There’s this moment from the show Project Runway that I wish I could find on youtube. In this moment, a contestant is up on the stage receiving critique from the judges. As I remember, the judges liked his work in this round and were giving him positive feedback. Relieved, the contestant starts crying and says, “I had such a hard time with this challenge [sob]. One minute I was happy [sob] the next minute I was in tears and questioning myself….”
At this moment, judge and world-famous designer Michael Kors interrupts the contestant to point something out. He holds up his left hand, points to the contestant and says, “You know that feeling that you are having right now? [long pause]. That feeling [another long pause]. It. Never. Goes. Away. [hold silence].”
When I heard him say that, I felt such relief for the contestant and for myself as a creative person. I thought, ‘If Michael Kors, one of the most famous and successful designers in the world, felt that he needed to stop this contestant to share this insight about his own creative life, then it must be true and it must be important.’
Self-doubt and questioning, this is what creatives do. It’s just how they work. Yes, it makes them a little crazy and it drives their friends a little crazy too (especially the accountants!). That tortured artist thing isn’t a myth. It’s real as alluded to in a well known Kors quote, “Fashion isn’t for sissies.”
So what can we do about this doubt? As with most things that are hard, be mindful of it, even accepting of it. And learn how to manage it. Because that feeling? That feeling that you’re having about your work right now? It. Never. Goes. Away.
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Michael’s Night at the Met Gala
Seth Godin posted a piece last week titled “Embracing Externalities.” “Externalities” is a concept from the field of economics that is used to describe the side effects of industrial activity. For example, the pollution that gets dumped into the river by the factory is considered an externality to the factory’s business model.
In Godin’s piece, he asks the reader to reject this concept. He admits that rejecting it, in theory, isn’t that hard to do. The hard thing is to create and put systems in place to dismantle the concept. Sure this would be challenging but it’s not impossible.
We value ourselves as innovators, don’t we? Let’s innovate our way to a more sophisticated system–one that embraces externalities.
Read Godin’s original post here
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Circular Economy – Ellen Macarthur Foundation
I adore this “zero-waste” project from Thessaloniki titled “Print Your City” in which they reclaim plastic waste and process it so that it can be fed into giant 3D printers to make these lovely benches/planters.
See more on the project here
originally posted on this blog in June 2013
Philosopher Don Ihde identifies a phenomenon he calls “The Designer Fallacy.” It takes its cue from an idea in literary theory called “Intentional Fallacy,” which refers to the mistake of thinking that the meaning of a text is restricted to what the author intended; it’s presumed that meanings emerge from texts in various ways. Unintended “meanings” often emerge in design as well. End users of designed objects use them in ways that the designers never intended. The results of this new use can be good or not so good, but I just heard of a good unintended use of a design: there was a bit today in the NYTs on people using parked bikes from NYCs new bike-sharing program in an interesting way:
In a fit of urban guile more likely to affect gym memberships than program memberships, some New Yorkers seem to have identified the newest, cheapest way to tone their lower bodies: hop aboard the seat [of a NYC bike-share bike] and pedal in place — with the bikes still locked — as if the stations were rows of exercise equipment.
Creativity is everywhere, isn’t it?
read the rest of the NYTs piece here
abstract of The Designer Fallacy here
collection of this fallacy at play here: Thoughtless Acts
If you read this blog, then you know that I’m interested in techniques for harnessing collective intelligence. Why? Because the complex problems we face require participation from a diverse array of stakeholders. Why? Because diverse participation, when done right, leads to better outcomes.
If you do a lot of teamwork, then you know that it’s easy to fall into the pattern of letting a few people on the project team dominate the majority of the conversation. A great technique for engaging the entire team, and thus arriving at more creative results, is write-storming. What write-storming does is it carves out time and space for all team members to engage in quiet writing and reflection. The ideas that individuals generate during a write-storming session can then be drawn on for group discussion.
I’ve been doing write-storming in one form or another for years but I really like how author Leigh Thompson maps out the technique. I’ll summarize here: Write-storming sessions are short, like 5-10 minutes. In a session, team members work silently to generate a lot of ideas on their own. Each idea should be written on an individual index card in legible hand-writing – I recommend all caps for legibility. Then the cards are collected, shuffled, redistributed, and read aloud for discussion. It’s important that the ideas remain anonymous so that the team can focus on the work and not on egos. The next step is for the team to categorize the cards and flesh out the ideas that have the most potential. I recommend fleshing out an array of ideas from conventional & easy ideas to unconventional & challenging ones.
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Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work in FastCo
In the field of psychology, there has been a shift in nurturing self-esteem in children to nurturing self-compassion. You can see evidence of this shift in the popularity of books by Brene Brown and Carol Dweck and the rising interest in mindfulness practice, especially in schools.
What’s wrong with teaching self-esteem? It has been proven to breed narcissism and unkind behavior toward others. It motivates people to put others down in order to prop themselves up. And high self-esteem can have a negative effect on how we react in difficult situations. This is not the outcome we really want or need these days.
Enter Self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff articulates three elements of self-compassion:
- Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgment. This means being kind to ourselves when we struggle or fail rather than judging ourselves too harshly which can result in a downward spiral of self-criticism. Self-kindness has us respond to failure like so, “This is hard right now. How can I pay attention to how hard it is and move through it?”
- Common Humanity vs. Isolation. This means that when we struggle we realize that we aren’t the only person in the universe in this situation. When we struggle, it’s good to remember that we all struggle. This helps us feel less alone and keeps us from falling into a downward spiral of isolation.
- Mindfulness vs. Overidentification. This means that when we struggle, we keep it in perspective. It’s the difference in thinking, “I did something stupid” (mindful) rather than “I am stupid” (overidentification). When we are mindful about our struggles, flaws, and failures, we understand that we don’t always behave perfectly but this doesn’t mean that we are “bad.” We’re just human.
When we shift from self-esteem to self-compassion, we create a kinder world together. That said, many systems still reward narcissistic, hyper-individualistic behavior (grades, for example) and I’m not sure how to navigate that in the context of this shift. What do you think? It’s a doozy of a problem, for sure.
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NYSED.GOV report on Mindfulness in Education, July 2018
What Self-Compassion is Not
Intimidation tactics are an abuse of power–a form of bullying.
Intimidation tactics come in many forms. They can occur in personal or professional relationships. Sometimes these tactics are visible which makes them easier to identify. Other times they are more passive which makes them harder to identify.
No matter what side of intimidation you are on, it’s helpful to understand that it all stems from fear. Fear lives in the oldest part of our brains, the amygdala which is sometimes referred to as our reptilian or lizard brain. That old part of our brain has had a lot of practice over the years and is really good at driving fear-based thoughts and actions. But with your own practice, you can teach yourself to override it.
No matter the form intimidation takes in your life, here’s some advice:
If you are the intimidator, cut it out. You don’t need to make people feel bad in order to do your thing. Try to identify what drives your behavior and let it go.
If you are the intimidated, ask yourself why you let other people’s baggage get in your way. You’ve got your own stuff to deal with, right? That’s enough.
With practice, you can rise above it. Rise rise rise.
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
Simone Giertz is known for her intentionally shitty robots and her straight man schtick in her demo videos. But this project here, the Every Day Calendar, is a more serious piece. The Everyday Calendar is a touch-sensitive, light up display that you can use to help keep track of a habit that you want to form. Giertz used it for meditation practice.
Check out Giertz’s kickstarter campaign here
At present, I’m reading a leadership book called, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. In the book, the author claims that successful organizations have three things in common: They build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose.
Building safety is step one. How do we build it? We send a consistent stream of signals that reinforce the belief that people in the organization are connected. Coyle calls these “connection cues.”
In successful cultures, leaders continually provide a steady stream of small, powerful behavioral signals—we are connected; we share a future—that moves people away from selfish behavior, and creates cohesion and cooperation. Successful cultures aren’t smarter—they are safer.
What cues signal that safety is a priority for your organization? Here are a few tips from the book:
- Overcommunicate that you are listening
- “Yes.” “Uh-huh.'” “Got ya.” These cues encourage the speaker to go on
- Spotlight your fallibility early on, especially if you’re a leader. Open up, show you make mistakes
- “This is my two cents.” “Of course I could be wrong here.” ” What do you think?”
- Spark a response in the listener, “How can I help?” This invites participation
- Embrace the messenger
- If someone brings you bad news, embrace it. That way they know it’s safe to come to you when there’s a problem in future
- Overdo “Thank yous”
- Saying “thank you” is less about thanks and more about affirming the relationship and cueing safety, connection, and motivation
- Make sure everyone has a voice
Take it further:
Daniel Coyle website
Daniel Coyle at RSA (video)