MEREDITH Strategy + Design

We design the places and spaces where people come together to do great work

Filtering by Tag: serendipity

Linknotes, July 16, 2010

Some of the things that we found of interest this week –

Nice concept – "Take a Closer Listen – 72 pages of sound" – verbal descriptions of favorite sounds in a self-published book, as reviewed at BLDGBLOG

David Brooks on the personalities of business – "princes" and "grinds" – and the importance of supporting "the country’s loners, its contrarians and its narrow, ambitious outsiders" to spark and sustain the economy

Four points of view about which problems to solve that may influence strategies and actions in innovation – strategic problems, design problems, marketing or launch problems, and consistent business processes

Serendipity and discovery – A new theory of "gravity" generated after a theft of a laptop caused a change in plans. “It’s interesting,” Herman said, “how having to change plans can lead to different thoughts.”

Some considerations on skewed values between thinking about design and actually doing stuff

And the continuing debate (and here, and here) on "do-gooder design and imperialism"

Detroit seems to have become a focus for Design Observer. As we noted earlier, two posts there this week explored the issues and opportunities in the city. I especially liked Dan Pitera's slideshow and essay, Detroit: Syncopating an Urban Landscape. Dan's essay made reference to the Steel Winds project in Lakawanna. Somewhat connected, there is also this article in the New York Times this week on the aspiring imitators of the enormously successful High Line development in Manhattan.

Separately, but related, the Harvard Business blogs reflected on the importance of cause marketing and used as an example the  surprising success with the "I'm in" campaign for the Detroit Public Schools

(For some amusement, things are a bit strange further north)

And, some self-reflective links –

A thought about how "master planning" seems so out of date

Considerations about design RFP's and their inadequacy as expressions of the real problem to solve

My own thoughts on the self-destructive threat in closed environments, or, more appropriately the delights and benefits of openness that yield differential success (below), and we appreciated this extension of the conversation

A decision-making rubric |

Going with the flow

In a couple of recent discussions on LinkedIn about the evolution of the workplace, I could sense the signals of a reluctance, or fear, in the justifications for resistance to a more open, agile workplace. Much of it comes from paradigms around the term "mobile" implying a necessity to give up the company workplace. Other resistance is more superficial, having to do with the old conventions of why someone just has to have an "office."

I always find in these discussions a tendency to go to form rather than activity, avoiding the opportunities to explore the personal benefits of the emerging workplace concepts.

A day later these citations showed up in a couple of posts by Diego Rodriguez of IDEO on his excellent Metacool blog. He wrote about the considerations of both Joichi Ito (CEO of Creative Commons) and John Lilly (CEO of Mozilla). Each, in their own posts reflected on the power and opportunity in chance encounters.

A couple of direct quotes from each –

Joi Ito – Focusing on everything

Referring to some of the things he's learning from Hagel and Brown's book, The Power of Pull, he says "…you should set a general trajectory of where you want to go, but that you must embrace serendipity and allow your network to provide the resources necessary to turn any random events into a highly valuable one and that developing that network comes from sharing and connecting by helping others solve their problems and build things."

He then is reminded of Edward Hall's definition of polychronic time vs monochronic time (p-time vs m-time), and says – "In m-time, we delineate time and space into meetings and cubicles allowing organizations and institutions to scale massively. p-time is like a Arab majlis where everyone is invited at the same time and they all mill around in the waiting room of the sheikh while the sheikh has a series of meetings in the open inviting people into the meeting like a long flow of consciousness. P-time lacks scalability and order, but it is rich in context and serendipity. At some level, if you plan everything, you are very unlikely to be able to embrace serendipity or be as 'lucky'."

And he concludes – "I feel like I am floating in a rich network of highly charged people and serendipitous events, not a single day going by where I don't feel like 'Yay! I just did something really good!'"

He does, however, also reflect on a matter of context – "I find that this P-time method allows me to have a much richer high context thought process involving more people. The problem is, it's hard to then get anything structured done."

John Lilly – Adventures of the mind

John first reflects on his youth when, falling asleep in a lecture, he misses what was perhaps the very first demonstration of the World Wide Web. Talking about turning points in life and the things that influence them, he says – "A bunch of decisions that I thought were really important turned out to be not important at all, and some things I decided to do just for fun changed everything."

He reflects on this and offers that – "you never know when a decision you make is going to have a profound effect in your life. At least, I’ve never been able to tell. So my coping strategy — what I do to make everything work for me — is try to put myself into situations where there are tons of great choices, tons of great people, tons of great outcomes possible — so that it makes the odds that I make some really important & good choices that much better."

Why this matters

These are the illustrations (even more illustrations!) of the benefits and achievements that come from more open approaches to the contexts in which work is done. Yes, Ito will need to find a way to shut out some stuff when he wants to concentrate and focus, but I assume that neither he nor Lilly would be proponents of conventional office space.

As Hagle and Brown point out in their book, this time that we are in is no longer about stacks of information but about flows, and to be successful you have to get into the stream.