3.01 – Thesis Introduction

I always said I’d decide what to do with Smithery after three years. It seemed like a simultaneously short and long period of time in which to make decisions. Long enough to not worry about it on a day to day basis. Short enough to realise I had to do something about it at some point.

When people asked me ‘what’s the plan?”, I’d just defer them to that fixed moment in time. August, 2014. Which is here. That was fast.

The decision I said that I’d make then is whether to a) fold Smithery b) keep it as it is c) scale it. So then is now, and now it’s decision time.

Spoiler – the answer is not a).

I’ve been thinking about it a lot this year, and stringing together the way that the work I’ve done over the three years has evolved, stretched into new spaces with new collaborations with different people.

It’s always the people, isn’t it? Always the people you work with, talk to, bump into that give you new direction and impetus. The more people you talk to from different spheres, the more you’re likely to see a bigger picture at a higher resolution. And it was two such chats with friends this year have given me what I believe this inflection point in the Smithery journey demands; a new thesis.

[NB I say “thesis” because I mean “a lot of structured writing”. The previous one I wrote, The Communis Manifesto, was six years ago now for the IPA Excellence Diploma. It just feels that I have to think that hard and that much about this new space in which I find myself. This time though, it’s not one massive missive, a 7000 word beast that can only be condumed in one chunk. What’s more useful, to me and to you I hope, is short, sharp, daily blog posts in finding the edges of the thing I think I’ve found, and then tipping over into the spaces where it reads HERE BE DRAGONS…]

Anyway, I mentioned two conversations with two friends, didn’t I?

The first one was with Rob Poynton, and we were talking about TIME. Rob mentioned a book by Stewart Brand – The Clock of The Long Now. (TCOTLN) The second one was with Alex Fleetwood, who mentioned a concept from a book called How Buildings Learn (HBL)… which, it turns out, is also by Stewart Brand.

Both events happened in the same month, yet it’s not like these are new books; HBL was published in 1994; TCOTLN was 1999. Far apart, but then again in context, not that far apart. Fifteen and twenty years old, respectively.

There are many interesting things about each book, and about Stewart Brand too, but this thesis won’t delve too deeply into each. You’ve got the internet, you can buy books, consider these your first rabbit holes to chase down.

Instead, what I’ve found really interesting is one particular explanatory device which Brand uses in each of the two books. It appears in his thinking about civilisations in TCOTLN, and when thinking about buildings in HBL. These two tracts are linked by the device, but remain separate, divided by the books in which they live.

Yet because I came to both in such close proximity, it’s the thing that really leapt out at me. When you bring the two ideas together, and map it on to groups of people (specifically organisations) you start to see how everything (yep, pretty much EVERYTHING) comes down to relationship between PEOPLE & SPACE.

Through a series of thirty-one daily posts through August, I’m going to explore this in the detail it probably demands. If I look at the planning spreadsheet for it today, it’s about Culture Bridges, Materials and Actions, Moveables & Immoveables, Play Bombs, Living in the Websites, and stuff like that. It is at the moment, at any rate. Things change, context is everything. I’ll also link the ideas back to some examples of Smithery work, and other examples I know about or find.

The Smithery ethos is, of course, MAKING THINGS PEOPLE WANT > MAKING PEOPLE WANT THINGS. This will hopefully help us all find more ways to do that.

You can subscribe to the mailing list here, and get each post as an email every day if you wish. It also means that, in the words of Dan Hon, you can SEND NOTES.

Finally, I’d like to give everyone something to do at the end of each post. A short, simple thing that might open up some interesting questions for you. These will be more specific as we go on, but for the first one, try this:


NOW READ – 3.02 – How Buildings Learn


10 responses to “3.01 – Thesis Introduction”

  1. […] John V. Willshire is just about to start the Smithery List, explained here  which, if you like the advertising/brand/marketing stuff that I write about, ought to be up your […]

  2. […] say those first three posts were the pre-credits set-up in the LEGO movie where Lord Business steals the Kragle […]

  3. speaking of the connections – did I tell you about this? http://www.seenapse.it/

  4. Looking forward to reading the thesis as it opens out over coming days and weeks. That aside, my personal congratulations for Smithery’s 3rd anniversary.

  5. […] two friends to reach recommend a book you should read. Find the connection between the two of […]

  6. […] I recommend reading John V. Willshire’s current thesis on what he’s learned in three years of running his product and marketing innovation studio, Smithery. Start here > […]

  7. […] wonder if I’d seen them before Rob and Alex separately told me about both this […]

  8. […] how I began the first post of this project way back on 1st August. The point was to pull together a new thesis around what Make Things People Want > Make People […]

  9. […] from last year’s thesis work, which was all about People & Space, “things” has now replaced “space” as a more useful […]