Snapshot: April 14, 2019

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The tall spire of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, Poland

 

Contemplating

 
The amateur has a long list of fears. Near the top are two: Solitude and silence. The amateur fears solitude and silence because she needs to avoid, at all costs, the voice inside her head that would point her toward her calling and her destiny. So she seeks distraction.
— Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
 

Reading

  • Michael Lewis’s book, The Fifth Risk, is a mind-blowing chronicle of just how utterly unprepared and unprofessional Trump and his team were (are?) in taking on the responsibility of running the American Federal Government. Included is some interesting background on how transitioning government administrations has changed over the years. (Thanks to Richard Pootmans for lending the book to me!)

  • Inspired by the stories and talents of all the makers and designers that Janine Vangool has profiled in the Uppercase Encyclopedia of Inspiration.

Seeing & Listening

Learning

  • Public policy that successfully drives a nation’s innovation needs to first establish strategic coherence and purpose between the various agencies and policies — and between public and private sector stakeholders. In a post-financial collapse analysis of Ireland’s innovation policy, we learn that patents are not typically an indicator of innovation (i.e. commercializing ideas) and that the myriad of state agencies “supporting entrepreneurship” causes confusion, duplication, and hampers the ability to really measure impact of these overlapping initiatives (despite many ad hoc claims of success!).

  • The ability for suppliers to contribute directly to creating new products or making product improvements is an important element in the helpful PwC Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) Maturity Model.

Doing

Etc.

The Creativity Loves Constraints Rule: I had another conversation recently with a young creative who thought that brand identity/logo systems were too restrictive, unnecessary and cramped their style. I’ve heard this at least a hundred times in my career. Over the years, I’ve learned to ask two questions in response:

  • Question #1 “How many colours are there in your brand guidelines?” - Their answer allows me to quickly understand if the organization has created a control system that focuses mostly on RULES about how to use the logo and corporate colours, like this Toyota identity RULES system (i.e. there will be very few colours that are acceptable for designers to use). Or if they have extended the system to include both RULES AND A FULL TOOLKIT of coordinated colours, words, images, styles, examples, graphic elements, etc. that provide a playground of limited, but rich, elements for designers to leverage in creative ways to express the brand personality to different audiences, like this Adobe brand system TOOLKIT. It’s virtually impossible to fully express the brand with only RULES about how to use corporate colours and logos. Ensure you also have an extended and highly coordinated brand TOOLKIT for designers to use.

  • Question #2 “Why do you think someone created a brand system?” - In response to this, I most often hear complaints like “so they can police the logo” or “so they can catch someone doing something wrong with the brand.” Believe me, I’ve experienced what it’s like to be policed by a senior colleague who thinks it’s their job to find minuscule logo use deviations and Pantone errors. This usually happens when only the RULES system (above) is in place and someone feels they can tightly inspect and control everything. However, when the full TOOLKIT is provided, and creative designs and communications that are “on brand” but feel fresh and surprising start to delight customers … the brand police officer usually retires and instead is replaced by an art director or creative director who is there to inspire designers with new ways to use the BRAND TOOLKIT while also RESPECTING THE BRAND RULES.

In fact, a brand system is there for a few different reasons:First, it creates a consistent voice and look that helps the customer find the brand, understand what makes the brand offering unique, and make an emotional connection with the brand. Designers get bored with “brand consistency” far before brand fans ever do. :-) • Second, the brand system makes things more efficient from a design, production, and quality control perspective. You can decentralize marketing and design functions when everyone has the same identity RULES and creative TOOLKIT. • Third, it provides creatives like designers, photographers, and writers with CREATIVE CONSTRAINTS that actually make their work better. Great creatives love to solve problems and work within reasonable limitations. A brief that says, “Do anything you want!” is a nightmare to most great creatives. Give them a brief with a juicy problem to solve and a TOOLKIT of colours, words and image styles to play with … and they will often do their best work. Here’s a Fast Company article that gives some useful examples: Proof That Constraints Can Actually Make You More Creative.

Snapshot: April 7, 2019

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Display at The Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, Denmark

Contemplating

 
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
— E.F. Schumacher
 

Reading

Wired UK always has some fresh articles about tech-driven trends and organizations, like this one about technology for the elderly — I want a KOMP! I think Marshall McLuhan would have approved of this sensitive re-imagining of new technology for older users. #skeuomorp • Researchers are beginning to create frameworks for how Fogo Island’s sustainable economic development approach can be shared with other communities — I’m a huge fan of the ongoing Fogo project :-) and this year I will start building hands-on methods that can be used within such frameworks. • Reading about the intersection and interplay of STEM and literature through a deep dive into the collected fictional works of Argentine writer and poet, Jorge Luis Borges. •

Seeing & Listening

Check out the excellent podcast: The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week from editors of Popular Science Magazine - the most recent episode talked about military tech transfer with Disney, forgotten female scientists, and gruesome mummification info. • Thinking of starting a simple t-shirt company? Maybe a capsule fashion offering? Lots of ideas from Emily Sugihara, the founder of Baggu, the chic, reusable bag company, about growing a real business around a simple product - in the Lumi podcast, Well Made. • Realistic and insightful discussion about what successful tech-driven entrepreneurs can learn from their first customers and imperfect products. • Recipe for a good company and a good life that runs counter to many tech-founder attitudes and behaviours, from Jason Fried of Basecamp - and the importance of developing great communications skills. •

Learning

Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, recommends Eric Hoffer’s 1951 book “The True Believer and The Nature of Mass Movements” to understand the drivers of today’s fanatical movements and leaders. His ideas have re-emphasized for me, the importance of everyone having the opportunity to have creative flow in their lives and hope for the future. Here’s an excellent 10-minute video summary of the book. • Some demographic groups of women earn as little as $0.53 for every dollar a man earns for the same job. •

Doing

Prepping an upcoming presentation for Imagine Canada on the potential impact of incremental innovation. • Watching Mount Royal University students share their ideas for new businesses is always inspiring. Kudos to local company JMH&Co. for providing seed money for the winners since 2014. • Deep dive into spaceplanning and research on materials, appliances and finishes for a renovation on a rental property I own in the beautiful Saanich area of Greater Victoria, BC. •

Etc.

The Harold Rule: Here’s a thought experiment I’ve used for many years to ensure I’m getting full value for my professional contributions. In my 20’s and early 30’s, I got tired of hearing many of my older, very talented female friends taking lower salaries in new roles and jobs, saying, “But it’ll be a great learning experience.” I knew they were being underpaid compared with the men in those same jobs, with the same learning curve. Here’s how The Harold Rule works: Whenever I go in to negotiate a salary, job category level, or pricing for a freelance project, I channel my “inner Harold.” In my mind’s eye, Harold is a 52-year-old man, divorced, remarried, two sets of children to help support, college tuitions to help pay for, a big mortgage, a weakness for new cars and fine dining, plus there are mortgages on his family’s suburban home and a summer lake house. I ask myself, “What would Harold expect to be paid for this?” … and that’s what I ask for. We know most women are underpaid compared to men doing the same jobs, so (only if you need it) you might want to channel your “inner Harold/Oprah/Whomever” and you’ll negotiate from a position of added strength. :-)

Snapshot: March 31, 2019

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Donna’s road
- near Aldersyde, Alberta, Canada

Contemplating

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.
— Agnes Repplier
 

Reading

A perspective on why innovation cultures are so often misunderstood. • New methods of talent assessment. • Kyoto, Japan’s emergence as the home to global high-tech companies and the tech companies’ roots in traditional craft industries such as ceramics, Buddhist altar fixtures, and hanafuda playing cards. • The town of Struer, Denmark with a population of only 10,000 and, yet, home since 1925 to celebrated electronics brand Bang & Olufsenits small size and relative geographic isolation are seen as a global innovation strengths. • The opportunities and challenges for African countries as they consider new waves of foreign investment interest. • Always love the Dense Discovery newsletter, (recommended by Uppercase Magazine’s editor, Janine Vangool) including this week’s link to a nifty laptop cover whiteboard. •

Seeing & Listening

Listening to Adam Grant’s latest Work Life podcast, “The Perils of Following Your Career Passion,” it strikes me how the model suggested of developing your passion over time through experimentation and learning, mirrors the entrepreneurial innovation process of effectuation. • As a Flickr photosharing community member since 2005, I’m always impressed by how much innovation has emerged from the platform over the years that, today, has a future thanks to new owner SmugMug. • Heartened at how the folks at marketing agency TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles held firm on first testing veracity the Theranos claims that would underpin the (ultimately abandoned) campaign they were producing for the (now known to be fraudulent) company. • Watch the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft land on an asteroid and take a material sample! •

Doing

Always inspired at our local art & design university students’ Spring Show + Sale. • Wrapping up the intake phase of the brightspots innovation competition we run annually for the national electrical utility in Cameroon. • Going to Podcast Summit III in Calgary in June. • Attended an Alberta Party Q&A this week in the lead up to our spring provincial election. • Planning a summer roadtrip to visit the national historic site of the Medalta Potteries. •

Learning

Diving into deeper understanding of the latest research on sentiment analysis and values-in-action systems this week. • Pondering the changes in media, technology, family life, social norms and values that have contributed to an increase in violence in elementary schools. • Reinforcing the importance of gaining an historical perspective and knowledge when examining current technology trends and their impact on society, including a more nuanced understanding of the Luddite movement, beyond our current pejorative use of the term. • More than 1,000 new animal species discovered in a Cambrian explosion 518 million-year-old fossil site in China! •

 
 
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Introducing the Snapshot

I’m launching on a weekly newsletter, curating things of interest that I contemplate, read, see, do and learn each week. Occasionally, I’ll also include excerpts from essays and other longer-form writing I’m working on. Sharing this out every Sunday. Inviting your ideas and feedback. Eventually I’ll be setting up an automated subscription. In the meanwhile, this will help to further focus my week and connect with others, even when I’m in deep writing or research mode. Hope you enjoy the first Snapshot next week. :-)

Doctoral Dissertation complete!

Took a few years :-), but I’m happy with the results of a very satisfying doctoral research journey. It was such an honour to learn more about these talented Canadian entrepreneurial innovators who participated in my study. … I’ll be prepping some shorter papers and a synopsis in 2019, but if you’re keen to read the whole thing, here you go: