Snapshot: May 12, 2019

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The Great Wall, on a trip to China with friends, 2014

Contemplating

 
The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.
— Logan Pearsall Smith, writer
 

Reading

  • I love books about colour — the fascinating emotional, social, cultural, aesthetic, creative and psychological aspects of colour. Most recently, I’ve been looking more deeply into the history of colour. The book, “The Secret Lives of Colour” by Kassia St. Clair shares unusual stories about the history and uses of 75 hues chosen by the author. Tales include how the colour cobalt blue helped discover Vermeer forgeries, and that the kohl black powder that lined the eyes of wealthy ancient Egyptians contained chemicals to ward off eye infections.

  • The Jan-Feb 2019 issue of Dwell Magazine (that I’ve only just got around to reading) has a feature on chefs and their home kitchens. I am most inspired by Samin Nosrat’s simple kitchen in her Berkley, California rental apartment where she’s lived for 10 years. The chef, of “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” book and Netflix series fame, credits the constraints of her rather cramped cooking setup to helping her empathize with her home cooking fans when creating recipes. She says, “The constraints of a tiny apartment kitchen are a great challenge: if I can figure out how to do stuff in here, then I can explain it to people.” (Her space also reminds me of a cute kitchen I had in a Montreal rental apartment on Sherbrooke Street in the 1990s.)

Seeing & Listening

  • Scott Galloway, acerbic entrepreneur, marketing professor and author, has turned his “happiness algorithms” into a book: “The Algebra of Happiness.” Kara Swisher interviewed Scott, (also her sometime Pivot podcast co-host), on Recode Decode about the happiness formulas he has devised. I like his formula for things not being as good or as bad as we initially perceive.

  • If you’re looking to add a new podcast or two about design, software development, startups or productivity to your listening roster … here is a podcast collection you may want to browse through.

  • The New York Times “The Daily” two-part podcast on the state of surveillance technology and policies in China is excellent. Some takeaways … it seems to have exponentially increased since I was there in 2014; the facial recognition is being used for racial profiling and incarceration; and the technology has been sold to other countries. Link to: Part 1, Link to: Part 2.

  • Why Deutsch Bank lent Donald Trump billions of dollars, using some very questionable banking procedures, when no one else would, from NPR’s Fresh Air podcast. Talk of a potential trail demonstrating that Trump has committed bank fraud and that Deutsch Bank has Trump’s tax returns.

Learning

Etc.

  • The George Clooney rule. I came up with this adage in response to hearing friends and colleagues who seemed to feel they were being overpaid for a job that had become “too easy.” They felt guilty. They were talking about seeking work that was more “challenging,” sometimes willing to take a pay cut.

    I asked them, “Do you know who George Clooney is?” Most knew of the American actor. I then asked them if they thought George Clooney earned less or more for the film Ocean’s Thirteen (made in 2007), than he did for the initial Ocean’s Eleven movie (made in 2001)? Their answer is usually something like, “He likely made more for Ocean’s Thirteen than Eleven.” Right.

    Even though it may be “easier” for an actor to provide his/her acting services in films as the years go on — the value they bring with their growing talent, expertise and impact on the box office earnings usually makes their increased earnings logical. While Clooney is known for taking lower salary up front for many of his blockbuster movies, he earns more on the backend from the film’s overall earnings — taking home as much as $15 million for a film. This also allows him to create smaller films with lower budgets and earnings.

    This George Clooney example, highlights importance of two things:
    1) Your salary should be tied to the value your talents bring to the business, not how hard you have to work to meet your work goals. It likely feels easier because you’re gaining mastery level skills and honing your talent.
    2) If you’re bored at your current job or feel you’re not delivering the value they expect — those are challenging issues. Determining if you can find more interesting learning opportunities at work or outside your job (like George Clooney pursuing a variety film styles and earning opportunities in his work) can resolve boredom. But feeling overpaid because you’re not delivering commensurate value can be stressful and should be examined.

    Here’s a Vanity Fair article on how Hollywood salaries work, including inherent sexism in wages. And a Wharton University article about pay gaps and arbitrary salary levels.

Question of the Week

“How well do you read other people’s emotions?”Try this Emotional Intelligence Quiz from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley. (Surprisingly … I got 17/20 correct!)

 

Snapshot: April 28, 2019

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SAIT Polytechnic, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Contemplating

 
Moore’s law came with a social corollary: high-tech could not remain high-tech for long.
— Michael Lewis, from his (excellent) book, The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story
 

Reading

  • Rumours. Collusion. Mafia-esque tactics. Death threats. Managed reserves. Declining market share. Factory worker strikes. Reconciliation on the horizon. Tiny red boxes. Fresno, California. What’s the industry?!? … The raisin industry. Yup, raisins. Longish read, but lively storytelling from The New York Times in: The Raisin Situation.

  • There are thousands of exercises and prompts we can use to devise more creative solutions and unexpected innovations (beyond the dreaded group brainstorming myth!). The book, A Beautiful Constraint, explores this idea of limitations (self-imposed and invented) as catalysts for ingenious problem solving and design. For example, the propelling question method that combines bold ambition and a significant constraint, such as “How do we grow better barley using less water?” or “How do we exhibit at this furniture fair in Italy without paying for a booth?” The inherent tension and discomfort of these constrained aspirations that seem paradoxical generate more divergent, both/and solutions that embrace integrative complexity.

Seeing & Listening

  • Great interview with Kevin Systrom, Instagram co-founder, on The Tim Ferris Show podcast & video interview. Many topics covered, including the bumpy origin story of Instagram, but my favourite is his advice to startup founders that they should actually solve a real problem instead of hacking trends! Systrom talks about the best ways to read a book — reminded me of what’s sometimes called “Harvarding” — an approach to strategic reading that helped me a lot in my graduate studies. He also suggests some helpful old-school business books to read, including The Goal. I read The Goal and Maverick in the 1980’s (as suggested by my friend, Noel Cheeseman) and still highly recommend both books.

  • A significant aspect of my research is uncovering the values-based vocations and creative drivers of innovative entrepreneurs. This episode of Ezra Klein Show podcast (from Vox), “Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle,” explores our current obsession with personal productivity, finding meaning in our work, and tying up our identity in our jobs.

  • Airbnb needed a new font that was better at scaling between fine print, digital UI, magazines, and billboards. They had a lovely sans serif font designed by the folks at font foundry Dalton Mag. The results are fresh and the font name that winks at the BnB (breakfast) is brilliant: Cereal ;-).

Learning

Doing

Question of the Week

 

“If you want people to modify their behaviour, is it better to highlight the benefits of changing or the costs of not changing?” — Adam Grant, PhD, Professor & Author, in his book, “Originals - How Non-Conformists Change the World”

Snapshot: April 21, 2019

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Handmade bowls created by AdrianMartinus Design, out of discarded and reclaimed skateboards in Calgary AB, Canada

Contemplating

 
When I say “community,” I mean social community and natural community. I do not mean that you and I are in a community together because we both drive a Subaru. I mean it when we have a shared fate, we know we have a shared fate, and we conduct ourselves as if we have a shared fate.
— Zita Cobb, Founder & CEO, The Shorefast Foundation, Fogo Island, Newfoundland
 

Reading

  • Seth Godin has doubled down on his concept of focusing your emerging business on the smallest market possible or “minimum viable audience” in his latest book, This is Marketing. Here’s a good video summary of the book, which includes a rethink for many of what marketing is and isn’t.

  • Imagine a bookstore that charges a $15 daily entry fee … and stocks only one copy of each book! Enter the new Bunkitsu bookshop in the Rappongi district of Toyko Japan that carries only books and magazines — no music, homewares, toys, etc. — in addition to a café.

Seeing & Listening

Learning

Doing

Etc.

Think Like a Print Media Publisher: Whether it’s called time chunking, task grouping or time-blocking (or something else), I always advise marketing, communications, and digital content groups (who seem to be stuck in a cycle of last-minute content pushes and corrections to their websites and social media feeds) to think like a print media publisher. Here are the basics of how print media publishers have always grouped their tasks to be more efficient.

  • Regular publishing time and day - Plan which time of day, which day of the week, and which day of month different types of (non-emergency) content will be published. (Hint: there is very rarely any true emergency content, just last-minute content publishing requests!) For example, I usually advise that non-news website updates get pushed on Thursdays after lunch. It’s an efficient use of someone’s time to publish a bunch of content all at once as they get into a productivity flow … and if something goes wrong with technology, there is still Friday left to make a fix and publish that week. I advise the same type of pre-planning and “chunked publishing” be done for social media feeds, even when content scheduling tools like Hootsuite are in use.

  • Set submission criteria for content providers - If your organization’s teams want to provide content about product launches, recent client wins, or service updates for your website and social media feeds — save yourself a headache and provide them with a template that walks them through what you need in terms of the minimum content standards, writing style, length, media file formats, links etc. … so that they prep a bunch of the work up front. If they don’t do the prep work, they don’t get published that week; instead, they get coaching on how to prepare content for the website, etc.

  • Form a multi-disciplinary editorial board, with clear responsibilities, and regular meeting cadence - Editorial boards determine what gets published and what gets prioritized according to the strategy they set. They determine publishing standards, approve major content, and keep an eye on the budget. When part of my team managed a website inside a global multinational, setting up an editorial board comprised of key representatives from marketing, PR, product, sales and a member of the executive group was critical to raising the standards of efficiency, quality … as well as aligning teams on the business strategy for the website and other media. I advise that about 6-8 people be named to an organization’s Publishing Editorial Board and have the role as part of their job function for a year. Set and circulate an agenda, keep minutes as with any board meeting, delegate projects to sub-committees. Attendance (monthly?) is required (videoconf or in person) with a colleague sent in anyone’s place who is ill or on vacation.

    The positive impact of formalizing the editorial planning process for your website and other media cannot be overstated!

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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