Do-lectures, something interesting

Interesting's been getting a bad rap lately. 'May you live in interesting times' isn't exactly necessarily a good thing. 'Hmmm, interesting' also isn't usually a good thing. I was reminded of this at Interesting2009, the third (or fourth) compere did a whole schpiel (spelling?) on it. So what to make of a speaker from the Really Interesting Group? Tom Taylor was up next, who with Russell Davies and Ben Terrett amongst other things forms the RIG (and the Newspaper Club). I've been keeping an eye on RIG for a while (wow, that sounds a bit stalker-y, I don't mean it in that way, I mean it in the interested in a good way and getting exciting about what they're doing kinda way, you know in that bookhistorian-print-is-interesting kinda way. You understand. I even got one of the papers they made earlier), and I was excited speak to hear Tom speak.

What I love about RIG is the ethos behind it. 'Delighting and inspiring people is a good thing'. And tinkering and doing and experimenting are all also good things. Tom talked about how do you retool 20th century infrastructure (printing presses) into 21st century tools? He called it 'put the web back into the world' and that's something I've been interested in for a while now too. The 'real' world of atoms colliding with the 'virtual' world of bits and bytes. Except for maybe the distinction isn't so black and white. The one isn't real and the other virtual. And they needn't exclude eachother. In fact, how cool is it when they reinforce eachother? Enough rambling, back to the talk.

'It's never been easier to make things', 'how can you reuse and repurpose TV, FM radio, manufacturing plants?'. All great questions. Questions you can get excited about. Well, I do. It speaks of optimism. Of delight and enthusiasm. I'm a little bit frustrated with the pessimism, the whole 'the internet is ruining everything'. Yes, newspapers as we know them are going down the drain, but that will also open up opportunities to do new things. And yes, traditional advertising on TV will go the same way as newspapers, but that can also be a good thing. New isn't always bad. New can be exciting. A new opportunity. A new way of doing something fun.

Do-lectures, part, ehm, 6 I think

Another round up post of various speakers from Do. Rolf Potts talked about Vagabonding, traveling as a lifestyle. In a way his talk was very zen: 'be where you are now', 'let the trip take you', 'slow down', 'the journey is more important than the destination'. All of those are important, and good to hear, but what I really liked was his concept of time. 'Make your own time. Don't wait til the end of your life or retirement. Don't wait til someone gives it to you.'

Alan Moore was up next, talking about connecting dots, a new landscape in terms of collaboration. What I remember most from his talk was a quote by Jung: 'I needs we to be truly I'; he mentioned how we should take responsibility for our collective spaces, and make sure there is shared collective joy. What a great concept, shared collective joy. That's definitely something I'll take forward and do (no pun intended) something with. I already have plans for something, so keep watching this space. The seed has been planted.

Alice Taylor (who also spoke at Interesting2009) works for Channel 4, where she commissions digital games to engage and teach kids. I thought it was really interesting she mentioned how games actively improve your brain, the reward mechanism in the brain that releases dopamine is triggered by games. She also quoted Henry Jenkins: 'Games teach that failure isn't bad and that collaboration isn't about cheating.'

Do-lectures, going above and beyond: Gabriel Branby.

IMG_7102 You know how you go to conferences, or receptions or other official events, and the food is not, ehm, well, not very good? Yeah, the Do Lectures weren't like that at all! The food was stellar, every breakfast, lunch, dinner and coffee time was a feast. And most of all, they provided a wonderful accompaniment to the conversations.

The night before Gabriel Branby, CEO of Gränsfors Bruks AB axe company spoke at Do Lectures, I sat next to him at dinner and we had wonderful conversation about choices in life, how to build a good company and why reading is so important. After that conversation I was looking forward even more to his talk. And did he deliver!

He stressed the importance of learning as much as you can when you start with something new, since that will help you make the most out of it. If you learn everything there is to know about a subject (including its history, history's important because it shows you precedent), then you're the king. Knowledge trumps everything else. It's important to read deeply and widely. [oh boy, do I agree, as you can probably tell from the list of books I've read]

What I loved best was when he talked about how he started on the path of developing the best axes in the world: 'take away something, replace it with more information instead and you'll have a better product' (words inspired by Paul Hawken). If you think about what you can take away from a product (e.g. the paint on an axe) and add information (in this case a booklet telling you all you could possibly want to know about axes), you have a better product. Even a product like an axe can have information attached to it which makes it a richer product. 

And you need knowledge to figure out how to compete: if you know why
product features were added in the past, you know what to take out.

After knowledge about the product comes knowledge about yourself. Know why you're doing things. Something in what you're doing has to be important. 

I have to admit that I wasn't too sure what relevance axes had in my life, which shows a serious lack of humility. Learning comes from the seemingly strangest places, books, events, and people (not that Gabriel was strange, on the contrary).

Do-lectures, doing even more: Tony Davidson

Do_tony_davidsonFollowing Uffe was going to be a hard task. And Tony Davidson (who makes his money by doing creative things at W+K) did a great job. His talk was called 'My Dad does' and I loved it, it was so charming.

His dad was an inventor, a tinkerer. And I say that with the utmost respect. The kind of guy who could make anything with two rubberbands and some sellotape. The McGyver of the UK. Tony talked about the creative process, and on why doing is so important in the creative process.

A few quotes (bastardised by me no doubt, wait for the video to come out to check whether I got it right):

* 'Part of the creative process is collecting things' (thank God someone said it, makes me feel less bad about collecting so much paper and random things)

* Make sure you don't throw everything away.'

* 'Make sure you do things.'

* 'Don't worry about it, just START!'

His little do was 'do something that you wouldn't normally do'.

I also loved the talk because my dad (and my brother) are similar to Tony's dad. They tinker, they can build anything with two rubber bands and some sellotape.They invent, and modify and do.

In the Q&A after Uffe and Tony talked, I took the following notes (though I didn't write down who said what):

'Don't get caught up in your own goldfish bowl, throw yourself into the chaos, surround yourself with different things, be CURIOUS!'

Do-lectures, part 4: the return of the lectures with Uffe Elbaek

IMG_7103 Sometimes all you want is a cuppa. Cups of tea are the English (and Welsh) way of dealing with problems, breaking down social barriers, opening up chit chats with strangers, and waking up in the morning. And boy, was the tea good at Do! We had all different flavours of Teapigs, my favourite was the Rooibos with Creme Caramel (though I have to say I passed on the tea with chocolate for now).

After my first cuppa of the morning, we sat down to listen to Uffe Elbæk, who's the founder and former principal of the KaosPilots, International School of New Business Design & Social Innovation. Isn't that the coolest name ever? I've known about these guys for a while, and think they do great stuff. This is what education SHOULD look like! I was very excited to finally be able to hear Uffe speak and he didn't disappoint. He talked about two related topics 'Can we hear the future?' and 'how can we say yes to opportunities and really say yes to them'. 

On the future: how well are we prepared to hear the weak signs in our society that show what the future will be like? How well are we (as humans) organised to do this? What's the tipping point of those weak signs?

Uffe went on to talk about how he became the Principal of Kaospilots, a beautiful story about how powerful it is to feel that fire in your belly, that feeling that you know you're doing the right thing, and that it's going to be one hell of a ride, but you wouldn't miss it for the world. 

In the Q&A he explained how one time the consulting team attached to the Kaospilots had their client (all in suits) come in and explain the problem to a group of 5 year olds. Now there's an idea. All people thinking about handing their problem to a consultant should do this before they hand it to the 'experts'.

Also, he said to find playful ways to solve problems. Don't make everything so serious. And I totally agree. There aren't many things which are so much fun than having fun.

Every speaker was asked about their Big Do and Little Do. Big Do's are the things that will need to be done to make the world a better place, little do's are the small things we can all do day to day. I love Uffe's small do: 'start to dance with your partner'. Excellent advice. In fact, I'll go ahead and do that right now. I hope you are too.

Interlude: drinking from the firehose at Interesting2009

Sometimes life is like drinking from a firehose, and this week's definitely been like that. But in such a good way! After the Do Lectures last week, I went to the reason I was at the Do Lectures: Interesting2009 (I'd bought tickets for Interesting, and my name was pulled out of a hat, well, the proverbial hat, to attend the Do Lectures).

As per the two previous installments in 20097 and 2008, I loved Interesting, which lives up to its name. The highlights for me were Tweenbots, Bubblino, why it's so hard to sail >50 knots, seeing Radio 4 represented as colours, how maps are handed down from generation to generation of bike messengers, how many cool products people can make inspired by Star Wars (anyone for a R2D2 soy sauce dispenser or cookie jar?), why Sir Francis Galton was a mad but creative scientist, fiddling around with yoghurt to add prozac to it, Tom Fishburne on what he learned from his cartoons (which I can highly, highly recommend), how to win at monopoly, how frivolous projects can teach you a lot and why you shouldn't (or maybe you should) never photograph sunsets. If that sounds confusing, can you see what I mean by 'drinking from the firehose'? There were tons more cool, interesting, inspiring subjects, and yet again I'm happy I went.

The whole list of presenters has been helpfully posted by Roo Reynolds,  and you can look up what other people have said on twitter (quite confusingly using two different hasthags). 

[On a side note: whilst I love twitter, I do wonder what the significance is of Twitter in these kinds of events. I was curious and checked the different hashtags a couple of time throughout the day, but felt there was too little depth. Yeah, I know, that's not what Twitter was intended for, but I wanted more than quick snippets and first reactions. I wanted considered responses. Or less triviality. Which is weird, because some of the people talking about the most trivial things yesterday were the most interesting. Maybe I should think about this a bit more and make this argument a bit more coherent. Or maybe Twitter fried my brain and I can't think beyond 140 characters anymore.]

Now back to the regular programming of writing up my notes from the Do Lectures. Well, until I think of something else to write that will interrupt that. As you were.

Do-lectures, mark III: miscellaneous

IMG_7138 More Do. Part three. A bit of a ragbag this, with a bunch of speakers bunched into one post.

Paul Deegan (the Everest Dust Man) talked about why people don't do things. He says it's these: 'I don't have enough time/money', 'I'm too young/inexperienced', 'Other people say "better stick to what you know"', '"But what if I fail? We'll all have to laugh at you" (Hugh McLeod cartoon)'. Or maybe it's a combination of all of these.

Duke Stump said something which I liked: 'quiet your cleverness to learn'. So true that, if you're trying to prove you know it all, that there's nothing new under the sun, there won't be. Learning starts by being humble and being open to what comes your way.

Duke also said that sometimes to solve a problem you have to change the lens with which you look at it, and sometimes you have to widen the lens too. Plus, there's a difference between maximising and optimising.

Andrew Reason talked about his washing machines, very passionately indeed, which are the best in the world. I for one can't wait til they come out. He said two very wise things, 'our machines are full of why's and why not's' and 'fall in love with your dreams'.

Jane Davidson, the Welsh Minister of Environment, held a passionate plea about how to make Wales (and the world, but let's start in Wales, more sustainable. Which is something different than just green. Sustainability encompasses green, climate change, but also social sustainability. She said something which I'd never thought of before 'what is a principle if you lack the structure to implement it'. She emphasised the need to ask for reductions AND give an inspiring vision. I wish more companies and governments would consider this: just asking people to give up something without giving them a big reason to do is setting yourself up for failure.

Jane was nicely followed by Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, who said that a politician needs a critical mass of general public to create change. My note on that: every little bit helps. Your one donation or signature or vote is a drop in the ocean, but the ocean is built up from drops. Get enough of them and you have an ocean.

Do-lectures, part deux: Geoff Mcfetridge

IMG_7108So, ehm, this is kinda painful to admit, but I had no idea who the next speaker was (well, a girl can't know every single thing I suppose). He's famous if you love illustration, he's Geoff McFetridge, illustrator extra-ordinaire. He's done some beautiful work, and I really enjoyed his talk.

I'm not quite sure how to best put across what it was like, so I might just give a combination of (almost literal) quotes and interpretation and examples.

'I wanted to learn the process and did crap work as output, but that was ok.'

'I was applying what I was good at as a bridge to improve what I was good at.'

'Companies don't have ideas, they have strategies and plans.' (one of my favourite quotes)

He told us how Harry Houdini called himself a magician and hence people thought he was one. Even though he probably never pulled a rabbit out of a hat, or do much of what a stereotypical magician does, people still accepted him as a magician.

'Magic, like illustration, pretends to be clear, but it has to hide things to work.'

'Design is like inventing: both solve common problems.'

'I choose to give myself constraints, they propel me forwards. Opportunities don't do that for me.'

And I loved at one point how on the screen behind him (where he didn't show a powerpoint deck, but instead a half an hour video of him drawing, which was great!) it said 'Judo not sumo your troubles', which is such good advice for life.

So that was what I liked/found remarkable/loved about Geoff's talk. He really sparked something in me. Good stuff.

I think I might not have the energy or inclination to write up all my notes, so I might just stick to a few people who really stood out for me. That said, all the speakers I saw had something interesting to say, and there was rarely a dull moment. I think how much I like a speaker depends as much on my frame of mind than it does on what the speaker has to say. Context is king.

Doing the do, part 1

IMG_7101I'm a very lucky girl. I've said this before, in fact I've been waxing lyrical about how lucky I am on this blog. And every now and again the universe nudges me a bit more and gives me an extra gift. 

I bought a ticket to Interesting2009, after loving the 2008 and 2007 installments, and inadvertently won a ticket to the Do Lectures! (In fact, if you click on the Interesting link, you'll see as the first post me winning the ticket!) The Do Lectures are a set of 20 lectures intended to inspire people to do. A bunch of people gathered at Fforest Farm in Wales this past weekend, but the talks will also appear online. I am a strong believer in the universe conspiring with you to bring you the things you need at times, and since I'd pronounced 2009 my year of 'learning [to do]' I just HAD to say yes (no arm twisting needed though, I was jumping up and down when I hear).

And it was awesome! I had very little time to prepare seeing that I was busy running around trying to keep my life sorted out, so I really didn't know what to expect in terms of speakers or the location and I was glad to find out that both were excellent. The speakers were a diverse bunch of people who really inspired me, the venue was excellent (see pic at the top left, what a view!), the food absolutely scrumptious and the fellow attendees as interesting as the speakers.

I took copious notes and thought I'd write out some of them, to give you a flavour of what the lectures were like. What I was thinking was to write them out over a few blogposts or so, since writing the whole thing down in one post is kinda daunting. 

At the start there was a small introduction, about which I took the following notes: Do Lectures are about motiving people to take action and finding their urgency. They're about the intersection of heart&soul, smart business and nature: triple top line business design. Do Lectures are about faster radical change, in a connected way.

There you go. I'll leave you with a picture of one of the first lectures. Go Do!