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.

The real theater on display at Christian Marclay’s exhibition

If you didn’t hear about it, the artist Christian Marclay’s The Clock was on show in New York recently. Essentially, it’s a 24 hour abstract film: Marclay expertly spliced together thousands of excerpts from movies old and new, familiar and foreign. Each shot is somehow related to time–and the whole thing plays in real time. So if you popped in at 4.30 pm, you’d more than likely watch clips about afternoon tea. Visit one of the late night showings and see rather racier clips. (That’s pure hearsay: I turned up at 10 o’clock one Friday night and the line stretched a two hour wait around the block and I wimped out and went home.)

The show has received raves pretty much everywhere it’s played. See reviews here, here and from the London show, here. And for what it’s worth, I agree with the experts. The film is totally mesmerizing. I watched, spellbound, for three hours, and only reluctantly dragged myself back to life’s more regular programming.

What was even more mesmerizing, however, was the behavior of the assembled masses. As I waited to get in, one of the security guards regaled me with some excellent stories of the tantrums people had tried to pull in order to jump the line. (Just an aside, but if you ever hear yourself uttering the immortal phrase, “Don’t you know who I am?” it’s time to have a serious word with yourself.) This guy wasn’t fazed in the slightest. “I don’t care if you know Miz Cooper, Mr Marclay or the Pope,” he said vehemently. “I’m not ruining your life. I’m doing my job.” And do it, he did.

There was some even more amazing theater on display once you actually got inside. You can see the layout of the space below. What’s not so clear is that there weren’t enough seats to go round. At least half the crowd had to stand or sit alongside the edges of the gallery. Initially, for instance, I got a spot sitting halfway along the right hand wall—and I quickly realized that the subplot of the film was going on in the room itself.

Whenever someone got up from a sofa, it sparked a quiet, fierce, intense and entirely mean-spirited free-for-all. I saw two women lose all sense of decorum as they pelted towards one spot, one of them throwing her bag onto the seat, the other throwing up her hands in silent disgust. I even got caught up in it myself. I moved to take a seat that opened up right next to where I was—but moved way too slowly. Suddenly, some guy came out of nowhere, skidded past me and plonked himself down. I stammered unintelligibly—I’m excellent in a crisis—and then he played a devilish joker card. “Do you mind?” he said as he settled in. “I don’t feel at all well.” (Later on, of course, I came up with all sorts of witty comebacks as to why he should clearly go home and I should get to sit down. At the time, I meekly slunk back to the wall again, throwing up my own hands in silent disgust.)

I’m not sure it’s quite what Marclay had in mind when he put together his masterpiece, but the additional elements of musical chairs and Benny Hill actually enhanced the experience. Not to mention provided a useful reminder: never hesitate.

Images © Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

YouTube Play rocks the Guggenheim

The other night I went to the Guggenheim for what can only be described as an Only In New York Night. It was the opening of the Play Biennial, a new initiative from YouTube and the Guggenheim to celebrate creativity and innovation in film. Of 23,300 entrants, 125 films made it onto the shortlist, while 25 finalists are now on show as part of a weekend-long exhibit. To kick things off, there was a big old party, with snippets of film projected onto a screen in the rotunda of the Guggenheim, as well as onto both interior and exterior walls of the museum. The projections (my footage of the outside of the building shown, above and a still, below left) were put together by Obscura Digital, which mapped the imagery seamlessly, transforming Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic museum into an epic dreamscape. The LXD performed a jawdroppingly athletic dance piece while YouTube folk heroes OK Go performed two songs while standing up ladders (below, right). The whole thing was truly magical. As my friend June involuntarily shouted at one point, “Look at that!” We all did, and it was good. See all the films that made the shortlist here.