Thursday, July 03, 2014

Mick Jagger irons out a few wrinkles for Monty Python

To Infinity And Beyond - Overcoming the dark forces that hold ideas back

I saw the premier of ToyStory at a theatre in London's Leicester Square in the mid 90s. My girlfriend worked for Disney, so - as ever - I was the imposter, sitting a couple of rows away from Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman - I'm not sure what their connection with the film was.

I hadn't been primed about the film. I knew little about it and would have probably given it a miss. My days were filled with running around London completing freelance assignments I had stacked on top of one another - the English had a way of booking me for a week at time but I had a way of nailing the problem in the first couple of days. But a week booking was a week booking and the ad agencies who hired me never thought to reassign me to another task - it would never happen here. So I was tired and would have simply stayed at home - the up side was that I thought I could 'rest my eyes' in the darkness. It didn't happen. From the short before the film to when the lights came up I couldn't believe my eyes. It felt like being at the beginning of something - which, of course it was.

The Pixar story has been told and retold. I have art books like To Infinity and Beyond and The Art of the Incredibles and all the others…but this book has captured my imagination because it is about just that - capturing imagination within an organisation without killing its essence - like seeing Orca in pools and aquariums. Whether you are a manager in creative industry business or just want your business to unlock its potential - I recommend this book.

"The thesis of this book is that there are many blocks to creativity, but there are active steps we can take to protect the creative process.

In the coming pages, I will discuss many of the steps we follow at Pixar, but the most compelling mechanisms to me are those that deal with uncertainty, instability, lack of candor, and the things we cannot see.

I believe the best managers acknowledge and make room for what they do not know—not just because humility is a virtue but because until one adopts that mindset, the most striking breakthroughs cannot occur.

I believe that managers must loosen the controls, not tighten them. They must accept risk; they must trust the people they work with and strive to clear the path for them; and always, they must pay attention to and engage with anything that creates fear.

Moreover, successful leaders embrace the reality that their models may be wrong or incomplete. Only when we admit what we don’t know can we ever hope to learn it."

Monday, June 23, 2014

When good technology goes bad.

If there is one thing I hate it is intermittent faults.

Like when sometimes your car won't start and the rest of the time it starts and runs just fine.

When you take it to the mechanic there's no symptom - nothing to diagnose.
When my 10 ferry trip concession card passed through the red laser beam this morning the portable display unit read 9 trips remaining.

"9 left" reinforced the man attached to the portable scanner, beaming.

"Impossible I said - it should only have three trips left." I said.

"Consider it a bonus." He chimed, filled with the beneficence of those who favour others with other people's money.Clearly the matter was above his pay-grade and, in any case, it was the last run on the route for the morning and his mind was on a well earned cup of tea.

I'd like to report that I did indeed think of it as windfall but it just troubled me all day.

If the digital scanner could get it so wrong, even apparently in my favour, then it must also get it wrong at other times - in a less benign way.

How many times had my card been read incorrectly and I hadn't paid any notice.

Haw many times had other people been subject to the same casual assumption that the system works and, being an electronic device, beyond question?

What if I had one journey left but the computer said 'no'?

I'm pretty certain rules would have been rules and I would have had to cough up even as I spluttered my insistence that I was good for it - loaded even - if only with the single fare I needed to cross the channel.

This afternoon I made the return trip. Low and behold the reader read two remaining journeys we left on the card. That's a pretty wild variation as far as margins of error go. I mentioned it to the pursor - or whatever the description of a ticket guy is on the ferry to Stanley Bay.

"That's a Fuller's problem. You'll have to take it up with head office."

Resistance was futile.
But I will be checking the reader carefully in the future.

Maybe I will ask for the kind of ticket that has to be manually clicked?

Or maybe Fullers Ferries should get their equipment checked and audited. They might owe passengers some refunds or consolation.

I'd ring head office but last time I did to try to locate a lost iPhone I never got through - even after three attempts. Or maybe it was four?

Cutie and the Boxer - making a mark in the world.

Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko are both artists in New York. They love a bohemian life. Shinohara is well know for his work but is not commercially successful. He migrated to the US after finding fame in Japan for his riff on pop art.

Noriko arrives in the US, a young art student, meets Shinohara and falls for his manic charms. It's not long before he is sponging off her family allowance to pay rent.

Time passes. They marry and have a child. It seems Noriko is destined to become her husband's assistant - he is much older than she is, though neither are young anymore. She harbours her own dream of artistic recognition via her created persona of Cutie.

It is a meticulously shot piece, akin to the documentary classic Gray Gardens. Most of the observed narrative is in Japanese but it doesn't matter. We understand. When Noriko steps back from his work to see it in toto he seems to be looking back on his life as he utters 'crap' between words in his native tongue.

In a way the film is inconsequential like a pebble garden that is raked this way and that by the film maker but is never anything but a pebble garden. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The BigSleepOut can have dramatic effects.

I can't say that I like panhandling very much  - but here I go again. The charity fundraiser for Lifewise is fast approaching and my fundraising has been a little slow. That's not to say donations haven't been made - I have a network of generous friends and the ball is definitely rolling.

I've made this message to include stacks of cash - because that dilates the pupils of 36.5% of Aucklanders and places them into a more receptive state. Add in a picture of a member of the royal family and if you find yourself on the brink of St Vitus dance and begin to ululate, you'll know why. You are powerless to resist.

So, while I have you in this compliant state - follow this link - make a donation to help end homelessness and I promise the next flat white is on me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A night in the cold for exposure

The Big SleepOut is a fundraiser to raise awareness and money to help the LifeWise Trust to help ease homelessness. 

The Weather in Auckland has been atrocious. I hope it is milder on June 3, the night that I will be sleeping rough with a number of other Auckland business people and public figures - everyone fundraising from their friends, family and colleagues. 

This year the focus is helping homeless youth. In Auckland 50% of all homeless people are aged between 16-24. It is a shocking statistic - those should be the best years of their lives.

Donations may qualify for tax deductions.
Collection of money is independent and securely managed by GiveALittle - a Telecom Trust project.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Homeless - not Hopeless

Big Sleepout 2014 poster David MacGregor

The mayor of Auckland loves the meme 'a more livable city'. I do to - but I think everyone who lives here should be able to enjoy not only the natural beauty and the hum of a modern place - but also somewhere to call home. I'm not saying everyone should have a place on the northern slopes of Herne Bay just because they want one. But I do think everyone who needs and wants shelter at night or a modest place to call their own and feel safe and warm should have access to that.

That's what the Lifewise trust do. They find ways of getting the resources available to the people who need them most. That's part of the crazy that is homelessness. Often services are available but the people they are for don't have access. Some don't know how. Others have bias against the agencies that can and do help - like police or CYFs.

This year the campaign's focus is youth on the street. They are more vulnerable. very young children are on the street because it sometimes seems preferable to home - their own or a foster home. But it makes them vulnerable to predation, illness and the obvious risks associated with life on the street.

It's not hopeless. The Lifewise Trust have been chipping away at the problem and make real gains. Even one kid given a chance to reintegrate into the mainstream makes it worth the effort.

I'm participating in The BigSleepOut again this year. The event raises awareness and, importantly, money to help make the problem go away. I'm asking you for help - You can make your donation here - think of it as a contribution to creating a more liveable city.

Donations may qualify for tax deductions.
Collection of money is independent and securely managed by GiveALittle - a Telecom Trust project.
The LifeWise Trust 

Sunday, June 08, 2014

My campaign for the Big SleepOut has begun

It's cold out there.

The Big SleepOut raising awareness, raising money

For the last few years I've been helping The LifeWise Trust to raise awareness about the issues surrounding homelessness in Auckland city. Well, not just awareness, money too.

We have an amazing city - it is vibrant, diverse, energetic - but every city has its problems too, the things the glossy campaigns gloss over, the people who, for one reason or another fall through the cracks.

I choose not to judge them. Every year I have participated in the The Big Sleepout I have learned more and heard more stories that are by turns tragic and uplifting. Every one is different. But in my judgement the work of the LifeWise trust is worth doing and I think we should do whatever we can to assist. You can see their mission and learn about the work they do on the website.

I'm asking for donations from my friends, family, colleagues and the people I know who know that the quality of life is better for everyone when everyone has a better chance. You.

This year the focus of our fundraising is youth on the streets. There's nothing romantic about that notion, I can promise you. I'll save some of the gritty facts for later. But I hope you can make a contribution to our campaign.

I have a couple of inducements for larger donations coming up, but for now - whatever you can spare will be warmly received.

Donations may be tax deductible.
The donation site is run independently by GiveALittle.

Please feel free to share the posters and link to this post. Spread the word.

Pick a colour - any colour. Actually just leave it to the Scribble pen.

How's this for an idea. A pen that scans the colour you want to match then converts it to a HEX matched ink - or the digital stylus version can be used with a tablet or other touch screen device with a drawing programme.

The pen is an accurate color picker pen that picks any color around you and draws in that same color, the Scribble. It is being funded with a Kickstarter campaign which has yet to launch.
Who is it for? According to the firm making the device: "… the color blind, kids, interior decorators, homeowners, teachers, artists, photographers, designers and students, the Scribblecolor pickerpen will make copying an exact color, any color from any object, an absolute breeze.” 

It is kind of cool, if a little bit pricey at $US150 for the ink version and $80 for the stylus.

All the news that's fit to click.

There is a trend in relation to news consumption I've noticed on the internet. and it is driven by Facebook's influence as a curated referral engine.

NZ Herald provocative headline and picture

We humans are very visual, there's a thing called the 'pictoral superiority effect' - attracted to shiny things or warning colours or whatever. It's primal. We also are attracted to attractive, cute or distressing things - kind visual hyperbole - because that how we hunted, fed and chose a mate.

Add in the desire to attract clicks to links then you get into the realm of creative storytelling - fiction. The sub-editor - or whoever s driving the web content at the Herald (or Buzzfeed, Huffpost or whatever) has a story that needs an illustration - thats a given - the page would look barren without and an attention grabbing headline.

'Greens want abortion freely available in first 20 weeks of pregnancy' is pretty outrĂ© alone. But the picture choice is interesting because it is of someone relatively unknown - is she pro/anti, is she pregnant with the spawn of a rapist. She looks distressed. Combined with the headline my guess was that she is a member of the Green party. So to use an unflattering picture panders to the conservative view that Greenies are somehow 'plain' - the lined face and earnest look - 'Oh no, I might have left the tofu pot on when I rushed out o get some flax to weave into a sustainable coal mine…' I'm sure the temptation was to use an image of a septic tank filled with fetal skulls but my hunch is that they're saving that for the Irish equivalent of Katyn Wood.

Editorial story telling is getting to be a lot more like advertising. There is convergence between news brands' and outlets' behaviour. Where once the tabloids led the way with salacious headlines about salacious stories (mainly because they didn't have access to the corridors of power) and the making up of things - now every news outlet does - they think they have too. My previous post illustrates how even mainstream TV news and current affairs shows are getting in on the game - where the prize is your attention and the dollars of advertisers.

The online convention of measuring everything is that the data will inform editorial decision - what words, colours, calls to action and images work best at getting your attention and inducing you to click?

It's the kind of thing that people use to think the dark art of advertising was all about - and it was but without the data.

Either way, the thing that separated good from bad is taste and a person in charge who understand what is interesting and cares about how the readers with think, feel and act as a result. Data can't do that and nor can competing on a race to the bottom.

This video is from the DVD that comes from the excellent book Brain Rules - if your work involves persuading others I recommend it to you. If you want to make sense of the weird behaviour of fellow passengers on this rock hurtling through space - well, good luck with that - but this might help pass some time.