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Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
Where Inspiration comes From
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Where Inspiration comes From

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A speech by Mel Exon and Pats McDonald debating the nature of inspiration: do we need more time to think and dream or should we embrace hyper connectivity and constant stimulation?

A speech by Mel Exon and Pats McDonald debating the nature of inspiration: do we need more time to think and dream or should we embrace hyper connectivity and constant stimulation?

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  • \n
  • \nFor decades our industry revered the notion of the solitary thinker seeking an ivory tower in which inspiration might strike. \n
  • More recently, that has fallen by the wayside as we pursue the networked organisation, collaboration and co-creation, scrums and sprints. The agile manifesto, outlined here and the lean start up movement, with its focus on a minimal viable product or MVP have captured our imagination and changed our approach. \n
  • Today, while we both firmly believe there is some merit both in contemplation and in hothousing, in thinking and in doing, we’re going to take opposing sides of the argument, to debate whether we just need to lean in, adapt and enjoy the ride OR whether the pendulum has swung too far - perhaps we all need some time to stand and stare.\n
  • \n
  • STIMULATION: Today we are exposed to more interesting people, ideas and images on our way to work than we would have been in a month even four years ago.  This can only lead to more inspiration and to more interesting, diverse ideas. \n\n“Perhaps Carr is right that this time we will fail. Perhaps a medium that radically expands our ability to create and share written material will end up being bad for humanity. But that would be a first, in the three thousand years between the Phoenician alphabet and now.” (Clay Shirky)\n\nInstead, let’s consider how we might learn to cope: Jamais Cascio talks about on how fluid intelligence (ability to see patterns in data) will trump traditional ‘knowledge gathering’ and become a coping strategy: \n\n“The trouble isn’t that we have too much information at our fingertips, but that our tools for managing it are still in their infancy. Worries about “information overload” predate the rise of the Web (Alvin Toffler coined the phrase in 1970), and many of the technologies that Carr worries about were developed precisely to help us get some control over a flood of data and ideas. Google isn’t the problem; it’s the beginning of a solution.\nIn any case, there’s no going back. The information sea isn’t going to dry up, and relying on cognitive habits evolved and perfected in an era of limited information flow—and limited information access—is futile. Strengthening our fluid intelligence is the only viable approach to navigating the age of constant connectivity.”\n
  • DISTRACTION: The counter argument is that we are becoming addicted to distraction, losing the valuable “down time” our brains need to make intuitive leaps forward. \nProfessor Jonathan Schooler of the University of California talks about the importance of daydreaming as a source for incubation and creative discovery in the brain, while neuroscientist Jonah Lehrer identifies the area of the brain where inspiration happens-the anterior superior temporal gyrus if you will-an area best stimulated when the brain is relaxed, daydreaming, in the shower or thinking about something entirely different. \n\n
  • DISTRACTION: The problem is that today we have less and less downtime- staring at a screen versus staring into space. A recent survey revealed that millennial change screens 27 times within the hour. 65% carry their phones with them from room to room. There is almost no time when we are not connected, when our brains can switch off and leap. Moreover, this partial attention reduces emotional engagement which is higher, according to the research, when full attention is captured. \n\nRemember that the ultimate technophile, Bill Gates, schedules “Think weeks”-time to disconnect, switch off and ponder. Both Google and 3M embrace employee passion projects, 3M pioneering with the 15 % programme back in 1948.\n\nThere’s also interesting data showing that creativity among American children (as measured using the Torrance score) has been in decline since 1990, while IQ has risen steadily over the last 100 years or so. There’s no knowing what the correlation is of course but could it be that with all our stimulus needs met, there is less space to imagine? \n
  • DISTRACTION: Alternatively, as WH Davies put it: “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?” \n
  • \n
  • THE FILTER: The beauty of the interest graph is that we can find like minded individuals who seek out content we find relevant, inspiring but surprising. Social networks include both strong and weak ties, with research demonstrating the vital role weak ties play in introducing new ideas to the network. \n\nIf you’re lacking serendipity, extend your interests, see what happens..\n
  • THE BUBBLE: The danger of both interest and social graphs is that they create what Eli Pariser refers to as the “filter bubble”. As Pariser puts it: \n\n“In the Darwinian environment of the hyper-relevant news feed, content about issues like homelessness or climate change can’t compete with goofy viral videos, celebrity news, and kittens. The public sphere falls out of view. And that matters, because while we can lose sight of our common problems, they don’t lose sight of us.”\n\nAs Mel says, research into social networks has revealed that loose ties play a critical role in bringing new information into the network-as our loose ties are likely to be people less similar to us than our nearest and dearest. However, the nature of filtering algorithms such as Edge Rank are that we are exposed to more information from those we interact with most-so arguably homogenity can increase over time-something Pew research suggested last year when they revealed that social network sites users were becoming less diverse in their connections than in previous years. Being constantly connected doesn’t necessarily mean being constantly connected to new or different ideas. \n
  • \n
  • OPEN: The open web offers choice, creativity and opportunity. It’s the Land of the Free, the opposite of a walled garden. Something that was hard-wired into the origin myths of the worldwide web. \n\nIt’s just a fact that a deregulated system offers more inspiration, more solutions to more problems and evolves faster and in more directions than a closed system. Messier, maybe, but we move forward faster this way. Think code libraries like JQuery, open languages like Javascript..\n
  • CLOSED: That’s undoubtedly true to a point. The flipside of course, is that some of the most creative businesses we admire are famously closed-no one could describe Apple as open or indeed in permanent Beta. The fundamentally different philosophies of the two behemoths of the web, Apple and Google indicate there probably isn’t a right or wrong answer here. There’s some interesting research though into the familiarity levels of successful teams, based on an analysis of successful Broadway productions, again in Jonah Lehrer’s book. Teams who are too familiar with each other don’t tend to succeed, nor do teams who aren’t familiar enough with each other. The right mix of established and new connections seems to create the optimal conditions for creativity. \n
  • CLOSED/OPEN? It’s also worth noting that the famously introspective Jobs consciously designed the Pixar environment to facilitate spontaneous encounters between colleagues. The stroke of genius may have been to put the bathrooms in the middle-so like it or not, people had to cross the central space and bump into each other at least once of twice a day. \n\n\n
  • CLOSED/OPEN? As a final thought, though, what do open sourced solutions or permanent Beta approaches mean for user experience? Users do seem drawn to the ease and quality control offered by the walled garden, much as it may trouble us ideologically. I enjoyed this thought from Brad Frost on apps versus the open web very much-his point was that while we may create best in closed, app like environments we need the open web to distribute what we make. There may be an interesting analogy here for working practices-we need both time to create in private and time to connect, share and evolve. \n
  • \n
  • PROTOTYPING The speed at which we can make things these days however means we need agonise less over whether every output is perfect. We can prototype, iterate, pivot and optimise.\n\nGiven the speed at which popular culture moves, we no longer have the luxury of rumination. Nor is it desirable. By bringing the right people together we can solve problems more quickly, without the need for linear processes. The crucial thing is to make sure team roles and your brief or goal are clearly identified. Then start working.\n
  • PLANNING The ability to prototype and iterate is undoubtedly a great thing. For me, though, it doesn’t mean that we should ignore strategy, it means we should apply the principles of the lean movement to strategic development. We’re undoubtedly not going to have the luxury of time we previously had to construct elaborate-and impregnable strategic frameworks, that said I believe it is still vital that we have a destination in mind, a clear understanding of where we are today and a best working hypothesis for how we get there \n
  • PLANNING Our best guess may not always be right-so in the spirit of agile we will need to test, learn and optimise faster, performing small but critical strategic pivots. The only way we’ll know whether we’re right or wrong though, is by having a destination in mind-an experiment is only an experiment if we have a hypothesis. \n
  • PLANNING In that spirit, the brief is recast as a kind of strategic MVP-or minimal viable product-it is not a sacrosanct document, set in stone but a best working hypothesis to be tested and iterated \n
  • \n
  • THE CROWD It’s impossible to deny that divergent voices create more interesting outputs. By definition those voices are singular and individual, but something magical happens when we bring those voices together. Whether that’s the flood of inspiration that comes to us daily via Twitter, YouTube, vimeo; the connection to my social graph via Facebook, my interest graph via Google+... Or whether it’s start-up in orientation like Kickstarter.. Or it might be something of real, topical, social importance - like these protesters in Montreal last week. Self-organised, they take to the streets every evening to protest student tuition fees and the passing of Bill 78 in Quebec, which prohibits the act of protesting without a licence. It’s very simple: People inspire people.\n\n
  • THE ARCHITECT I’m a huge fan of crowdsourcing but I’d argue that the most inspiring examples of crowdsourcing happen when a conductor or inventor figure creates a framework for the crowd to populate-be that an art piece, a marketplace or an opportunity to bear witness. Thinking of Aaron Koblin’s extraordinary pieces-like The Johnny Cash Project for example-the crowd make the final output extraordinary but it’s the initial idea and the framework that enables participation which are the inspiring part for me. Likewise, something like the Ushahidi crisis mapping project-where individuals on the ground in crisis stricken areas can report incidents and have them mapped in real time-a vital resource for aid workers- is a breathtaking example of the power of the crowd but again the inspiration lies in the framework, in the architecture. \n
  • So, as we alluded to at the start, we don’t believe life is quite as black & white as we’ve made out....we do have a few concluding thoughts to share we were wholeheartedly agree: \n\n-Time to daydream is time well spent. As hard as it is to switch off occasionally, as much as it makes us twitch, our brains need downtime to make inspirational leaps \n\n-The flow of information won’t lessen-what we need are coping strategies. “Fluid intelligence”-the ability to see patterns in data-will trump rote learning \n\n-Weak ties play a critical role in bringing new information into networks-cultivate weak ties, ensure there are enough diverse voices in your feeds. Filtering algorithms are smart, but you can design your own filters \n\n-When you’re putting together a team, thinking about the make up of that team-do you they know each other too well to surprise or not well enough to feel comfortable? Does the team have the right mix of established partners and new blood \n\n-As counter intuitive as it sounds, design office spaces for serendipity-make sure there are collision points designed to facilitate impromptu conversations and collaborations \n\n-Prototyping doesn’t replace strategy-but our strategies need to become leaner, our briefs prototypes or MVPS\n\n-Balance the extraordinary power of the crowd with the ability of an original framework or platform to shape the input of the crowd into something bigger and better \n
  • Transcript

    • 1. WHERE INSPIRATION COMESFROMSCAMP / SheSays conference, 14.06.12#scamp2012@melex @patsmc
    • 2. STIMULATION vs DISTRACTION THE FILTER vs THE BUBBLE OPEN vs CLOSEDPROTOTYPING vs PLANNINGTHE CROWD vs THE ARCHITECT
    • 3. Stimulation Distraction
    • 4. “Nostalgia for the accidental scarcity we’ve just emergedfrom is just a sideshow; the main event is trying to shapethe greatest expansion of expressive capability the world has ever known.” Clay Shirky in reply to Nicholas Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, July 2008 h/t @uberblond
    • 5. “Day dreaming and boredom seem to be a source for incubation and creative discovery in the brain and one part of the creative process” Jonathan Schooler, Professor of Psychology, University of California h/t @uberblond
    • 6. THE DEMISE OF THE DAYDREAM? Millennials switch screens 27 times within an hour Source: Time, Inc/Innerscope research
    • 7. “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to standand stare?”W.H. Davies, “Leisure”
    • 8. The Filter The Bubble
    • 9. “Do interesting things and interesting thingswill happen to you”John Hegarty, BBH image: jgonzalez.com.ar
    • 10. “In the Darwinian environment of the hyper-relevant news feed, content about issues like homelessness or climate change can’t compete with goofy viral videos, celebrity news, and kittens. The public sphere falls out of view. Andthat matters, because while we can lose sight of our common problems, they don’t lose sight of us.” Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble
    • 11. Open Closed
    • 12. “The open web isn’t a laundry list of technologies, rather it’s a set of philosophies” Brad Neuberg, Coding in Paradise, April 2008
    • 13. “Focused creation, ubiquitous distribution” Brad Frosthttp://bradfrostweb.com/blog/mobile/focused-creation-ubiquitous-distribution/
    • 14. Prototyping Planning
    • 15. “Think while you make, make while you think.” William Owen, Made by Many
    • 16. WHERE WE NEED TO BE LEAN STRATEGY: OUR BEST GUESS ABOUT HOW WE GET THEREWHERE WEARE TODAY
    • 17. WHERE WE NEED TO BE TEST, LEARN, OPTIMISE AGILE STRATEGY: A BETTER GUESS ABOUT HOW WE GET LEAN STRATEGY: THERE OUR BEST GUESS ABOUT HOW WE GET THEREWHERE WEARE TODAY
    • 18. WHERE WE NEED TO BE TEST, LEARN, OPTIMISE AGILE STRATEGY: A BETTER GUESS ABOUT HOW WE GET LEAN STRATEGY: THERE OUR BEST GUESS ABOUT HOW WE GET THEREWHERE WE THE BRIEF AS MVPARE TODAY
    • 19. The Crowd The Architect
    • 20. “Ideas rise in crowds, as Poincaré said. They rise in liquid networks where connection is valued more than protection...Yes, the market has been a great engine of innovation. But so has the reef.” Steven JohnsonImage: Jeremie Battaglia
    • 21. SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTSTime to daydream is time well spent‘Fluid intelligence’ will trump learning-by-heartCultivate weak ties-seek out differenceThink about whether your teams are toofamiliar, or not familiar enoughDesign for serendipityRemember the brief IS a prototypeBalance the architect and the crowd

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