This past week I listened to an interview with SVA Products of Design (PoD) founder, Allan Chochinov. PoD is a graduate design program in NYC that brags in its advertising, “Killer faculty, Killer jobs, No grades.” Love it.
In the interview, Chochinov discussed a few pedagogical tips and tricks that they employ in PoD. One is shorter classes. There are a few reasons to do this. One reason is so that they can bring in top-notch NYC professionals as adjuncts who would find it hard to commit to a 15 weeks course, but can commit to meeting once a week for 5 to 7 weeks. Brilliant.
But the other reason that these shorter courses work is that they edit out the slump that students feel a few weeks into a project. Which just turns into a distraction. They want to change projects, then a few weeks into their second project they want to switch back to their first project. In the end, they have two underdeveloped projects. Not a win.
Now, I used to address this project slump by having students read about it. For myself as an artist, when I discovered that “slump” was a thing with a name, that made it much easier to navigate. But it’s possible that it’s too much to ask of today’s students. It might be better to prioritize teaching and learning agile development over endurance, at least in an intro course.
Graduates these days only stay at a job for 16 months on average. It’s possible that endurance isn’t as relevant as it used to be. Food for thought.
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Interview with Allan Chochinov here
Core77 Gift Guide here
Yesterday I participated in a workshop that helped me articulate the following guidelines for removing barriers to innovation and for harnessing the collective intelligence of a team. Thanks to all who participated for sharing your perspective. It was inspiring.
Below is a list of action items that leaders should address early and often when working with a team. These are also things that team members should ask for:
- Define what success looks like
- Articulate priorities
- Figure out what not to do
- Check in on team member goals
- Acknowledge and celebrate the diverse points of view of your team
- Call in an outside facilitator when you have issues that are too hard to navigate internally
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Yesterday’s workshop was lead by a thoughtful, down-to-earth facilitator, Erica Marx
Yesterday Innovation Writer, Ben Thompson, shared a piece about two scooter-sharing startups. I thought the piece was going to be a prediction about which startup would be acquired by Uber. Instead, the piece was about Uber and aggregation theory.
Aggregation theory is about how a company understands its goal. The theory distinguishes platforms from aggregators. If Uber only understood itself as a car-sharing platform, then its view of itself would be to provide car sharing services. As a platform, it would view the recent dent in car-share rides made by scooter-sharing as a threat. But if Uber, instead, sees itself as an aggregator of transport options, then they see the scooter-sharing space as an opportunity and thus they would work to acquire a scooter-sharing platform.
As the saying goes, the customer doesn’t want a drill, they want the hole in the wall. Aggregators who understand this have a monopolistic edge over silo-visioned platforms. But what does this mean for startups? Is the dream to get acquired by a huge aggregator and if so, what are the steps you have to take to get that dream? Or is the dream to carve out a niche, to be small but scalable and repeatable in your own space? And if so, how do you win at that?
The answers to questions about the types of dreams startups might have are personal and situational. But the answers to questions about how to achieve those dreams, whether going for an acquisition or planning to walk to the beat of your own drum are less clear. Is it about who you know? Charisma? Tech talent? There’s a lot at play.
Another question: Is aggregator the new word for monopoly and platform the new word for small? Or are there instances in which a startup that doesn’t want to be acquired can become an aggregator in their own right.
What do you think?
Making decisions is hard. And even once we make them, having confidence in the decisions that we make can also be hard. Because many of the decisions that we make don’t give immediate feedback that tells us, “You made the right choice.”
It’s often the case with me and the people that I know that making a decision is a form of privilege. So rather than get crippled with doubt about a decision that I’m making or plan to make, I’m trying to channel faith and gratitude. I won’t ignore doubt when it creeps in. That can be dangerous. But I do want to make a connection between doubt and the privilege that allows me to have that doubt. It’s a package deal and a deal that I’m lucky to have.
FOMO – Fear of Missing Out
I had a choir director who would remind us as we approached our concert date, “It doesn’t matter how you start. It matters how you finish.”
While there are some things in life for which this advice isn’t a fit, many things are. If you are prepping for a concert or an event, it’s ok to have a slow start. It’s not ideal, but it’s ok. Because what really matters is how you respond to that slow start. One kind of response to a slow start is to shut down or to spiral with shame. That kind of a response is paralyzing. Another response to a slow start is to start again, to give yourself a second chance, to take it up a notch and hustle to the deadline. That way you can finish strong. And how you finish, in many situations, is what really matters.
I’m working on a perpetual lunar calendar and playing with ideas on how to visualize time. While sketching I was reminded of this funny thing about how we visualize time. Digital clocks are about this moment. They tell “snapshot time.” While analog clocks point to a moment but in a larger context, a 12 hour cycle. They tell “continuous time.”
Extending this distinction to perpetual calendars, the ones that hide most of the back plate and show only today’s date through a tiny window are telling snapshot time. It’s Saturday 24 November and that’s what time it is right now.
But the value of using a lunar calendar isn’t in knowing what moon phase we’re in right now. The value is in being aware of where we have been and where we are going. Something like an analog clock is a better visual for this.
In Douglas Rushkoff’s book, Present Shock, he describes how our “now now” relationship to technology is driving us crazy. For this problem, he offers this solution: connect to nature. More specifically, he suggests that we connect to natural cycles, such as the lunar cycle, to slow down our nervous now habits.
Rushkoff cites the work of Dr. Mark Filippi who claims that our brain chemistry is affected by moon phases and if we pay attention to that, we can consciously leverage the state of our brain.
This is another one of those theories that I don’t buy into 100%. But what I do like about it is that it encourages us to slow down how we connect to time, to pay attention to how we feel and to patterns of how we feel, when. I appreciate the mindfulness of the practice.
If you’d like to track your state of mind with the moon calendar, check out my little chart here
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The Long Now Foundation
Custom Moon Jewelry by Elaan Greenfield
I remember the exact moment when I realized that philosophers aren’t in the business of creating solutions. I was at a sustainability ethics symposium, a gathering of philosopher speakers addressing an audience of designers and engineers.
There was a tension in the room. While the speakers articulated problems really well, the designers and engineers in the room wanted to hear solutions. This was seen in the questions that they asked during Q&A. Questions like, “You say that X is a problem. So what do we do about it?” To which the speakers smiled, shook their heads, and replied, “That’s not our job.”
Whose job is it to address the problems that philosophers describe? If it is the job of designers and engineers, are they equipped to do it? The extent of the ethics training they receive in school happens in a single required ethics elective outside of their academic department. The work they do in that course is reading and writing, not their native language of designing and implementing. They rarely have an opportunity to address the problems they read and write about through a project. And even if they do, who is qualified to mentor them?
Whose job is it to address the problems that philosophers articulate? Policymakers? Surely the ones who have been to law school have more ethics training than engineers and designers. But do they understand how to create solutions that the communities they serve will adopt? And even if they understood how to create solutions that stick, do they have the freedom to implement such solutions?
Whose job is it to address the problems that philosophers articulate?
I’ve recently recommitted to the habit of listening to one or two chapters of Rick Hansen’s Hardwiring Happiness each morning. In the (audio)book Hansen offers 21 focal points for mindfulness practice. As the title suggests, he argues that if you practice these meditations, you can carve new pathways in your brain so that when you are experiencing a challenging emotion, like fear, for example, your brain will make a connection to a positive emotion that will ease that fear. This theory that you can rewire your brain is called neuroplasticity. While I’m not a 100% believer, I do find this book very helpful.
The focal points are organized into three categories that target three different parts of our brain:
- SAFETY – Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm (reptilian)
- SATISFACTION – Subcortex, focused on approaching rewards (mammalian)
- CONNECTION – Neocortex, focused on attaching to “us” (primate/human)
All 21 focal points listed out below:
- SEEING THREATS & RESOURCES CLEARLY
- FEELING ALRIGHT RIGHT NOW
- GRATITUDE & GLADNESS
- POSITIVE EMOTION
- ACCOMPLISHMENT & AGENCY
- FEELING THE FULLNESS OF THIS MOMENT
- FEELING CARED ABOUT
- FEELING VALUED
- COMPASSION & KINDNESS
- SELF COMPASSION
- FEELING LIKE A GOOD PERSON
- COMPASSIONATE ASSERTIVENESS
When a project has a lot of moving parts, sitting your butt down and making a spreadsheet can really help. Without one, it’s just too hard to keep track of WHAT needs to be done WHEN and by WHOM.
Your spreadsheet doesn’t have to be digital. If using a paper ledger or graph paper is a better fit for you, then go for it. Just be sure to use a pencil and not a pen because tasks evolve over the life of a project.
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Project Management for Artists