I did a wee talk at the fabulous IAM 2016 conference in Barcelona. In it’s second year, and conceived and run by Andres & Lucy of Wabisabi Lab, it’s the kind of weird experimental conference that London was great at a few years back, but seems less so, now, I think? Something something gentrification something something.
(actually, maybe that’s another blog post for another day – the lack of joy in NeuLondon, in all forms of work and play)
I spoke about Metamechanics, and working out how the internet works. Or, indeed, not, because that isn’t the point.
There will be a video some time soon I believe, and at the time, I did a simultaneous Periscope of it (but ‘you had to be there’ as they say, given how Periscope streams expire after 24 hours or something…)
….but until then here are the slides, and two pics Scott sent me afterwards where it looks like I’m showing people who big the internet a) was and b) is now.
I know, that’s a rock and roll blog post title, eh?
A short video, explaining something that Chris, Mark and I worked on a while ago for a client, but that came back round again today when someone asked ‘any thoughts on setting up intranets?’. Rather than a long blog post, or a detailed email, I made a scratchy video…
…using the webcam/lamp stand thing I hacked together a while ago.
I’m thrilled and honoured to be talking at dConstruct this year. It’s one of the highlights of the year for me, and so many friends, that to be asked to speak there is… well, it’s a complex emotional melting pot, let’s say. It’s on Friday 11th September, and you can see all the details here.
The theme this year is Designing the Future. My talk is still in early prototype stage, of course. But you still have to have a rough idea what it might be, so it can go on websites and that. So here’s where I am at the moment… it’s gone pretty hard into using Interstellar as the main metaphor for how I think we need to address the theme… all thoughts on the film welcome in the comments section underneath….
METADESIGN FOR MURPH
Cooper: “I thought they chose me. But they didn’t choose me, they chose her!” TARS: “For what, Cooper?” Cooper: “To save the world!”
If we’re going to talk about designing the future, let’s understand two things – who is doing the designing, and who is this future for, anyway?
Much of our cultural upbringing, from the pages of comics, to the Hollywood studios, repeatedly told us that we could step up and be the heroes. We’re programmed to feel that we’re the ones who will make the difference.
It’s time to look further than the end of our own egos, because there are problems coming we can’t find answers to, because we’re products of the system that created them.
Instead, whether we’re designers or clients, peers or parents, we must switch our attention to Metadesign; “nurturing the emergence of the previously unthinkable” in those around us, and those who will come after us.
It’s about ideas and environments, books and blocks, objects and systems, all examined through the contents and context of the most intriguing bedroom in sci-fi.
Right now, I’m holed up in a lovely little AirBnB in Gràcia in Barcelona, a self-proclaimed ‘writers apartment’, which to be honest does live up to its claim. It’s a perfect spot for sitting and working on a few things, as the sounds of the streets bubble up through the wide bay windows, whilst hidden at the back of the flat is an oasis of air-conditioning in which to sleep.
I’m not here just to hang out, though.
Scott Smith invited me over to teach on the Innovation and Future Thinking summer course that he runs here at the IED. Thirty-one students are coming to learn about how to spot things in the world, and use them to start building up versions of the future from the fragments of the present.
Barcelona as a city is a perfect environment to do this; complex different types of economy and social behaviour, combined with an independent streak a mile wide, means that the city just tries to talk to you at every turn.
To make the most of this, we’re giving each of the students an Artefact Field Kit, which they can prowl the streets spotting and collecting the clues about what might happen in the future.
Then we’ll be teaching them how to use these clues together in exploratory mapping using the cards, and recombine them in speculative acts of creation. As Scott put it last night when we were prepping, it means we could run this course sitting on the pavement somewhere, in the event of a sudden and seismic collapse in the infrastructure that takes the power grid down… I’m hoping it won’t come to that though.
We’ll try to post as much as we can up from the course, and share it on twitter using the #IEDFutures hashtag.
More as we have it, as they say…
PS Thanks to the guys at Flamingo in London for doing some game testing last week as part of the preparation for today
Yep, of course it is. And no, I’m not just trolling maths geeks.
Last week I delivered an updated version of my new talk for this year on the Google Squared talent accelerator programme. The train of thought is still called “Fanfare For The Common Brand”, but the lead principle is now that Many > One.
Have a read of it here, and thanks to Brad Berens and David Wilding for their invaluable input on version 1. And as always, all thoughts welcome…
One sentence in Matt’s piece made me sit up though… “You’re a loyal Tide customer, but you’ve run out“…
Loyalty does seem to be the presumption in the launch campaign for Dash; that people have a firm favourite (not even just a fixed repertoire) amongst the countless toilet rolls, washing up liquids, soaps and cereals they stock their homes with.
Loyalty. A big word, with an ironically fickle fan base.
What I perceive to be the general wind direction in the realms of best brand practice is that ‘loyalty’ might just be a largely fictitious beast, especially in the realms of FMCG.
A quick blast through the main points of Byron Sharp’s excellent How Brands Grow will give you an idea of why…
And there’s a longer list of other brilliant viewpoints on it (read Martin Weigel on it, perhaps, over here).
Yet the launch of Amazon Dash seems predicated on the existence of brand loyalty.
So here’s an open question:
How many brands are you certain enough about to stick a button to your wall for? Think about the last shopping basket you filled, or Ocado order you received. What in there is a permanent fixture? What will you always buy to the exclusion of anything else?
What brand would you nail to a wall with the same conviction that you’d put up a picture in your house?
Dash makes a lot of sense from Amazon’s point of view, clearly. Whooo, go supply-chain monopoly!
And it may even make sense to FMCG marketers who believe they have a hard-core of “brand loyalists” out there, somewhere, who’ll choose their Dash button over a rivals.
(There’s actually a whole other conversation to have on whether you need an Ariel button by the washing machine, or a P&G button, but that’s for another day).
But with what the evidence and understanding of how it seems now that brands have worked, that doesn’t seem like the Amazon Dash idea of ‘loyalty’ is all they make it out to be.
It does give rise to an interesting set of questions though.
If we suppose for a minute that brand loyalty isn’t a thing, could we also argue that it’s because the infrastructure hasn’t existed to make it a thing.
After all, building loyalty in supermarket aisles by running TV ads and putting up posters is doomed to failure becuase of all the stoopid consumers who always forget what craft and joy you put into your ad, right?
Loyalty would probably be a brilliant strategy if everyone used shopping algorithms.
However, is it possible that things like Amazon Dash will create a world where brand loyalty actually means something, because the infrastructure connecting people to needs is so different?
Or, alternatively, are we going to see a short-term future in which people stick three Dash buttons on the washing machine, and use the website to check prices on the cheapest before pressing?
Oh, and those brand stickers – they’re crying out to be screens in two years time. Which could mean adverts, and competition for space, and doom for FMCG brands.
I finished and presented the “Fanfare for the Common Brand” presentation yesterday, about 150 yards out from the train station. I presented it 45 minutes later. Afterwards, Fraser and I talked about it, what needed to build on, what more should be in there. More examples, suggested Fraser, wisely.
Brad similarly challenged me this morning… “the one question I have — and I suspect that you talk about it in the narration — is how companies can do what you want them to do with their products, brands and their customers at scale?”. It echoed something the audience yesterday at Squared asked to… “but, how…?”. And Peter on Twitter asked similar.
So, with that in mind, and without taking an age, here’s a brain dump on how you can start being a Common Brand, using the three working principles from the end of the presentation:
– Invite three customers in once a week for lunch with your team – Find the earliest customer you can, talk to them about why they believed in you then – Find three simple questions about your thing – ask them to everyone – Hang out where customers hang out, just watch people using your thing – Make everyone in the company meet a customer once a month. Minimum. – Solve tricky customer questions face to face. Go and see them. Understand what went wrong.
– Write the story of your thing, as reflection. Share with the team. Then make it public. – Show things early. Make pictures of your process public. – If you can’t do that in your publics comms stream, make up another one. – Be interested in other people working in similar space. Say hello. Be nice. – Show your working. Some people are interested in how you got there. – Show your mistakes. Some people are interested in how you got there too.
Make It Together
– Watch people using your thing. Hands tell more stories than mouths. – Don’t show them ‘how’. They didn’t use it wrong, you made it wrong. – Bring people together to play with your things. Ask them to improve them. Record it publicly. – Give credit where credit’s due. More people will come and play. – Let people steer your choices, not your existing processes. – Prototype the thing that people say “well, you probably wouldn’t do that…” about.
*Bear in mind, this is a first version of a list written in 20 minutes. I don’t think it’s particularly new or ground-breaking stuff in terms of suggestions, but if you’re asking the question you may not be doing any of it.
**Some people asked yesterday “have you got any examples of people doing it well?“. Which sometimes annoys me as a question, because it means organisations are making people too afraid to try anything without a precedent. Well, there are loads of easy, quick stuff on the list above that you can try really quickly. Pick one, and do it. Then the example of someone doing this stuff is you.
***Here’s the full presentation again, if you want a flick through and the chance to discover the answer to what the true weight of the internet is… (it’s not what you expect…)
I’m fresh out of presenting the below for the first time at the latest intake of Squared. For the last two years, I’ve presented various iterations of ‘Are Brands Fracking The Social Web?’, but over the last month or so, I realised that there’s something in the water around the relationship between the brand idea, the execution of it in practice, and what’s happening to the social web.
Over the past few days, after John first introduced the topic to me last week, I have been looking in to Froebel’s Gifts. For those of you who are unaware of Froebel’s gifts, they are a series of playthings for kids that are widely considered to be the world’s first educational toys.
The gifts, created by Friedrich Froebel, were introduced in 1838 at a similar time to when Froebel coined the term and opened the first Kindergarten. They appear deceptively simple but represent a sophisticated approach to child development. The six original gifts were accompanied by a series of “Occupations” such as sewing, gardening, singing and the modelling with clay, which were designed to help children mimic their experiences through play.
The idea of these gifts and occupations did spark a thought with us over here at Smithery. What would Froebel’s gifts be if you were designing them today, to help people grasp the idea of the Internet? Can you easily translate the physical lessons from 1838 over to the digital age? This translation is something I have struggled with in the past, as my brain works towards predominantly physical solutions for things.
Some of the lessons Froebel was trying to introduce included:
i) The idea of learning through “focused play”
ii) Seeing the interconnectedness of all creation.
iii) The importance of knowing how information fits together, rather than memorising facts themselves.
The last two lessons really stand out to really lending themselves to understanding the internet. Obviously the world is becoming more and more interconnected, and more recently the emergence of the Internet of Things will accelerate this. But also I like the idea of helping people develop a powerful skill; to be able to use the internet well without needing to be an expert in any of its particular disciplines. A way of closing the gap between amateurs and experts perhaps, or at the very least create common ground for dialogue between the two.
So we’re setting ourselves a task; what would Froebel’s gifts and occupations be for a digital world? We’ll have a little play around, with the Artefact Cards which exist already, and some other ideas we’ve been playing with.
We have some starter questions that need answered; if you can think of any more helpful ones, please do drop them into the comments below.
What would the internet look and feel like in your hands?
What would Froebel’s occupations be to enhance education for the internet age?
What’s the metaphor or analogy that helps you understand what the internet is?
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