Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

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.

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.

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:

Culture, Authenticity, and Zappos.com

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Via the excellent project , comes this great interview with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com. Tony and his company are something of a legend, and for all the right reasons. This has been accentuated by how visible, transparent, genuine, and communicative they are with a growing audience of advocates, adherants, and devoted customers. Call it “marketing 2.0″, or whatever you want, but Zappos.com totally gets it. Additionally, Tony and his team have demonstrated an incredible ability to take the challenges faced by all organizations and address them in ways that may look easy to the rest of us, but they most definitely are not. In particular is Hsieh’s focus on the creation of a dynamic and incredibly successful company culture, and how this has helped focus his organization on truly excellent customer service. A few great quote from Hsieh in the video above:

“If we get the culture right, then the other stuff like building a brand or great customer service will happen naturally on its own.”

“Culture is our number one priority.”

“We hire for attitude and culture fit. We believe the skills are something we can teach.”

Tony Hsieh, CEO at Zappos

For anybody tasked with building and leading a team or running an organization this is incredibly valuable perspective. In many, many cases the art of hiring for attitude and fit can far surpass the value of focusing recruitment around expertise, and result in a company culture that is strong and unified in the face of challenges presented to the company.

Change For Good

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States

We, and many, many people that we know, have been cheering all day. Seeing Barack Obama inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America has been an immensely memorable moment. He seems determined, and ready to get to work. As should the rest of us. I am very happy that I changed my schedule today so as to watch the swearing in and hear Obama’s first address to the nation as our President. It was emotionally charged. It was an excellent speech.

Things already seem a bit different. We’ve seen engagement occur in politics in ways that probably defy any comparison, anywhere. People have been calling this “Politics 2.0″. I get that, having followed our new President on Twitter and via the blog at change.gov (now ) for some time. There seems to be an earnestness and honesty in this engagement of ALL of us, and it feels genuine, real, and purposeful. This matters, and it will be this authenticity that makes the hard work ahead seem all the more meaningful. We’ve also seen a President-Elect and his team mobilize like never before, and seem to grab the enormous challenges before them with a seriousness and coordinated effort that is inspiring.

I send my most sincere congratulations and support to our new President. I am incredibly optimistic, and feel motivated in ways that have shaken away the cynicism and jadedness that have restrained my political involvement for far, far too long. I believe that Barack Obama has rallied our nation around a good cause, and that really good work can be done here.

Now, let’s ALL focus, get to work, and help our new President out. We’ve got a nation to fix, and fixing it needs badly.

OMA Will Harness The Wind, And The Sea

Friday, January 16th, 2009

zeek-ad01

I was really impressed to read this week that OMA, the architecture office of Rem Koolhaas, unveiled plans for a comprehensive array of that could potentially yield as much clean energy as the fossil fuels produced in the entire Persian Gulf region. The masterplan, named (Dutch for “sea power”),  is essentially an enormous band of wind farms emanating from the Netherlands and spanning out to adjacent countries. The announcement of this plan is a significant step in ensuring European energy independence by 2025. It is also exactly the type of thinking around scale that will make wind power a truly viable option as an alternative to fossil fuels, and in that way not so different than what has been proposed by T. Boone Pickens with his Pickens Plan.

via

“Working Together is Success”

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

henry-ford-on-steps

That’s Henry Ford taking a breather on some steps in the image above. Though the company that bears his name is now engulfed in all manner of difficulties, in his day Ford had tremendous success. Mr. Ford was a recognized innovator, leader, and marketer. He reinvented enterprise for the 20th century, and fundamentally changed manufacturing in ways that are still acknowledged best practices. Oh yeah, and he essentially created the automobile business. I came across this quote by Henry Ford and it seemed especially relevant today:

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Henry Ford (1863-1947)

Organizations expend great resources assembling the team that is going to give them the best advantage in their business. The interconnectedness, trust, and unified effort of an effective team will not only overcome many of the challenges before the organization, but it can also offset major deficiencies. Today, in addition to cash reserves, few things are as priority in ensuring success as a team that works well together.

Denial Is a Bitch

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Abort. Abort. Abort.

I read a great post by , himself building on a post by , that neatly ties together many things that I’ve been thinking and writing about. Together they talk about how the crisis we are experiencing is a catalyst for a fundamental restructuring in a number of industries. More specifically, and to my own perspective going back more than a year, this crisis is forcing tremendous change by shaking out irrelevant business models and challenging the depth of relevance in others. We are quickly learning what matters, and what does not. The obvious markers of this struggle are the American automobile industry, airlines, and the newspaper publishing business, these being shaken to their very core and with the very distinct possibility that they could go away altogether as we know them.  They probably will, and as much as that hurts it might be necessary. At some level, though, all businesses are being challenged, and there are countless other companies, as well as entire industries, that are coursing the abyss. It’s scary, and for those that stand to lose their jobs it is indeed sad, but this is happening because events have changed the realities that these businesses operate in faster than they have been able to manage, anticipate, or address. In many cases, this is the result of avoidance on the part of leadership in the hopes that things would improve, that they would be relevant again. It ain’t gonna happen. Denial’s a bitch.

This is not all bad, though. Yes, companies without connections to customers, without a compelling message and value to their audience, and with antique business models are realizing that their days are actually coming to an end. This is the cost of stasis, of the inability to change, or to innovate. But to Bruce Nussbaum’s point, we all face a call to transform business, industry, and our very activities. Fortunately for all of us there are many companies who are, and have been, doing just that. They’ve been transforming and changing how business is being done. They’ve been changing what matters. As Jeff Jarvis states, out of the economic downturn will come a focus on companies that can build “networks atop platforms”. Presently, many people are the victims of circumstance, and that is definitely an awful place to be, but there are countless others who are hard at work in spite of events, and very determined to be successful. This gets me pretty excited as I know that the result is going to be some astounding innovation and opportunity. That’s motivating. The challenges of this crisis have changed the things that get our attention, focused organizations on reinvention, and created an alignment that has thrust new business models and ways to think about business out into the open to serve as positive indicators for the future, and the very real reality that we’re going to make it through this and be all the stronger for doing so. Stronger companies, stronger business models, and stronger industries.

You can substitute relevant for stronger.

Burt Rutan, Innovation, and Adversity

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Burt Rutan

A couple weeks ago I came across coverage of the keynote that Burt Rutan gave at the conference via , and am finally getting around to sharing it. Rutan is an inspiring individual and I have been moved to write about him before, my favorite being Failure Leads to Understanding. In his keynote to AU2008, Rutan digs into his perspective on innovation and serves up some memorable insights, including:

“Innovation occurs in periods of adversity. In the 60s we went to the moon, in the 80s we never broke low earth orbit.”

Burt Rutan

That’s a prescient quote given the challenges we now face not just locally and nationally, but globally. Tracking the news, it is interesting how many companies have already disappeared. That’s probably as much about business model relevance as anything. At the same time that we are seeing companies disappear, the American automotive industry surf disaster, and the entire newspaper industry sink into a reactive panic, we are seeing companies expanding their business, diversifying offerings, and improving their position. There has been much talk over the last year regarding taking advantage of the imminent recession to reinvest in your organization and look for opportunities to innovate, reinvent, and diversify. I suspect that those companies that took this advice to heart stand a very good chance of being around this time next year, and positioned to maximize opportunities that arise as we emerge from this crisis, this adversity. Those that do not? Well, it’s going to be an interesting time. To Burt Rutan’s point, adversity can be a launchpad for innovation (pun intended). It can also be a destroyer, and it would seem that the ability to innovate is one quality that can help companies navigate events well.

I have not been able to find video of Rutan’s keynote, but will post as soon as I do.

Seth Godin: Leadership is The New Marketing

Friday, December 26th, 2008

A nice interview with Seth Godin on , a project that I have written about before. Seth does not disappoint with his perspective on a number of things, but perhaps most importantly his very simple three-part philosophy:

  1. Treat people with respect.
  2. Customers have more power than ever.
  3. Great ideas spread.

Seth goes on to say that when you put these three things together you realize that leadership is the new marketing and that leading and connecting people has replaced the traditional notion of marketing, that of product placement and messaging. He also points us to the reality that we are in the midst of an industrial revolution, of sorts, with a multitude of components that are focused on very effectively and efficiently connecting people to ideas. This has changed everything around us, and people who are succeeding in this revolution are seeing how this connection can be the foundation of new businesses. Game changing stuff. Again.

Barack Obama’s Focus on Science

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

I watched the video above at last evening and liked very much how President-elect Obama explains his perspective on the role of science in his administration, and the thinking behind the science and technology team he has assembled. This team will maintain his focus on the value that science offers society and the world, and represents a cross-section of disciplines that is comprehensive (with the notable lack of a biologist…) in the face of the real challenges faced by our nation, challenges that can be addressed through science, innovation, and discovery. This perspective is in stark contrast to the previous eight years, and stands to move science in the United States forward on many, many fronts. A prescient quote from Obama’s presentation:

“The truth is promoting science is not just about providing resources, it’s about protecting free and open inquiry. It’s about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or idealogy. It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient. Especially when it’s inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth, and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States.”

Barack Obama

This emphasis on science and the importance of open inquiry is something that President-elect Obama had discussed several times during the campaign. This was a notable difference between himself and essentially all of the other candidates, from both parties. This difference would be one of the many reasons that I ultimately cast my vote with him, and continue to be reminded by the Obama transistion team what an excellent decision that was.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

The video above is of Steve Jobs giving the commencement speech to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford. I had heard of this speech before, but only came across it recently. I have to tell you, it stopped me in my tracks. Everything he presents to these graduates is meaningful and relevant, and born out of a personal history that is absolutely remarkable. Steve Jobs is not perfect, and some even think he’s an asshole. But I’ll confidently state that he presents a worldview that matters, and his perspective on life, accomplishment, and doing what you love probably resonates with all of us, and the earnestness of his delivery makes this more so. I love this speech.

Saul Bass and Clarity of Purpose

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Yesterday I read a post by that referenced three key questions to answer before initiating a new project or taking on new work, questions the answers for which can focus us on the work we should be doing. The questions are from Jim Coudal, and I had come across them myself just a few weeks ago via Jim Coudal’s interview on , and felt compelled to point them out. The three questions are:

  1. Will we make money from this.
  2. Will we be proud of our work.
  3. Will we learn something new along the way.

So, Paul’s post got me thinking about this again, about the importance of focusing ourselves on work that matters, work that creates value not just for our clients, but also for ourselves. I started digging around and came across a series of interviews with , whose work I hugely admire, from 1986. In these interviews Saul cuts right to the heart of the matter:

“I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares, as opposed to ugly things. That’s my intent.”

Saul Bass (1920-1996)

And that intent sometimes means that we have to invest in our work to create the opportunity we require, to create the value that we need to get out of it to make an endeavor “worthwhile”. As Saul points out, the client may never understand this, and that’s ok as this is the tax we must pay for working in creative enterprise. To not pay this tax is to limit yourself and your ability to create opportunity that extends beyond yourself to your team, and to your clients. Below is an excerpt from the interview where I pulled the quote above:

Ten Years. Leadership. Get it Done.

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The video above is a very effective summation of by oilman-gone-good . Using a whiteboard as a prop, he clearly communicates his rationale for investing so deeply into wind farms, and how his wind farms in Texas are prototypes for explanding wind energy collection throughout the wind corridor of the United States, one of the largest such wind resources in the world. Doing this may lessen our dependence on the importing of foreign oil by as much as 38% in the short term (potentially in under 10 years), and we can begin immediately to see results. Watch the video, he ties everything together as a formidable spoke in the nation’s energy strategy very, very well.

Brilliant Insanity and The Creative Process

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Frank Black. 1989. Rock and Roll. Making music might be like making sausages. Don’t go in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter as the music of the Pixies is seminal for all of us that benefitted from it in the late 1980’s, and all of the bands that built on it in the 20 years that followed. The video above is an interview with an artist, and is honest and innocent in its earnestness. In the end, we just want to make cool stuff that people love, and that people love because it just works. Frank Black gets that.

Found this video via

Challenges to Ideas And Innovation

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

I was pointed to a pretty incredible survey, . It was conducted last March by the , a business intelligence and research group within the Economist, and it engaged 261 executives around the world with questions regarding their challenges in the adoption and execution of new ideas, and how they drive innovation in their organizations. You can get the full report . Here’s a few interesting insights from the survey:

  • 60% of respondents report a shortfall of ideas, but only 14% report that this is a challenging part of the innovation process.
  • There is much agreement on the need for a “culture of innovation” for innovation to succeed, but there was little agreement on what constitutes this culture.
  • North American executives were twice as likely to find employees resisting newly introduced tools and technology as those in Asia, where employees are generally considered more tech savvy.
  • 80% of executives surveyed believe their firms will be adversely affected by the economic crisis in the U.S., but 60% believe that increasing top-line growth and sales is more important than cutting costs.
  • The companies that innovate most successfully have made it a top corporate priority.
  • Successful companies use innovation to respond to trends that affect consumer behavior and buying patterns.
  • 52% report the biggest obstacle to innovation being the cultural resistance to change, while 36% see the biggest obstacle being shifting strategic priorities. 29% say that it is a lack of project ownership.
  • 64% said that leadership commitment is the most important element in creating a culture of innovation.
  • Those surveyed said they plan on significantly increasing their collaboration with research institutes and universities and reducing their teaming with consultants in the near future.

Via

My Vote For Change

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I will be voting for Barack Obama tomorrow. That’s because I believe he is the best choice for putting this nation back together. The best choice for ending the divisive partisan politics that have dominated the last eight years. The best choice for creating a future that is positive, inclusive, and in line with how this country really thinks about itself. The best choice for the change we need right now, in the face of real challenges and hardship, and the change that I believe my daughter’s generation requires of us for their future. I am optimistic that this change will make a difference, and that with Barack Obama’s leadership we can all feel good about being Americans. Again. Finally.

I am enormously encouraged by the number of historically republican voters that I know, both publicly and privately, who have voiced support for Barack Obama. This is because they understand what is at stake, and they are willing to set aside party allegiance for what we collectively believe is in the best interest of the entire nation. For all of us. This is a choice that they are making for the long term good of the nation, and I applaud the thoughtfulness and maturity that a decision of this nature requires.

This really is a pivotal moment for the United States. I am excited to be a part of it.

Challenges for New Leaders – Intensified

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Everybody is being tested right now. The state of the economy being but one of many forces acting on modern business, leaders within companies find themselves operating increasingly in uncharted waters and dealing with operational realities that had previously, in many ways, been inconceivable. And yet, deal with them they must. Business always demands tough decisions and decisive action, but the present seems to be intensely unforgiving of hesitation, confusion, and inexperience. These challenges must be doubly difficult for those new in positions of leadership, especially as those around them look desperately for guidance and indications that everything is going to be fine.

I just read a brief but interesting article at the site for the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge. succinctly outlines some of the more frequent challenges to new leadership, challenges that are being magnified by the realities we all now are attempting to navigate. I am sure that we have all seen manifestations of each of these with those we work with, with the leaders of the companies we know well. That, and the headlines at present seem to itemize daily the consequences of failed leadership. As a starting point, below are the seven things that surprise new CEO’s from the article:

  1. You can’t run the company – You are too deeply entwined in operations, involved in too many meetings and tactical decisions.
  2. Giving orders is very costly – You are the bottleneck in the decision process and your employees feel obligated to consult you before they act.
  3. It is hard to know what is really going on – You keep hearing things that surprise you and you do not hear them directly. Often, you are learning about situations after the fact.
  4. You are always sending a message – Stories about your behavior magnify or distort reality and people seem to always be attempting to anticipate your likes and dislikes.
  5. You are not the boss – You do not know where you stand with board members, and roles between the board and management are not clear. The discussions in board meetings are limited mostly to reporting on results and management’s decisions.
  6. Pleasing shareholders is not the goal Executives and board members judge actions by the effect on stock price and management incentives are disproportionately tied to stock price.
  7. You are still only human – Your lifestyle is more lavish or privileged than that of other top executives in the company and you have few if any activities not connected to the company.

One overriding theme pointed out in the article is that we need to look closely at how the role of CEO is defined. My take is that this is not a position that we need invested in operations and tactical planning for the organization. It is a position that needs to set, nurture, and monitor the strategic direction for the company while mentoring the executive team for success with their individual responsibilities, and for success in working together as a team. It is a position that needs to embody the culture of the organization, and act as role model for the behavior, management style, and vision that the company requires to be successful in the marketplace over the long term. The CEO is a role that needs to own the long view, that plans for and relentlessly pursues the five and ten year plans, while holding others accountable for the successful day-to-day operations of the organization and for quarterly and yearly performance.

To the point of the article’s authors, successful leadership will come from becoming absorbed in the best definition of the role, by maintaining personal balance, and by staying grounded. This may mean being clear about your own strengths and weaknesses, working to maximize the former and compensate for the latter. Additionally, it is important that the position does not confer the right to lead and that this is something that is, and always will be, an earned position based on effectiveness. A position that can be taken away by failed leadership, investors, the markplace, or organizational dysfunction. Ultimately, only by working through all of this and being honest with oneself will a CEO find success in leading an organization through challenges.

Vito Acconci’s Manifesto: Dualities, Tension, and The Architecture of Fairy Tales

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Back in 2002 I had the opportunity to attend the International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA). The event was an incredible mix of design professions, creative leaders, and visionaries. Among the more memorable on the list of presenters was . Acconci’s presentation was an arcing review of the work and thinking of his studio, and gave us a window into the creative process used to conceive some of the more conceptually challenging work I had experienced up to that point. Simultaneous with the conference was an installation of the diversity of work by Vito Acconci at a local gallery, which was an appropriate exclamation point to Acconci’s provocative presentation at IDCA. I had a chance to meet Acconci at the conference, and greatly enjoyed our brief conversation about the thin boundary between conceptual and real, and how the effectiveness of crossing that boundary is defined by our own ability to effectively communicate what it is we intend to do, and how exactly we intend to do it.

I bring up Vito Acconci because a couple of days ago I came across his manifesto, , from last year’s Icon Magazine Manifesto issue and it made me recall meeting Acconci at the conference. His manifesto articulates the dualities of the tensions in architecture and the built environment today:

“It is the best of architectural times, it is the worst of architectural times. It’s the age of lightness, of fluid architecture; it’s the age of architecture that’s only constructed into forms of fluidity and lightness that themselves remain solid and heavy. It’s the epoch of architecture that emerges and grows as a living creature; it’s the epoch of architecture that only looks as if it emerges and grows, that only looks like a living creature. It’s the era of sensual architecture; it’s the era of an architecture of visual affects. It’s the season of virtual architecture, science-fiction architecture; it’s the season of architecture that, when built, comes tumbling back down to earth. It’s the spring of code-writing and computational architecture; it’s the winter of generic architecture generated by and justified by numbers. We architects and designers practice operations now that will make architects ultimately unnecessary, we anticipate architecture that designs itself; in the meantime, we’re narrowed down to the chosen few starchitects. We architects and designers harness multiple complexities; all the while we refine complication into elegance, we revive aesthetics, we do something that smells like art, we resort to taste and sophistication, we tag onto an ‘upper class.’ We architects and designers make places for people; but the more parameters we use to design, the less our design-process can be read in the places we build – if people can’t ‘get’ the buildings we make, then those buildings are meant to appear as a force of nature, and we expect from people only belief”

Vito Acconci –

Innovation and The Future of Peugeot

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

The vehicle above is the Peugeot RD concept created by 25 year old Carlos Arturo Torres Tovar of Colombia and chosen as the winner for the recent , which ended back on September 15th. Like other automobile companies, Peugeot hosts these contests to open wider the search for innovations, vision, and ideas for the future of its products and while the RD will probably not actually be made, some of the smart innovations that it incorporates may very well inform the Peugeots of the immediate future. Some of the innovations in the RD concept are focused on shrinking the vehicle’s footprint, like the ability to fold and being single seat 3-wheeler, as shown below in a detailed rendering:

As of late there have been several automobile concepts that take advantage of folding functionality. This is a response to the reality of space constraints of navigating urban environments and the need for a smaller parking footprint. We’ve also seen more single seat concepts, a design approach that takes up less space, less material, and subsequently less weight. In many ways, the single seat concept is one that takes the great efficiencies of a motorcycle and wraps them in the safety and convenience of an automobile, making vehicles like the RD concept above seemingly ideally suited to urban commuting and meeting the needs of a flexible city car.