Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.

welcome to Aarhus, Denmark

Currently the only post grad schools that have a strong focus on creativity are ad centers, arts related schools, and industry specific schools. No American based schools focus on teaching the creative mindset that is needed in corporate businesses today.

In three days Robert Throckmorton and I will take flight to Aarhus, Denmark to teach a class on creative business design to a group of 60 students at the Kaos Pilot school. I encourage all of you to check this school out at www.kaospilot.dk. It is the only school of this kind – It’s a values-based business school, teaching creative thinking skills, project design and entrepreneurship all with a strong awareness of world issues and social consciousness.

I have a vision that before too long more schools of this nature will begin to surface. Businesses will start to seek out those people who hold creative business degrees – We will call it an MBC – a masters in business creativity.

How would you propose making this vision come to life? How would you start creating these schools? How would you get business to value the MBC degree? Where would you start the first school?


more on the alternative energy front

This is great. I've heard of alcohol-fueled cars before, but they'd always seemed pretty weak. This article discusses a method of powering a car, called biodiesel, which uses vegetable-oil-based fuel. The guy in this article, Tom Nevers, converted the engine of his mini school bus, so that he can pick up fuel from any restaurant that uses a deep-fat fryer. He filters the used oil, puts it in his tank, and is ready to go. Free gas. The conversion is simple, and cost less than $400.

The only problem? Your car smells like a McDonald's. Shame.


well gol-ly!
In our work as creative catalysts, we often ask people to improve the automobile in a simple exercise. We provide them with a caveman-type illustration of a car, basically a box with square wheels, and see how far their curiosity and "what if" will take them. Some people make the wheels round and stop there. Others revolutionize the industry. Well, the New York Auto Show recently offered reinventions that surpassed our seemingly radical ideas of in-dash coffeemakers and keypad steering wheels. Grab a towel and prepare for the ammenities ahead in the arena of personal hygene. Yes, a car with a shower. I love the mental image most. I thought driving while using a cellphone was dangerous...imagine driving while latering, rinsing, and repeating. This is a stand-up routine in the making. "Brake, gas, clutch, hot, cold." "But officer I had soap in my eyes." Seriously though, carpooling takes on a whole new dimension, doesn't it? And further down the pike, automakers promise a kitchenette. Now that's hot.


Playshare - leaving your mark

Yesterday was the 15th, so Play sent out a Playshare. If you're new to Pure Content, Playshares are the e-mails we send out every two weeks, to spark creative thinking, provide inspiration, and develop a global creative community. If you'd like to receive these Playshares in your Inbox, please send an e-mail to play@lookatmorestuff.com. And if you'd like to receive Pure Content (that's what you're reading now) in your Inbox, just enter your e-mail address in the form on the right.

Here it is.

When we were kids, we loved finding that perfect patch of wet cement. It seemed to be a blank canvas tempting us to leave our mark. How could we stop ourselves from transforming nothing into something? The fresh concrete beckoned to us. And so, with our fingers or a nearby stick, we left our mark.

This urge to leave our mark is more than the thrill of vandalism or mere ego satisfaction. The impulse is tied to our creative instinct, an inborn desire and need to express ourselves. To contribute to the world we live in. In most cases our creative instincts are not realized on the scale and form of, say, the Pyramids or the Duomo. Our marks may be less tangible. We reinvent a process, make an astute observation or provide a unique solution.

In this modern business age, where are our opportunities for exercising our creative instincts? For many of us, spending the majority of our waking hours in a corporate setting is tantamount to pulling the plug on our natural creativity. With so many rules, restrictions, and codes to follow it can seem an uphill battle to employ creativity in the workplace.

The secret to plugging back into creativity lies in the variety of opportunities we may not have considered. If bureaucracy is stifling your impulses, giving yourself an unrealistic goal can compound your frustration. There are a multitude of small, even stealth, approaches you can use to express yourself again. Start small by identifying the dents you can make in bureaucracy. Do you convene week after week in conference room 9-B or North 201? Why not start a trend by meeting in "Heaven" or "Ethel's place." Which would you rather attend: a "Long Range Planning Meeting" or "What's Next?" Something as easy and fun as changing our tired labels can breathe life into old routines.

Perhaps the most effective way of countering the corporate drain on creativity is by expressing our humanity whenever possible. For the most part, corporations are built on functions, which are the antithesis of emotions. Creativity and emotion are inextricably linked; where one is, the other is not far away. So try injecting a personal touch where none exists. When a "executive vice president" and "product specialist" meet, is there room for Barbara (who loves to swim) and David (a chocolate fanatic) to collaborate as well?

Whether you creativity is expressed as a freshly painted wall, a new product development process, or adding personality to a standard operating procedure, it does not matter that your efforts may seem small. It is the spark that will fuel a fire. You may not be building a great pyramid, but your creative legacy may serve as the inspiration for others. That chain reaction is what creates lasting change and leaves an indelible mark.

let’s play.



The 5k is still going to happen, and the dates have shifted a little. My area (the HTML-only section) won't be happening until "the autumn." So if you have any thoughts, or if you want to collaborate, let me know.


back in River City

So Sean and I have returned from our trip to the Big City. New York was awesome, and when I get some time, I'll write about some of my thoughts about it. For now, you can check out John's thoughts on it. (John, by the way, is a great guy. We had dinner together at a diner in NYC before the Social Network Soiree, and had a great conversation about blogs, the blogosphere, and the role that microcontent (blogs and similar channels) has in mass media. Look to him for more on that in the near future.

Anyway, here are some thoughts that aren't mine. They're from Timothy Sullivan, the President at William & Mary, who spoke at commencement last Sunday. Although it's chock full of a passion for William & Mary (as well it should), it has good advice regarding the way you live your life, regarding your passion, your profession, and your legacy. He also has a healthy love of the em-dash. Rock on, Tim. Here you go.

A few weeks ago, Anne and I had the pleasure of entertaining at the President’s House, a long-established and generous-spirited William and Mary family. Somehow—don’t ask me how—one among that band of Tribe loyalists had managed to be educated elsewhere. Having been involuntarily immersed in the William and Mary culture for a good part of his life, he asked—I thought with just the slightest trace of exasperation—“what is it about you William and Mary people? Why do you care about this place so much?”

My first thought—my very first thought—was—what easy questions! I came here as a freshman forty years ago; I have been a faculty member for thirty; I have been President for ten. He had thrown me a hanging curve ball. I knew I could hit out of the park. I was wrong. I paused to answer—no words came. After what seemed an eternal interval, I said: “Yes, we do care—we care deeply about this place—but I am not sure I can tell you why in words.”

I am—in truth—a little embarrassed to admit here what I just confessed. I know that I am sometimes a bit slow—but I am not terminally stupid. I did think of some things I could have said to him—but I didn’t.

I could have said—William and Mary is special because it has a brilliant faculty—and because its students are really smart. I could have said William and Mary is special because the beauty of this place—in every season—leaves memories so tender and so vivid—that no one ever really leaves. I could have said William and Mary is special because the bonds of friendship formed here are so strong that friends made remain friends until they see that last flash of sunlight that lights us up just before we die. I could have said all of those things—and more besides. But I didn’t—not because they aren’t true—but because they aren’t true enough. They don’t reach the heart of what makes this College a place of such glory and such honor.

In the weeks since, my mind has returned often to that evening when I was so embarrassingly tongue tied. I haven’t been able to give up trying to puzzle out an answer to the question I was asked. Even now my conclusions seem—indeed are tentative—but they offer at least the beginning of an answer—and I want to share that beginning with you.

We are all different—different in our hopes—our hurts—our ambitions—our dreams. William and Mary is profoundly complex—its complexity refracted and transformed by the unique glass each of us uses to see it—to see it in terms of our own experience—to see it in terms of a history that is our common heritage—but which lodges uniquely in the life of each of us.

Allowing for that complexity—acknowledging the uniqueness of every human being who has ever studied here—what makes William and Mary special is the consistency of the most fundamental lesson which—through more than three centuries—our College has striven to teach. And that lesson may be summed up in a single sentence: Love what you live for—but be sure that what you love is worth your life.

William and Mary has always been about human transformation. At the beginning it was about the power of divine providence to transform; in our own more secular age, it is about the power of human wisdom to elevate and ennoble humankind.

I know more than a few of you are thinking—fair enough. But how does what you have just said make William and Mary unique? My answer: What I have just said doesn’t—but what I have yet to say—will.

Through its whole history, William and Mary has demanded intellectual excellence but never outside the defining context of moral learning. We have never been afraid to say that great brains are wonderful—but not alone enough. Our vocation here is opening doors to a great life—and great lives combine intellectual distinction and moral feeling. And moral feeling—ladies and gentlemen—never comes to those whose core convictions do not embrace a respect for truth—a reverence for honor—and an unfailing instinct for compassion.

No one can live a great life who does not love what he does—and even in the best of lives—what one loves must be worth a life. My ambition for each of you is that you live great lives. And that ambition is no pipe dream. I know you—I know you—your friendship is among my most cherished gifts—and your future is bound up with my fondest hopes.

What happened to you here has given you the intellectual imagination and the moral strength to make us proud of what you do—with your opportunities and with your talents. Use them both to find a foundation of passion in what matters most in your lives. Find a passion so strong and a cause so just that you lose yourself entirely in the will to make that passion palpable.

Please do not mistake me. I do not propose for anyone here—a life of sainthood. I know the dark places in my own soul. You know them in yours. I do not suggest that you ignore life’s glittering prizes—wealth—power—fame. These are all—all worthy objectives of your most honorable ambition. But you bear now the indelible mark of a William and Mary education. It will therefore never be enough—never enough—simply to collect the glittering prize—even if every day you sweep the table of every prize on offer. You will not live—fully—if you fail to find avenues of service and commitment that touch the world outside the limits of your personal ambition. You need not strive to alter eternity—only one in a billion can do that—but you must know that you can—and will—leave distinctive traces of yourself in the back corridors of history.

Be a teacher—a poet—an actor—an entrepreneur—a journalist—a physician—or anyone of the thousand other occupations. But never believe that you can be wholly defined by the work you do. Bring to that work transforming passion that changes you and alters for the better—because of your passion—the profession you have chosen to join. Bring to what you do an irresistible life force that inspires in others an admiration for the intensity of your integrity that makes them want to be you. The challenge is to use that passion—that life force—to make a powerful difference not just in your work for the day but in the work of all your days.

Philip Larkin wrote somewhere “we have an ‘almost instinct’ that what will remain of us is love.” He was profoundly right—I wish I had thought of that three weeks ago when I bungled my encounter with that one who was not one of us. It is love—in its many definitions and in its infinite applications. That is the most precious gift this College gives to all of us. Andy that gift of love is at once a consolation and a challenge. It is a gift that permits us to see straight through to what is truly noble in this life—but which commands us—always—to use that gift—the gift of love—to give comfort and courage to a suffering humanity—in its ceaseless—bitter—sometimes seemingly doomed struggle—to civilize itself.

May God bless you always. William and Mary will love you always.


post from the road

Sean and I are in New York, getting set to go to Eyebeam's Social Network Soiree. Malcolm Gladwell should be sweet, and afterwards, there's a cocktail party where everyone will wear "meme tags." These chips are going to monitor where conversations are happening and what groups talk to what other groups. It should be pretty interesting. Sean just described it as "low-jacking your personality."

We're with Jen, up in Play's New York office. This is my first time here. How wild is that? It's taken me this long to get here. It's a lot cleaner than I thought it would be. That's my first impression. I'll be sure to get some more meaningful content before I leave.

I'm getting together with John Hiler later on this afternoon. Wow. In half an hour. I should get going.

who / what / why

At Play we create brands, strategies, new products, and better cultures for Fortune 100 companies. Our formula for creativity: "Look at more stuff. Think about it harder." Pure Content is one place where we do that, daily.

the cool kids' table

Ben Domenech
(politics, football, and a boatload of know-how)

Creative Generalist
(if Pure Content had a doppelganger ...)

Heath Row
(punk + business
+ creativity = Heath)


go go gadget google:

stuck in an airport

A Pattern Language

Creative Company
Orbiting the Giant Hairball
The Ultimate Book of Business Creativity

The Little Prince

Wittgenstein's Poker

The Dancing Wu Li Masters

The Tipping Point

new to you

04/27/2003 - 05/03/2003 04/20/2003 - 04/26/2003 04/13/2003 - 04/19/2003 04/06/2003 - 04/12/2003 03/30/2003 - 04/05/2003 03/23/2003 - 03/29/2003 03/16/2003 - 03/22/2003 03/09/2003 - 03/15/2003 03/02/2003 - 03/08/2003 02/23/2003 - 03/01/2003 02/16/2003 - 02/22/2003 02/09/2003 - 02/15/2003 02/02/2003 - 02/08/2003 01/26/2003 - 02/01/2003 01/19/2003 - 01/25/2003 01/12/2003 - 01/18/2003 01/05/2003 - 01/11/2003 12/29/2002 - 01/04/2003 12/22/2002 - 12/28/2002 12/15/2002 - 12/21/2002 12/08/2002 - 12/14/2002 12/01/2002 - 12/07/2002 11/24/2002 - 11/30/2002 11/17/2002 - 11/23/2002 11/10/2002 - 11/16/2002 11/03/2002 - 11/09/2002 10/27/2002 - 11/02/2002 10/20/2002 - 10/26/2002 10/13/2002 - 10/19/2002 10/06/2002 - 10/12/2002 09/29/2002 - 10/05/2002 09/22/2002 - 09/28/2002 09/15/2002 - 09/21/2002 09/08/2002 - 09/14/2002 09/01/2002 - 09/07/2002 08/25/2002 - 08/31/2002 08/18/2002 - 08/24/2002 08/11/2002 - 08/17/2002 08/04/2002 - 08/10/2002 07/28/2002 - 08/03/2002 07/21/2002 - 07/27/2002 07/14/2002 - 07/20/2002 07/07/2002 - 07/13/2002 06/30/2002 - 07/06/2002 06/23/2002 - 06/29/2002 06/16/2002 - 06/22/2002 06/09/2002 - 06/15/2002 06/02/2002 - 06/08/2002 05/26/2002 - 06/01/2002 05/19/2002 - 05/25/2002 05/12/2002 - 05/18/2002 05/05/2002 - 05/11/2002 04/28/2002 - 05/04/2002 04/21/2002 - 04/27/2002 04/14/2002 - 04/20/2002 04/07/2002 - 04/13/2002 03/31/2002 - 04/06/2002 03/24/2002 - 03/30/2002 03/17/2002 - 03/23/2002 03/10/2002 - 03/16/2002 03/03/2002 - 03/09/2002 02/24/2002 - 03/02/2002 02/17/2002 - 02/23/2002 current

see our neighbors
Comments by: YACCS