Thought You Should See This, April 13th, 2012

This week’s Thought You Should See This blog update for my pals at Doblin:

Liked this interesting story on Unilever’s list of innovation “wants.” These range from super serious, world-challenging issues (“safe drinking water”) to rather less dramatic problems that are clearly important for Unilever (“amazing toothpaste”) but represent what will likely be a common use of open innovation tactics to solve problems.

Also loved the new, world-record-winning Rube Goldberg machine (video above.) Incredible design and nerdily adorable.

Facebook bought photo-sharing app, Instagram, for a billion dollars. Or, as NYT reporter Jenna Wortham put it: “Instagram, an Internet start-up in San Francisco, has no revenue and about a dozen employees. It has not yet celebrated its second birthday. But to Facebook, it is already worth a billion dollars.” 

Meanwhile, writer and technologist Paul Ford weighed in on Facebook’s approach to design: “In terms of user experience, Facebook is like an NYPD police van crashing into an IKEA, forever.”

Overlooking the fact that the Peter Thiel teaching at Stanford is the same Peter Thiel who paid 20 kids $100,000 to drop out of college and start a business, PayPal co-founder Thiel’s computer science course has started, and student Blake Masters took detailed notes. Some great quotes here, including a fun paraphrase of Tolstoy: “all successful companies are different; they figured out the 0 to 1 problem in different ways. But all failed companies are the same; they botched the 0 to 1 problem.”

Piers Fawkes at PSFK asked me to opine on what constitutes good service these days. Given that I loathe shopping, this was rather harder than it should have been, but an interesting exercise all the same.

And finally, a good video of Tal Golesworthy describing how he dealt with Marfan Syndrome, a heart condition affecting the ascending aorta. Disinterested in the traditional treatment, which requires long surgery, the installation of a plastic valve, and a lifetime of anti-coagulation therapy and antibiotics, Golesworthy decided to treat himself as a “planning problem” and set out to change the entire treatment. He did it, too.

Thought You Should See This, April 6th, 2012

This week’s Thought You Should See This update, the innovation/design-themed blog I write:

The Wired UK profile of LinkedIn CEO, Reid Hoffman is a super interesting read, and strikes me as a classic case in which smart design could make a real difference and fast.

The Economist came out with a good story monitoring the ongoing trend of “reverse” innovation, with some new examples to freshen up those that have perhaps done the rounds a little too long.

When The Jobs Inspector Calls looks at supply chain issues for large multinational companies making the bulk of their products in developing markets such as China or south-east Asia. Focused mainly on, surprise surprise, Apple, the piece also looks at practices by the likes of Nike, and does a good job of illustrating the complexity of the issue.

In an excellent piece, Google Ventures partner, Braden Kowitz, outlines his process for managing the complexity inherent in interaction design projects, and describes how he has moved away from a screen-based approach to one that focuses on narrative and storytelling.

Why China Lags on Innovation and Creativity is an interesting take from Richard Florida on why, despite its tremendous advances as a global economic power, it will take China at least 20 years before it becomes an innovation powerhouse.

Google CEO, Larry Page sounds off about innovation and patent-trolling in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. Doesn’t really share too much you didn’t already know, though I confess I enjoyed reading his barely veiled digs at competitors such Facebook, of which he says: “Our friends at Facebook have imported many, many, many Gmail addresses and exported zero addresses. And they claim that users don’t own that data, which is a totally specious claim. It’s completely unreasonable.” Our friends, my foot.

Apropos of really nothing, there’s a magical Q&A with Pedro Guerrero in Architect magazine. The 95 year old was the longtime photographer of the work and life of both Frank Lloyd Wright and Alexander Calder, and his stories are tender, wry and insightful.

Google launches its Project Glass concept, and everyone gets suitably frothy. I particularly liked this re-edited “Ad-mented” version of the video (top), which includes that oh-so crucial feature so many of these concept films seem to forget… the revenue stream.

Thought You Should See This, March 30th, 2012

This week on Thought You Should See This:

Erik Kiaer’s essay “It’s the Experience, Stupid!” is featured in a new book, Innopreneur. Don’t let the title put you off: the book includes essays from a host of deep thinkers, and is well worth a look.

Michael Kimmelman visits a housing project in Sevran, a Paris suburb, to see how architects have retrofitted the former eyesore into “an exemplary landmark.”

Google celebrated the 126th birthday of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with a tribute on its home page featuring Crown Hall, a building he designed at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Guardian writer, Steve Rose takes a spin through the history books to ask a simple question: what would Mies have had to say about today’s design landscape?

A new exhibition of British postwar design on show at the V&A museum in London asks a provocative question: “How did we get from a broadly civic, welfare-minded postwar design culture to 21st century design industries whose essential purpose is to make as much money as possible?”

Google’s Big Data group co-lead, Martin Wattenberg, released a beautiful interactive visualization of the wind flow around the United States, based on wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database. (Screenshot shown, top.)

A clever interactive infographic created by Kiln for The Guardian allows readers to get a clear sense of global carbon emissions.

Great video on Fast Company Exist shows the inexorable, decades-long sprawl of Las Vegas via timelapse footage, compiled from NASA’s Landsat satellites.

Help Remedies has teamed up with the bone marrow donor center, DKMS, to provide donor registry kits inside of packs of band aids. It created a remarkably strange video as promotion. (Thanks to Jaci Pearse for the heads up!)

The Financial Times converted Grand Central Station into a branded interactive installation, and opened the “Graphic World” site to dig beneath the data.

Samsung created a promotional film in which they mapped projections onto a human face. Super slick.

In Gold We Trust: The Future of Money in an Age of Uncertainty is a new book from The Economist. This promo video poses the thought-provoking question: “Are we on the verge of a revolution in the technology we call money?”

And finally, I seem to have got into what can only be described as a heated debate. Last weekend, I gave a keynote speech at the Information Architecture Summit in New Orleans. Asked to put the field into some perspective, I caused a bit of a ruckus by suggesting that the linguistic disconnect between IA and the business world is a serious problem that benefits neither. This week, I got into a similar discussion online, with designer Jon Kolko, this time sparked by a Michael Bierut-penned piece arguing that cultural illiteracy among designers is profoundly troubling. Fun–and thought-provoking.

Thought You Should See This, March 23rd, 2012

This week I moderated a webinar about Embracing Complexity, filmed in Cambridge and starring our own Geoff Tuff, Brian Quinn and Amelia Dunlop. You have to sign up to see the whole thing, which I realize is a bore, but it’s here if you’re so inclined.

Also this week on my innovation/design-themed blog, Thought You Should See This:

The world was set on fire by the revelation that raconteur Mike Daisey had, well, fabricated some of the facts in his Apple/Foxconn piece that caused such a stir. This American Life devoted a program to a retraction of its hour-long show featuring Daisey’s allegations; the resulting chaos sparked much analysis of the very definition of truth. Which in itself seems like a pretty sorry state of affairs.

65% of all revenue generated in the App Store–roughly $2 billion–has come from free games that charge for extra goods. The Times has an analysis of “freemium.”

Microsoft Research analyst, Danah Boyd writes thoughtfully of the conviction of Dharun Ravi for hate crimes.

Props to GBN’s Andrew Blau for flagging this sweet video filmed from a dog’s-eye-view.

Erik Van Crimmin flagged this excellent post by Bryce Roberts: The Problem With Innovation. A must-read.

Amelia Dunlop flagged this story highlighting how General Motors is trying to get hip to young drivers — by hiring MTV’s in-house brand consultancy.

And finally, this short presentation by Rachel Botsman shows off some interesting examples of companies adhering to the philosophy of “collaborative consumption.”

Thought You Should See This, March 16th, 2012

Main excitement of the week was the refresh of Doblin‘s own website. But Larry Keeley also stepped up with a lovely piece featuring his ideas for reinventing participative democracy.

Also this week on Thought You Should See This:

A good, short interview with Apple’s head design honcho, Sir Jonathan Ive, reveals his thoughtful analysis the design process.

Commentary on a video by Invisible Children that has earned critics and over 75 million views on YouTube. Other commentary on a wheeze at South by Southwest involving using homeless people as wifi hotspots. All in a piece entitled Good Intentions and Unintended Consequences.

Greg Smith set off a bomb as he quits Goldman Sachs: “It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.”

James Whittaker explains why he quit Google for Microsoft: “The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.”

IBM announced the “Holey Optochip” (top), the first parallel optical transceiver to transfer one trillion bits–one terabit–of information per second.

Thought You Should See This, March 9th, 2012

This is a lovely presentation by Good Think CEO, Shawn Achor, on ways for us all to be happier in our lives and our work.

This week’s Thought You Should See This update:

Bentley unveiled its EXP 9F concept SUV at the Geneva Auto Show. Its attention to detail is phenomenal, but a car company releasing an upscale cross between a “business limousine” and “utility lifestyle vehicle”? Something doesn’t sit right.

Writer Janet Ginsburg pushed back at recent TED speaker (and X Prize head) Peter Diamandis. His latest shtick is focused on abundance and positivity. “Abundance for whom?” Ginsburg asked.

Those who’ve ever worried about an employer seeing something unsavory on Facebook have more reason to be worried, as government agencies and colleges are now simply asking applicants for their social network passwords. First Amendment rights, anyone?

Great Wall Street Journal story on General Electric’s new management philosophy: Go Deep, Not Wide.

Short video in which Clay Christensen breaks down his definition of disruptive innovation, a term that people love to bandy about but rarely seem to understand deeply.

We all need to read and understand this: the 118 page report, The Global Innovation Policy Index, just published by the IT and Innovation Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation.

Mercedes decided to promote its new fuel cell vehicle by making the car invisible. Cool video.

Thought You Should See This, February 24th, 2012

This week’s updates on my innovation/design-themed blog, Thought You Should See This:

Google introduced the concept of “heads-up display glasses” and people, predictably, freaked out. I was most taken with the apparent wide admission that there’s no business model for any of this. Yes, being too rigid too early is no way to innovate, and yes, flexibility and iteration are important, but given Google’s previous poor track record of figuring out how to monetize its inventions, it seems both predictable and somewhat unwise.

An Observer reporter who should know better wrote an uninformed rant about how designers are ruining the web. I responded.

As interest in Pinterest reaches the mass media, my colleague Erik Van Crimmin flagged an interesting piece on Fancy, an upscale competitor.

Graphic loveliness and design nerdery, for those into that kind of thing: designer Mike Joyce mixes his two loves — of punk rock and Swiss type — to create Swissted, a series of amazing posters.

Timely reminder of a great Bertrand Russell quote: “The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.” The piece it was included in, a look at open innovation initiatives in government, is well worth a read too.

Another colleague, Peter Giorgio flagged this story about photographer Dennis Manarchy, who’s traveling around the U.S. with a 12 foot tall, 35 foot long, 8 foot wide camera. Craziness.

And finally, Doblin’s Audrey Clarke sent over this story about promoting space in which to think creatively. Apparently, *literally* thinking outside of a box can help. Bizarre, but also kind of great. (“Super Cool” cardboard box image, shown top, c/o Tuppus on Flickr.)

Thought You Should See This, February 17th, 2012

This week’s posts on Thought You Should See This, the innovation/design-themed blog I write, mainly for my colleagues at Doblin:

I had a piece published in Fast Company, sparked by the Interaction Awards, which I judged last year. My favorite quote came from the program’s co-chair, Jennifer Bove, who explained the importance of her discipline thusly: “Behavior isn’t explicit in computer chips; interaction designers are the people who understand how to make things work.” In the piece, I outlined four interaction design trends we’ll likely see more of in the near future, while there’s a bunch of interesting videos to watch, too.

The Boneyard Project is an *amazing* sounding show currently on at the PIMA Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona, featuring World War II airplane wrecks customized by various street artists. (Eric White’s nosecone shown above. See the post for his equally wonderful insight into the creative process.)

Nike has made a commitment to remove water from its apparel dying process. This is a huge deal, while the Nike VP in charge of the program also gave insight into the internal challenge of trying to change the status quo.

Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” sculpture in Chicago gets a temporary night-time makeover with a new digital installation.

McDonald’s promises to make its pork suppliers provide plans to phase out pig gestation crates by May. Yes, that wording is a little hinky.

By now, everyone has surely read and dissected Jonah Lehrer’s New Yorker piece on brainstorming and ways to promote creative thinking, Groupthink. So I won’t add much but to say it’s a must-read for anyone charged with working on big thorny problems or how to manage collaborative creativity.

Finally, a wonderful story detailing Stanley Kubrick’s obsessive approach to film-making, which the director believed was “an exercise in problem-solving”. This article explains how his focus actually led to the development of Variety magazine’s box-office reports.

Thought You Should See This, February 10th, 2012

Mixed bag last week on Thought You Should See This, the innovation/design-flavored blog I write. It featured everything from cute ads to terrifying robots to the wonderful interactive piece, above, created by Greek multimedia artist, Petros Vrellis as an homage to Vincent van Gogh painting “Starry Night.”

Also last week on Thought You Should See This:

The Digital Trends headline summed up this video perfectly: Swarm of Little Flying Robots Is Amazing (Terrifying).

Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, Amy Astley shared some management advice for dealing with creative types. I used this as an excuse to bemoan the continued lack of accepted metrics for design (as seen in the Catalyst Awards, which I just judged.)

The Superbowl happened, and along with it its ads. I loved the M&M’s ad, while I also loved some of the response to Clint Eastwood’s growly Chevy spot, summed up by one writer as: “The world is a frightening place, so do your duty, buy a car. Someone get me a lozenge.”

New York Times architecture critic, Michael Kimmelman wrote plainly, “It’s time to address the calamity that is Penn Station.” Anyone who has ever experienced Penn Station at any time of the day or night, ever, stood up and cheered.

Big week for crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, which saw two million dollar projects take place. I caught one, for an independent video game, when it was at the $650k mark, and mused about what this means for the “traditional” economy

Former I.D. magazine editor, Ralph Caplan had some pithy things to say about editing and filtering, the difference — and their respective importance.

Thought You Should See This, February 3rd, 2012

This week’s Thought You Should See This update, for my friends at Doblin:

For all that it’s been picked apart by the vultures of the world’s press, Facebook filing its S-1 pre-IPO surely has to take top billing this week. The document itself is well worth a read, for its insight into the goings on at the social networking giant. Meanwhile, there’s something about its internal terminology — “DAU”s and “MAU”s (for “daily active users” and “monthly active users”) that’s strangely disconcerting and, well, unsocial. (Image above shown c/o Facebook designer, Everett Katigbak, about whom I’ve written before.)

There’s a significant, noteworthy gap between the way lawmakers think and the way chief executives approach their business, according to New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman.

The NYT’s David Carr looked at the success of the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, which helped finance 17 films on view at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival—a whopping ten percent of the festival’s entire slate.

Forbes writer David Whelan outlined a proposal to deal with the problematic disconnect between prescriber (doctor/professor) and supplier (textbook publisher/pharmaceutical manufacturer.) 

Michael Pusateri explained why he won’t be attending South by Southwest Interactive festival this year, and he neatly and usefully breaks down how to think about conferences.

Karrie Jacobs wrote a profile of SOL Austin, “an ambitious attempt to upend the conventions of the American subdivision”–mainly through the use of sustainable architecture and design.

An interview with GM China president and managing director, Kevin Wale, led to his assertion that “the Chinese have an innovative way of doing innovation, something that the rest of the world is struggling to understand”–and quite a lot of backlash.

Gaming writer and critic, Ian Bogost decried the surge in interest in “gamification” while I decried the use of made-up words in so many parts of our lives.

Valentine’s Day is coming, and if you’re stuck for something to get your significant other, you could do worse than emulate this guy, who made a heart-meltingly sweet gift for his wife and filmed the process as an ad for his employer, Field Notes.

Rather less schmaltzy, but nonetheless totally fascinating: a 50 minute video interview with leading neuroscientist, David Eagleman. Insights galore, and well worth taking the time to watch.