Tag Archives: strategy

finding design frontiers: larry keeley at ocad

larry keeley, ceo of doblin, spoke earlier today at ocad, in a wonderful talk sponsored by torch partnership and the strategic innovation lab – the new incarnation of my alma mater the beal institute for strategic creativity. big thanks to the folks that hosted “the john cleese of innovation.” there were a few key ideas that really stood out for me in his talk.

the thesis of larry’s talk focused on a new emerging discipline of innovation, one that is still in its infancy and will eventually encapsulate the methods and rigour demonstrated in fully or semi-institutionalized disciplines such as medicine, law or business. at a time of great uncertainty, as the systems we have come to rely on for the exchange of economic, physical and political capital begin to erode globally, larry offers that innovation, far from dead, is thriving.

as is often the case in times of turmoil, people innovate when they need to think differently, act differently and make different things. they explore the boundaries of what is possible. however, larry asks “what if everything we thought we knew about innovation was wrong?” especially when we consider that most innovation posts a success rate of less than 4%, worldwide. he then gives the following example of how innovation commonly goes down in a company (which i’m sure will be a bit mucked up in my retelling, but the point will get across ;)

    the executives of a major corporation realize that their earnings are tanking, and so product lines are trimmed, teams are reduced and gap analysis is conducted. and the gap analytics indicate that in order to close the gap between the economic projections and the actual company performance, one needs to innovate. so the sr execs comb through the company and pick the best and brightest, and get them all together in the board room. then comes the stirring speech, in which the selected team is inspired and charged to innovate with no margin for error, a super short timeline, no guidance, no resources, threat of termination upon failure and little in the way of exactly *what* they’re supposed to innovate towards. ambiguous expectations and concrete deliverables. however, there will be whiteboards and flipcharts to aid in generating ideas. this is akin to picking a bunch of random people and asking them to perform neurosurgery with a few exacto knives and some rubbing alcohol.

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on expectation and prototyping experience, or how i left a bag of stuff at the roadside in france

in early 2004, i was working full-time in my metalsmithing studio – designing and making, exhibiting, teaching. there was alot on my plate, and at some point i stopped and asked myself why and for what i was doing this. i realized that i was burnt out and dissatisfied with the route my practice had taken and needed a break. within 3 months i’d left the studio and was thinking about a trip to france and spain. i’d recently purchased a road bike, and decided that the best way to see these places would be from my bike. and so it began.

over the summer, i learned as much as i could about cycling on the road and france. what equipment and supplies to bring, how bikes worked and how to fix them, what other people’s experiences were on the road, what the routes could be, all the while training to ride upwards of 100k at a time. i relearned the french language, and about french culture, attitudes towards biking, social and geographic topographies. my inexperience was tempered (or so i thought) with my desire to learn, as well as the leap towards uncertainty i was taking – while the route was more or less mapped, the journey itself was completely unknown.

i flew to paris in late september, and after a few days took a train to vernon, close to monet’s hometown of giverny. i awoke early and readied my bike, bought a croissant at the boulangerie, and walked out of town, prepared to ride the 120K or so to dieppe. excitedly, i got on my bike and started to pedal. and immediately stopped – the bike’s shimmy was so severe the bike literally wouldn’t ride.

for all the planning and coordinating, i’d never weighed my gear, or done a test ride fully loaded before leaving. and i’d overplanned, thinking i was heading to the moon rather than the country that invented the bicycle. even though just about every small french hamlet has a bike shop, in my preparedness i’d brought something for every worst case scenario i could think of at the time. spare parts galore – tires, tubes, chains. clothing for bad weather, and rehydration capsules just in case. guides to cycling in france + italy, backpacking guides, road atlases, plug adaptors for asia… when i tried to get underway, the rear weight imbalance was insane enough to render a ride impossible and potentially snap my steel frame. epic fail.


a pretty understandable error, after all, but one that could have serious consequences in a different context, because prototyping the experience (ie – a ride around the block fully loaded) wasn’t part of my vernacular at the time. for all the worst-case-scenario planning, i was oblivious to one of the most obvious conditions. it’s in our nature to plan and create expectations, even though that often blindsides our tacit understanding – our doing – and our knowledge of experience.

looking back, this was a critically important lesson, and one that i’m still learning. first, there will always be weak signals that can drastically change the path of any situation. one way to reposition a potential disruption is to prototype experiences – literally, or through scenarios/visualizations where imagined narratives build an experiential or latent context and encourage solutions. exploring possibiloty to live and grow in the wild, and if that’s not possible, we need to imagine the wild in all it’s glorious wooliness.

second, the ability to assess and adapt to changing situations while maintaining some sort of equilibrium is learned through experience. you gotta mess up a few times and look for the patterns in the situation and response, finding ways to tailor behaviours and methods. lose what’s unnecessary and get back on the bike – the adventure will still be there.

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heading to LIFT08


v v happy to be flying back to geneva this year for the ever-awesome LIFT conference. huge props to laurent, nicolas, sylvie and the rest of the LIFT team for putting together another really fantastic program. bruce sterling, bill cockaynelee bryant, julian bleecker, fabien girardin, stephanie booth, henriette weber andersen and noel hidalgo will be among the many giving talks, leading conversations and workshopping. tom is also giving what looks to be awesome workshop on the future of wireless. oof, unfortunately with the conference last week and project applications all over the place, i missed the deadline to submit…

regardless, i’m looking forward to catching up with friends, meeting new people and having my mind saturated with absolutely fantastic conversations. a new element this year is the venture night – where new startups give us their pitch! and there’s the threat of switzerland’s biggest. fondue. evar. <cheese glee>

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iLunch 6.03


Hey! we’ve been planning a really awesome event for this Friday November 16 at the Gladstone Hotel – iLunch 6.03 – (ad)ventures in mobile. there’s a great lineup of panelists, one-on-one meetings after the panel proper, and a tasty lunch! Details below, and hope to see you there!

(ps – big props to sebastien chorney and io’s mobile committee for taking the reins on this session’s program!!)

(Ad)Ventures in Mobile
Opportunities in mobile marketing: A discussion on mobile content, applications, user experiences, business models, and integrating the strategy that works for you – with special guest speakers:

* Adrienne Clapperton, Producer, BiteTV
* Gavin Newman, Executive Producer, Virgin Media Television – UK
* Andrew Osmak, Senior VP Business Development, Lavalife
* Derek van der Plaat, CEO, Jambo Mobile Solutions & Silverbirch Inc.

Moderated by:
* Claude Galipeau, Principal, The Galipeau Group

Discussion description
This iLunch session will be dedicated to exploring the future possibilities for mobile – both the content and the applications required to get content to intended market. The guest panelists will examine the medium of mobile in order for traditional content producers to get up to speed on the status quo, emerging opportunities (and numerous challenges). We will also look to other media platforms such as broadcast, broadband, music and publishing, as well as out into the social climate of society to consider unique opportunities and rate of innovation on this platform. We will ultimately focus on how to exploit the personal nature of mobile devices through content and applications to enrich the mobile experience for the end-user.

A panel of progressive members of the mobile community as well as leading thinkers and innovators in multi-platform content will use this context to discuss opportunities for Ontario mobile businesses to create these types of commercially viable applications and content for a global market. Continue reading

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arts & crafts revisited


***update below***

a few weeks ago i gave a talk on the arts & crafts movement that emerged during the latter part of victorian britain, from roughly 1860 to 1900, and i was taken with the similarities between now and then, in relation to the changes and/or transformation our culture has undergone over the past twenty years or so; and i think i’m still in teacher-mode, so this is a bit of a long post. while the circumstances and contexts are very different, there are arguable parallels in the nature of how people responded. lately i find myself more and more fascinated by the past incidents of massive change, thinking about what insights into the future can be gained by looking back.

bit of history…. originating a few centuries prior with the printing press, the industrial revolution took hold in the early 1800’s with the advent of mechanized innovations in the textile industry, and the mechanization of labour quickly spread to other industries and spurred the production of goods towards extraordinary volumes, creating a greater need for regulated tradeways (rail, road, canal, etc) and urban development. mass production of goods was rampant, newly established factories hired workforces in the thousands, and a new middle class of entrepreneurs and nouveau riche emerged.

by mid-century, the industrial revolution was reaching the crest of its first wave, transforming every aspect of british culture while it gained strength as a global empire. it’s critical to remember that these changes were happening for the first time ever, accelerating human life into the modern age at a pace that barely allowed time to gain vantage on the present before hurtling into the future, all the while changing the expectations of what that future might hold.

more after the jump…

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canadian digital information strategy

kudos to the peeps at civicaccess.ca for circulating this in their mailing list!

Arising from a 2006 National Summit on the future of digital content and the public/private infrastructures needed to support it, Library and Archives Canada has released the Canadian Digital Information Strategy for public commentary. The strategy is extremely interesting and full of insights regarding canada’s digital situation/future! Available for download here, they’re inviting comments and suggestions, please forward your thoughts* and engage in this debate! The resolutions generated here could have a HUGE impact on canada’s performance in r&d and innovation.

The Canadian Digital Information Strategy is currently issued in draft form for comment by any interested person or organization. Please note that comments are due by Nov 23, 2007.

Digital information and networked technologies are key drivers of economic growth and social well-being in the 21st century. It is clear that the nations that nurture their digital information assets and infrastructure will prosper; those that do not will fall behind. Canada must act quickly and decisively. We must ensure that the needs of all Canadians-private citizens, scientists, creators, industry, students, and workers-are met. We must also make certain that the fundamental values of our nation, such as bilingualism, multiculturalism, inclusiveness, and equity, are reflected in the digital realm. This can only be accomplished with a strategic approach; one that is highly coordinated and involves all of those engaged in the creation, preservation and dissemination of digital information.

* We welcome your comments on the Canadian Digital Information Strategy by Nov 23, 2007. Your feedback will be used to finalize the strategy.

To guide your response, we would ask you to consider the following questions:

  1. Do you agree with the overall vision, scope and challenges outlined in the strategy?
  2. Are the objectives and actions set out in Part II the right ones? Which do you view as the most important or pressing?
  3. What do you consider to be the critical next steps to advance the strategy? What role can you or your community play?

Unless specified otherwise, we will assume that submissions to this consultation are not made in confidence and that we may reproduce and publish the submissions in whole or in part in any form.
By online form
By e-mail:
By post:
Canadian Digital Information Strategy
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0N4
By Fax:
(819) 934-5839

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