2015 Projects / #1 – Practice

Right then, the first project of the year, in a bit more detail after the original intro. This post will be much more about questions and hunches than answers and declarations, so YMMV.

You might well remember the Culture Matrix, but if you don’t this is the last iteration of what it got to:

Culture Matrix 1.04


The most important thing to pay attention to here is the axes… People, and Space. Now, in working around the basic idea in the months since, it has occurred that “things” is a much more useful definition, as it’s not just the space in which you work, but the objects you work on.

There was also a more useful way to draw the relationship between the two is to switch the axes around, so that you start bottom left, and aim for top right. If economics taught me anything, it’s basic chart skills…


So what do these axes represent?

Before, they were cribbed from Steward Brand’s work, so represented the faster and slower moving layers of both civilisations and buildings. Now though, I think they’re less about speed, and more about scale and impact.

For instance, perhaps the way that you think about the people axis is that it’s a function of the number of people (n) times the magnitude of the effect you create (m). What does that mean? Well, within a given population (say an organisation), you could run a small piece of work with a few people from the business. It’d score low down on the axis, as even though it would have significant effect, because it’s a small proportion of the population.

You could repeat the same work with small groups often, and that’d get higher up the scale (but might be expensive to do it for everyone). So you establish ways to take output from the work, and turn it into things that might have a bit less impact on a lot more people. How do you best scale ideas for populations, essentially. This could be internal, external, comms, culture change, whatever.

On the things axis, it’s about the impact you’ll have in the work you do – perhaps the level of detail (d) times the number of things you’re making (n).


You can hand sketch some prototype ideas, and that’s right at the bottom of the vertical axis. You can work through the detail a bit more, make some clickable prototypes, versions to share out – increasing the detail gets you so far. But you must start making them in sufficient volume, compare to the total output of the organisation, in order to make the greatest impact.

Both of these axes need more finessing, obviously. But you get the rough idea.

It’s also become apparent that you could simply set a new quadrant across the space, to encapsulate the work we do at Smithery… Strategy, Innovation, Design & Culture things, basically.


Again, something to be pushed, prodded, investigated.

Finally going back to the idea behind the Culture Matrix, you can get a lot more granular about the sorts of work that exist at all these different levels. Taking the same 5×5 format, but tweaked across the new axes, we’ve now a Trello board to refer to with a topic per box on what we think might exist there.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 12.20.39


WBB (Why Bloody Bother?) The aim of this project is to establish a shared language of practice for Smithery. As the work expands in scope, and the studio grows, having a common way to approach complex problems seems mandatory.

WDG (Woolly, Doable Goal) Define the axes properly, identify what Smithery offers in each quadrant, and write something on each of the 25 sub-sections to help orientate different types of work.




2 responses to “2015 Projects / #1 – Practice”

  1. […] a starting point, we’ll look to play with the practice, to use the axes as defined in the last post as a starting idea, where a series of chance […]

  2. […] thought I’d explore it a little on here, partly as it’s part of the first of the Smithery 2015 projects, but also partly as a prompt to tease out any go-to thinking tools you lot might have, or indeed […]