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Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.

Playshare — primates and passion

It's the first of the month (almost), so we sent out a Playshare. If you want to receive Playshares in your Inbox (every two weeks), send us an e-mail. If you want to get Pure Content in your Inbox (every day, now that we've fixed the problems (we think)), sign up in the box on the right. Easy peasy. And on to the Playshare ...

Want to see passion? Give a chimpanzee a paintbrush and see what he does.

Seem strange? Not to Desmond Morris. In the 1960s, he explored the creative process by observing primate behavior. He found that when he gave chimps paints, they became so passionate about painting that they had no interest left in food, sleep, or the other desires that naturally occupied their minds. He discovered that passion is innate, deeper than many of the other natural urges that drive us.

A college professor we know echoes this sentiment, saying “You’ll know you’ve found your calling in life when you forget to go to the bathroom.” His point is simply that you’ll recognize your passion when you’re so engrossed in it that you forget to take care of … well … those other natural urges. Eating. Sleeping. Going to the bathroom.

When was the last time that you were so happily engaged in something that you forgot to go to the bathroom? When did you last lose track of time? Have you ever skipped lunch—not because you had to, but because you forgot to? How do you incorporate your passion in your daily life? What can you do to bring yourself daily happiness?

Perhaps you love baseball. Maybe you could structure your next meeting more like a baseball game. Or even have the meeting at a Little League field. Maybe your love is acting. Can you bring the dramatic arts into your daily repertoire? You love cooking? Why don’t you start a cookbook with all of the favorite recipes of people in your organization? Or write your inter-office memos like recipes.

Creativity, as Desmond Morris discovered, is a natural, instinctive urge. Passion, as our college professor noted, is engrossing. Each of us has a creativity and a passion that is uniquely our own. How is yours infused in your work?

let's play.


the intersection of uncommon ideas.

The recent trip to Denmark provided fascinating glimpses into the little differences in our cultures, not the least of which is television. Leave it to those efficient Danes to place all commercial interruptions between shows rather than throughout the program. All English programs (and there are a lot) are subtitled in Danish, but any show that happens to be dubbed is dubbed in German (don't know why).

Of course, commericals are liberally laced with nudity if it helps sell the product. The most interesting and racy sighting was on the evening news (of all places) on which a story aired about an innovation in the pizza business. An attractive female entrepreneur is wowing the boys with pizza deliveries that include a strip routine. She slices, distributes the slices while undressing and dancing. I did not gleen how much the topless "topping" added to the bill, but it is interesting to see the market valuing what this young lady had to offer.

The class Miss Courtney and I were teaching was on business design and entrepreneurship, so it was an academic exercise to consider this young woman and what her business planning must have been. She defined a customer segment of young men who eat pizza, she used a traditional business model of pizza delivery but added a strategy that separates her from the competition. She increases her economic logic by assuming her pizza will earn a premium price without premium production costs, plus there are the tips. Lesson well learned.


the rise of the creative class

Pure Content reader Arturo Elenes sent us some info on a recent book about an emerging culture of creativity. The book, The Rise of the Creative Class looks like an intriguing project. Richard Florida, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, has created a theory that Rob Walker summarizes in Slate:
1) "Creativity" is of greater economic importance than ever, and the trend will continue.
2) A new Creative Class is "the norm-setting class of our time" and is redefining our ideas about what's important in both work and leisure.
3) Cities should stop worrying about attracting companies and start worrying about attracting members of this class.
4) "Place is becoming the central organizing unit of our economy and society, taking a role that used to be played by large corporations."

I haven't had a chance to read the book yet, although there's an available online chapter and an article that summarizes his thoughts in The Washington Monthly. The book's site also has some interesting links regarding creativity, including this "creativity quiz." Apparently, Play is in the "creative vanguard," although I take issue with the idea that a juice bar in the office or the lack of 8-am meetings necessarily makes a company creative.

Anyway, Rob Walker takes issue with some of Florida's points (namely, point 3 and 4 as outlined above). But I can't help but unequivocally agree with Florida's first and second points. The first bits of the book that I've read, I've enjoyed and agree with. If anybody out there would like to read this with me (in a mini-book-club format), comment below and let me know. I'd love to address the issues of creativity in business—and how this book address them—with anyone out there who wants to discuss it.

update: Lotta's all over it. In fact, Lotta had this story two weeks ago.


another experiment in phenomenology

Kaliber 10000 has an interesting experiment in branding / subvertisements / counter-corporate culture on its site. Although it's loaded with trendy 2002 computer designer elements like [brackets], underlines_ after_ words_ and funny.PUNCtuation and CAPITAL/i/zation which gets annoying quickly, there's an interesting concept if you dig a layer deeper.

They're establishing something called an "Alternate Corporate Reality System," which is essentially a collection of free stock images. If you're not a designer, know that stock images are pictures that designers use in brochures, advertisements, and web sites. (Think of "Successories" pictures.) Anyway, the premise is that each of these stock photos is " 'coded' with dp::_BRAND.CHARACTERISTICS, subverting their clean, bland appearance and infusing them with something more sinister. Initially their use in commercial corporate work will seem innocuous but to those who know, a small but significant victory in the battle to fight the encroaching giant of corporate mono.culture will have been won."

Then, once enough photos are used in the corporate arena, there will be gallery shows of this corporate infiltration, and "all designers [Alternative Reality Agents™] who successfully manage to deploy stock.FOTOZª in the corporate media realm will be elevated to the status of "alt.[CULT]URE_footsoldier.ARTISTS™" and hailed as such."

If you didn't follow that, they provide these tagged images. Said images are then used by "insider" designers in corporate publications. Once the photos have saturated the corporate world, the people behind the Alternate Corporate Reality System will unveil the coup.

It's an interesting experiment, and I'm happy to see what happens with it. But it seems a tad pretentious. Of course, maybe that's just all the designer-speak. I wouldn't mind having a credit card with an ACRS image on it (but, I'd rather have a credit card with Andre the Giant on it).


a message from Jen / Catholic Karaoke

Play teammate Jen Ebert is on her Radical Sabbatical (a five-week time away from the office you get after you've been with the company for five years ... like a vacation, except it's PAID, and you're to truly "look at more stuff and think about it harder" on the road), and she's travelling through Italy and Spain. We got a postcard from her, and I wanted to share it with everyone out there.

"Hey everybody!

Congratulations on the recent good news! I'm now in Florence. When I was in ROme, I was strolling along Via Della Mezzo, and I heard lovely singing from a tiny church. As I walked past, I peeked in so that I might glimpse a reverant Italian moment. Instead I saw a screen, just by the pulpit, broadcasting the words to the song so that American tourists might sing along in Italian. And that was my first sight of Catholic Karaoke!

Ciao for now, Jen"


the creative process

Chris Van Allsburg isn't an author who's name people instantly recognize. But if you name some of the books he's written, peoples' faces light up. Jumanji. The Polar Express. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. He's won two Caldecott Medals, one for Jumanji and one for The Polar Express, and he had some good things to say about the creative process. This is from his Caldecott acceptance speech in 1986:

"When I began thinking about what became The Polar Express, I had a single image in mind: a young boy sees a train standing still in front of his house one night. The boy and I took a few different trips on that train, but we did not, in a figurative sense, go anywhere. Then I headed north, and I got the feeling that this time I'd picked the right direction, because the train kept rolling all the way to the North Pole. At that point the story seemed literally to present itself. Who lives at the North Pole? Santa. When would the perfect time for a visit be? Christmas Eve. What happens on Christmas Eve at the North Pole? Undoubtedly a ceremony of some kind, a ceremony requiring a child, delivered by a train that would have to be named the Polar Express."

"These stray elements are, of course, merely events. A good story uses the description of events to reveal some kind of moral or psychological premise. I am not aware, as I develop a story, what the premise is. When I started The Polar Express, I thought I was writing about a train trip, but the story was actually about faith and the desire to believe in something. It's an intriguing process. I know if I'd set out with the goal of writing about that, I'd still be holding a pencil over a blank sheet of paper."

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

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see our neighbors
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