MOOCs are not the Answer--the Humanities Foster Creativity
Read the Financial Time’s Edward Luce’s insightful piece on the failure of MOOCs and the need for Liberal Arts to foster innovation and jobs in the US. Brilliant. The MOOC movement is falling apart because its pedagogical premises are false. It transmits data in a 19th century methodology through a 21st century delivery system. We focus on the delivery when it is the skill set and value systems in education that are key to raising our creative intelligence.
In the US, IT jobs are crashing but creative work is soaring. We need to move away from an exclusive focus on STEM towards a Humanities-based education fostering creativity. Progressive education–Montessori, building with blocks, John Dewey, learning by doing, not memorizing, is the future.
We Need to Raise Employee Wages to Boost Economic Growth
Henry Ford is famously known for increasing the wages of his employees by asking his business critics who do you think buys Ford cars. Consumer demand is crucial to economic growth and that demand depends on people getting paid reasonable wages.
In one of my recent classes at Parsons, a student from Asia said “in America, you are able to sell McDonald’s hamburgers for $1 and cheap clothes at WalMart because you pay people such low wages they need government assistance to buy food or get medical care.” It was shocking and true.
It is one thing for corporations to cut back on wages during times of recession but it is entirely another when they are making good profits.
Companies ranging from WalMart to Boeing are focussing only on shareholders, not employees, in their business models. The consequence is a very weak recovery from our deep recession, with most people still behind even though we’ve had great profits for years now.
It’s time to share the wealth being generated with stakeholders, not just shareholders. It is the only way to boost demand in the economy and get people to buy more. And it is the only right and moral thing to do. And yes, economics is about relationships, not simply markets.
You won’t find it in the stats but “real” New Yorkers, born and bred are talking about the end of New York’s great 20-year run as a fantastic metropolis. These New Yorkers have lived through the good and the bad times and have a deep sensitivity to change. And what they feel these days scares them. It scares them because they feel the vibe of the bad days, the days of danger and chaos, the days before Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.
In the subway, there are days when nearly every car has someone harassing you for money. On the street corners, there are times when you can’t walk two blocks without someone getting in your face with demands for money. There are more people sleeping in the subways stations, more urine and feces on the ground. There are more people living on the sidewalks who are off their medication, shouting angrily, waving their arms. More people sleeping in ATM spaces. There is more petty theft of iPhones and handbags, more stealing in clothing stores, more subway trains being held because of “incidents."
And there is a more sotto voce conversations being held about this growing dangerousness among New Yorkers who worry whether we are heading back to the bad old 70s and 80s when the streets were unsafe and the politicians unwilling to do what was necessary to make them safe.
Of course, all this is happening at a time when New York politics is changing. A new, progressively liberal mayor has been elected to replace an old, progressive mayor. Ironically, many of the people who voted for this progressive mayor are the ones now worrying about the rising danger in the streets and subways. They want to believe that the issues of inequality and housing will be tackled in the years ahead but see with their own eyes what is happening to the cityscape as the political transition takes place.
They worry about strikes that could cripple the city–as they did in the past. They worry about harassment in public places being defined as free speech–as it did in the past. They worry about ineffective policing that allows petty crime–as it did in the past. They worry about neighborhoods declining–as they did in the past.
New Yorkers feel the change and worry about it. Cities rise and fall over time all the time, NYC included It’s glorious entrepreneurial startup drive will come to an end. The revival of neighborhood after neighborhood in Brooklyn and Queens will go into reverse. The beacon drawing so many from Europe, Asia and Latin America–as well as from all over the US–will dim. Unless the current trends are reversed, New York will be over.
2016: The Politics of Gen Y's Kickstarter Capitalism
Two articles, one in the online Politico and the other in the Wall Street Journal, reinforce my belief that a new kind of antiestablishmentarian centrist-populist-capitalist politics is being born in the US. I first began to talk about this trend in my book Creative Intelligence because the young entrepreneurs out of Brooklyn, Manhattan, San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Chicago and elsewhere in the country, the new makers of the Maker Culture, baffled me. They were intensely capitalistic, in the sense of wanting to set up their own companies and build their own networks and organizations, but were profoundly anti Big Business and anti-globalization. Their focus was on hyper-local, community, and making profits to support their like-minded community. Kickstarter was at the heart of this new capitalism.
In sense , this cohort is anti-political. Young, able to build their own institutions and entrepreneurial, these men and women face away from the political system because their see no role in it. They hate it.
But what if a “radicalized center” begins to speak for them and to them? What is someone like Democrat Elizabeth Warren decides to run for the President in 2016–or even Bruce Springsteen-loving Republican Chris Christy?
Opposing both the Tea Party and Occupy but sharing their anti-Washington and anti-Big Business perspectives. this new movement is just taking form in time for the 2016 Presidential elections.
The other story, The Radicalized Center, by Gerald Seib, is in the WSJ today –which I can’t link to because I get the FT, not the WSJ–so check that out if you can.
One thing to keep in mind–this growing maybe-movement is not against capitalism but FOR capitalism–startup, entrepreneurial capitalism. Practically all policy and regulation and money in Washington focuses on promoting Big Business, Big Agriculture and Big Banks. What if the focus were on creating NEW, smaller companies (where all the job growth is)? What if we had Kickstarter Capitalism in America?
Design and Violence--The First Honest Conversation
Two of the smartest design people I know, MOMA’s Paola Antonelli and Parsons’ Jamer Hunt, have joined to create the first honest discussion of the relationship between design and violence. You just have to get involved because it is so good, so smart and so important.
Design has almost always turned a blind eye to its important role in destruction–even creative destruction. As a profession, it is almost always liberal and optimistic, which is why I am drawn to it. But as a result, Design does two things–First, it ignores whole categories of designed objects and engagements that it defines as “brutal” such as beautifully designed hunting rifles, knives and pistols (such as the Barreta).
And second, it ignores war. In a sense, Design is pacifist, without decline itself as such. Yet we all know that Design plays a critical role in combat and warfare, from objects such as the AK-47, the stealth jet fighter and the drone; to engagements, such as asymmetrical warfare, and the blitz; and to the combination of product and engagement, such as the carrier task force or cyberwar.
When I was covering Design and Innovation at BusinessWeek, I periodically tried to do stories on military design and hunting to no avail. Couldn’t get it through my editors. “That’s not what we mean by Design,” they said.
So I stand in wonder at this new initiative by Paola and Jamer. It will involve dozens of people over many months and produce an exhibition for MOMA and for all of us.
1- Younger tens are tuning out to Facebook and using it less. My guess is that they are moving to chat apps on their Androids and iPhones.
2- The average Facebook user clicks on an ad once a week. This is being lauded by founder Mark Zuckerberg as “a great sign that people are finding ads useful.” Really? They click on an ad ONCE a week and that’s considered a success?
What do they actually buy? How long do they linger? And why–again–only once a week? What are the measurements of this deeper, longer engagement?
Framing your engagement with customers is key to business success in this world of social media. It is is one of the key Creative Competencies. Facebook needs to get it right.
Tech/IT Jobs Pay High Wages And Help Cities--Data Supports Richard Florida.
Mike Mandel at the Progressive Policy Institute has new data which shows that cities and localities with lots of new tech and iT jobs have bounced back faster and better from the Great Recession than other parts of the US. This is a big plus for Richard Florida’s argument that the Creative Class is a key generator of economic growth and higher incomes in cities.
The PPI data shows that startups and entrepreneurship are key to generating high-paying jobs. Policy-makers and the business press tend to focus on big business and finance but the important action lies elsewhere.
The polity implications are important. Much more effort has go to into supporting new companies. This includes finance (bolstering crowd-funding, improving the archaic venture capital business), regulation (cutting it for startups and new companies) and education (university campuses are cheap platforms for generating innovation and new companies).
Check out the list of counties that have the most tech/it new job growth. California leads, of course, but Brooklyn makes the top 25 list and there are surprises in between.
I remember hearing and seeing Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground upstairs, in some club on St. Marks street, sometime in the middle or early 60s. I was kind of expecting a hotter Bob Dylan but it was different–nastier, angrier, illogical and even hard on the ears. But things were getting nastier, angrier and harder to take as the 60s rolled on.
It was still illegal for blacks and white to marry in nearly half the states in the US. It was still illegal for gays to congregate–to simply have a beer in a bar–in New York City. It was still immoral for women to be more than wives and mothers and nurses or teachers for a few years waiting to become wives and mothers. It was just beginning to be unpatriotic to question sending troops to Vietnam. It was a time when we killed our President and a moment just before the great race riots of the later decade.
Lou Reed captured that era in his music. It was not optimistic but chaotic and dark. The Boomers came of age in that time and while they have made a mess of many things, they listened to the music and acted on it. Now they’re heading off the stage faster than the country is expecting and Gen Y is taking power faster than the country is expecting.
Lou Reed died on Sunday in Amagansett, on Long Island. Turns out I was there at his end, as well as his beginning.
China is having its Manifest Destiny moment and weak nations, such as the Philippines, are paying the price. Here is a wonderful piece of “New” journalism from the NYT’s that makes this shift in power very real
Why MOOCs Fail: We live in an Engagement, not Experience, Society.
One of the biggest changes in the past decade is the rise of participation in nearly all of our social and economic relationships. Social media technology and value shifts have enabled us to actively participate in our entertainment, education, health care and work practices. We can and we want to participate and not simply passively “experience our lives.” So the concept of “Engagement:” is super-big today. It is one reason why Walter Benjamin is hot again and why I teach him at Parsons. Aura is the epitome of engagement.
Smart people at Google and Facebook and elsewhere in ecommerce are trying to assess engagement. But educators pushing MOOCs are not. We now have enough data to know that 90% or more students in a MOOC drop out entirely and barely 1%-5% complete the entire course. Why? Because MOOCs are not designed to engage. They merely push information at you and you stare, passively at a screen. The educators pushing MOOCs are mostly engineers and mathematicians who see learning as absorbing data and facts and throwing them back on a test. It’s typical teach-to-the-teach pedagogy and it’s awful.
If MOOCs are to succeed, we need much more interactive technologies employed to engage students. But that means more professorial time–which increases the cost of online education. The true cost of MOOCs that really work has yet to be determined. It’s time to reign in the hoopla surrounding MOOCs coming out of Stanford, MIT and other universities.
We live in an Engagement Society. MOOCs need to be designed to engage.
We’re all trying to make sense of the wreck in Congress that cost $22 billion and achieved nothing. We tend to think of the destructive Tea Party as an aberration–a minority within a minority. But Frank Rich this week reminded me of one of the most important Creative Competencies in Creative Intelligence–the power of Framing and Reframing.
Nullifying The Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress, the Supreme Court and the reelection of President Obama by a strong majority of the popular vote, was the first and most important reason for the Tea Party shutting down the government and threatening international debt default. But this policy of nullifying laws started with the Nullifier Party in South Carolina in the 1830’s, The Nullifier Party said that federal laws should not be enforced inside South Carolina–a forerunner of State Rights laws that proclaimed the same thing. In the 1830’s, the South tried to stop a tariff that protected Northern industries and raised the price of imports into the south. Today, it is the South and West that objects to extending Medicaid to the poor and mandating people buy health insurance.
Nuffliers put into place Jim Crow voting laws at the end of the Civil War that nullified the right to vote for ex-slaves. Today, Nullifiers are doing the same with new Voter ID laws in the South and West.
Nullifiers are also nullifying the law that gives women the right to have an abortion. It may be the law of the land but it is being gradually eroded in conservative states everywhere.
During the last government shutdown in 1994, Nullifiers tried to nullify the election of Bill Clinton. These past two weeks, Nullifiers tried to nullify the election of Barack Obama.
Not accepting the will of the majority goes deep in American politics. It runs along ancient social, cultural and political fault lines that cleaved in the Civil War and have never been repaired.
Reframing the Tea Party as the Nullifier Party gives us the context and meaning to understand just what happen in Washington over the past two weeks. It shows us that negotiation and compromise is impossible. Like the Civil War, nullifiers have to defeated.
Race to see Out of Hand--Materializing the Postdigital Exhibition
I have just seen the first museum exhibit that would make MOMA’s Paola Antonelli jealous. It is at the Museum of Art and Design in NYC and it about the amazing work being done in fashion, art, jewelry, furniture, sculpture and other stuff with 3D printing technology. It’s not replication–it is creation. unbelievably beautiful creation. We have new tools to create new things in new ways and the MAD exhibition is exuberant in showcasing how glorious that can be.
One entire floor is over to museum goers participating in and using the new tools. And there is something special about playing with 3-D machines in a museum setting with artists who show you what they are doing and why. There will be artists in residence throughout the months of the exhibit.
So congratulations to Ron Labaco, curator at MAD, for putting this on. It took him two years. It’s just wonderful. And thanks to Shapeways, which just bought MakerBot, for providing the financing, the tools and people too.
I was at the AIGA Head, Heart, Hand conference this past week https://twitter.com/AIGAconference and it was terrific.
Incredible speakers, wonderful audience and great city–Minneapolis. I had incredible experiences–signing Creative Intelligence books, presenting on Creative Competencies and running into amazing people. But the MOST amazing experience came in the afternoon at a roundtable of about a dozen people who came to talk to me about creativity.
Most were teachers of design at design colleges around the country. We went around and talked about our teaching methods and our students. I boasted about the amazing students at Parsons, of course, and talked about using Creativity Mapping and Design Narratives.
One woman, almost in tears, shook her head and said, “you have to remember that you have students from all over the world. I teach in a small college in Mississippi. I am getting the first generation of K-12 No Child Left Behind students and all they want is for me to tell them the answers so they can get it right on a test.”
I was stunned. We now have students going to college who have spent their entire lives in classrooms focussed on Teaching to the Test. And the result? All the students know is how to take tests. Any smart teacher knows that testing is not teaching. Any smart teacher knows that testing is not learning. Testing is simply assessment. And what are we, as a nation, assessing? It is the ability to memorize facts and regurgitate them on a test–an archaic skill in a world of Google.
The professor of design from the Mississippi college said her students went “white-knuckle” when she asked them to find their own answers to design challenges. They were unprepared to “Do” creativity, to meet unexpected challenges and come up with different outcomes. And that’s exactly what we need to do today, in a world of VUCA–volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. What kind of jobs will they be able to get with their Testing skill-set? In Design? None.
We need to bring back Art, Music, blocks–progressive education that shows us how to play and innovate. No Child Left Behind is killing creativity.
Who Screwed Up The Design of the Healthcare Exchanges?
It’s now clear that the design of the critical health care exchanges for the Affordable Health Care Act is a mess. And no one in either the design community or the tech community is seriously talking about it. The Obama Administration had 3 years to get this right and blew it.
What we have is a beta test of software. Well, that can work in the business and IT world–it’s the culture. Launch and fix it along the way. But for a medical insurance system used by millions of people–many of them computer-illiterate? Common.
It looks like the biggest flaw is forcing people to first open a personal account before they can actually look at the competing health insurance plans. They have to sign in before getting the information they need. That crush to sign in appears to be what is crashing the system. According to the Wall Street Journal, which is the only major MSM covering this (yeah, I know, it’s conservative but design flaws aren’t political), healthcare.gov was supposed to have an option to browse before registering but the tool wasn’t developed on time. Really? The “tool” to browse couldn’t be developed on time?
I’m at the AIGA conference today, giving a talk on Creative Intelligence. I wish the Obama IT/Design folks were here. They certainly need more creative intelligence.
You can measure the maturing of a startup into another Big Business by its edifices. Often, you can even measure the apogee of success by its edfices. Starting up, its all about low-cost, renting and what-ever works. When gargantuan, expensive and starchitect-driven headquarters rise, it often becomes a forget-the-cost, own, and ego exercise. With tech companies, there is always an overlay message of promoting more innovation by building bigger, better space.
We now have huge, new headquarters going up for Apple, Amazon and a bunch of other companies. I was an business journalist for many years at BusinessWeek and I can tell you that on Wall Street, this would be a sign that the companies have shifted from Growth to Value–from innovation to milking the innovation to squeeze out money.
Its all good. Creative Destruction depends on moving along the curve of creativity and innovation. But how to assess that movement? Look to a company’s edifice complex.
Today is Key Day For Capitalism--Crowdfunding Takes Off With The Jobs Act
It was buried in the New York Times and absent from the Financial Times, but today the official JOBS Act went into effect–expanding crowd funding from a niche to a platform scaler of creativity. This is a very big deal. I repeat–this is a very big deal. With Kickstarter and Indiegogo, we can act as patrons, participate in creativity and get a “thingie,” a product in return. With the JOBS Act, we can put our money into something and get a monetary return on it, not just a product. This allows all of us to be venture capitalists.
I call this Indie Capitalism and it amounts to the resocialization of capitalism. We have been living in Financial Capitalism for the past 20 years, where the economic system was all about market transactions for money. Financial Capitalism made nearly all of us consumerists–we simply bought stuff on the market and defined our lives, our status, out culture by what we consumed and money.
Indie Capitalism, Kickstarter and crowdfunding will change us into Makers and Participants in a different sort of system, an Engagement Economy. We can all be investors, creators, participators and consumers at the same time. We can take the power away from distant finance people and claim it as our own.
The JOBS Act was delayed by a year by government regulators afraid of fraud in crowd funding. They worried that naive people would invest in bad or phony businesses. Given the fraud of the prevailing Finance Economy by the banks, ratings companies and investment bankers that brought on the Great Recession, this concern is laughable while laudable. Banks had to pay fines for their dastardly deeds, but were allowed to deny any guilt. CEOs received bonuses, not prison sentences. Let’s hope the regulation for crowd funding is better.
For real coverage of crowd funding, check out Amy Cortese.
New York City went through a long contest to pick the next taxi and a Nissan van won. Along with lots of cabbies, riders and Made-in-the-USA folks, I was never really happy with the choice. I loved the old, roomy Ford Crown Victoria and every other car since has been uncomfortable, cheap and unlovable. Sure, the Nissan van will be roomy but have you looked at it? Tall, boxy, ugly, with sliding doors, which practically every aging Boomer I know hates. Hard on the hands.
So why not the fabulous Tesla? It’s as luscious as the Crown Vic, Made-in-California, roomy–and all-electric! New York needs an iconic taxi and the Tesla taxi could do that.
OK, the Tesla S model is expensive. We could wait a couple of years for the less expensive version. Or perhaps the next mayor of New York could work out a deal with founder Elon Musk for 30,000 cars over 3 years to bring the cost down. How about leasing? Maybe the city could pick up the cost of recharging so it would be free to taxi owners.
Common. New York is a city of Creative Congestion. We need a great taxi to be congested in. The Tesla Taxi–sounds good, right?
Can The Internet of Things Bring Us High Economic Growth?
At this 5-Year Anniversary of the crash of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of the Great Recession, we are stuck in a weak recovery (except for stocks and those who own them), with unemployment still at 7.3%. Good-paying jobs are hard to come by and lots of folks have just bailed out of the job market entirely.
There may be a better way. Mike Mandel, one of the best economists around, thinks that The Internet of Things has the potential of igniting a new manufacturing boom in the US. He may be right. We need to get rid of the Finance Capitalism that has taken over and get back to Making again.
Larry Summers Shows That Innovation Can be Bad--Very Bad
Of all the innovations of the past 20 years, one of the most powerful has been financial innovation. Wall Street “quants” used technology and math to create new financial instruments that sliced and diced mortgages and sold the resulting "derivatives" around the globe. In the end, this financial innovation triggered a huge crisis that nearly tanked the entire global economy. We are still suffering from low employment as a consequence.
Larry Summers, who just withdrew his name for consideration of running the Fed, the US central bank, was a key innovator in financial innovation. In the Clinton Administration he pushed for deregulating the banks and for not regulating the new financial products. He believed in financial “modernity,” the creation of new financial products and services and the efficacy of markets to always make the right decisions. In his way, Summers was a huge promoter of innovation. And the failure of that innovation is what tanked his candidacy for the Fed. Congress, especially liberal Congress people, hold him personally responsible for the havoc that followed financial innovation.
So let’s take a minute to understand something that most designers, entrepreneurs, artists and creators in general tend to forget. Creativity and innovation are value-neutral. You can do good and do bad with the new. You can even think you are doing good and still do bad with innovation.
Creativity, Csikszentmihalyi and the City of New York
There is a great line in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention – “Creativity must, in the last analysis, be seen not as something happening within a person but in the relationship within a system.” One of the key systems, of course, is the city, which is the reason why politics and elections are important to artists, entrepreneurs and all creators.
The New York City mayoral election appears to be turning out to be a huge negative for creative people. In a week when London Mayor Boris Johnson is calling for a “London Visa” to attract high tech, fashion and other talent to his city, New York is facing a choice between an old-fashioned liberal and an old-fashioned conservative and a return to an old 20th century era of class and ethnic conflict. Sad and boring. It’s as if the past 10 years hadn’t happened in Brooklyn, that the booming Maker Culture wasn’t there and that the soaring Gen Y and immigrant populations weren’t important. Did any of these candidates for mayor hear of Kickstarter?
To whomever eventually wins the NYC Mayor’s office, I’d like to suggest a few policies to promote what I call "Indie Capitalism.“ It’s the kind of capitalism that is remaking the face of the city. Here goes:
1) Crowdfund new housing for the middle class. Moderately priced housing is in short supply in the city, threatening to drive creative people–and lots of non-creative people–away. Brazil is pioneering the crowdfunding of skyscrapers. Why not do the same for middle class housing. Kickstart another Stuy Town–or 10 Stuy Towns.
2– Fund the student creative class. There are amazing universities in NYC where students produce remarkable work in their classes, especially senior classes. That creativity gets flushed after graduation (it goes into student portfolios). My sense is that a good third of those senior projects could become the kernel of a new businesses. Many of my students go to Kickstarter for this, but Kickstarter is a narrowly curated crowdfunder. A city-wide AppleStarter available to all MBAs, senior design students and young creators could generate lots of startups and jobs.
3–Start a "C-School” that does innovation the New York City way, putting culture, experience and engagement first in generating products and services, in contrast to the “D-School” kind of innovation out of the West Coast that is technology-centric. (I’m working on an Institute of Creativity at Parsons and this could be the foundation.)
4–Expand the Gifted & Talented public school programs. New York already spends more money on education per student ($22,000) than any other public education system in the nation. But very little goes to develop creativity. Even children who test highest for being creative have to enter a lottery to get into Gifted & Talented classes because there are so few of them. This is just nuts for a city that runs on creativity.
In fact, this whole election in New York appears nuts for a city that runs on creativity.
Lessons From Fashion Week and why it "Makes" Creativity
There is a big happening sweeping through New York City and it is officially called “Fashion Week.” But really it should be called “The Creativity Carnival” and anyone and any business interested in innovation needs to participate. Fashion Week is all about discovering what Chicago School economist Frank Knight calls “higher order wants” that people dream of, often can’t express but desperately want to have. Higher order wants are the true engine of new products, new companies and new profits.
How does Fashion Week do all that? Look at the process. It’s a series of big Play Grounds, in tents at Lincoln Center and in studios all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, where ritual, deep play by creators takes place. They offer their original ideas to fashion experts (professionals and consumers) who jury the work. It’s serious play with serious economic consequence. It is Creative Capitalism and it requires three things to work: creative people, experts who can judge cutting edge work, and scalers who can take what is judged to be great and scale it into commercial brands sold on the market. Fashion Week does all this.
I am teaching Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s book on Creativity in a course at Parsons on Creativity and Cities this week and “Chicks” says that “creativity must, in the last analysis, be seen not as something happening within a person but in the relationship within a system.” Fashion week is that system.
“Chicks” talks about how creativity takes place within a domain–fashion, science, math, music, health, painting–and new work is judged “creative” by a field of experts within that domain. He says that there are domains with cultures that welcome change, insist on change and those that don’t. Creativity happens fastest and most where it is core to the culture. Fashion is that kind of domain. He also says that creativity happens fastest in domain cultures that have the experienced experts to just what is truly unique. Again, Fashion is that kind of domain (see how this is important to your business culture?).
Fashion Week mirrors our society and economy because there are formal and informal Play Grounds. I went to the opening day of Fashion Week at Lincoln Center and the first thing I saw walking up the steps to the wide plaza were dozens of young designers who were NOT invited into the official Fashion Week runway tent all dressed up in their own clothes being photographed by dozens of friends and professional photographers. They were all posting their own fashion blobs and sites or the many other online “street” fashion sites.
Social media is expanding both the domain of Fashion and the field of “experts” who judge new work. It was amazingly cool and a significant addition to capitalism. What is “creative” is increasingly being determined by the “crowd” expert. It may be that extending the domain and field of experts wider changes the nature of Flow (“Chick’s biggest intellectual contribution). There is a big new push on Flow research. When you talk to brilliant tennis players, chess players, artists, designers or basketball players–really brilliant– they always talk about being "3 to 4 moves ahead” of their competition. So Flow is not just a state of being, it is a state of being forward. Way forward.
Again, Fashion is a domain where experts reward that kind of Flow. Runway shows are about showing off cutting edge fashion that then gets toned down for the prevailing market. But the goal is to go way forward. Alexander McQueen was brilliant at this. And the Lincoln Center Plaza unofficial runway show allowed for even wilder fashion looks, maybe 4 or 5 moves ahead.
When we talk about innovation and creativity, we need to understand the relationship between creator, culture and the city. Fashion Week in New York highlights all this. Fashion Week is about a lot more than just fashion.
The dismal New York Mayoral campaign has me wondering if we might be seeing the peak of New York as a creative, innovative hub for this cultural/economic cycle. The biggest political themes are class and ethnic conflict revolving around “You got yours, I want mine” politics. What I don’t hear is an understanding of why New York is so “hot” right now, while Paris is not and why dynamic young people from all over the world are moving the to Big Apple and not to Rome.
I am not hearing much about innovation and startups, incubators and universities, Kickstarter and MakerBot, creativity and economic growth, the data-driven economy and the art-driven real estate market. There is silence about the need for better gifted-and-talented public school programs or better tax-breaks to build middle-income rentals for the people who are not Russian moguls and escaping Chinese plutocrats. Does any candidate even know about what is happening in Brooklyn and the Brand Brooklyn? Or understand what the growing share economy means?
Meanwhile, over in London, mayor Boris Johnson is calling for a “London Visa” to attract more talent. The special visa would target high tech startup people, hot fashion designers and creators of all sorts to London. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/62459d68-1701-11e3-bced-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz2eJGbJSik
Now that’s brilliant thinking. I hear nothing of the sort from the horde of candidates wanting to become mayor of New York City.
I am co-teaching a grad course at Parsons this fall on Creativity and the City which examines the crucial role cities play in engaging and promoting our creativity.
This week in class we are reading Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s book “Creativity,” focussing on his chapter on Creativity and the Renaissance which deals with the rise of Florence. It’s so good I could cry. He says that “…creativity, must, in the last analysis, be seen not as something happening within a person but in the relationship within a system."
The ultimate system, or "domain” as “Chicks” calls it, is the city. Without the proper leadership which understands the value of creativity to both society and the economy, you won’t get creativity. Without the right kind of patrons who support creativity, the right kind of experts who can recognize creativity and the right kind of spaces and neighborhoods where creative people are drawn to live, you’re not going to get creativity.
Bloomberg, a high-tech financial entrepreneur, who became the single largest philanthropist in New York City, understood most of this. But who among the seven candidates running for mayor really does? Beats me and I have to vote next week.
Samsung Needs to Hire Fashionistas for its New Galaxy Gear Watch
It is Fashion Week in NYC and an incredible number of hugely talented fashion creatives are crawling its streets. Samsung needs to hire some of them. Perhaps it is not as bad in real 3D, but the new Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch really seems ugly/clunky to me.
Google Glass has serious value issues with privacy but it looks very cool on the face–thanks to Google hiring a Swedish industrial designer, hooking up with Warby Parker and Sergey hanging out at runway shows with Diane Von Furstenberg. Who are the guys in Seoul hanging out with?
Tech companies moving into “wearable technology” really need to start hiring graduates They have been designing wearable technology for eons–call them clothes, eyeglasses, shoes, hats….Each draps the body, extending and enhancing its capabilities. Clothes frame and reframe identities and personalities. They allow you to try them on and become someone, something else.
Fashion designers know all this already–and have amazing skills at understanding the deep meaning of “wearing” and the true purpose of “technology” in peoples’ lives. They also live in a global world and understand the importance of mining culture, male/female, Chinese/American/boomer/gen y. They are deep into “Making” culture–indeed, unlike other designers, they never left it. They do two collections a year–they create twice a year, year after year. And designers are hugely entrepreneurial, they love to set up their own businesses.
So Samsung and other wearable technology companies, listen up. Hire fashion designers if you want people to actually love your technology. And check out the Fashion Week runway shows now:
I just came across a Wall Street Journal piece that I wrote for their online Speakeasy column when my book, Creative Intelligence, came out. It’s one of my best pieces. I especially like the “10 Fast Ways to Boost Your Creativity.”
10 Fast Ways to Boost Your Creative Intelligence
1) Find a creative friend. The social aspect of creativity cannot be underestimated. Spending time with creative peers can boost your energy and help you identify your own creative skills.
2) Map your creativity. Keep a daily journal about the places and activities that inspire you. Add something new one every month. Just changing the way you go to work every day can help.
3) Go for a long walk–or run or bike ride. Give yourself “zone-out” time to let your mind integrate all the new ideas you’re taking in. Creativity is social but still requires “alone time” too.
4) Conduct a “creativity audit.” Take a weekend to think about the knowledge and skills you have that you might be underutilizing. Dive deep into yourself. Bring a close friend to help.
5) Play the “reframe game.” Is your business or industry stagnating? Change the conventional wisdom about the way things have always been done and create something entirely new by connecting two previously unrelated ideas.
6) Find a wanderer. In their heyday, the labs at HP were hugely creative thanks to the founders’ policy of “managing by wandering around.” They choose promising research and championed it. Seek out the person at your organization who can help you bring your ideas into the world.
7) Become a wanderer. Find out what your colleagues and employees are thinking about and ask yourself: how can you help support their ideas? Can you become the person who makes things happen, whether by partnering with them or hooking them up with the right people?
8) Slow down. The rise in social media has left many of us longing for deeper, more meaningful experiences and engagements. There is an increasing need for people and organizations who can devise ways to help people simplify their lives.
9) Venture past the possible. We are often so accustomed to seeing things in a certain way that we’re blind to the possibility of something we can’t yet imagine. Set aside time each week to think about why things are the way they are, and imagine them differently.
10) Embrace uncertainty . There is so much change in our lives and in our work that it scares us, even paralyzes us. Yet uncertainty offers the greatest opportunities. With the right creative skills, you can make uncertainty a place of discovery for you.
The Great Entrepreneur And Designer Sam Farber Has Left Us.
I remember the day Betsey, Sam Farber’s wife told me the story of how OXO was born. Her hands had begun to hurt because of arthritis and she was having a hard time in the kitchen. She couldn’t grip the utensils well or without pain. She and Sam loved to cook so this was a big deal. Sam saw this as an opportunity, not a problem, and turned to Smart Design in New York to design kitchen gear that Betsy could hold and use. And hey, why not design kitchen gear that EVERYONE could use easily. The fat handles of Good Grips products was born–as was a great company, OXO.
I met Sam after he had founded and sold Copco (and yes, his uncle had founded FarberWare). Sam was actually retired. OXO was his second company. He would go on to startup a third with his son.
Sam was at the center of a tight circle of great design people. Pattie Moore did amazing research on the elderly and went on to create one of the great consultancies. Sam and Pattie established Universal Design as a credible design strategy.
But most of all, Sam sat and talked. I could always get him for long lunches to talk about stuff. I’m old enough now to know that age does not automatically bring wisdom. Only a few truly unique souls attain it. Sam was one of them.
I am stunned at his sudden leaving and I will miss him forever.
Dogmas of Design--My Talk at The IDSA Conference in Chicago in August
I’m going to my first IDSA annual conference since I left Business Week. Check it out–some fantastic speakers, from Bill Buxton to Dean Kamen. I’ll present on the Dogmas of Design and my new book, Creative Intelligence.
My Q&A With Core77--From Connecting Dots to Indie Capitalism
Core77 has played a huge role in my career covering innovation. When I was launching the Innovation & Design online site at Business Week, Core77 was my first partner. It proved critical. Partnering with outside sources of content was, at that time in the early oughts, revolutionary at a print magazine. I took a lot of heat but Core77 allowed me to make it happen.
Here’s my Q&A off my new book, Creative intelligence.
My book, Creative Intelligence, emphasizes creativity over design, because my experience covering business led me to believe that the term “creativity” is more inclusive–managers and just about everyone identify with it more than “design.” The book’s Five Creative Competencies–Knowledge Mining, Framing, Playing, Making and Pivoting (Scaling)–can boost our personal and organizational creative capacities.
Time published a new poll on how Americans viewed creativity–with remarkable results. The good news is that a huge majority of people believe creativity is very important. Nearly 2/3s believe creativity is more important to their workplace careers than they knew in school. The bad news is that most Americans don’t know how to practice creativity. They value creativity but don’t understand it.
So we need both a lot of social time engaging with trusted friends and colleagues working on challenging new ideas AND alone-time to integrate those thoughts and connect the dots to generate new stuff. It’s not “either-or.”
The five creative competencies of my book Creative Intelligence: Knowledge Mining, Framing, Playing, Making and Pivoting: are skills that can build both creative capacity and creative confidence. This is true for business organizations as well as individuals.
A Manifesto for Making and Markets: Crafts Magazine Applauds Creative Intelligence
Karen Yair has written a wonderful review of my new book, Creative Intelligence, for CRAFTS magazine. You can follow this great UK-based magazine on Twitter at @craftsmagazine but, alas, the publication itself is not yet online. So go directly to the reviewer–Karen Yair’s–own WordPress site for her reasons why Creative Intelligence reflects the importance of making in creativity–and for remaking our around the economic value generated by innovation.
The Return of AG Lafley to P&G: Think Steve Jobs Returning to Apple
Truly high-growth innovative businesses, whether they are startups or big ole behemoths, need both a creative and an operations person at the top. Think Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. When the creative leaves and the operations person takes control, the transition is tricky at best–and often problematic. The narrative frame of Apple now is all about taxes and profits and money–not innovative products, not love and emotion, not aura. OK maybe for shareholders and Wall Street. Not good for those of us who us Apple stuff.
A similar thing has happened at another “Design-led” big company in the US–P&G. At P&G, A.G. Lafley redesigned the company from 200 to 2010, opening up its silos, promoting a business culture of creativity, and ultimately generating 30% of annual profits from new products. He brought in Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management, to rethink strategy. And Tim Brown from IDEO, to instill Design Thinking. Lafley was replaced by an operations guy who focussed on efficiencies and traditional marketing and the result? Lackluster results.
In my book, Creative Intelligence, I spend time explaining how Lafley used Knowledge Mining, Framing and Pivoting (Scaling) to change the sources of P&G’s profits and boost them to new highs. Lafley got his managers to “Connect + Develop,” to take their deep domains of knowledge in chemistry and product and connect them to new spaces, new ideas. No brainstorming of a 1000 ideas. No funnels and processes of innovation. Just smart people thinking about extending outside their silos to create the new. Then scaling like crazy.
The next big question is whether or not Lafley brings back Claudia Kotscha, the genius who tried to change P&G’s culture and make it more creative.
When people ask me for the one thing they can do to increase their creative capacity, I always tell them to find a creative friend. Being around–and learning from–creative people is the single most important thing you can do to quickly raise your own creative capacities. This is what Marissa Mayer is doing at Yahoo by buying Tumblr. She is bringing 26-year old Tumblr founder David Karp into Yahoo culture, as well as Tumblr’s great young Gen Y staff of social media experts.
Mayer is also buying the NYC innovation magic. There is something great going on in the New York startup scene that is different from the West Coast. Technology continues to dominate the California scene, but culture plays the biggest role in New York. New York focuses on what is meaningful to people, then goes out and finds the technology. It’s about emotion, engagement, connection, happiness. Not geeky technology. Tumblr gets that. It’s in Tumblr’s own culture.
Tumblr also has something else that Mayer should embrace–a new kind of health care system for its employees. Sherpaa was developed by Dr. Jay Parkinson. General Assembly is using it too. https://sherpaa.com
Mayer can use Yahoo’s enormous platform to scale Tumblr. But that’s the easy part. Absorbing its creative culture, giving power to it creative founders are more important. Mayer just went out and found a new creative friend. Now she has to learn to play with him.
I’m giving a brown-bag talk at ecotrust in Portland today. Check out their website because this amazing organization is doing when we all need to do all over the country, all over the world.
When I talk about the rise of a new “Indie Capitalism,” ecotrust is one model of how to do it. Food, Forest, Fish, Entrepreneurialism–Indigenous Insight–they are doing in the Pacific Northwest. Check it out. Join.
Why Windows 8 Is Failing--Microsoft's Dogma of Design Doesn"t Work.
Microsoft has thousands of brilliant researchers, engineers and social scientists who are incredibly creative yet this high-tech company appears to an enormous failure on its hands–the new Windows 8 operating system. There is so much riding on this new OS–it is supposed to “update the personal computer for the tablet era by moving to a new touchscreeen interface based on colourful tiles…” according to the FT.
But people are finding it difficult to use. The familiar “Start” button is gone. The old desktop launch screen is hidden. And the new touchscreen isn’t captivating enough. So both old and new consumers are unhappy.
How could Microsoft spend so much time and money and produce a dud? I’m guessing it has something to do with what I call the “Gift Model of Design.” I’m giving a talk at Ziba in Portland on Thursday and this is what I am going to say
“The oldest Dogma of Design is the Gift Dogma. This model of innovation is the favorite of tech and consumer goods companies–most companies actually. It frames Design as a Gift from really smart people who invent cool stuff and throw it over the wall to consumers. Along the way, in flight, designers and marketers get a brief chance to “humanize” and “prettify” the technology. Maybe do a bit of focus group research at the back end. Then toss it onto the market and if people like it, great. If they don’t, oops.
Now I’ve had engineers and researchers say to me “people don’t know what they want until we give it to them.” And they have a point. Look at the biggest innovations of the past 30 years–Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, ZipCar, Instagram, Match.com, Method, and most have come from young entrepreneurs who embody the values and knowledge of their generation. They succeed by mining the existential wants of their generation and give, as gifts, new products, services, experiences to members of their generation. The rest of us, not in their generation, can come along. Or not.
The gift model works OK when you know the person you are giving to, when you embody that person’s culture and values. But as Valentine’s Day shows us, even when you think you know the other person, your chances of success are not all that high. And when you give a gift to a stranger, the odds fall much further. Go outside what you yourself embody and you could be imposing your higher order wants on other people (SLIDE OF SOMEONE WEARING GOOGLE GLASSES). Look at Google Glass. She looks happy and great wearing Google Glass–but there are many people who may be thinking—is she invading my privacy by taping my conversation without asking or is she sharing your image and words with unknown persons? The Gift Dogma can backfire. ”
I’m guessing that the brilliant engineers at Microsoft didn’t immerse themselves enough in the culture of the company’s consumers to see what is truly meaningful to them. Or, if they or the army of social scientists at the company did, the key cultural information was not incorporated in the design of Windows 8.
I suggest a better model of design in my book, Creative Intelligence. Brands are simply the commodification of meaning. You have to understand what is deeply meaningful to consumers to create a successful product. That, apparently, didn’t happen with Windows 8.
Go To The IIT Institute of Design Strategy Conference!
I’ll be speaking on May 15 at one of the smartest design/innovation conferences given–the Design Strategy Conference in Chicago put on by Patrick Whitney at the Institute of Design. If you want new ideas, new concepts and new people to hang with, sign up. It’s two days–May 14 and 15.
Jan Chipchase is one of my big heroes. In my book, Creative Intelligence, I talk about the need to “mine the existential” in cultures to understand the deeper meaning of people’s lives. Jan has been a pioneer in mining the existential, from China to America and beyond for Frog Design. He has an insightful comment about Google Glass we should all read.
Jan is one of the growing number of “thought leaders” being offered Google Glass to wear and comment on, building knowledge–and political support. Jan turned Google down. He’s worried about Google’s privacy problem–that it continuously violates peoples’ privacy. Here’s the comment.
I presented at Google recently on the five Creative Competencies of Creative Intelligence and began by thanking Google for saving my life. I’ve never been able to tell direction–left and right–and felt that i lived in a constant state of lost. Google Maps changed my life. It had deep existential meaning for me. I was no longer lost.
But, like Jan, I also questioned Google Glass. I put up a slide of a pretty woman wearing the glasses (all the pictures are of good-looking young people), and said it embodied the values of Googles’ Gen Y engineering founders. Great technology that could do cool stuff. They used the “Gift” model of innovation–use tech to invent new things and throw it over the wall to society.
But in this case, society is wary of Google’s intentions and worried about the impact of Google Glass on privacy.Taking data without asking appears to be baked into the deep DNA of Google–from taking content, to taking books to taking emails and other data when taking pictures for Google Maps. All put on Search.
What would Google Glass “take?” I don’t know. And neither does Jan. and neither do you.
How To Be Creative In a Time of Radical Change--Start With Love.
I just came back from an incredible week in Norway, talking to about 400 Nordic designers and business people on my book, Creative Intelligence. The wonderful Norwegian Design Council puts on an annual Design Day presenting awards to the best Norwegian designers and I was lucky enough to be invited to speak.
Here is the full presentation that shows why I think Knowledge Mining (for cultural meaning), Framing, Playing, Making and Pivoting (Scaling) are the most important Creative Competencies of our day. I begin the presentation in Oslo with a discussion about love–and how love represents the kind of dynamic engagement we have today that is meaningful to people. User Engagement or UE is more important that UX, user experience.
The video also has a clip of Dream:In, a conference in India where students interviewed people about their dreams (not their wants), a bit of a runway show and a weird 30 seconds of Harry West, CEO of Continuum, playing at drinking water to redesign the Tetra Pak. Serious Play is key to creativity.
My talk goes from 2:17 to 38:00. Then I lead a terrific panel discussion with leading designers from Norway and the US that you shouldn’t miss. Watch for Anna Kirah, of the Oslo-based design and innovation consultancy Making Waves, talking about redesigning the travel experience of people at the Oslo airport.
Amy Smedinghoff was killed yesterday in Afghanistan delivering books to children in their school. She joined the US Foreign Service three years ago right after Johns Hopkins. Her convoy was hit by a suicide bomber. The Foreign Service was “a calling” to her, according to Amy Smedinghoff’s parents in the NYT’s article. I expect that the three US soldiers and other civilian who died with her also believed they had a calling to serve.
Frank Knight, the Chicago School economist said that “the chief thing which the common-sense individual actually wants is not the satisfaction for the wants which he has, but more, and better wants.” In an era of racing to meet our “needs,” of hundreds of transactions and exchanges a day on social media, it would serve us well to stop and think about the power of the “calling.”
A calling is a higher order “want,” more like a dream or aspiration than need. It motivates people across many realms of life. A calling is what motivates teachers, religious leaders, foreign service people and soldiers but it is also the driving force for entrepreneurs in starting up new companies. A calling is a primary economic force that drives growth.
We are called to a mission. It beckons us. It beckoned this wonderful woman.
Very few Social innovation organizations do anything in America. Despite horrendous stats showing many rural areas, urban neighborhoods and Native American reservations having food, housing, education, safety, water, infant mortality and drug problems as bad as many of the worst areas in Africa and Asia, hardly any of the new Social Innovation organizations or the older philanthropic foundations operate on US soil. Project H does, in Bertie County, North Carolina.
Emily has been working there with local people for years and there is a new documentary out showing what is being done. Check it out
Corporations are racing to build up their creative capacities to deal with the cascading changes disrupting all of us today. Creative Intelligence provides strategic advice on how to generate, manage and scale creativity. And it reminds all of us that creativity is the core of economic value and serious profit.
I just learned that the Book 21 in Korea will pick up the translation rights and publish Creative Intelligence. That’s wonderful. Korea has spent tens of billions of dollars making itself more creative and innovative over the past decade. Samsung is poised to make the shift from Fast Follower to Creative Leader in consumer electronics. And Korea is home to the largest alumni of Parsons School of Design. Many of the concepts in the book were developed in my classes at Parsons which are filled with terrific students from Korea. It’s a good day.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook was forced by the Chinese Communist Party to apologize for bad consumer warranty service but the microblogs in China are full of people defending the company—and blaming the government. They are asking why the government is not going after domestic companies who are making…
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook was forced by the Chinese Communist Party to apologize for bad consumer warranty service but the microblogs in China are full of people defending the company–and blaming the government. They are asking why the government is not going after domestic companies who are making fraudulent and sometimes dangerous goods. So what’s going on?
An insightful piece in my favorite business newspaper, the Financial Times, suggested that forces within the government singled Apple out to send a message to other Western companies that they had to “kowtow” and pay tribute to the government and cooperate. The CCTV, the China Central Television station, run by the government has an annual show on March 15, timed for the world consumer rights day, which focusses on foreign companies in China. Foreign companies spend a lot of money on advertising on the show, according to the FT piece, and those that do not are often the target of investigation.
Apple made many mistakes during this warranty crisis in not addressing the issue early and loudly. After it was highlighted on March 15 on the CCTV show (along with Volkswagen), Apple failed to issue a big public apology. VW did. The deeper problem for Apple is not understanding the political culture it is operating in. China is Apple’s second biggest market and could grow to its largest, but not if the company angers the powers in Beijing. Apple has been under criticism for poor labor practices in the factories that make its iPads and iPhones. They are owned and run by Foxconn, a Taiwanese assembly company, but Apple is held responsible. The warranty episode follows several years of suicides at the plants.
There is a certain irony to the Apple incident. More than any single company, it was Apple that taught China how to build and export high-quality electronic goods to the world. Before Apple came on the scene, China was known for poor-quality goods (and still is in many market areas). But the demands of Steve Jobs and Apple for perfection, pushed China to raise the bar on quality-control. No good deed goes unpunished.
On Wednesday, I’m giving a talk about Creative Intelligence at Frog Design in NYC. These are tumultuous times in the Design/Innovation consultancy business and it will be exciting to talk with these great people about Knowledge Mining, Framing, Playing, Making and Pivoting, the key competencies of my book
Frog is one of the largest innovation consultancies in the world. I put its founder, the brilliant Harmut Esslinger on the cover of Business Week when I first began covering design for business. The early Apple design language of clean, white and small was Esslinger’s and Frog’s. Esslinger and Frog have always understood the power of aura and the notion of a calling. In his book, A Fine Line, Esslinger writes that “Every product promotes an identity and a clear idea of the consumer experience it provides as part of the bigger Apple "ecosystem.” When consumers buy a product that has been “Designed in California,” as the Apple label proudly proclaims, they are buying into a way of life. “
Now read that last sentence again and you get the notions of aura, charisma and calling–critical to deeply understanding what is meaningful to people. People join a social movement when they buy into an "ecosystem” that gives them identity and purpose.
I prefer the idea of social movement to ecosystem and UE–User Engagement–to UX, Use Experience. UE reflects the true dynamic participation of people in their products and services these days. Hartmut gets it. So does Frog.
Oh, Hartmut is sitting astride a huge motorcycle on the cover. Ha,
What Are Our "Better Wants?" A Thought to Ponder Today
Frank Knight, the Chicago School economist wrote: “The chief thing which the common sense individual actually wants is not satisfaction for the wants which he has, but more, and better wants.” To him, opportunity to create value–economic and other value–comes from identifying those tacit “better wants” and creating ways to fulfill them.
A post Easter Monday is a good time to think about “better wants” in our lives and the lives of others. Wants are not “needs,” they are aspirations and dreams. They are not something we give to satisfy, like food and water, but something we fulfill, like education and safety. They come from asking about dreams, not requirements.
Understanding “better want” requires us to get deeply into the meaning of culture and how people live it–their rituals and ceremonies. I’ve been signing a lot of books these past weeks and I had no idea how meaningful it is to people to have an author sign a book they are about to read. In the two or three minutes of engagement they have with you, they tell stories, gives complements, shyly suggest names they want on the page and simply have an intimate moment with you. This is a “better want” and I’m happy I can satisfy it.