Week 100

After our 100th week, some reflection on coping with major changes, and a report on some events we’ve been attending.

Adaptation

Things have been changing around here, and we’re working on adapting to new conditions. It seems at times as if this September is far too busy a month to work in some rest and relaxation, and being so busy creates a hesitation and sometimes slight guilt towards properly switching off. However, as advocates of naps and work-life balance, we also realize that taking vacation, as Johannes and Igor are quite wisely doing this month, provides a good opportunity to reassess the situation, reset the mindset and approach work a couple weeks later with a more flexible, relaxed mind.

A mindset adjustment is definitely necessary, since we have less manpower, some organizational loose ends (“Who’s going to water the plants?” is among them), plenty of work to be doing, and questions about goals and direction. Some of our restructuring demands some rewiring of our internal communication. It can be surprising how much one variable alters the entire equation. No matter how well we all get along, when the line of command changes and even small teams are restructured, we have to relearn to a small extent what to expect of each other, when to ask things and when to try to work them out yourself, how to talk to each other so that everything is understood exactly the right way. Fortunately, getting along well makes it a lot easier to tweak things, and speaking openly and quickly about any concerns really helps.

Identity

Adapting to a changed system leads us to think even more about our identity as a company, and corporate identity in general. Circumstances are liable to change at any time. One might, for example, win the lottery and not want to work another day in one’s life, or one might simply change one’s mind and move on to something new, like antique restoration. For this reason, it helps to build a corporate identity based partially on the constituent personalities, and partially on the types and styles of work being performed, or the corporate mission. The personalities play an important role in that we, the members of the company, are people that clients and readers can identify with. This helps to create trust: We place our trust and respect in people more reliably than in companies. The work/mission component allows people to gauge to what extent our work could help their company, whether we share professional interests that would allow us to collaborate well on projects, etc. Examples of our work allow us credibility and authority on given topics.

An identity that consists of both these components is more resilient to inevitable change, since the solidity of one at any given point in time is insurance against change in the other. When one component begins to change, the company still can be identified as itself, and clients’/collaborators’/readers’ feelings towards it hopefully don’t have to be revised too much.

Johannes’ week in events

Johannes joined about 90 other so-called “influencers” on Thursday evening for an event called Zeitgeist Project, initiated by the UK event agency FreeState. They invited eight “curators” to give their perspective on current trends in consumer electronics (it was the evening before the IFA started). Among the curators where people like Richard Seymour and Simon Waterfall and Third Wave friends Bobbie Johnson and Kati Krause. The whole evening somehow felt pretty random in the sense that nobody seemed to really understand what it wanted. Johannes described it as a little over-produced and under-programmed. Some clarity about the purpose instead of too much eye (and ear) candy would have been nice.

On Friday morning, Johannes took part in a meeting, set up by Berlin Partner for the visit of a Finnish delegation from the Koulii project. It was an interesting morning of conversations around how to set up innovation projects in education and city neighborhoods.

What we read this week (18 May)

This week’s reads: Quantified Self tools for brain activity, shirts that make you work harder, microloans and the Internet, the future of the digital arts, innovation explained in terms of evolution, and the impact of the Internet and social media on society.

Quotes of the week

Privacy is intrinsic to democracy; it is necessary for discourse to happen.

Lane DeNicola, on The Digital Human

I interface from a database, and my database is in cyberspace, so I’m interactive, I’m hyperactive, and from time to time, I’m radioactive.

George Carlin

Articles of the week

  • The Creators Project: Are Brands The New Medicis?
    The Creators Project is opening up a discussion about the digital arts, and whether the ‘cross-pollination between art and advertising’ can be profitable. An interesting exploration of the influence of branded projects on the evolution of new branches of art, and the relationship between brand and artist.
  • Matt Webb: FuelBand for alpha waves
    In this post, Matt Webb, co-founder of BERG, outlines his vision for a product that does for brain activity what the Nike FuelBand does for exercise – a brilliant line of thought.
  • Boston.com: Northeastern students create a shirt that knows when you’re slacking off on your workout
    As body sensors become more and more ubiquitous, we see them integrated in more day to day products and in some highly specialized niches. In this case, we see a prototype for a shirt that’s packed with sensors to monitor your body (heart rate and all) for further analysis. While for now this is aimed at elite athletes and other gym rats, we expect to see the technology trickle down to more consumer grade goods quite soon.
  • BrainJuicer: Insects, Innovation and Instagram
    For companies, ‘adapt or die’ is one of the guiding principles of the digital age. But since innovation is ‘really, really hard,’ suggesting adaptation is much easier said than done, as is illustrated here by way of bug-related metaphor.
  • Kiva: Annual Report
    Kiva is an organization that enables peer-to-peer lending. Users can give microloans to individuals and small businesses, see what they’ve helped to support, and finally get paid back. The annual report gives a great deal of insight into the nature of the market that Kiva is working in, and what can be achieved through this clever use of Internet manpower.

Also interesting: Aleks Krotoski is currently running a seven-part series on BBC Radio 4 called The Digital Human, addressing the impact of the Internet on society and human behavior. Three episodes are up online so far, and are well worth a listen.