- Concise management of next actions with automated minding
- Unified contact management integrated with tools already in use
- Support of open networking/social CRM/CRM 2.0

No, LinkedIn does not do this.

The key differentiator from closed network CRM tools is that BDRadar would be designed at its core to support the open networker, and enables the creation of massive, mapped, searchable collaborative networks. It would support co-marketing and collaborative networking opportunities in support of business goals outside of the organizational firewall. I strongly believe that this is the future of business development, and to my knowledge the tool to support this does not yet exist. Driving the need for this BDRadar are critical key obsessions, and competitive necessities for business development professionals and marketers:

- Effectively determining context of opportunity
- Freshness of information
- Speed to intelligence

I have explored an endless array of tools to support and automate the addressing of these obsessions. What is required is an open tool that not only manages information, but that can recognize the patterns that identify opportunity, and supports the sometimes collaborative liberation of that opportunity into real business with individuals and teams outside of your organization. I’ve cobbled together a series of mostly freemium tools that I maintain. Tools that automate contact management, opportunity profiling, social media search, and network mapping. These work, but the inefficiency of moving between different interfaces, difficulty in easily sharing information, and the lack of integration compels us to create a better solution, to design something that REALLY works, and that we can easily share with others.

Stay tuned.

Connecting The Dots of Design Strategy

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

from on .

An excellent overview of one firm’s perspective on effective design strategy, and the value of design to the challenges facing business as we work to identify valuable ideas and pursue opportunity. Coincidentally, I first found this video last week while I was in Palo Alto visiting with IDEO and Steelcase on essentially the same subject, to learn more about their methodologies for user centered research and how that research is realized through smart, informed design strategy.

Marc Newson Shows Geek Pride

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Sometimes it seems as though and are trying to occupy the same space in the world of super-star designers, having notched successes in “designing” just about everything that they can, from bottle openers and wallpaper to luxury mixed-use developments in Asia. Newson has an edge though, he’s a total geek. Starck is just a bit crazy, which he uses to his advantage, but Marc Newson displays that special geeky enthusiasm that we often see in people who are absolutely obsessed with something. I especially enjoyed seeing his studio and how he prototypes many of his designs. Newson trained as a jewelry maker, not a designer, and this is definitely evident to me as you tour his studio in the video.

The video above is the first part in a five-part BBC feature on Marc Newson, called , which I came across the series a while ago at . It’s a great window into Newson’s thinking and approach, and showcases some pretty incredible, and incredibly beautiful, work. If you cannot sit still long enough to watch the entire series, definitely watch part 5, which is where Newson gets into his work in aerospace. Beyond designing aircraft interiors that I would kill to fly in, he is essentially pioneering the user experience of space tourism, which is utterly fascinating.

The World’s Innovation Hubs

Monday, March 9th, 2009

map of world's innovation hubs

The graphic above is from a report by management consultancy (click to see entire report and larger image of the innovation hubs map) in partnership with the World Economic Forum. For the report, researchers investigated 700 variables (including infrastructure, demand, regulation, human capital and business environment) in order to assemble a clearer picture of innovation activity around the world, and this activity is visualized in the “map” above. This shed light on some interesting revelations, and emphasized other points that are very probably common sense… things like the importance of political stability and the quality of transport and technical infrastructure being in place in order for innovation to thrive.

It is interesting to see confirmed that “innovation hubs” typically develop an area of focus (think Silicon Valley), and over time begin building credibility and awareness as the specific, central, geographic area for that area of focus. This is usually driven by a core, small group of companies (again, think Silicon Valley), and in this way innovation success begets future success by consolidating talent, resources, and ambition.

The Bright & Shiny Future by Microsoft

Sunday, March 1st, 2009


, put together by Microsoft, is a window into what the world of gestural interfaces, touchscreen, data portability, and the future of newspapers just might be like in the year 2019. It is very nicely done, and full of optimism, though I struggle with the point of exercises such as this as the ways in which technology develops is nearly impossible to anticipate over a ten year time horizon. To be fair, they acknowledge this reality and assert that this is more an ongoing exercise for Microsoft to continually research and envision their own place in the future. Honestly, for insights into what the future may be like I believe there is more value in looking to science fiction (Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, etc…) as opposed to promotional vids from enormous global enterprise. Regardless, this is still an interesting perspective for Microsoft to share with the rest of us.

via .

Umair Haque’s Smart Growth Manifesto

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

umair-haque

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.

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.

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:

The Future of Social Networks

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

View more from . (tags: )

This is something that I touched on in a post a few months ago, but takes this evolution of social networks even further and points us to a very probably future for these networks. Of particular note from her presentation is how she anticipates ways in which businesses might make money from this evolution and openness in the technologies and connectivity that support social networks, this being a current point of confusion and frustration for businesses. The reality is that social networks are still very new, and though several companies have smartly figured out how to leverage them to advantage the fact is they are evolving so quickly and efficiently that today’s social network strategy can easily be rendered obsolete by this time next week.

Honda, (Em)Powered By Failure…

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

I have written about the Honda culture of innovation twice before in the last year. That’s because the history of innovation at this company, and how they have maintained a consistent focus on innovation for several decades, is a pretty incredible story that is totally worthy of investigation.

Also incredible, though, is Honda’s passion for failure. This would be something they share with another innovation icon, Burt Rutan, who also very clearly understands the relationship between innovation and failure. They are inextricably linked, and without failure there can be no innovation.

A favorite line from the video above:

“You can fail 100 times as long as you succeed once. We can only make fantastic advances in technology through many failures.”

Takeo Fukui, President and CEO Honda Motor Company, LTD.

Despite the video above being a gratuitous advertisement, of sorts, I appreciate how earnestly it addresses the role of failure in success at Honda, and the honesty in how these failures may be humiliating at the time but ultimately lead to determined success. There’s a couple complimentary videos which are also quite good at .

Flag As Lost Opportunity

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

Koolhas' proposed European flag 2002

Flags are important visual symbols of nation, culture, history, and identity. And yet, flag design does not seem to evolve much outside of the odd revolution, break up, or nation building exercise, and even those results tend to be somewhat derivative. Apparently, I missed this story of innovation in flag design the first time around and having just thought it worth capturing here. Above is the design for a new flag for the European Union created by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhas and his design firm OMA. This design was a response to a commission by the European Union in 2002 to design a new flag for the EU to rebrand the Union representing Europe’s “diversity and unity”. The design from OMA came to be known as the “barcode” for incredibly obvious reasons, but was especially unique in how it represents the colors of each member nation. An interesting feature of this design is that it would change to incorporate the addition of future nations to the EU, thus being a visual representation of how the EU would change and grow, in that way perhaps not so unlike the flag of the United States and how it evolved by adding a star to represent the incorporation of new states into the union. Supporters of this design felt it strongly and appropriately reflected both the individuality and collectiveness of the nations comprising the European Union.

Despite being a beautiful, meaningfull and dynamic design, decidely more so than the as yet unchanged EU flag with the twelve stars of the original founding nations over a blue field, the design from OMA provoked an outcry of critisism. Sadly, it was never adopted beyond being used by the Austrian presidency of the EU in 2006.