Thought You Should See This, June 8th, 2012

Here’s this week’s update on Thought You Should See This, the innovation/design-related blog I write:

If you read one thing this week, make sure it’s Paul Ford’s gorgeous speech to the graduates of the MFA Interaction Design at SVA. A stunningly lyrical take on the impact these designers will have on the world, it’s thought-provoking, inspiring and beautifully, beautifully written.

GBN’s co-founder Peter Schwartz turned up in the New York Times’ innovation special, sharing his view that in 50 years we’ll be able to drive cars with our minds. The rest of the piece, 32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow, is also worth checking out.

MBA Jargon Watch satirizes management and consulting jargon. It’s painfully funny. Read and beware.

British public artists Greyworld sounded off about being asked to come into a big company to “inspire” — without being compensated for their time or thinking. This has been an all-too common practice for years, determining a rethink of the phrase “quid pro quo.”

“We now spend twice as much on beer as the government spends on research.” How depressing is that?

Honda’s Fit EV is the most efficient new car in the United States, and has caused some environment writers to get giddy with excitement. Wrote one: “This could be the Model-T of the electric age.” Right then! *Image shown c/o Honda.

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Thought You Should See This, June 1st, 2012

This week’s update from the innovation/design-themed blog I write. Pretty flimsy this week (short week and I’m just back from England and walloped by jetlag. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.)

Above is a great TED talk by Sebastian Deterding, who discusses the morality and ethical choices embedded in every design decision. Definitely worth taking the 12 minutes to watch.

Design collective Pentagram turned 40
, and created a geniusly clever video featuring much of their work to celebrate. 

Security technologist Bruce Schneier has a new book out. In Liars & Outliers, he takes on the all-important topic of trust, in all its many manifestations. I can safely say his is the most entertaining opening to a non-fiction book I’ve read in forever. 

Who says finance can’t be funny? This animation by political cartoonist Mark Fiore works perfectly as a parody of both the ongoing insanity of the financial industry—and the wincingly twee aphorisms of so much modern advertising. “Just because it’s your fault doesn’t mean others can’t suffer for you.” Ouch. 

File under hard to believe: The Nook version of War and Peace changed every instance of the words “kindle” and kindled” into “Nook” and “Nookd.” Both a funny story of the perils of the find-and-replace function–and an unnerving reminder of the silent power wielded by our digital overlords.

Thought You Should See This, May 25th, 2012

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

Check out my colleague Jeff Wordham’s presentation from Brandworks, in which he picks apart the launch process and has some sensible tips for executing launches more effectively.

Sir James Dyson outlines his approach to innovation, design and risk management.

The International Douglas Adams Animation Competition challenges creative types to produce an animation to accompany a 1993 audio recording of sci-fi writer and Hitchhiker’s Guide creator, the late Douglas Adams, talking about the evolution of the book.

A Life Worth Ending is a harrowing piece by Michael Wolff on the care of his elderly mother. As the intro puts it, “The era of medical miracles has created a new phase of aging, as far from living as it is from dying,” while the American healthcare system has become so systematically dysfunctional that “emergency rooms, the last stop for gangbangers and the rootless, at least in the television version, are really the land of the elderly.” A devastating must-read.

I recently attended the 99% Conference in New York, and wrote a few posts on some of the highlights. In particular, former Apple designer Tony Faddell (shown top, photograph c/o Julian Mackler), recently lauded for his success with the Nest “learning thermostat” was energetic, inspiring and utterly committed to the concept that it’s the team that makes the difference between a launch’s failure or success, not simply the value of the idea itself.

The founder of the experimental radio show, Radiolab, Jad Abumrad was simultaneously self-effacing and steely, eloquently describing the “radical uncertainty you feel when you work without a template.”

“No one gives a damn about graphic design and color. That doesn’t change anyone’s life; that doesn’t mean anything.” A somewhat surprising assertion from well-known graphic designer, James Victore.

Also at 99%, Jonah Lehrer flagged some fascinating research from Geoffrey West of the Santa Fe Institute, comparing cities and companies. The question to emerge: how can companies better imitate cities?

And finally, the post-Facebook IPO post-rationalization is in full swing. Marketplace’s Heidi Moore pointed out some stark figures: “Facebook’s market value at its highest: $112 billion. Today: $93 billion. So Facebook lost $19 billion of value in one trading day.” And Michael Wolff turned up again with a piece that picks apart the problems with the social media darling’s business model.

Thought You Should See This, April 20th, 2012

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

Of course, top billing this week goes to Monitor/Doblin’s own Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff, proud authors of the lead feature story in May’s Harvard Business Review. Managing Your Innovation Portfolio describes the practice of “total innovation.”

I loved this story of crowdsourcing for the ages. Car blog Jalopnik posted a call for its readers to help the Waynesboro, VA Police Department in identifying a part that came off the car of a driver involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident. The commenters came good–and two suspects are now being held in custody. Small comfort for the victim’s family, of course, but a heartwarming tale of the power of crowdsourcing.

Gary T DiCamillo, former chief executive at Polaroid, gave an insight into why the former innovation giant stumbled in a New York Times piece, Innovation Isn’t Easy, Especially Midstream.

MFA student Rachel Lehrer spent seven months tracking handwashing compliance in hospitals. This piece is a fascinating insight into the many contradictory pressures faced by those looking to implement design principles in both their broadest sense–and in contexts unused to the influence or potential of design.

“Soccer is a metaphor for creative collaboration in a team, and coaching soccer can likewise be a metaphor for effective leadership.” Goal Play!: Leadership Lessons From The Soccer Field, by Paul Levy, sounds like a good read.

Head of Google X, Sebastian Thrun, describes Udacity, his extracurricular efforts to create the higher education institution of the future.

Lots of approving buzz for the launch of the Innovator’s Patent Agreement by Twitter. Patents are a hotly contested tool of innovation, with patent trolls and high-dollar lawsuits stifling and impeding the flow of ideas necessary for a thriving economy and its flourishing businesses. This aims to act as a counter force.

The Times has a good breakdown of Sony’s strategy, and some great insights into how once unassailable-seeming giants can fall from grace–including that all-important factor, company culture.

And finally, for anyone excitedly awaiting Ridley Scott’s upcoming movie, Prometheus, here’s a terrifying trailer made by my dear friend, Johnny Hardstaff (top). Very cool, and very totally and utterly terrifying.

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.