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Five provocations for
Boston University’s
aspiring planning types
!
Ian Fitzpatrick
20 November 2013
Hello. My name is Ian.
!
Principal / Chief Strategy Officer, Almighty
Mentor, TechStars
Mentor, Harvard Innovation Lab
@ianfitzpatrick
I am not a planner.
Sorry about that.
Provocation One:
Take circuitous routes
How I got here:
!
1994 - 1997 student of philosophy
1997 - 1999 founder, Unwrapped
1998 - 2000 music journalism
1999 - 2000 design at Mattel
2000 - 2004 production at Euro RSCG
2004 - 2013 founder, Almighty
“Forget trying to pass for normal. Follow your geekdom.
Embrace nerditude. In the immortal words of Lafcadio
Hearn, a geek of incredible obscurity whose work is still in
print after a hundred years, “Woo the muse of the odd.” You
may be a geek. You may have geek written all over you. You
should aim to be one geek they’ll never forget. Don’t aim to
be civilized. Don’t hope that straight people will keep you on
as some sort of pet. To hell with them. You should fully
realize what society has made of you and take a terrible
revenge. Get weird. Get way weird. Get dangerously weird.
Get sophisticatedly, thoroughly weird, and don’t do it
halfway. Put every ounce of horsepower you have behind it.
Don’t become a well-rounded person. Well-rounded people
are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person.
Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a
pufferfish.” - Bruce Sterling
You don’t just wake up
interesting, or
interested, one day.
!

You have to cultivate both
through experiences.
Provocation Two:
Fall in love with people
Robert Moses, systems guy.
Who was this designed for?
5 Provocations for Boston University's Aspiring Planning Types, November 2013
5 Provocations for Boston University's Aspiring Planning Types, November 2013
5 Provocations for Boston University's Aspiring Planning Types, November 2013
It has never been easier
or less-expensive to
learn about what people
do, want and need.
Caveat:
Falling in love with
people is not the same as
fetishizing individuals.
Provocation Three:
Design for Networks
Get to know
Metcalfe’s Law.
!
The value of a network is proportional to the
square of the number of connected users
within it.
5 Provocations for Boston University's Aspiring Planning Types, November 2013
JOHNATHON
5 Provocations for Boston University's Aspiring Planning Types, November 2013
Provocation Four:
Believe (deeply) in
something
GDS Design
Principles:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

!

Start with needs
Do less
Design with data
Do the hard work to make it simple
Iterate. Then iterate again.
Build for inclusion
Understand context
Build digital services, not websites
Be consistent, not uniform
Make things open: it makes things better

( photo by Mike Bracken )
Almighty Design
Principles:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.

Work at the intersection of the physical and the digital,
because that’s where people live their lives.
Begin with the needs of the people we’re building for.
Create lightweight experiences that can be understood
in any sequence in which they’re encountered.
Provide value to the network first, then to ourselves.
Give people something to act upon and add to.
Design measurement into the experiences we create,
rather than just measuring outcomes.
Plan for learning, iteration and (often) abandonment.
Consider sharing and mobility defaults, not features.
Design with a plan to deepen usage, not just grow it.
What if more companies
built their products,
services & experiences
on a foundation of
guiding principles?
Provocation Five:
Fuel new ways of
working, not just new
ways to sell things
Prepare yourself for a
career in which the
companies you work for
will necessarily
re-invent themselves
every 3-5 years.
5 Provocations for Boston University's Aspiring Planning Types, November 2013
5 Provocations for Boston University's Aspiring Planning Types, November 2013
Find new inputs:
Eschew PSFK. Stop seeing
Ad-shaped problems*.
Hang out with people who
don’t work in advertising.
!
* Martin Weigel’s words
Understand the
difference between ideas
and stuff.
Hint: most of what you
read is stuff, and can safely
be ignored or picked up at
a later date.
Catalog your beliefs:
Write them down. Be
completely subjective.
Know what they mean for
the work you do.
Make your own tools:
Learn to code.
Thanks.
@ianfitzpatrick
deck & notes at
bit.ly/18KGoBH
Endnotes
1. Almighty is where I work. You should also
follow us on Twitter.
2. Beyond the Beyond, Bruce Sterling’s blog
for Wired is worth your time.
3. Zeus Jones, brilliant agency in Minneapolis.
While you’re at it, check out the slides from
ZJ partner Adrian Ho’s talk from Cannes
this year.
4. Robert Moses is worth learning about. If
you’re interested in the Moses/Jacobs
conflict, 99% Invisible had a great piece on
it this week.
5. Metcalfe’s Law is worth committing to
memory. If you want to go deep with it,
Kevin Kelly has a brilliant piece on
extending the way you consider the Fax
Effect.
6. If you’re interested in the New Balance
Nationals, this is a good case study.

7. You should spend some time getting
familiar with the UK’s Government Digital
Service and their wonderful design
principles.
8. I could bombard you with links to Martin
Weigel & his rant on ad shaped problems.
I’m also really partial to his How to (Not) Fail
deck.

!

Also, read these:
1. John Willshire is as spiky as they come in
2013. His ‘Are Brands Fracking the Social
Web?’ is genius stuff.
2. Convergence Culture, by Henry Jenkins
3. Welcome to the Creative Age, by Mark
Earls
4. Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Taleb
5. Advice for a Young Investigator, by
Santiago Ramon y Cajal
6. The Mind of the Strategist, by Kenichi
Ohmae
7. Massive Change, by Bruce Mau

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5 Provocations for Boston University's Aspiring Planning Types, November 2013

  • 1. Five provocations for Boston University’s aspiring planning types ! Ian Fitzpatrick 20 November 2013
  • 2. Hello. My name is Ian. ! Principal / Chief Strategy Officer, Almighty Mentor, TechStars Mentor, Harvard Innovation Lab @ianfitzpatrick
  • 3. I am not a planner. Sorry about that.
  • 5. How I got here: ! 1994 - 1997 student of philosophy 1997 - 1999 founder, Unwrapped 1998 - 2000 music journalism 1999 - 2000 design at Mattel 2000 - 2004 production at Euro RSCG 2004 - 2013 founder, Almighty
  • 6. “Forget trying to pass for normal. Follow your geekdom. Embrace nerditude. In the immortal words of Lafcadio Hearn, a geek of incredible obscurity whose work is still in print after a hundred years, “Woo the muse of the odd.” You may be a geek. You may have geek written all over you. You should aim to be one geek they’ll never forget. Don’t aim to be civilized. Don’t hope that straight people will keep you on as some sort of pet. To hell with them. You should fully realize what society has made of you and take a terrible revenge. Get weird. Get way weird. Get dangerously weird. Get sophisticatedly, thoroughly weird, and don’t do it halfway. Put every ounce of horsepower you have behind it. Don’t become a well-rounded person. Well-rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a pufferfish.” - Bruce Sterling
  • 7. You don’t just wake up interesting, or interested, one day. ! You have to cultivate both through experiences.
  • 8. Provocation Two: Fall in love with people
  • 10. Who was this designed for?
  • 14. It has never been easier or less-expensive to learn about what people do, want and need.
  • 15. Caveat: Falling in love with people is not the same as fetishizing individuals.
  • 17. Get to know Metcalfe’s Law. ! The value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users within it.
  • 22. GDS Design Principles: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. ! Start with needs Do less Design with data Do the hard work to make it simple Iterate. Then iterate again. Build for inclusion Understand context Build digital services, not websites Be consistent, not uniform Make things open: it makes things better ( photo by Mike Bracken )
  • 23. Almighty Design Principles: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Work at the intersection of the physical and the digital, because that’s where people live their lives. Begin with the needs of the people we’re building for. Create lightweight experiences that can be understood in any sequence in which they’re encountered. Provide value to the network first, then to ourselves. Give people something to act upon and add to. Design measurement into the experiences we create, rather than just measuring outcomes. Plan for learning, iteration and (often) abandonment. Consider sharing and mobility defaults, not features. Design with a plan to deepen usage, not just grow it.
  • 24. What if more companies built their products, services & experiences on a foundation of guiding principles?
  • 25. Provocation Five: Fuel new ways of working, not just new ways to sell things
  • 26. Prepare yourself for a career in which the companies you work for will necessarily re-invent themselves every 3-5 years.
  • 29. Find new inputs: Eschew PSFK. Stop seeing Ad-shaped problems*. Hang out with people who don’t work in advertising. ! * Martin Weigel’s words
  • 30. Understand the difference between ideas and stuff. Hint: most of what you read is stuff, and can safely be ignored or picked up at a later date.
  • 31. Catalog your beliefs: Write them down. Be completely subjective. Know what they mean for the work you do.
  • 32. Make your own tools: Learn to code.
  • 34. Endnotes 1. Almighty is where I work. You should also follow us on Twitter. 2. Beyond the Beyond, Bruce Sterling’s blog for Wired is worth your time. 3. Zeus Jones, brilliant agency in Minneapolis. While you’re at it, check out the slides from ZJ partner Adrian Ho’s talk from Cannes this year. 4. Robert Moses is worth learning about. If you’re interested in the Moses/Jacobs conflict, 99% Invisible had a great piece on it this week. 5. Metcalfe’s Law is worth committing to memory. If you want to go deep with it, Kevin Kelly has a brilliant piece on extending the way you consider the Fax Effect. 6. If you’re interested in the New Balance Nationals, this is a good case study. 7. You should spend some time getting familiar with the UK’s Government Digital Service and their wonderful design principles. 8. I could bombard you with links to Martin Weigel & his rant on ad shaped problems. I’m also really partial to his How to (Not) Fail deck. ! Also, read these: 1. John Willshire is as spiky as they come in 2013. His ‘Are Brands Fracking the Social Web?’ is genius stuff. 2. Convergence Culture, by Henry Jenkins 3. Welcome to the Creative Age, by Mark Earls 4. Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Taleb 5. Advice for a Young Investigator, by Santiago Ramon y Cajal 6. The Mind of the Strategist, by Kenichi Ohmae 7. Massive Change, by Bruce Mau