Marketing Media Poetry Writing

Cultural Movements Haiku

Here is my tweet submission for the #UprisingGiveaway by Strawberry Frog’s Scott Goodson:

The challenge was to define and comment on cultural movements in a tweet. Given the brevity of the medium, I opted for the haiku form to help give me some constraints, and for the LOLZ. Also, traditional Japanese haiku is more than just the 5-7-5 syllable structure, as the poetic form often references nature. I decided to play with the metaphor of waves to describe the nature of cultural movements.

The idea of “surfing” upon the power of an ocean/cultural wave, rather than trying to control or force it parallels Goodson’s advice to marketers in BusinessWorld:

  • Instead of controlling the message, marketers must learn to relinquish control and let the movement do what it will with that message.
  • Companies must learn to stop talking about themselves and join in a conversation that is about anything but their products.

Brazil Design Innovation Inspiration PURPOSE Writing

4 Lessons From The Social Innovation Hotbed Of Brazil

Here is my new article about Social Innovation in Brazil, part of the Purpose content series on Fast Co.Exist.

Brazil is known for its supermodels, but what about its social innovation models? Besides the economic boom, the country is finding a new groove in the field of digital collaboration and activism.

Last year, I moved from New York to Rio de Janeiro, where Purpose has opened its first overseas office. I have met with local innovators and interacted with all kinds of people on the streets, at the beach, and in botequins (informal bars). These experiences have all enriched my work in social innovation. Besides stimulating my creativity, immersion in a different culture and working in a foreign language have heightened my sense of mindfulness and empathy, reminded me of the virtue of humility, and taught me a few things about what it means to innovate.

Read the rest of the article at Fast Co.Exist.

Personal PURPOSE Writing

My purpose

My purpose is to be
a catalyst
a spark
(ok, maybe even a full-on flame)
for change
through art
through stories
through action

My purpose is to serve
to enable and to empower
others and ourselves
to expand our realm of the possible

My purpose is to unlock
the creative force
in myself
in my team
in my community
in my world
so we can give each other license to dream
to dream big
to dream bold
to dream crazy

My purpose is to fly
the freak flag of freedom
radical freedom
freedom in the agility that comes
from embracing unexpected outcomes
the joy
the ecstasy
of serendipity

My purpose is to believe
to preach
faith in alternatives
to our reality
faith in what is beautiful
faith in what is true

My purpose is to doubt
spread doubt like a virus
doubt about our preconceptions
our prejudices
doubt that the injustice that is
must be
doubt that I have all the answers
but we
come closer
to finding them

New York Technology Writing

The Analog Underground = Neo-Luddites?

The July 3rd issued of New York Magazine features an article about The Analog Underground, “[a] new generation of digital apostates rejects zeroes and ones in favor of celluloid, vinyl, ink, paper, and the click-clack-ding-slide of a typewriter.”  I came across the article rather serendipitously online in the course of some research I have been doing for various projects I am working on, including a proposal for a SXSW talk tentatively called “Declare Independence: DIY Design as Social Innovation Movement.”  I have been exploring the idea of expanding design literacy and the practice of “just making stuff” through education (both in the formal and autodidactic sense) as an inherent social and civic good.

The Analog Underground article got me thinking, and made some synaptic connections in my head that I am still trying to full grasp.  The author of the article, Ashlea Halpern, mentions the nostalgia as well as novelty value of anachronistic objects, which I totally get.  But she also labels this analog phenomenon a “neo-Luddite counterculture”.  I’m not sure if that label was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but I really don’t think “Luddite” correctly captures the motivations behind this trend.

According to Wikipedia:

The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the nineteenth century who protested – often by destroying mechanized looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their way of life.

I don’t think the so-called analog underground is rebelling against industrial capitalism.  They aren’t embracing the nostalgic novelty of vintage analog gadgets because the new digital ones are threatening their craft or livelihood.  I think the motivations are more personal, and inward focused.  Maybe it’s just an aesthetic thing.  Many people, from hipsters to old money trustfunders have favored old or vintage things for a long time now.  But maybe there are deeper psychological and spiritual needs too.  A need for a more physical, tactile connection with our objects.  It reminds me of the New York Aquarium ad I have been seeing in the subway that has a picture of a girl petting a starfish and the line “no screen, just touch.”  Maybe in the age of touch screens, we just want to touch something real.  Something analog.  The physical and the analog have a kind of permanence that ethereal and ephemeral cloud-based applications do not.  And we can really own them, hack them, and personalize them.  We don’t really own the apps on our iPhone or any software as service apps we run.  Somehow perhaps, all of these motivations are a reaction against the increasingly black box nature of technology.  We can’t open things up and see how they work.  After the magic and the seduction of these new shiny digital black boxes fade, what is left?  Alienation from our devices?  A desire for the real?  I don’t know, but it’s something to think about.

Other manifestations of this broader cultural phenomenon include the popularity of sites like Etsy and the spread of the Maker Movement.

Slimwhitman’s comment on the article really resonated with me:

The analog will always be more a more complex code than the digital, which has to approximate its curves, where the nearly infinite realm is. Although that sounds like pop-metaphysics, all you have to do is recognize how the record industry collapsed, it made the analog compressible into any digital file system and degraded our relationship to music. We went from live music to analog waves made in vinyl and magnetic tape to essentially finite squares out of binary codes. In order for a computer to synch with a neural net, like a brain or group of brains, it will require waves that cannot make errors or be approximate. The digital will never be the sole entrancer of humans, and probably, we will have to eventually build analog computers to achieve anything of value in the post-PC age.

I think there really is something to that observation. I have been feeling the same way in my own creative practice as a musician, but Slimwhitman’s articulation of the issue really gelled things for me. While I have been making electro-acoustic music since I was a teenager, and digital tools will continue to be important to how I work, I have recently been immersing myself in the analog music world by playing acoustic instruments. Even the joys of playing the humble ukulele has a kind of humanity and expressiveness that is quite different, and in many ways more accesible and immediate for me, the player, than any of my complex high-tech music making gadgets.

I’m still waiting for the analog blogging platform though.  Until then, I’ll still be sticking to my iMac and WordPress.  😉

Book Review Writing

Book Review: Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

First up, the full disclosure. I got a free review copy from the promoter of Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization. I’m pretty sure they offered me the review copy because of the review I did of Tony Hsieh’s Delivery Happiness.  I also want to say that I don’t normally read business management books as such and won’t be discussing it from that kind of angle, but I was interested in Tribal Leadership from a group dynamics angle.  In the course of my career, from my first gig teaching in Japan and writing about Japanese culture, to my graduate studies at ITP studying with the likes of Clay Shirky, and to my work today as a social innovation designer, I am interested in how groups work and how they succeed at being creative and producing social value.

For a more in-depth summary of Tribal Leadership, check out Wikipedia.  The basic point the authors Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright make is that tribes are the basic units of any organization, and tribes are at one of five different stages.

The five tribal stages are:

Stage 1: Tribal members exist in a state of alienation from goals beyond mere survival. They use language to describe their place in the world that asserts that life in general is unfair, perhaps resembling Thomas Hobbes’ imagery of “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” In short, “Life Sucks!”

Stage 2: Tribal members exist in a state of victimization. They use language that describes their place in the world that suggest that they are powerless and oppressed by forces outside their control. In short, “My life sucks.”

Stage 3: Tribal members exist in a state of self-aggrandizing competition. They use language that describes their place in the world as great by virtue of the fact that they have won positions of status and power. In short, “I am great, because you are not!”

Stage 4: Tribal members exist in a state of mutual cooperation around a common goal, which is typically characterized by competing against other competitor organizations. They use language that describes their place in the world as meaningful because they are positively contributing to achieving outcomes valued by the tribe by cooperating with other members of the tribe. In short, “We are great (because they are not)!”

Stage 5: Tribal members exist in a state of flow. They use language that describes their place in the world as intrinsically meaningful and focused on the good of the universe. In short, “Life is Great!”

Each stage has a predominant mood that describes the quality and the core value of the relationships between tribe members.

At Stage 1: members are alienated from each other, and the relationships are undermining.

At Stage 2: members are separate from each other, and the relationships are ineffective.

At Stage 3: there is typically personal domination of one member over others, and relationships are developed for their usefulness

At Stage 4: stable partnerships are attained, as relationships are deemed important. A tribe member is successful only if all members are successful.

At Stage 5: a team of stable partnerships exists, and relationships are vital.

Tribal Leadership is an easy read with anecdotes and actionable synthesis points for any leader who wants to move their organization up to a higher stage.  I would also recommend it to anyone interested in group dynamics.  In my work at Purpose, I have been particularly interested in how the culture has developed and evolved as we have rapidly grown from a 5-person operation to a 40-person+ company.  One of our challenges is maintaining and cultivating a creative and mission driven culture as we get bigger and more diverse.  I will definitely be sharing this book around the office.  But before I do that, I feel like I need to live with Tribal Leadership a bit longer so I can digest and synthesize it, so it will be living on my nightstand for before bed perusing for a few more days.

A big part of thriving organizational cultures is making strong connections, both between people and between ideas.  Here are some connections I made while I was reading Tribal Leadership.  I also happened to be reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. In chapter 6, of Finding Flow, Csikszentmihaly talks about relationships and the quality of life, and also highlights the importance of interconnectedness with a group.  Reading both Tribal Leadership and Finding Flow have been helping me better understand how the actualized individual fits in and interacts with the thriving tribe.  To be better connected as groups, we need to let down some of our own personal barriers and become vulnerable.  As Brené Brown puts it in her TEDxHouston talk on wholehearteness and vulnerability, “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen — really seen.”  Another TED talk to check out in this vein is Steven Johnson’s talk about where good ideas come from.  In Johnson’s view, good ideas and creativity are combinatorial and require cross-pollination that arises from environments with a certain degree of social density and diversity.  These kinds of environments can be cultivated, and Tribal Leadership can be part of the equation.

Since I am writing this post on the Fourth of July, I would like to conclude with an image from the time of the founding of the United States (before I head out to a BBQ and maybe the beach).  For me, it’s a poignant symbol of group unity, which is necessary for survival itself.  Join, or die.

Get the book on Amazon: Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization