Thought You Should See This, July 20th, 2012

This week on the innovation/design blog I write, Thought You Should See This:

Technology investor and entrepreneur, Peter Thiel threw down with Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt as part of the Fortune Brainstorm Tech event. It was a wide-ranging conversation that spanned many topics, from the true impact of technology innovation to the influence of government on innovation and growth. The pair took on some of the thorny topics of our time, with gusto.

Find out why veterans despise the Red Cross–and understand the implications of making unexpected or unwanted changes to service.

Another service story, this time breaking down “Netflix’s Lost Year” and some of the horrible management decisions senior leadership made in the name of attempting self-disruption.

A smart NYT op ed, The Machine and the Garden, makes the case that the economy is an organic, naturally impaired system, not a perfectly working machine. Interesting and compelling argument.

Two great new projects from Google make me want to pack my bags and head to London. Interactive artist Aaron Koblin has teamed up with Chris Milk again to develop The Exquisite Forest, a riff on old “exquisite corpse” games as part of a collaboration with Tate Modern. Designers also teamed up with the Science Museum to create the Web Lab, a year-long exhibition that meshes the physical and the virtual.

If you want to check out a charming story of one innovator’s grit and persistence, you’d do worse than to read the story of the evolution of Sugru. You’ll likely want to buy some of the miracle material once you’ve seen it, too.

Audi goes Apple: Audi’s just-opened high tech showroom near Piccadilly Circus in London plays to the digitally savvy crowd.

And finally, an interesting research project from General Electric aims to develop an at-home natural gas refueling station (image shown top.) Great stuff.

Thought You Should See This, July 13th, 2012

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

Check out my colleague, Erik Kiaer, who presented at the Design Management Institute-organized conference “Balancing Extremes.” You can see video of Erik in action, or catch the presentation in slide format. Meanwhile, Brian Quinn was quoted in a Chicago Business article looking at design community business, Threadless, which caused me to wax nostalgic about my T-shirt days of yore.

Interesting look inside Fisher Price’s Apple store-like research and design lab in East Aurora, N.Y.

The Christian Science Monitor looks at how the ideals of the collaborative economy are being embraced by those in Spain looking to find a way away from their economic woes.

Uplifting life advice from USC professor, Elyn Saks, who suffers from schizophrenia and who wrote an incredibly moving book about her treatment and experiences.

“Civility isn’t fancy-talk for “being nice.” It’s the essential quality we require to live together in complex social structures built on our jumpy, irrational primate brains. Online, where we increasingly live, we need it more than ever.” Must-read piece about trolling and hatespeak by Erin Kissane.

A stark editorial from the New York Times on the impact of climate change. Now will we pay attention and read the writing on the wall? Please?

Great piece with some wonderful anecdotes about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ approach to customer service.

Check out some video of me in conversation with award-winning reporter Liza Mundy, who’s most recently the author of the book, The Richer Sex: How the new majority of female breadwinners is transforming sex, love, and family.

And finally, a slightly tired rant sparked by this throwaway comment in a piece about bank scandals: “Company executives are paid to maximize profits, not to behave ethically.” But really, doesn’t that just about sum it all up?

Thought You Should See This, July 6th, 2012

I know, it’s been a while since a bona fide TYSST update, but I haven’t been neglectful, I promise. Instead, I went to Edinburgh to report from TEDGlobal, where I caught a cold and the strongest conference in years. As you can see from the length of this update, there was much to note (and many speakers I didn’t recap here, so do check the TED blog for the others.)

So here, in no particular order, the highlights of TEDGlobal:

USC law professor Elyn Saks powerfully recounted her own story of mental illness—and the shocking state of the way we treat it. Did you know that LA County Jail is essentially the biggest psychiatric facility in the United States? Neither did I.

Massimo Banzi is the co-founder of the Arduino project, an interaction designer and an educator, and he gave a spirited talk that was chock full of great examples of the boundless creativity and innovation that comes with an open platform.

Macrowikinomics author Don Tapscott outlined the open world according to four principles: collaboration; transparency; sharing and empowerment.

Shyam Sankar, a data intelligence agent working at Palantir, gave a great talk citing J.C.R. Licklider’s notion of intelligence augmentation and the need for humans and machines to cooperate, not fight one another. I also talked with Palantir’s lead graphic designer Collin Roe-Raymond about the beautiful presentation they put together. See the top image–slides matter!

Hong Kong-based Bloomberg correspondent Robyn Meredith spoke about the Chinese dream—and what it means for the west.

Admiral James Stavridis is the Supreme Commander of NATO and a proponent of what he calls “open-source security.” Great talk.

Matt Mills and Tamara Roukaerts of Aurasma showed what’s possible in blending physical and digital.

Sculptor and artist Antony Gormley is amazing and my crush is out of control. That is all.

Kathy Hinde is an audio-visual artist whose work is pretty extraordinary. Watch the video.

Stanford professor Daphne Koller described her new online learning system, Coursera, which has seen 640,000 students from 190 countries view 14 million videos and take 6 million quizzes. Much to pay attention to here.

Pankaj Ghemawat is the author of Global 3.0: Global Prosperity and How to Achieve It and the provocative article, The World Is Not Flat. He asked one important question: how global are we, really?

Writer Robert Neuwirth outlined his thesis of “System D,” the informal economy that employs 1.8 billion people and is worth $10 trillion/year.

German politician Malte Spitz explained what happened when he got Deutsche Telekom to hand over the data they’d retained on him over a six month period—-and outlined the true, scary ramifications.

Anthropologist and academic Gabriella Coleman set out to explain the mysterious group Anonymous.

Leslie Chang has written about the reality of life in factories in China by taking a radical approach: talking to those who work in them.

Neil Harbisson is totally color blind; that means he sees a totally grey world. He explained how he’s turned this apparent defect into an artistic opportunity, learning how to “hear color” as a self-proclaimed “cyborgist and colorist.”

Ruby Wax gave a sparky presentation examining the stigma of depression and mental illness throughout our allegedly sophisticated society.

Robert Legato has won two Oscars for his visual effects magic, and he charmingly drew back the curtain on some of his most famous effects for films including Apollo 13, Titanic and Hugo.

Vicki Arroyo, the executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, gave a fiery speech in which she took on the topic of inevitable climate change disruption–and what we need to do about it.

Collaborative Consumption evangelist Rachel Botsman gave a talk chock full of excellent examples of companies that are experimenting—and winning with this new economy.

Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy recounted the story of suffering a car accident that landed her in rehab with a significantly decreased IQ. So she made everyone cry, and then sent us off with a spring in our step.

Lawyer and campaigner Jason McCue freaked everyone out by setting off a fake bomb and then making the case that we do not do enough for victims. “Yet victims are the best weapon we have against more terrorism.”

Marc Goodman tried to make out that the sophistication of current criminals shouldn’t terrify us, it should inspire us. He was somewhat successful, but I’ll be honest, his examples certainly scared the bejeesus out of all of us.

Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum in London, turned up to a session on transparency at TEDGlobal to give a speech in praise of opacity. Typical designer ;)

While traditional leaders want to be right, creative leaders *hope* to be right.” John Maeda’s talk was a treat.

John Wilbanks spoke to confess he’s perfectly happy to share all of his medical data. In fact, he’s building a system out of it. This will be a potentially huge movement, to which we should all absolutely pay attention.

Michael Anti is a reporter and a blogger who gave us a snapshot of real Internet life in China. Fascinating, even for western digital poster children.

Kirby Ferguson pointed out a disconnect that has bothered me for an eon: Steve Jobs’ cavalier attitude towards multitouch technology, which was provably untrue, along with his emotional outburst about Google and Android.

Andrew Blum has devoted the past few years of his life to figuring out how the Internet really works, a journey that took him to huge, dark data centers and to beaches in Portugal to watch a pirate climb out of the sea.

The always-excellent Clay Shirky closed out this year’s conference, making the case that “more media always means more argument… That’s what happens when media space expands.”

One added bonus: watch San Diego’s Fourth of July fireworks, a display that should have taken 18 minutes that was over in 15 seconds. Not that this Brit gloats over any Independence Day misfires, of course.

Thought You Should See This, June 22nd, 2012

Here’s what happened this week on the innovation/design-themed blog I write:

Designer Armin Vit went on a rant against the use of Helvetica. “The main argument of using Helvetica is that it’s “neutral,” he sneered. “That is absolute bullshit. There is nothing neutral about Helvetica.” Well, he’s got a point.

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present has opened at cinemas. The documentary is arguably more hagiography than critical analysis, but I loved to see the playful and charming side of the legendary performance artist.

Fascinating and thought-provoking video looks at all that goes into creating food advertising imagery, in this case photographing a McDonald’s cheeseburger.

Now that Microsoft is building and selling its own tablet, the Surface (top), most people think it’s copying Apple,” writes Jay Yarow over at Business Insider. He then goes on to explain why this is absolutely not what’s happening.

Martha Stewart CraftStudio represents no less than a profound change in thinking at the company. As Chief Integration and Creative Director, Gael Towey noted to me, the app helps to put power in the hands of the consumers. A great example of a company noting a shift in the economy and customer needs–and looking to do something about it.

Finally, watch out for an upcoming book from John Edson, president of Lunar. Design Like Apple contains seven principles for implementing sensible, thoughtful design. The book’s available for pre-order now.

Thought You Should See This, June 15th, 2012

This week’s Thought You Should See This update for my colleagues at Doblin and anyone interested in innovation and design.

Top marks this week to Larry Keeley, whose pearls of wisdom form the foreword to a new book on mobile interaction design. As Larry writes, “With mobile devices, we are today where automobiles were when the Model T was the hottest thing on wheels.” Be sure to check it out.

Brooklyn Castle is a documentary, the tale of a school in Brooklyn whose students generally hail from below the poverty line. However, this isn’t your usual hand-wringing, doom and gloom-style documentary. IS 318 boasts 26 national chess titles—more than any other junior high school in the country—and the documentary focuses on the hopes and dreams of some of the chess club’s young participants. It’s simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking.

Pixar artist Emma Coats put together a great list of advice on how to tell a good story. My favorite: “Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.”

American Pain: The Largest U.S. Pill Mill’s Rise and Fall tells the story of Christopher and Jeffrey George, twin brothers who opened their first “pain clinic” in Fort Lauderdale in 2008 and both of whom are now in jail for racketeering conspiracy. It’s a fascinating, sobering tale of an industry whose denizens pushed the boundaries of the law as far as they’d possibly go, and then pushed them just a little bit further.

Sarah Caddick is the Neuroscience Advisor to David Sainsbury and a senior advisor to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation—a big funder of scientific research, based in London. I spoke with her about her thoughts around the brain, our impressions of it, and how we need to turn what we think we know on its heads.

For a little light relief, check out the stop-motion animation promo for Delta Heavy. Although what the director has against classic games like Hungry Hippos and Connect 4 is anyone’s guess.

Geo-strategist Parag Khanna outlines his idea of the “hybrid economy,” arguing that we all need to boost our TQ, our “technology quotient.” “Start saving as much for physical enhancement as for education and retirement, he writes. “Get familiar with virtual currencies. Invest in a persuasive avatar, even, to represent you online. And welcome to the Hybrid Age.” Quick read, worth the effort.

Jonah Lehrer’s new book on creativity takes a beating from The New Republic, which wonders why we all pursue story-telling as our preferred means of communicating difficult topics.

And finally, six international artists take on an interesting brief… redesigning the tequila bottle. The results (shown top) are punchy, funky, graphic and really quite beautiful.

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.

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.