…moments of insight are a very-well studied psychological phenomenon.
There really are two defining features. The first defining feature is the answer comes out of the blue. So it comes when we least expect it. It comes when we’ve quit the music business, and we’re trying to paint a canvas in Woodstock, New York. It comes when we’ve given up, when we feel like we have nothing left to say.
It comes in the shower. It comes in the bathtub. It comes under the apple tree. So it comes in the least expected moments. That’s the first defining feature.
The second defining feature is that as soon as the answer arrives, we know this is the answer we’ve been looking for. We don’t have to double-check the math or carefully edit the lyrics: We know this is it. So, you know, the answer comes attached with this feeling of certainty - it feels like a revelation. So these are the two defining features of these moments of insight, and they do seem to play a big role in creativity, especially when people are looking for really radical solutions to very, very hard problems.
- Jonah Lehrer NPR/Fresh Air Interview promoting his book
The virtue of youth, after all, is that the young don’t know enough to be insiders, cynical with expertise…
We can continue to be innovate if we maintain the perspective of the outsider… If you are bored, start again.
Outsider creativity isn’t a phase of life. It’s a state of mind… We need to be willing to risk embarrassment, ask silly questions, surround ourselves with people who don’t know what we’re talking about.
We need to leave behind the safety of our expertise.
“I’m not a foodie, I just like what I like,” she says. “Yes, I know, it’s just like hipsters saying, ‘I’m not a hipster.’ ” (The cliché cracks her up.) “But it’s like when my boss says, ‘Oh, you’re such a foodie.’ I’m like, Oh God. When I hear the word foodie, I think of Yelp. I don’t want to be lumped in with Yelp.”—The Young Foodie Culture — New York Magazine
That’s because these brands provide a not-so-little-thing called meaning, which translates into value. And more than ever it’s about value: the interaction between price and what we get in return. In truth, that’s what the economy has impacted most—a closer examination of what’s behind the brand curtain as consumers have searched for more value, not just lower prices.
Yet brand managers, staring down the barrel of a lingering recession, often blame high prices for lost sales. It’s reactionary, in order to move product. But we know that people don’t choose a product in a purely logical way. Brand Keys proprietary research points to a split: rational factors make up only about 30% of why we choose what we choose. Emotional factors account for the rest.
And that’s the luxury advantage. Luxury brands know how to create and foster emotional value. It’s this distinction that enables them to continue to live so large, even in a time of constricted budgets. What luxury brands do well is exhibit clear brand values that lead to a meaningful emotional differentiation in the mind of the consumer.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The report of [brand] death is greatly exaggerated.”
”—Emotional factors account for 70% of what we buy.
Style And Substance: What Luxury Fashion Can Teach Us About Branding
“The right-brained will rule the earth. And the Earth will like it, too. The abilities that matter now and in the future include empathy, visionary-big picture thinking, artistry and creativity, the ability to intuit, absorb, predict and anticipate.”—
What people want is “community,” engagement and highly effective opportunities to work with highly effective people who can get things done. And if those highly effective people are kind of cool and kind of smart they will become your “work friends.”
Then they will become your Facebook friends and you will have Thanksgiving Dinner with them because it’s way more fun and much less stressful than hanging with your own family. And you will be happier at work, and therefore stay longer and then that big nameless, faceless, well-branded corporate entity that signs your paycheck will continue to prosper and thrive, making bazillions of dollars, and then it can hire a phenomenal design firm to build a “campus” for its happy workers, who will stay longer and work more but won’t mind as much because they have a dry cleaner, fitness center and their best friends all within 10 feet of their desk. See how this works?
Who, Where, How We Work: The Intersection of Culture, Workplace, and Social Media
First, let’s just get clear on the terminology here: “Curation” is an act performed by people with PhDs in art history; the business in which we’re all engaged when we’re tossing links around on the internet is simple “sharing.”…
The waning of psychotherapy has clear roots in the rise of psychopharmacology. Drug companies have been hard at work over the past three decades, marketing meds to troubleshoot our faulty brain chemistry. As managed care has compelled more and more psychiatrists to trade their notebooks for prescription pads, the classic image of the patient on the couch has been replaced by a man with a pill in his palm.
The ascent of creative-writing, particularly in an age dominated by the impatient pursuit of visual stimulation, might seem harder to explain. But my sense is that people remain desperate for the emotional communion provided by literature.
But the Internet, while it might excite the desire for creative self-expression and sudden acclaim, does little to slake our deeper yearnings. What we want in our heart of hearts is not distraction but just the opposite, the chance to experience what Saul Bellow called “the arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.” We want to be heard and acknowledged. It’s the difference between someone “liking” our latest Facebook update versus agreeing to listen to our story, the whole bloody thing, even and especially when it runs up against bruising revelations.
For those with the means, therapy used to serve this function. But it did so in a covert and stigmatized fashion. Creative-writing programs represent a return to the ancient pleasures and virtues of storytelling, a chance to break the frantic cycle of screen addiction. Students join a flesh-and-blood community of writers, readers and critics, all of whom have chosen the rigors of narrative over the emotional fragmentation of the digital age. They receive professional guidance, and the possibility exists, however gossamer, that they will mature into genuine artists. Try finding that online.
“Your brain is constantly rewiring itself based on daily life. In the end, what we pay the most attention to defines us. How you choose to spend the irreplaceable hours of your life literally transforms you.”—
The Internet is the world’s greatest collection of knowledge, but increasingly, that wisdom lives in walled off apps. It lives in services and platforms. Places where we build up relationships, express preferences, and reveal so much about ourselves. We’re on Foursquare and Netflix and Facebook and Twitter and Skype. We’re interacting in real time, and in ways that don’t lend themselves well to indexing. Google can’t know exactly what’s going on in all those places. How the links between entities work. What and who we like and dislike. There is information there that it can’t index. And if it can’t index it, or understand it, it damn sure can’t serve an ad.
Trouble is, that hard-to-index information is key to Google’s future. Mountain View may not be all about search anymore, but it desperately wants to be able to answer real world questions for you; there’s a huge difference. Search is just about retrieving information. Actually answering subjective questions requires a deep knowledge of the person doing the asking: Where you are, who your are friends, what your interests are, what you like and don’t like.
Picture this scenario. You are about to leave San Francisco to drive to Lake Tahoe for a weekend of skiing, so you fire up your Android handset and ask it “what’s the best restaurant between here and Lake Tahoe?”
It’s an incredibly complex and subjective query. But Google wants to be able to answer it anyway. (This was an actual example given to me by Google.) To provide one, it needs to know things about you. A lot of things. A staggering number of things.
To start with, it needs to know where you are. Then there is the question of your route—are you taking 80 up to the north side of the lake, or will you take 50 and the southern route? It needs to know what you like. So it will look to the restaurants you’ve frequented in the past and what you’ve thought of them. It may want to know who is in the car with you—your vegan roommates?—and see their dining and review history as well. It would be helpful to see what kind of restaurants you’ve sought out before. It may look at your Web browsing habits to see what kind of sites you frequent. It wants to know which places your wider circle of friends have recommended. But of course, similar tastes may not mean similar budgets, so it could need to take a look at your spending history. It may look to the types of instructional cooking videos you’ve viewed or the recipes found in your browsing history.
It wants to look at every possible signal it can find, and deliver a highly relevant answer: You want to eat at Ikeda’s in Auburn, California. Hey, I love that place too! Try the apple pie.
There is only one path to that answer, and it goes straight through your privacy. Google can’t deliver this kind of a tailored result if you’re using all kinds of other services that it doesn’t control. Nor can it do it if you keep your Google services separated. You have to do all the things you used to do elsewhere within the confines of one big information sharing service called Google.
The Internet of Things will produce data sets like we’ve never seen before, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we will have more meaningful products. So the question becomes, how can we design connected objects with meaning and mechanics to make people engage in better behavior?
Matt Rolandson says, “The first step is to put meaning on the agenda in the product development process, as emotional and philosophical intention, by encouraging designers with ideas about how to manage intention and awareness. A lot of what is developed today uses the triggers of fear or social stress.
“We could instead design products and services that help people get more meaning by visualizing the bigger picture, connecting services or products to some sense of larger purpose. And then coach them to behavior modification, collectivizing intent instead of competition. The key question to ask ourselves as designers is: How is the network you are creating allowing users to experience power — are they reinforcing a positive identify for themselves or the exact opposite?”
Can the Internet of Things become a movement with a positive impact on our lives? And what can we learn from Buddhism to help make that happen?
As Vincent Horn says, “Buddha was the original mind-hacker—a proto-scientist of the mind. We have been through several revolutions, including in the physical sciences with Galileo, and in the biological sciences with Darwin and his theory of natural selection and evolution. But we have not yet had a revolution in the mind sciences. Now, we are on the brink of a possible exciting revolution in that area. Meditators are being studied by mind scientists to see the actual benefits of meditating and how it impacts the brain. Hopefully, that will lead to technologies that help us become more awake to our senses.
“From a Buddhism perspective, everything rests on the tip of intention. Buddhists look at actions and connections as internally generated. If we become aware of that, train our minds and explore ourselves, we will move from being self-centric to self-aware and thereby become more aware of ourselves in relation to other things. Being aware of how things are connected has the potential to make us less self-centric if designers and developers build experiences with those ideas in mind.”
. Closer to One: Buddhism and the Internet of Things
By: Keenan Cummings Beaker Magazine, March 19, 2012
I was an agency-trained, senior-level, print/branding designer and left to work at a startup. Here’s why:
-1- I want my work to feel valuable.
It seems the higher up the institutional chain you climb, the more abstract the value you generate, and the more you are worth. The roles become so far removed from the end goals they are managing, and you have to wonder how long you can stay focused on what matters — making peoples lives better.
“The vast majority of the wealthiest people I’ve met are far more about building value for themselves than they are about creating value for anyone or anything beyond themselves.” (Are You a Role Model, HBR)
But this doesn’t add up in the startup world, mostly because there is not time nor room in the equation for anyone that doesn’t directly affect the outcomes of pursuing whatever the goals may be.
In a startup, value is a concrete measure of your contribution. I enjoy the clarity and trepidation that brings to the work. Things can fail, and the onus is on the person or team that failed to solve the problem correctly. (No blaming ‘bad’ clients!) Likewise, the triumphs are deeply felt because of the intimate relationship you have with the possibility of failure.
-2-I want to stop talking about good work and start making good work.
Startups are notoriously biased toward action — it’s a survival tactic in a competitive field.
I’ve spent a lot of time on research and development, writing pages of airy ‘positioning statements’ and the like. It often felt like intellectual glut that gummed up the process. “Research & Development” feels valuable, but I’ve found that it rarely delivers.
Startups trade R&D for insight and iteration: talk to users, find a solution, something elegant and surprising and useful, and try it out, not as a print out on the wall to be discussed and over-thought (and yes, over-thinking is symptomatic of many if not most stalled innovation processes), but something out in the real world with other people using it.
-3-I want other people to find value in my work.
That value is directly tied to making people’s experiences — and *hopefully lives — better. You have to deliver on that if you expect any kind of real impact.
Client work can often be far removed from any real world positive affect. When your goals happen to align with a client’s, then sure, it’s great to help them achieve that. You’re lucky if you can build a roster of clients you deeply believe in.
More often you are operating under one major but overlooked assumption — that lending clarity and delight to any message makes the world a better place, regardless of the real value of the message you are helping to sell.
Working as part of the team that is defining not just how a product gets communicated and used, but what that product is and what it does for people — that’s an opportunity you rarely get with client work.
*Part of the reason I have a very specific idea of the type of startup I want to work for. There are plenty of problems I don’t care to solve, and more power to the people out there tackling those.
-4-I want my mom to understand what I spend my time doing.
You ever meet someone very successful and say to yourself “what the hell do they do?” You ever meet someone that can hardly answer that question themselves?
I’ve come to believe that “coordinating teams of interdisciplinary, strategic partnerships for generating long term sustainable growth” is code for makin’ spreadsheets and delegating real work (the spreadsheet has even become the symbol of faux productivity).
-5- I want to design with empathy, and that means being close to the ground.
I want to get as close as possible to the people that will love, hate, use, abuse, praise and sh*t on my work.
There is power in making something for someone you know well, someone that you’ve taken the time to listen to.When you are designing for a real person with a real problem you exercise that designer’s empathy that you’ve been trying to squeeze out of yourself when you read vague marketing reports about a ‘target’ consumer or an archetypal customer.
You sit down for a casual cup of tea and a chat and they blow your mind with insights into what the problem is and how to make something that really works. You take that with you, synthesize and sift through it, and cone up with something that you are uniquely qualified to come up with. It is grueling, sweat-dripping-from-the-brow work — empathy exercise. Getting it right is intense and rewarding.
-6-I want my stamp on the things I make.
I don’t want to contractually hand over credit for my work to any institution. Too many designers do great work that is absorbed by client’s contracts or even by the agency they work for.
The industry is changing. Designers are getting involved long before the brief is created. They are helping identify opportunities and build platforms and even products and in turn, generating an immense amount of value. The industry is demanding much more out of agencies but the rates aren’t changing. And we aren’t just talking learning new tools or building a web team or hiring film producers. Clients are demanding deeper domain knowledge, broader expertise, and bigger ROI.
I can go create this value somewhere else, for something I really believe in, and for a company that is moving quickly and iterating responsively.
I’ve worked for some of the best creative shops in north america, and the biggest issues regarding digital integration that I’ve run into are: idea recognition and experience design.
Many creative-lead shops have established methodologies for coming up with great ideas, and have senior creative directors who might not have the experience to understand/ recognize good digital ideas. (That said, it often doesn’t stop the creative-lead shop at coming up with original ideas that work within the digital space.)
If traditional agencies want to be the future of digital, I think they need to invest in experience design & experience strategy.
Learning how to do this, and effectively integrating those UX evangelists throughout the agency will ultimately determine those agencies that move the industry forward.
Digital & social strategy consultant & UX Architect for BMW, Coke, Telus, Dove, Canadian Tire, AT&T, Microsoft, Cineplex, VISA, Toyota, GE, P&G
In Chef David Chang’s latest issue of Lucky Peach, there is a great article by T-Magazine food editor Christine Muhlkecomparing the nature of the cooking and fashion industries: how recipes spread from innovators to mass market family restaurant chains, Award winning chef’s “selling out” promoting frozen foods to survive and the stealing of ideas.
“The tween buying jeggings at Forever 21 in 2012 has no idea that they derive from the Spring 2010 runway of Balmain (which was styled by a French Vogue Editor, who last year became editor-in-chef). Meanwhile, her mom is ordering a Triple Chocolate Meltdown at Applebee’s, happily unaware of who Michel Bras is, or that he invented the half-baked chocolate cake in Laguiole, France, in 1981. To her, haute cuisine is a frou-frou luxury with no bearing on her life-not unlike $1,200 designer jeans. And yet…good ideas will always find a larger audience. Class becomes mass, and the beet chip goes on.” - Christine Muhlke. “Trickle-Down: The Circuitous Path of Ideas in Food and Fashion.” Lucky Peach Spring 2012: Pg 62-67
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”—
…What I love about the creative process, and this may sound naive, but it is this idea that one day there is no idea, and no solution, but then the next day there is an idea. I find that incredibly exciting and conceptually actually remarkable.
The nature of having ideas and creativity is incredibly inspiring. There is an idea which is solitary, fragile and tentative and doesn’t have form.
What we’ve found here is that it then becomes a conversation, although remains very fragile.
When you see the most dramatic shift is when you transition from an abstract idea to a slightly more material conversation. But when you made a 3D model, however crude, you bring form to a nebulous idea, and everything changes - the entire process shifts. It galvanises and brings focus from a broad group of people. It’s a remarkable process.
Q: What makes a great designer?
A: It is so important to be light on your feet, inquisitive and interested in being wrong. You have that wonderful fascination with the what if questions, but you also need absolute focus and a keen insight into the context and what is important - that is really terribly important. Its about contradictions you have to navigate.
Q: What are your goals when setting out to build a new product?
A: Our goals are very simple - to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it.
Q: How do you know consumers will want your products?
A: We don’t do focus groups - that is the job of the designer. It’s unfair to ask people who don’t have a sense of the opportunities of tomorrow from the context of today to design.