Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.

knowledge sharing

John Robb is a major proponent of K-Logs (Knowledge Logs ... a form of weblog). He posted an interview with Robert Buckman, the man who first came up with the term "Knowledge Management," and who now is trying to get people to move away from that term, towards "Knowledge Sharing." Here's the interview, and here's a quote:

"Robert Buckman: Yes, I still hold the view that the term 'knowledge management' is a misnomer. It is a term that got coined in the early days to describe what we were about so that the concept could be sold to management. The reason that I object to it is that it has led many organisations down the wrong path to success. It implies that all we have to do is manage the knowledge to achieve success. In other words, manage the explicit knowledge - the stuff that is written down - of the organisation and we will have success. We found that this was not sufficient to achieve success because it dealt with just a small percentage of the knowledge in the company."

"We found that over 90 per cent of the knowledge in the company was in the heads of our people and it was changing every minute of every day. It was not written down yet. Therefore, if we wanted to achieve success in the fast-changing environment that we found ourselves in, we had to learn how to move this knowledge across the organisation to where it was needed and when it was needed."

"It is this movement of knowledge that creates the value. It is movement in response to a need. That knowledge that moves in response to a need of the organisation is the valuable knowledge that you should capture for future reference. It is now explicit and it is useful to put it into a knowledge base."

"Since I have not figured out how to manage the knowledge that is in somebody's head, I have emphasised the concept of knowledge sharing to encourage its movement."


Mmmm Mmmm ... Malcolm

For those of you who don't know Sean yet, he's our Chief of Knowledge Management, although we're working on a better title for him. If you have any suggestions for him, just comment below. Anyway, he just handed me the New Yorker's table of contents for August 1st, and there's a new Malcolm Gladwell article in it. I headed over to Gladwell.com to see if they had posted it yet. They hadn't but they had another new Gladwell piece. Sweetness. Here's his article from July 22nd, The Talent Myth: Are smart people overrated? I'll post the 8/1 article when he posts it to his site.


experiential research + industrial design = an increased market share

Creative Generalist directed us towards a short post at Reveries about Coca-Cola and a packaging innovation that is paying off.

"Coke's researchers noticed "that while people buy their sodas in multi-packs, most put only thee or four cans at a time into the refrigerator. They also discovered there's a lot of 'dead' space in the back. After some brainstorming, the result is the "Fridge Pack." It's a "long, slender carton that holds 12 cans of soda," with a small opening in front for easy dispenses. Fits neatly on, say, the bottom shelf of your fridge."

"Coke's Karen Smith, a packaging innovations manager, says research reveals "the consumer is more package sensitive than they are brand sensitive." Michael Sands of Snapple Beverage Group (Cadbury-Schweppes) agrees: "Everyone is so bombarded with messages these days," he says, adding, "You have to influence people at the last possible point where they make their decisions." Snapple has, in fact, introduced its own, "eight-can cardboard dispenser of Snapple juice drink for the fridge." Coke is pondering a national rollout of its Fridge Pack, while Pepsi says it is sticking with the 24-pack cube dispenser it introduced in 1993. Consultant Michael Bellas predicts more packaging innovations are on the way, suggesting that future twists may include bottles that change color and caps that release flavors."

Coke released those packs in Chicago and Atlanta, and sales have gone up 10% since their introduction. According to the Coke rep they quoted, it's their "most significant packaging innovation" in almost 10 years.


cockroaches can't tell time

It's time to play the music. It's time to light the lights. It's time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight.

Actually, it's time for a Playshare. We send these out twice a month. If you'd like to receive these in your Inbox, send us an e-mail. If you want to receive Pure Content (this blog) in your Inbox each day, just enter your e-mail address in that box on the right.

What if there were a time capsule that was so safe, it could preserve information flawlessly — forever? Jaron Lanier was thinking about this, and he created the ultimate information storage device: a cockroach. By manipulating the genetic code inside the cockroach, Jaron was able to devise a way to store the entire contents of a year’s worth of the New York Times in a single cockroach’s DNA. By breeding this live time capsule and releasing the cockroaches in a nurturing environment (say, New York City), within 14 years, every cockroach in the city would carry the archived information.

Although Jaron — a scientist and virtual reality guru — designed the cockroach-as-time capsule idea as a spoof, the concept has spurred genuine research. In England, at the University of Bath, Dr. Jonathan Cox is developing what he calls “invisible ink” — using DNA sequences to transmit and store information. His research has led to DNA being inserted into special inks, dyes, and sprays, which verify the authenticity of certain signatures and works of art.

Creative success comes with two types of thinking: dreaming and doing. Each of us is called to do both. If Jaron hadn’t initially asked “what if,” and let his mind go, perhaps Dr. Cox wouldn’t have had the inspiration to begin researching invisible ink. If Dr. Cox hadn’t pursued the idea, perhaps the brilliance in invisible ink would have never been discovered, and it would have been written off as a joke. Through the combined efforts of dreaming and doing, creativity flourishes — kind of like a cockroach in New York City.

let's play.


Inspiration. One words.

Here at Play, we passed around a memo asking people, "what is one word that inspires you? Feel free to include a couple of sentences explaining why that word inspires you."

Here are some of the answers from Play:

“Water” It’s familiar, beautiful, natural, evokes feelings of family, freedom, unity, possibility, connection, friendship, laughter, physical activity, movement and dreams.

“Artist” Because it describes someone who is dedicated to humanity rather than money. Artists enrich life and make sacrifices to make a point. Artists respond to call like the clergy do, and like the clergy, bring us closer to understanding the meaning of life.

“Community” I love the thought of living with and for other people—to know that I’m not doing things simply for myself. It makes me want to be a better person, and it allows me to dream with them for the future.

“Cycling” The bicycle is the cleanest, most efficient machine known to man. I applaud anyone who rides his or her bike for transportation rather than driving. Also, biking is just so much cooler than driving, who would enjoy stop and go traffic over cruising by on a bicycle? I am inspired by anything and anyone involved in cycling.

“Children” Watching them grow and develop into their own person with their own personalities and uniqueness.

”Rhythm” Rhythm is commonly associated with music and the tempo underlying the melody. In music it serves as a symbolic interpretation of the course of life and it is distinct in each type of song and culture from which the rhythm is based. An example is rock and roll and rhythm and blues which evolved from African drum rhythms used to represent the ebb and flow of the tide and to a larger degree life.

“Passion” It is the attribute for driving so much. It moves things from status quo to something with emotion.

So, what's the word? What is it that inspires you?



Be creative, I mean it.

There was a study conducted at the University of Michigan by psychologist Melba A. Colgrove. 475 students were divided into two groups. Both groups were asked to find solutions to a time-scheduling problem on an assembly line. Both groups were given identical instructions to come up with a work schedule that would produce the best results, but one group was given one addtional instruction, "Be Creative." The researcher measured the number of individuals in each group that came up with what was deemed a high quality solution.

The result: 39% of the people in the group that received the standard instructions came up with high quality solutions. 52% of the people in the "Be Creative" group came up with high quality solutions. Two words can make a huge difference.



Values, Rituals, and Symbols

Today's, Wall Street Journal has a great story about a Michigan accounting firm that has created a valuable cultural tradition out of a green sheet of paper. Plante & Moran was co-founded by Frank Moran, who always encouraged his employees to "picture yourself at your future best." For forty years, departing employees have reflected this value by reflecting on their lives and revealing their dreams on a green sheet of paper. Writing a "green departure memo" has become a ritual for all employees.

The company's human resource director says the green memos put a "...bookmark in your life...It makes you take inventory of where you've been and where you're going." A project manager, who was let go this spring, used her memo to reflect on her love of the outdoors and contemplated the possibility of pursuing a career in landscaping.

The green memos are posted on a large bulletin board near a busy photocopier. The wall of green serves as a symbol of the companies belief in the potential of all of its former, present, and future employees. Its also a symbolic example of how a company's culture is the foundation for its success. Plante & Moran is consistently placed on the lists of the best companies in America to work for.



using blogs in business

Here at Play, we've been talking a bunch about the role of Pure Content in the company. In essence, it's an ideal content management system and a great community building tool. From the Blogger main page, I found this book chapter (completely available online), Using Blogs in Business, from the book-in-progress "We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs." If you are interested in utilizing blogs as a knowledge management device, check this chapter out. Although it would be nice if you could jump to specific sections of the chapter, it's still really good. It's by Meg Hourihan, Matt Haughey, and Paul Bausch.

From the chapter: "If you think of KM as an attempt to capture the knowledge that people are communicating throughout an organization (e-mails, memos and recommendations, ideas shared by the water cooler, and so on), you can see two reasons why KM might not succeed. People aren't generating content—which is highly unlikely because people are generating content all the time—or it's not being captured because the tools or systems aren't in place, or are too burdensome to bother with. This is where weblogs can provide a simple solution."


eco-friendly advertising

In Trenholm's post below, a couple people commented that the StreetWriter posed environmental problems—both in the ecological and in the social sense. It reminded me of another advertising technique—one that annoys me, but that apparently helps reduce ecological problems. In the mornings, when beach patrols sweep the beaches, the ad agency rolls large "rolling pin"-style drums with ads imprinted on them. The result is thousands of "impressions" (ha ha) that hawk some kind of product and say "please don't litter." Of course, it begs the question, is "litter" just garbage left on the beach? Or does the advertisement itself constitute "litter"? It's great that it's environmentally-friendly, but if I'm going to the beach "to get away from it all," I don't want to have to see ads for Snapple, ABC, the Yellow Pages, or Skippy Peanut Butter.


I, too, wanted to respond to Sean's July 22 posting asking if anyone had good stories of an individual or buisness being inspired by something and using that inspiration to create something new. I posted my thoughts earlier on Play's "Conversation 17" but didn't receive much response.

Okay, this is one of those ideas that I'll end up saying "I invented that" when I walk down the grocery store aisle a few years from now and see it on the shelf. I was at the store buying ingredients to bake a cake and I picked up a box of brown sugar. I was certain I had a box already at home, but I was also certain the contents had turned to the consistency of hard rock sandstone. Don't you hate it when the brown sugar is so hard that it comes out all clumpy and pebble like? And even if it were soft, you have that whole "firmly packed" issue. Why do I have to firmly pack the brown sugar? Why can't they just give me a measurement for loosely packed brown sugar? So driving home from the store, I had an idea that Domino Sugar (or whoever else makes brown sugar) should sell brown sugar in convenient 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup firmly packed containers (like jello containers), or have them stored in vacuum sealed packages already measured? If your recipe calls for 3/4 cup, you just rip open three of the 1/4 cup containers. Why haven't they thought of this before? It escapes me, because I think it's a really good idea. It may cost more to package it, but people are typically willing to pay for convenience--I know I would pay for this particular convenience. Anyway, I wanted to share with you my "thinking about it harder" brown-sugar revelation. Any ideas how I can market this?
--Julie Gigante


(via BurningSteel )...The StreetWriter is one of the cooler things I have seen recently. I am dying to hook one of these bad boys up to my Subaru Outback and write messages all over town advertising for Pure Content and well, use your imagination. Anyway, here's what the The Institute for Applied Autonomy wrote about the StreetWriter: "StreetWriter is a modified cargo van, capable of printing messages on to the pavement while driving. The system is capable of rendering messages that are legible from tall buildings and low flying aircraft and is capable of rendering messages that are several hundreds of feet in length. The project continues the research into Contestational Robotics gained from the earlier GraffitiWriter project." I think the opportunities and capabilities of this type of machine are endless and I'd like to hear what y'all think about it...


chicken run

The positive: Scientists are experimenting with circuitboards made of chicken feathers, creating lighter, cheaper, more easily manufactured computer chips.

The negative: Lots of stupid puns are on the horizon.

For some reason, puns about chickens are easy, so people use them. "feather-brained ideas." "chicken feather-based computer chips tickles the press." "computers flying." "fowl play." "plucky idea." stupid stuff like that. Anyway, the idea that might lead to those is pretty cool. The University of Delaware has a program, called the Affordable Composites from Renewable Resources, which is a program that combines "genetic engineering and composites manufacturing science" to develop adhesives and composite materials for auto and trucking projects, hurricane-resistant structures, and other industrial uses. They are experimenting with using chicken feathers to create silicon chips.

From the TechTV article: "The feathers themselves are quite strong," Wool said. They're also hollow and filled with air, one of the best conductors of electrons. The feather fibers are stripped from the quills, pressed together into mats, mixed with a special type of soybean oil, pressed again into hard boards, and then cut down into small boards for circuits."

There's also a more in-depth article in the Washington Post, but I can't guarantee it's completely free of puns. Watch out.


Dressed to Shake Things Up

When Marvin Gaye was making his landmark "What's Going On" album, he wanted to dress in a manner not seen before within the halls of the "Motown Factory." Marvin knew that the record was going to be something that no one at Motown had ever heard before, so he wanted them to see someone they'd never seen before. Out went the sharkskin tailored suits and clean shaven face. Marvin grew a beard and dispensed with the image conscious clothing in favor of a funkier and much more casual attire. He changed his look and would eventually change the business of Motown by moving the company from a focus on hit-singles to a strategy aimed more at releasing hit albums.

As more companies switch to casual dress, how might one shake things up sartorially? If you dress like a rebel, is there an expectation put on you to become a catalyst for change?



Cool New Way of Advertising Underground

The Big White Guy in Hong Kong reports that there is a cool new advertising system on the tunnel walls of Mass Transit Railways (MTR), an underground commuter train. This is how it works:

"it's a 15-second animated show, using 408 posters that are lit by strobes, controlled by a computer that guages the train's speed and illuminates each poster for a fraction of a second when the poster is centered with each window in the compartment. the film will appear to be suspended outside the train window."

"hong kong is not the first asian city to use this technology. the city of seoul, korea was the first. there are similar systems in athens, greece, and budapest, hungary."

Thought this is quite an interesting idea. Has anyone seen this before or have a picture to show what it looks like? -andrea

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
Comments by: YACCS