Speaking one-on-one with Wim Elfrink, the first Chief Globalisation Officer to be appointed at software giant Cisco Systems, is always a delight. I must confess that I’ve only had conversations with him via Cisco’s high-end telepresence system at the corporation’s One Penn Plaza offices in Manhattan, when it’s been morning in New York and evening in Bangalore, where Elfrink often works. As he said the last time we spoke, “sometimes it’s hard to remember if I meet people in person or on telepresence,” and this is true about our own meetings. Our chats have been so vibrant, so warm, and so engaging that we may as well have been talking at a dinner party. This is testament to Cisco’s telepresence equipment, of course, but also more exemplary of Elfrink’s dynamic mind and lively, affable personality. It shines through, no matter what the forum.
Recently, we talked about the future of cities: how they can best leverage exciting new technology possibilities in terms of becoming “smarter,” via connecting people more quickly online or via mobile devices, and processing real-time data from sensors and other equipment. In other words, we explored how urban communities can better use social networking, sensors, Big Data, and sophisticated information technology infrastructures to evolve and prosper. Here’s our edited conversation.
Why are cities such a focal point for anyone interested in inspired innovation today?
Cities have always attracted people by offering three things: security, prosperity, and quality of life. Because of those three things, innovation takes place in cities. There has long been a misconception that cities aren’t safe, that they are filled with poor people, that it is hard to live in cities.
But today, security is not about brick and mortar safety, it is not about walls. Surveillance has changed that.
Cities offer more opportunities for people to improve their lives than in smaller towns, so even if they attract people who are challenged by a lack of resources, they have better chances of becoming more prosperous.
Telepresence will also help the poor have access to cities, perhaps bring them the education, work, and even healthcare possibilities that they didn’t have before, and in a way, make them part of cities.
Also, we must remember that great cities have souls. Think of what they are known for: Paris, for art. New Orleans, for music. San Francisco, for high tech. What is so promising about social networking is that in the future, we’ll be able to connect more people with each other around these aspects of cities while we are in them—or away from them.
Finally, we should consider that the future of competition is between cities, whereas it used to be between nations. Many people today identify themselves as what city they are from, versus what country. If cities do not work to become smarter, in all aspects of the word, they will lose the competition for visitors, industries, and revenues.
This year’s Design Research Conference (DRC), presented by the IIT Institute of Design, focuses on the “adjacent possible.” As designers work on a broadening scope of problems, design research is evolving to include diverse disciplines, approaches, and tools. Exploring emerging influences on the practice of design research from outside the design community, DRC’s lineup will feature speakers from a wide range of fields including behavioral economics, storytelling, and computer science.
frog is collaborating with DRC to facilitate the event’s interactive sessions. Sharing insights on how frog “designs” research activities, frog’s DRC team will involve conference attendees in an original, event-wide design research process. frog’s sessions will engage attendees to gather information, reflect on what they’re learning throughout the event, and distill a shared understanding of what emerges as significant to the attendees. Throughout the process, the conference audience will directly experience the power of creatively-structured activities to reveal the “adjacent possible” by provoking thought and distilling insight.
“Choose your enemies carefully, 'cause they will define you Make them interesting 'cause in some ways they will mind you They're not there in the beginning but when your story ends Gonna last with you longer than your friends. -- U2, “Cedars of Lebanon”
We know that opposition is an integral part of the creative process. But sometimes opposition itself can be a creative act. Beyond common tactics (listed on this Community Toolbox site as “deflect, delay, deny, discount, deceive, divide, dulcify, discredit, destroy, deal”), it can manifest itself as craftsmanship and art--whether it be street art by Shepard Fairey or satire like these recent Mitt Romney campaign spoofs Venn diagrams.
As Make Shift’s editor, Steve Daniels, observes in the current issue, the nature of resistance is changing. Case studies ranging from Occupy Wall Street to neighborhood activism in Port-au-Prince illustrate that a combination of social technology and street-level ingenuity is producing new tools, techniques, practices, and skills for vocalizing opposition. And these in turn drive boycotts, counter-movements, and insurgencies, as well as opposition at a more mundane level, in day-to-day interactions.
With regard to business, numerous acts of creative opposition abound, from product hacks (e.g., hackers of IKEA products and Microsoft’s Kinect) to Beck’s decision to release his new album only as “sheet music” to be recorded by his fans. The entire maker and crowdfunding movements, as well as “innovation communes” such as The Glint, the Rainbow Mansion, and the Memento Factories can be seen as fundamental acts of creative resistance to business as usual.
All of these trends made me think about creative opposition within companies--about employee activities that are counter to the top-down policies without crossing the line into the unproductive and illegal. From passive disengagement, noncompliance, and disobedience to passive aggression, covert sabotage, and overt conflict, which tactics are appropriate, legitimate, and effective? How much resistance from its fringes can an organization endure before it is threatened at its core--and stops being an organization altogether? And most important, why would fostering creative opposition even be beneficial to companies?
frog and Health 2.0 are collaborating to bring a health-focused frogTHINK to Health 2.0’s 6th Annual Fall Conference. Every year, over a thousand industry leaders congregate at the San Francisco conference to witness and explore the biggest innovations in health technology. This year, attendees will have an inside look at how frog approaches concept development and fosters disruptive thinking.
Truly innovative and disruptive ideas arise when people are pushed outside of their usual patterns of thinking and methods of problem solving. The health care industry is ripe for disruption as it continues to suffer from a reported $750 billion per year in wasted spending. This fifty-five minute workshop will challenge participants to rethink traditional health care practices and create new, focused concepts around on how to improve them. Led by frog facilitators, multi-disciplinary teams will build on each member’s expertise to create viable, informed solutions.
Innovation was the overarching theme of the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC) 2012 in Tianjin this week. As a representative of a design and innovation firm and as a member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Values, I was delighted to see that many panels and conversations approached innovation from a holistic perspective. That meant not contextualizing it solely as technological disruption or process optimization, but as a deeply humanistic endeavour that connects consumer and producer, along with other stakeholders (increasingly in hybrid roles), in a creative act. Innovation, after all, is a human enterprise.
Recently, frogs Teaque Lenahan and Jake Zukowski facilitated the Seattle Design Summit with the help of designers Jenni Light and Kat Davis. The summit was part of AIGA's larger Design for Good initiative, which aims to put design at the forefront of positive social change. Sponsored by PepsiCo's Nutrition Ventures, the two-day event focused on guerrilla design research and divergent thinking as a catalyst for health innovation, particularly in the prevention of lifestyle diseases.
The Golden Ratio is mathematically elegant, which is why people like it. It can also be found in nature, which is why people give it credence. But neither of these things means that people prefer this proportion in designed objects or the built environment.
If you want to access people on a visceral level by using the Golden Rectangle as your template for design, then good luck. Fact of the matter is no scientific or neurophysiological data supports the idea that the Golden Ratio is pleasant to the human eye. And there is zero evidence that the brain responds positively (or at all) when presented with it. No instinctual draw, no magic power and no supernatural or psychological force is at play when this proportion is used as the basis for a design.
Earlier this year we were fortunate to have entrepreneur, blogger and product strategist Mike Mace drop by and host a brown-bag strategy discussion with some frogs. One of the topics we discussed was whether smart phones have changed the way we think about buying phones.
Most frogs and Mike were in agreement that we bought our first iPhones for its shiny look and joy of the beautiful touchscreen. However, there was good debate as to whether that still holds true -- or whether application ecosystems and services lock in second and third generation buyers, making them less likely to switch. Put another way, when you pick Apple/iOS or Google/Android, are you likely to remain a happy prisoner to your ecosystem or are you just as likely to switch when the new shiny device comes along?
On a steamy August day in New York, a group of 19 kids, aged 8-12 years old, are excitedly talking with their parents, their summer arts camp teachers, and each other about their latest favorite video games. In a makeshift “arcade” at the Children’s Museum of Art (CMA) in Manhattan, each child is eager to demonstrate the games—with titles such as “Three Rooms of Doom” and “Fall of the Parasites.” It’s clear from their body language and bubbling voices that they can’t wait to share the details of how to play them. One enthusiastically describes a digital image of a black button, which propels a player into a time warp; another is animatedly talking about a house built of mazes and how to navigate through it effectively. The biggest reason these kids love these games? They designed them.
frog’s Portfolio Slam is an open call for design talent - from visual to interactive, intern to director, artist to geek. Our European creative leadership will be at Museum Brandhorst, ready to see your skills, your secret passions, your knack for detail and your vision for the future. Come show us what you’ve got! Here’s the when & where: Date: September, 17, 2012 from 4 to 8pm Location: Museum Brandhorst Theresienstraße 35a, 80333 München, please see www.frogdesign.com/portfolioslam for more detailed information.