Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.

blogging at Microsoft

John Porcaro is a "Microsoftee" who, about a month ago, started a blog. In addition to writing about some of his personal passions within Microsoft (personal customer service pops up a bunch), he posts resources and articles that relate to creativity and innovation and marketing and other topics relevant to the progressive business mind. He has a comfortable writing style, with a dash of self-deprecating humor tossed in. If you like Biz 2.0 and Fast Company, check out John Porcaro's Blog. In his words, "I’m not a developer, and my HTML skills kind of suck, but it’s me." That's all we ask for, John.

I'm a fan, and I'll be back. It's going on the list of blogs on the right.



This isn't the most appropriate place to note this, but it's the most public forum I have, and I want to do what I can to set things right. If you're just here for the thoughts on creativity, skip this post.

So back at William & Mary, I was in a fraternity of sorts, called the Bishop James Madison Society. One of the activities that the Society has held for several years is called the Last Lecture — an opportunity for retiring professors to leave the College community with the insight, wisdom, and knowledge that they've accrued over their 40+ years of teaching. The event for 2003 was held on Thursday night in Williamsburg, and I went back to see it. Afterwards, a student from the weekly student newspaper, the Flat Hat, interviewed me, to find out more about the Society and to get a few quotes. I was happy to oblige, but I was a little nervous, because the student newspaper has misquoted me before. Nevertheless, I agreed to the interview.

This morning I check out the online version of the paper, and lo and behold, not only did the writer misquote me, but she misquoted me in a potentially damaging way. My original quote? "It's a dark time for the College. It's intimidating to hear how much we're up against, but it's inspiring to see how the College has overcome adversity in the past." What do they put in the paper? " '[The retiring professor] did a fantastic job, although it's troubling to hear,' he said. 'We know it's a dark time for the College and it's sort of intimidating to hear how much we're up against. It's also inspiring to see how the College has overcome diversity in the past.' " ADversity! Not DIversity! There's a pretty big difference.

So a quote that I hoped would paint the College in a positive and hope-filled light turned into a quote that makes me sound racist. Great.

Thanks, Flat Hat. You're super.


innovation in (small) business

Connected, the wired/tech/business arm of Britain's Telegraph newspaper, released an article this week about the task of innovation in small businesses. To see a list of the articles that comprise the series, check out the main page. From there, you can get to articles like Inspire, create, connect, which reports on a three-month-old venture called The Innovators' Club. You have to register to access the content (it's free), but here's a sample from that article:

There is no single simple formula for success. It was found that organisations that "live innovation" had developed an assortment of skills and techniques that allowed them to reach their goals. No two approaches were necessarily the same. However, three core areas were seen as the key. All the companies inspired their staff and colleagues not merely to accept innovation but actively to pursue it. Second, they worked enthusiastically to create new products and services and, third, they connected closely and effectively with their markets and customers. That is, they positively sought out and established the needs of their clients - and then worked on ways to meet those requirements. Inspire, Create and Connect became the mantra.

In another article, Innovation in action, author Robert Miller notes that "£8 billion worth of British ideas leave the country annually to be exploited overseas because UK companies are unwilling to adopt new ideas." Also, "Real ground-breaking inventions, such as the Dyson vacuum cleaner, where you take something and build it from the ground up, are the exception, not the rule. In today's tough economic climate more firms are making improvements or add-ons and tweaks to existing products rather than coming up with brand new ones. What really matters in business right now is innovation."

One more article, Building the culture, further smashes the myth of the Lone Ranger creative, who single-handedly generates brilliant ideas.

The traditional concept is that there has to be "heroic" leadership for innovation. Yet it was the "quiet" leaders - people who had humility and were constantly seeking new ideas, posing questions and encouraging others to do the same - that had had the greatest impact. The idea of the lone genius making an historic breakthrough with a sudden flash of inspiration did not ring true. Instead, Dr Tierney discovered that the five Nobel laureates she studied had maintained vast networks of contacts and collaborators across a wide variety of disciplines in their own and other fields, with whom they swapped information and shared the ideas that were their platform to success.

Also, the author notes, size doesn't matter. Although she was addressing science labs, the truth remains constant in the business world as well: "It was not the size of the laboratories that mattered, it was the climate that they created."

Culture — the combination of ideals (values), rituals, and symbols, is critical to the establishment of an environment that nurtures ideas. Ultimately, those ideals, rituals, and symbols have to be seen as means, and not as ends. "Hey! We're a dotcom! We have a foosball table in our office! Aren't we crazy and creative?!" That's the misperception: that getting a foosball table, or "Casual Fridays," or Successories (shudder) make you automatically creative. An office environment that fosters creativity is critical, and having diversions (i.e. foosball table) or a relaxed atmosphere (Casual Fridays) can help, they won't do anything if they are the end and not the means to something bigger — growing your creative ability.

I digress. The articles in Connected look good, and the registration process is free and easy. What is especially interesting is that they highlight the need for innovation in small businesses. All too often, small businesses obsess over their cash flow and their immediate needs, and they don't take a step back to ask whether they're working in the best possible way. What these articles point out is that those efficiencies and improvements that come through innovative thinking can revolutionize and transform the small business. To get to the list of articles on innovation, click here. Thanks to my dad for the link.


read all about it ...

A recent white paper of ours, Business Unorthodox, has been selected for publication in the June 2003 edition of Executive Excellence magazine. Check it out there, or go ahead and (if you haven't seen it yet) read it now.


New York Songlines

According to legend, the way that Australian Aborigines navigated their land was through a set of stories and songs that related to the landmarks. Now a New Yorker, Jim Naureckas, has created New York Songlines, to serve as an education to New Yorkers about the stories and songs that give their home its sense of place.

by relying on maps, signs and Manhattan's perpendicular geography, New Yorkers have given up something important: a sense of place. If you can get from your starting place to your destination without knowing anything about the points in between, chances are you won't pay much attention to them. And we do hurry about town without looking up, many of us, walking by the same buildings hundreds of times without noticing what they are or even what they look like. Which is a shame, because New York has its own giants, heroes and monsters who left their marks and their names on the land around us. If we learn their stories which are written on our streets and avenues, we'll have a much better chance of knowing where we've been, and where we're going.

To this end I offer these as the New York Songlines. An oral culture uses song as the most efficient way to remember and transmit large amounts of information; the Web is our technological society's closest equivalent. Each Songline will follow a single pathway, whether it goes by one name or several; the streets I plan to follow from river to river, while the avenues will at least at first be read only in part, focusing on the upper Downtown/lower Midtown part of the island I know best.

By picking a "songline" and "walking" around the city, you can find out about the stories and tales that make up the Big Apple. It's a really innovative use of hypertext. Thanks to Armistead for the link.


time flys when ...

It's amazing how quickly days pass by. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we had a Creativity Training session that went phenomenally well, if I do say so myself. Robert and I led the two-day-long session, and we had people from all over the country (and Mexico) here for it. If you were a part of the session and feel like commenting on it, click on the link below (that says "comments") and give us your thoughts.

Play will lead its next Creativity Training session on June 10th and 11th, here in Richmond, VA. If you're interested in coming, send an e-mail to charlie@lookatmorestuff.com.


look at more books and think about them harder

People often ask us about the books that we recommend for building creativity within their organization. You can see some of the ones that we suggest in the left-hand column. But there are two that we think are pretty useful. One as a device for changing perspective, one as a means of building confusion tolerance.

Zoom is a book that, without a single word, begs the questions "what am I really looking at?" ... "from where am I coming?" ... "where am I going?" ... "If I look at this (objective)(scene)(issue)(challenge) from a different perspective, how will I reshape my worldview?" It's a great book ... "classic" in the sense of The Giving Tree ... but less well known. Although Amazon says Zoom's reading level is 4 - 8, don't believe it. If you're interested in reading more about it or buying it, visit Amazon.

The other book is
Einstein's Dreams, a novel about the dream state of our friend Al, and how his sleep brought about genius. With beautiful language and almost poetic storytelling ability, Alan Lightman talks about the intricacies of space and time, and how Einstein uncovered the secrets of the universe. Like with Zoom, for more about it, go check out Amazon.

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