Time and space for quality self-reflection

MAKE SPACE for self-reflection. This 12-step virtual workshop is a tried-and-tested way.

Programmes online from DK are, as of July 2018, by invitation only. To request an invitation and details of our online workshop-salons, tell us. If you’d like to be notified of SELF January 2019’s invitation-only opening, please add your name through the form on this page.

Thank you for your attention and interest in SELF—we’re excited to bring you the best of highlights of 10 years of conversations on how to find the ‘concept of you.’ To be continued! —DK

 

Work | Space

Our new work should be oriented towards collaboration, sustainability, creativity and problem solving.

YOU GET THINKING about things, and you start to notice, Wait a minute. This is all about spacemaking.

Allowing people plenty of room to come into a framed, bounded box. One that’s handled with care. Is safe. Where you can let yourself relax, and get to know others. And talk. Like, really talk. Engagement starts from this. We open doors to teambuilding, shared visions, open space dialogues and true collaborations. Win-win-win-win… You see how it works.

But I should tell you about me. So you know me, a little. Before we go into the philosophy of work and space and ‘N+1.’

I co-founded Design Kompany LLC in 2004 in Seattle.

To be really honest, much of the early days were spent noodling about, uselessly. Work was hard because we were young, and new. We got burned a few times, and we handled other projects less-than-ideally. Met many dead ends, things falling through, the usual. This is par for the course for the experienced, of course, but we had to learn through doing. That’s a philosophy we haven’t lost… design isn’t theorizing. Design is doing. Talking, mostly. Really, that’s what people were always surprised about. How much time we spent on the first part of the design process: the creative brief questionnaire. Work that out with us, and we will deliver something extraordinary. Guaranteed, because, it’s a given that if you make that space and share the trust, both sides will put forward their double efforts.

But before, we just played like everyone else. Business was about money, deals. We didn’t know. We learned, though. That it’s about being good at learning about people, what they are telling you, what they are not telling you but want to tell you and will if you allow the space to let them. Flow. Play. Space. Work.

Prior to our move to Asia in 2013, people knew us as brand designers. We did concepts, made logotypes and brand identities, and wrote brand usage manuals for architects, software developers, and many other  process-oriented people. They liked our method. We liked their smarts. We grew, and we learned, and we changed. Then we went on the road, for a year. That was longer than anyone had imagined. And we found Phnom Penh in 2013, whilst on that journey. It had a certain quality, to me. It felt like anything could happen. That by simply being here, by simply observing and studying the Khmer aesthetics closely by living near them, we could really learn. Grow. And it fit. We’ve been here ever since. Changing, learning.

PHNOM PENH. Meeting people. Discovering styles, engaging across new cultural lines, appreciating the approaches of new and very different others. Their initiatives. Their hospitality. I feel lucky. This is fun. It’s exciting.

SOME OF THE WANDERINGS THESE LAST 20 years (literally and metaphorically), have certainly helped me come this far into this thing called entrepreneurship, however trifling and bare-bones our agile approaches are, in the world of business. These insights from doing rather than just theorizing about how to create value for people who desire your services have helped me. A lot. Real-life experiences, brute-forth trial-and-prototyping-and-testing  have sustained me through self doubt, criticism, financial and other hardship, and nourished my sense of purpose. I suppose that’s another reason for which I want to share this with you… I believe in practicing thinking for its own sake, and for the sake of clarity. Now that I’m where I am, there’s this. Our consulting work is now very much about meeting you where you are. From there, we’ll do the spacemaking, to set the stage, so you can do the big work. The thing of ‘N+1.’ Take it to the next stage, yes?

WORK:

‘I work… to earn money… which I use… to consume stuff… which makes me happy,’ Lynda Gratton in The Shift, on “the traditional deal at work”

THE ABOVE OBSERVATION is a particularly harsh way, perhaps, to look at generations of people’s values and decisions around work, but I think is pretty accurate. My dad had another take: ‘work is supposed to be difficult—to suffer through it is the work.’ Paraphrased, of course, since this was Japan, and a lot was implied rather than stated explicitly or  repeatedly.

I remember growing up associating work with suffering this way, and for me, the work I was to suffer through was my studies. Fast forward to the 90s, and I was a college student in the US. Then, work and job was about how much we’d make in the first year.

Being in engineering, friends around me were throwing around the numbers like 50, 60, 70K per annum, counting them long before graduation and planning the neighborhood where they’d buy their first house. On the other hand, we were the gen X: many of us were openly skeptical, quoting from Reality Bites and the Wall, and daydreaming about vagabonding in Europe or Asia. I was stuck in the middle.

Majoring in Parks and Recreation, I had no fantasy about making six figures any time soon, and my Japanese lineage and studiousness didn’t make me fit in the granolas-and-Birkenstocks club either. Lucky for me, I enjoyed doing what I was getting into at the time, running student clubs and organizing events, and knew what I wanted to be, however vaguely, when I grew up. It was just figuring out how to get there, wherever ‘there’ might be. Trusting the process. I was fortunate to have brilliant mentors early who showed me there’s no such thing as a predetermined flight course.

I was to flap my wings.

Aimlessly, frantically… until I learned to fly.

So… yeah… 25 years into flapping, I have a better idea of where I’m going, work-wise, but I try not to fool myself in thinking that I’ve figured it all out.

Work is to find meaning in life, and truly meaningful work will consume all life that there is.

This isn’t to say that work is more important than other areas of life.

It is that work contains life, in its ultimate form.

Not that any of us will ever achieve this fully, but to me, that ultimate integration of work with life is what I’m after.

N+1.

Our societies have too long (but this is shorter than we assume!) defined work as a separate activity that’s dedicated to earn our living. And thus, to many of us earning has become the meaning of our lives. I was lucky to reject this early because I didn’t have the privilege nor smarts to obtain membership to the elite class that can define themselves through their annual income and job titles. Everywhere I look around, these days, though, I see many more that have either opted out in their own accord or never had such privilege. The new generation is opting, rather, for meaning. But we carry much baggage from our legacy and its biases: towards money, towards prestige, towards long hours, towards competition, towards disregard to ourselves and others. To integrate work back into our lives we need to be awake to these biases in ourselves and work to overcome them.

Our new work should be oriented towards collaboration, sustainability, creativity and problem solving.

Coworking spaces, “innovation” labs, peer-to-peer economy, “crowd-” everything—these are but some ways this shift is manifesting. But that isn’t enough; the skills I grew up with is awefully inadequate to this new orientation, and I fear that our kids are afforded no better education today. This is where I intend to focus my next decades on.

SPACE:

IF OUR NEW WORK is to collaboratively create solutions to problems—to join the words I used above together—then we need a place where people can gather, to do that work. Space, to me, isn’t just about the physical container, the term encompasses what we create together first, when more than one person come together: holding space.

How we come together, work together and grow into a community; how the communities grow, relate to each other and shift as a whole system: this is a question of space—creating, holding, and nurturing of it—to me. To explore this concept I gathered a few people together in a small gallery space in Phnom Penh, where new spaces for entrepreneurs, artists, and social change makers are on the rise. Some were physical space holders, some were event organizers, some ran organizations, some came because they were curious.

Here’s a few things I learned from our 11-person conversation then:

    • Details are important, and how you can ‘design’ or ‘control’ can be too abrupt, sometimes, and get things veering off to the opposite direction. ‘We tried to make it not too loud,’ said the co-owner of the gallery that hosted us.
    • Experience was a theme of the occasion, as most of us gathered were designers of events, temporal spaces rather than the physical. Why do we need to gather? Sometimes, it’s to educate one another about something important. Sometimes, it’s about the loneliness, the void we feel. We talked about suicide rates in Korea, and how otherwise disengaged kids would come together to create flashmob—a temporal, physical \space\. Controlling space is a tricky business, and it’s akin to steering a boat in open water. Small adjustments can mean a lot down the road, and the less control you can use in getting to the destination, the faster you get there. But how do we know the destination, in open water? Sometimes you start with one intention and you get to another, and it could be a beautiful thing. And what about productivity?
    • How we define productivity decides what we do to optimize it. Someone said: ‘The education system is a productive space for one metric. But we have become good at the wrong thing, perhaps.’
    • We talked about Nerd Night [Phnom Penh] and how it is a place where newbies and incumbents can interact. And how it was meant to solve the problem of silos in the incumbents. And how the space affects the quality of the experience. Trying to accommodate different crowds and breaking the ice requires conscious, intentional small steps rather than a sweeping, big stroke.

…Small steps, in other words.

As I head into the Coworking Unconference, itself a space that has been created intentionally, I keep this one thought in mind, turning it over this way and that way.

What’s the small step that I can take, a little adjustment I can make? That’s the thing. That’s it. That’s the work of making space, and spacemaking to do the work, that we here at DK call, ‘N+1.’

N+1

ONE STEP AT A TIME. We are learning and changing and growing all the time. Will you be interested to hear more about how things continue to develop? Ideas, resources, articles and more are all available to you when you become a patron of DK. Here is a link…


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Guest post: ‘Skipping the awkward get-to-know-you-phase’

GUEST POST from a guest of ’16N,’ our international conversation series of salons: ‘When we met, it was like we didn’t have a long awkward get-to-know-you phase, it was easy to chat and talk about less usual things.’

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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A guest post today from Sarah Rhodes. Sarah had joined us at ‘N’ Phnom Penh, and reflects on that experience. 

WHEN I FIRST moved to Siem Reap, I was attending a lot of different events to meet different people and try and find my place and friends in a new city.

It was at one of these events where I met [DK], who was hosting ‘N’, an event that sounded a bit interesting, and although we didn’t get to talk directly, it was a few days later that we ended up having a great chat watching the sunset on a rooftop in Siem Reap town.

Whether it was the first meeting or the sunset chat there was no doubt that the connection had been made, so when I was visiting Phnom Penh in April last year and it coincided with the ‘N’ event, I considered myself very fortunate.

Sunset

It was during this visit that I realised the other attendees of the event had also had similar encounters with [DK], so it was no surprise that when we all arrived for this event we found that we automatically connected, as we had one main thing in common. The way the event was organised was well thought through; from the personal invitation, individually crafted official invitations, creative activities which with facilitated conversation beyond the usual ‘who are you?’ and ‘what do you do?’.

WHEN WE MET, it was like we didn’t have a long awkward get-to-know-you phase, it was easy to chat and talk about less usual things. I met many interesting people that night. I now have friendships with people in Phnom Penh from ‘N’, after all a friendship is formed by first talking with someone, and then talking with them again. —Sarah E. Rhodes (@saraherhodes)

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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S. P. A. C. E: ‘Diary of N’

…PEOPLE WHO’VE said ‘yes’ to this wacky and weird idea. Followed all the instructions. Showed up, on the day. What happened in Phnom Penh and Bangkok was very special. And it’s because of the people who came. I can’t even tell you how cool it was. We made it possible, ourselves. We chose to be there, and we were there. Because we were curious. We wanted to be. That’s what made it magic.

Published in S. P. A. C. E. for members of SELF.

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‘N’ IS IN PLAY.

I’ve given myself a task. To find 256 people. In cities that have an ‘N’ in them. To talk about a topic that starts with ‘N’. In a venue that starts with ‘N’, too. So far we’ve gone to Phnom Penh for ‘N’ Normality at NUK Cafe, and to Bangkok for ‘N’ NOW at Nikko Cafe. The next few places are on the books for later this year, and I am now working to invite the magic set of 16 to each of those places. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the number one reason is:

‘N’ is magical.

Why?

It’s working. The thing that an innovation consultant we know and work with closely said innovations are solutions to the right problems that users love to use. The important parts: ‘Right problems,’ and ‘love to use.’

The problem: people aren’t connecting in meaningful ways. Outside of work or romantic relationships, it’s hard to discover space and time to connect for quality dialogue, intellectual play and stuff like that. ‘A 30 year old guy talking to another 30 year old guy?’ someone on a train I met somewhere in the autumn said, ‘Well, that’s just weird. It’s like a date. What do you like? I don’t know. What do you like? That’s just… weird.’

Is it?

Can ‘N’ let it happen, so it’s NOT weird?

My original gut feeling was, ‘What if we could stop trying to collect people? As if we’re all numbers. What if, instead, we were all N, so randomly chosen and highly self-selecting. And then, when we have this very short moment of a conversation space in real life, those ‘N’ who’ve chosen to join the project become real people. The kicker: you have to check in your phone at the start. This is a picture of what it ‘feels’ like to be there. I took this picture in Copenhagen.

People. It’s about the people.

256 in total.

You. Me. Us.

People who’ve said ‘yes’ to this wacky and weird idea. Followed all the instructions. Showed up, on the day. What happened in Phnom Penh and Bangkok was very special. And it’s because of the people who came. I can’t even tell you how cool it was. We made it possible, ourselves. We chose to be there, and we were there. Because we were curious. We wanted to be. That’s what made it magic.

‘A – H A!’

EVER SINCE the idea to make ’16N’ flashed into concept in March 2015, I have sort of obsessively been writing people or bumping into them and asking, ‘Will you like to hear more about ‘N’?’ Sometimes they say yes.

I wanted to design a way for us to all meet each other at the SAME TIME. Serendipity and chance, but sort of on purpose. An experiment? Something. The idea being let’s see who comes. Let’s see what happens. Non-boring conversations, please. How to make it happen? This was my premise: You can design for great conversation. You can engineer conditions so that it’s more likely to hit on something cool in the space of a short burst of time. (PS, I’m an engineer by training, a designer by school of life.)

What I needed were these things:

People’s trust.
A unique proposition.
A firmness in structure.
A way to make it fun.
Hurdles.
Openness within the structure, on the day.
Gumption.

NO DOUBT this is a work in progress. But if you’re here because I invited you to an ‘N’ in your city, there’s more to share, at the password-protected link. Let me know you are there, and I can share more.

Diary of ‘N’ is published in Design Kompany’s eZine S. P. A. C. E. —DK

Published in S. P. A. C. E. for members of SELF.

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Guest Post: ‘Sharing Stories’

GUEST POST FROM SANDRO GISLER. ‘I TREASURE the shouts, blurbs, dinner table fragments just as much. And likewise, the glimpses into the souls and lives of those I’m connected with through social media. Whom I would not see at a campfire or a dinner table any time soon.’

TODAY, A GUEST POST from Sandro Gisler. DK got to know Sandro through a collaborative writing project of Kismuth Books, which culminated in the publication of a small anthology. More than a year on, as we reopen THE MIRROR, we asked Sandro if he felt like sharing his thoughts on being part of that journey, and where he is now. And, this.

Sharing stories

“THIS,” he says, “is precisely what campfires are for. The sharing of stories. There’s a spiritual connection between flame and narrative.” —V. M. Straka

CAMPFIRES. It has been a while. But the other day, I had once again the privilege to be a storyteller: My kids’ school hosted a Reading Night, and I volunteered to read a story. Equipped with a flash light, I sat in the dark in an old-school class room, a flock of five-year olds sitting cross-legged in a small circle, hanging on my lips as I told local folk tales.

Reading the Straka quote about the campfire made me reflect about Sharing Stories, and I soon realized: ‘Sharing Stories’ may be the most profound human experience. I have long held that language is at the core of what it means to be human.

Language can range from a simple tool for exchanging information all the way to provide comfort, to share value, to remember history and to form bonds. But in between, there is a wide spectrum of nods, of Hey-did-you-hear-about’s, of quick blurbs and fragmented reports. Standing at the water cooler, waiting at the bus stop, over dinner with loved ones.

Let me introduce at this point the Share button. Have you clicked one today? Several times? Was it a Share button that brought you here, to this post? Or did someone mention it at the camp fire last night?

What is the Share button’s value? Does it cut us off from others by driving us into Social Media isolation? Does it create that same social bond that the flames of a campfires or the shine of a flash light create?

Well, as much as I am a romantic sucker for camp fires and late night storytelling, I am also a pragmatist, and value a simple hug over a grand red carpet welcome. A quick coffee over an elaborate tea ceremony. That’s where the Share button comes in. The Share button is the global water cooler, the café at the corner of the universe, the pub of Earth’s town square.

Glimpses

THERE ARE FEW THINGS in the world I like better than sitting at a campfire. But let’s face it; had I only shared stories and formed bonds while sitting at a campfire, it would’ve been a lonely life.

I treasure the shouts, blurbs, dinner table fragments just as much. And likewise, the glimpses into the souls and lives of those I’m connected with through social media. Whom I would not see at a campfire or a dinner table any time soon. I want to know how they feel. About the bus ride that morning, about the election, about the refugees, about the lack of snow, about what will come next.

There is a value in every human interaction, no matter how mundane or how electronic. What matters is the connection. —Sandro Gisler (@sandrogisler)

 

Where great physics intersects with great literature: Outbreaks

NEILS BOHR: ‘There is no quantum world. There’s only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics is what we can say about nature.’

A surprising overlap in thinking: What Neils Bohr and Henry Miller both say about the creative process

SERENDIPITY LANDED IT ON MY LAP.

In a dusty, sun-caked patio of a lending library in Phnom Penh, the worn volume tossed towards me by a longtime friend, with the abrupt grunt, and a halfhearted recommendation. ‘This one, maybe. You might like it, A.’

Henry Miller. The Colossus of Maroussi.

I did.

Too much.

I still haven’t returned it. One day, eventually, but it is too nice to read and reread the dense packets of prose that answer life’s big questions: what is our purpose, how can we reconcile our callings towards the esoteric (live artfully, miraculously) when the world is ravaging itself in global warming, apathy, fragmentation, and war. I lately read classics more and more. They seem to have some of these things organized and carefully, beautifully, and quite convincingly spelled out.

What we are, how we are meant to live, and what we might yet become are super giant metaphysical questions. When I talk about metaphysics, people get kind of all distant and a little weirded out. Science is hard, I get the rebuttal. I spent a lot of time in a part of America with the highest concentration of PhDs (this would be Raleigh-Durham), and often, more often than I care to admit, ran up against the celebration of logic over all.

Logic is a mess. Logic is killing us. And logic isn’t working. When we have the world upping in temperature inch by inch, the empire of Disney comes along and tries to put it out of our mind with a pretty little distracting animation about a world of cold and ice. A movie glorifying war comes out at just exactly the time as, guess what? Real war’s on. This is weird, but this is the world we are in. I was in this bungalow in a hippie outlay in a rural part of Cambodia one day, just hanging out on a hammock, and this older guy gets it that I’m getting him, and just tells me point blank, it’s all over. ‘The truth will be buried in a sea of irrelevance. You should read Aldous Huxley.’ ‘Tell me more.’

CAN’T SAY THAT I AM A BIG READER. I like talking, though. Correspondence in the written form is cool, too. What matters is the quality of exchange. The dialogue. Value is the awareness of something new, an input that is beginning to plant somewhere, and inform the old learnings. I am reading for the sake of curating a magazine. I don’t have much else to read, except what will engage the people I care about. The ones who ask questions.

Miller, describing his thoughts at being taken to an astronomical observatory in Athens along with his friend Lawrence Durrell:

The image I shall always retain is that of Chartres, an effulgent rose window shattered by a hand grenade. I mean it in a double or triple sense—of awesome, indestructible beauty, of cosmic violation, of world ruin suspended in the sky like a fatal omen, of the eternality of beauty even when blasted and desecrated. ‘As above, so below,’ runs the famous saying of Hermes Trismegistus. To see the Pleiades through a powerful telescope is to sense the sublime and awesome truth of these words. In his highest flights,musical and architectural above all, for they are one, man gives the illusion of rivaling the order, the majesty and the splendor of the heavens; in his fits of destruction the evil and the desolation which he spreads seems incomparable until we reflect on the greate stellar shake-ups brought on by the mental aberations of the unknown Wizard. Our hosts seemed impervious to such reflections; they spoke knowingly of weights, distances, substances, etc. They were removed from the normal activities of their fellow-men in quite a different way from ourselves. For them beauty was incidental, for us everything. For them the phsyicomathematical world palped, calibred, weighted and transmitted by their instruments was reality itself, the stars and planets mere proof of their exeellent and infallible reasong. For Durell and myself reality lay wholly beyond the reach of their puny instruments which in themselves were nothing more than clumsy reflections of their circumsribed imagination locked forever inthe hypothetical prison of logic.

Their astronomical figures and calculations, intended to impress and overawe us, only caused us to smiole indulgently or to very impolitely laugh outright at them. Speaking for myself, facts and figures have always left me unimpressed.’ —Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi, published in New Directions Books: New York, 1941

Neils Bohr takes it further

THE WEIRD PART IS this. Henry Miller’s ideas about precision and logic and the people who profess that this is the prime tier of thinking itself is right in line with the physicist who gave us the model of the atom, Neils Bohr.

Now, I have been writing quite a bit here lately about my rambles in DENMARK. And the Neils Bohr Institute visit in particular, for example, features in a strong, central way in the new book I am writing (more on that some other time). Mainly, I wanted to get back to Phnom Penh and find a different library, one that has textbooks and not just novels, so I foudn the ___ university on the second floor above a moto parking lot and went on in, and got to the physics section, which I already knew about because of some old research on Bohm and qualia, and discovered, quite happily, a biography of Neils Bohr.

The man who became so well-loved in Copenhagen that taxi drivers taking physicists invited to study there took no money for their clients when they heard the destination was the Neils Bohr Institute has given us, as Miller, a lot of meaty and comprehensive thought on our collective work in life to be the best humans we can. Like Miller, he gets easily irritated with people who profess to know things, absolutely. What I learned from being in Denmark, as the biographer also comments, is that one must suspend his conditioning that directs us to speak and act as though we are ‘correct.’

There is no quantum world. There’s only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics is what we can say about nature.

–AS

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Toe selfies

‘EVERYTHING. Like crossed feet at the beach or in front of the pool going on instagram. Those.’

‘Barefoot.’

Today I Love You // By Dipika Kohli 2012
Today I Love You // Dipika Kohli 2012

‘I WANT TO CALL THE NEW SERIES, [deleted].’

‘Oh, well, that’s a bit better. But you can’t call it the other thing.’

‘What other thing?’

‘Didn’t you say lifestyle design, earlier? I mean, you can’t do that, no way, not now. Two years ago, maybe. Because today, it doesn’t mean what you think it means.’

‘Huh?’

‘I just mean, to you and me, design is about how to make our life better, how to create the life we really want by looking for opportunities and, ideally, creating value for other people so we can make a life doing what we’re good at and what we’re getting better at as a—‘

‘Like that Warren Buffet thing?’

‘Yeah, yeah. Anyway, to you and me design means one thing. It’s about the way we think about how to create the life we really want. Once we examine, that is, what it is we care about. Remember how you did that event, Big D Design?’

‘And no one came, except Sipheng Lim. That was cool. What’s he doing now, anyway? I haven’t seen him around.’

‘He’s making films. You haven’t been around. Are you listening?’

‘Hm. Uh-huh.’

‘Yeah, but it was just too big a concept, you know? Design is, to most people, about photoshop.’

*Slumps*

‘So you can’t say that. Lifestyle design, I mean, you can’t say that.’

‘But that’s what it is.’

‘But that’s not what it means anymore.’

‘Whaddyou mean?’

‘I mean, it’s been co-opted. The word lifestyle design doesn’t mean using design principles as a tool to make your life better.’

‘It means pictures on the beach of people’s feet.’

‘Feet pictures. Yeah, those.’ *Shrugs* ‘I guess people like taking those now. It’s not my thing, but you know. Feet.’

‘Toes. Toe selfies.’

‘Okay, okay. What if I just call it, SIMPLICITY. Set it up for early March?’

*Groans*

‘Too esoteric?’

‘Just, yeah. And you’re always wanting to just press go on everything so quickly. Oh, well. It’s you, I guess. So do it, try it. Gotta say, you seem to have a knack for this sort of thing, sometimes.’

‘What sort of thing?’

‘Seeing what people really want to talk about.’

Sometimes. But I have a good feeling about this one.’

*Looks dubious*

‘Simplicity. Simplicate and add lightness and stuff. Design-y, but not overstated. Overstating is such bollix. Leave it open, so people who come can help design it, you know? Open it up. Eco and stuff. Open works.’

‘I never could finish a page of Eco.’

‘That was a good idea, though. Co-creating. It’s just not hot right now. It’s not a popular way of doing stuff because people are obsessed with me-ism.’

‘Who-ism?’

‘Everything. Like crossed feet at the beach or in front of the pool going on instagram. Those.’

‘Barefoot.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Toe selfies.’

‘I wonder what people would think about those.’

‘Ask.’

A hundred baby posts

IT’S PROBABLY NOT A COINCIDENCE that people into meditation and mindfulness and peacemaking and conflict resolution and organizational development and yoga and innovation and jazz and architecture and software developing are our usual circuit of people who we ‘get’, and who ‘get’ us. The quality of space invites room for play, for discovery and co-discovery. There is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right,’ at the start of these things. You begin as you are, where you are, and how you are. It’s about making the room for it. Space. Time.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Get personal and connect with DK in S. P. A. C .E.

WRITING TODAY. Mostly in pencil.

A new journal. The right-side pages are blank. So I’m going to be drawing more. I’m going to get back to pencil, more of that, and less of the overassured line. Back to the sort of line that has pressed places and soft places, HB and 5B and stuff like that. There were some products that tried to simulate this on a tablet, but I much prefer the sensation of hand to paper, paper to words, words to thoughts that link and connect and hopefully, one day, make some degree of conversation that is quality, and nothing less.

I wanted to tell you a little bit about what we are up to here, and what DK is about. (I usually stay away from posts like this because it gets long and I start to go on about the ‘past and what we used to be about’ and that’s really much more interesting, I think, to me and the people who used to know me, than it is to you.) You are probably new to DK. I am hoping so. That’s part of why I deleted the old blog. Hitting reset was real good.

A blog for 10 years! And just, poof. Over.

Something about that was freeing. We could reinvent DK for you. For the new person who is coming here, is looking, is curious, is open and I hope, feels invited. Design Kompany is nothing if it’s not making space for the new, the near, the now and the next. All of that, yeah. At once. Can’t even tell you how important it is to us to open this place up a bit more, much more, wider and unblocked. DK’s looking for conversations, for space, for rooms to design scope for the uncertain. There is a lot of loftiness and airiness to that idea, but I want to make a list today of why.

  • TIME. There comes a moment when you realize, ‘This is what I am born to do.’ For me, it’s making space for people to explore ideas, deeply and stuff, and not just the boring usual conversation. When I say ‘deeply’ that could mean a couple of things. For company people, it’s about what matters and why. For individuals, it’s about who we really are, and not just in terms of big picture overdone philosophy, but who we really are in this moment, in this time. This is a weird time to be a human being. We have digital presences. We have real life presences. And the lines between both are getting more and more obscure. Time is short. Attention is light. Ennui is blunting. What can we do to make the most of our time? That’s one reason we make rooms for conversations: salons, installations, sometimes workshops, sometimes online stuff. It’s all very much in process and behind the scenes there’s more in the way of N:N.
  • FILTERING. I can’t believe how much time we are wasting these days in the name of productivity. I have been offline this morning and writing in pencil, like I said, and today after I don’t know how many years I busted out the colored pencils. That felt great. I have missed moving color on the page and thankfully, this new book has blank ones, so it’s invited me to pick up the drawing in colorspace, once again. But filters are huge. Filters on who is allowed closer to you, into your inner space, are really necessary now more than ever. Part of why DK was on a boat in Sweden in the fall. Cocooning. It takes one irritating comment to undo a day’s worth of building yourself up to get to the right mindspace for real insight-making. And insight-making is what, ultimately, making space is all for.
  • INSIGHT-MAKING. I could tell you now about the previous 10 years, but I’ll spare you. If you are the kind of person I am most resonant with, none of that will matter. You won’t be the sort who cares about credentials and degrees and client lists and testimonials, but you will, I’m sure of it, believe me if I say I can produce some of that in five point eight seconds if you want to read it. But you and I will both know that if you have to ask, we aren’t a fit. We’re not a match, and that’s a fast filter. Who has time? I want to get to insight-making. For the people I work with, of course, but also for me.
  • FOR ME. ‘Why are you making spaces for people to meet and talk with strangers? What’s in it for you? Why are you traveling the world and hosting salons? What about these workshops, why should I join you? What’s in it for us, what’s in it for you? I need to know what your agenda is. I need to know if you’re cool enough to connect with. I need to know, I really need to know, why you are doing this, DK? What the hell? What’s in it for you?’ This is probably the #1 burning question in the hearts of those who get talking to me enough that we are like, ‘Yeah. So what about what you’re up to? What’s in it for you?‘ How to explain. I remember saying these words to a kindhearted locksmith in Sweden: ‘It’s awesome for me. I’m learning. I’m here, I’m seeing you, we’re having this conversation, it’s real life. Real time. Nothing I read about dead philosophers and what they think equals this. I’m actually saving myself a hell of a lot of time, if you want to know the truth. I’m able to move about now, physically and mentally I’m prepared to go into the unknown. I know that might sound bizarre to you, but I’ve been playing in the mucky space of not-knowing for about ten years. Do you think I had a plan, when I started? Of course I did. But of course, I was totally wrong about what my projected stats would be, one year out, five years out, and now, here, look at this, ten years out. The Design Kompany of back then is a whole different thing and you know what? The Design Kompany of back then was pretty darn boring. Young. Unsophisticated. Naturally, that’s how everything begins. Baby steps. Today people call us ‘DK.’ I don’t know why but it just stuck. I read somewhere in a naming thing that if your name is more than four syllables that is just going to happen to you, shortening, so be prepared. I also remember reading in a branding book that it’s not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is. And so whatever DK is it’s DK, and it’s doing the things that DK of today, 10 years on, is doing. Which is still a work in progress, of course. We are getting some pretty cool insights. But it’s not random.
  • OPEN SPACE. I have been really frustrated lately finding out that the online personas of some people (in Denmark, Cambodia, and America) were pretty much bullshit when I met those people in real life. Bullshit is irritating stuff. It subtracts from time. It hacks at quality spacemaking. I know, I know. I just posted programmer and writer Paul Graham‘s thing on our facebook about how Life is Short. The problem, though, with just knowing that is that knowing isn’t enough. We need spaces to go into and discover ourselves, or remember ourselves. That doesn’t have to mean flying to India and sitting on a mountain. It can be just making time and room in your day to day life through reflection. It’s probably not a coincidence that people into meditation and mindfulness and peacemaking and conflict resolution and organizational development and yoga and innovation and jazz and architecture and software developing are our usual circuit of people who we ‘get’, and who ‘get’ us. The quality of space invites room for play, for discovery and co-discovery. There is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right,’ at the start of these things. You begin as you are, where you are, and how you are. It’s about making the room for it. Space. Time. That sort of thing.

IT’S BEEN A LONG 10 years of learning, looking, changing and growing. Failing, yeah, but I don’t want to jump on that bandwagon. I don’t want to go onto the ‘design thinking’ one, either. It’s obvious that design isn’t an intellectual thing that you can just go into a classroom and fill out the right things in the right boxes and voila, you’re schooled. Don’t get me started on school, I have some terrible new insights that will rock the status quo. (But you can DM me on twitter if you want to hear them.)

These things in the list above are why we are at it, making space. For DK and the people we are collaborating with this year (open call for co-designing, just contact us),
2016 is the year we open things up. Looking for others to talk with, connect with, co-design space for quality conversation, dialogue, and insight-making. Breaking walls starts with knowing how to put walls there, to begin to talk, together, in ways that invite dialogue—the kind with a center, and not sides.

So this is my 100th post. A baby steps blog for trying out the new thing, the space and making of it. DK is here, we’re here because you’re there. It’s relativity, like Einstein talked about. It’s observer changing the thing being observed, like Plank and Bohr and Heisenberg brought up. More if you’re interested. There’s always more. 🙂

DK is making space.

Making space for quality. Making space for us, and you.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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The Book of Songs #5: ‘Open Heart’

‘STARTING TO START?’

‘Yes, how?’

ANTHOLOGY. The Mirror, 2014
ANTHOLOGY. The Mirror, 2014

THIS is the cover. The cover always is the last part, in the book-making process here at DK.

The reason is you just don’t know until the very end what might become, what is going to become and how it becomes is the work of the creative process. You have to start somewhere, for sure, but where and how to begin the compositions… that is the question for physics experiment designers as well as those standing and looking, at the canvas, whole.

There comes a time when you write and you collage and you find out that something exists that isn’t even in the words or the image. It is the intention. And when that intention came out in such a way that it was 10 people’s shared work, the work of looking deeply, within, well, wow, we had magic. Even though I’ve never met some of the contributors to The Mirror 2014, there are the connections that were built from correspondence and more than that, attention. Because attention is the highest currency now, isn’t it?

Readying to open THE MIRROR 2016A new volume is poised to be co-created.

I don’t have any idea, right now from this vantage, what the new collection will look like. Who’ll be part of it, what stories will be loosed? What will be the cover, what will be that new collection’s title, look & feel, and list of contributors and their stories’ names? It is a mystery, this. But the invitation is the first part. Setting the stage comes next. These things I learned from a different kind of artist—the musicians.

Playing pen, playing line, playing words, or playing notes. The compositions flourish most brilliantly, don’t they?, when they start from… what…?

‘Starting to start?’

‘Yes, how?’

‘Simple: it’s this. An open heart.’

‘Trust the process?’

‘Trust the process. Of… becoming.’

More like this

READ posts on DK’s new collection, Book of Songs >

Unbound from ennui

I AM A PART of all that I have met, said Tennyson. There is more. There is always more to the story of being, connecting to ourselves, to our colleagues, friends, lovers, acquaintances, children, elders, dead poets, and the people at work. To the ones we haven’t met yet, the rest, the beyond, the out there. There is more.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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I HAVE WITH ME TODAY a little green book of writings and collected scraps from physics books and notations from conversations with people who, like me, I think, I hope?, are asking big questions about meaning and stuff. It’s big and crazy, super esoteric, and exactly the sort of thing you have to box yourself into a space for some time to investigate.

Except, play.

Can’t focus on the universe expanding because of yesterday and the other stuff. Playfulness and the idea of it.

Story, the chance of it, the being open and staying open and getting out of the box. Because wow. It’s starting to seem incredibly boring lately, on the internet in blogs, the real-life conversation is 95% dull, too. But maybe it’s just getting older? When you do, you bore easily, right? I should make a conversation salon, online, with others who are looking outside of usual routines to connect. I don’t mean smalltalk. I mean, real stuff.

Playfulness. What is it? Who embodies it? Why is it important? Questions, questions. Always seeking questions, and yet more questions.

The box that I wanted to go right into and sit and think for probably too long and not figure anything out. Objectively speaking, and is there anything objective, anyway?, the idea of thinking is already flawed. You can’t figure stuff out when you just isolate yourself from everything and try to do it.

There’s a Chinese saying that goes, ‘If you think too much you will box yourself into a corner from which you will not be able to come out.’ Hmmm. Easy to romanticize solitude and space, I guess.

Yeah, I’m guilty. You go to Rishikesh and you go to Shimla and you sit and look at mountains and sunrises and you get crazy inspired, but there is no one to tell it to, the emergence and transition, the shift and the story that is unfolding from inside. It is not even unfolding in a clear way.

You write it all down anyway, and publish it on the internet and it’s like, whoa, who cares and then you’re aware more than ever that you are alone, but you don’t want to be. You go for a year on the road in Asia and you start to realize it’s not about the time, or the space, that’s what everyone thinks you’re up to, just hanging out seeing everything and having your mind blown with amazing life-changing experiences. When really you just want chai and wifi and if you’re lucky, a sequence of serendipitous encounters with an intriguing set of conversations, link, link, not in chains but free-form circles, that don’t bind but rather free you from your oppressive ennui. ‘Cause really. Is this all there is? Giant miracle of coming into being in this universe, and this is it? Boredom?

UNBOUND. Can you design for that unbounded break? A peculiar, particular quality of space.

Space to belong. Space to be. To find out one’s way to a concentrated enchanting and mutually intriguing space for hearing, sharing, learning, and processing Ideas and Thoughts, as esoteric as they are, because this is the stuff that pops us out of mountains of boring, (note to self: read A. Huxley), cookie-cutter play by the rules status quo and beyond that, when we’re beyond that, the rest.

NOTEBOOKS APLENTY yet to be filled, like this little green notebook, halfway gone, but halfway hopeful, with stuff about consciousness and qualia and a lovely thing Einstein said about awe and wonder, the wonder of it all, the same stuff that the movie, ‘The Theory of Everything,’ had Stephen Hawking’s character conclude with. The wonder of it all, the mysteries of things, life and the cosmos and the whole crazy chance existence of us, us beings. You zoom out a whole lot and it starts to seem really weird that we have little quibbles with our friends, spouses, neighbors, the people at work. It seems trifling.

So much seems trifling when you are looking at the wide sky, the sheltering sky that we read about in Paul Bowles’ book, the desert and the skip of sands in the stormwaves, there was much to note there, in those pages, pages that began to come alive and out into the space of ennui and wonder, but mixed, like a melancholy that flows from Camus’ The Stranger. Gosh, it is hot. Just thinking about it makes me tired. Othering and belonging, playfulness and inclusivitiy. Topics for today, in the green notebook’s pages, blending with fragments of remembrances from yesterdays talks, chats, online and offline, weird how we are talking together now. Pencil. Keeping it open, light. Living in the space of greys. Whole volumes, lost somewhere in the drift of moving about, place to place and placelessly, with the hope of retracing steps one day, perhaps, when the time is ready, vivid, and ripe.

Einstein, again: ‘The only true knowledge is experience.’

Whatever on earth for are we driving towards the acquisition of data to stuff into our brains? It seems, again, trifling. Petty. I’m confused about this. The existence being such a miracle of chance and so on, chances are slim, they might say, but chances are really bizarrely slim, I’m confident, this alone I’m confident of, that the mere existence of a spinning together of evolution and atoms and organisms and carbon and some other things hit on a magic moment of turning into life.

Where did you come from, you ask the setting sun.

I am a part of all that I have met
, said Tennyson.

There is more. There is always more to the story of being, connecting to ourselves, to our colleagues, friends, lovers, acquaintances, children, elders, dead poets, and the people at work. To the ones we haven’t met yet, the rest, the beyond, the out there. There is more.

The question is, will we open up the lids of our boxes, just a touch, to have a peek.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

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‘Light sticks:’ implements for generating sparks or flame

Guest post today: ‘OF COURSE THERE IS SUBJECTIVITY in all writing, even so-called factual writing, because writers choose which facts to include and thereby bend them to their purpose. So this implies that given a representative, well-sourced collection of facts and subjective observations, the reader is supplied with enough fuel to be intrigued, to read and form an opinion about the issue or the writing itself.’—Eric Chuk

TODAY, A GUEST POST from Eric Chuk, who took me up on my challenge to write an answer to the question, ‘What is intrigue?’ 

This originally appeared in the final issue of the INTRIGUE sequence in our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

Intrigue

Light sticks

A MATCHSTICK IS COMMONLY composed of a small piece of wood and an ignitable coating at one end. When struck against a suitable surface, heat generated by friction causes the coated end to catch afire.

This simple mechanism is actually the result of centuries of development, not counting the preceding usage of flint and steel or the later advent of portable lighters. These implements for generating sparks or flame make it easy to focus on the accomplishment — the activities that require a greater source of light or heat than a match. The substrate itself is often overlooked.

Yet ‘what is to give light must endure burning.’ If ignition can be a metaphor for all that inspire and impels, why not the kinds of things can be burned? Why praise the fire of creativity but not its fuel, intrigue?

By some considerations, artistic activity depends on creativity as the energy that sustains it, and intrigue is thought of more as the spark. But to define intrigue as a momentary thing, bright but so quickly expended, is to ignore the need to sustain attention even after the original impetus is gone.

What makes a story?

AS AN EDITOR and writer, I am especially intrigued by the following—one is a technique while the other is an open question about the nature of storytelling.

In writing, the technique of ‘showing,’ or describing using concrete facts, is known to be more effective than ‘telling,’ which is to rely heavily on adjectives and adverbs.

Of course there is subjectivity in all writing, even so-called factual writing, because writers choose which facts to include and thereby bend them to their purpose. So this implies that given a representative, well-sourced collection of facts and subjective observations, the reader is supplied with enough fuel to be intrigued, to read and form an opinion about the issue or the writing itself.

What makes a story? It is the difference between hearing that ‘the king died, and then the queen died’ versus ‘the king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ as explained by the novelist E.M. Forster. Although he calls the former a story (chronological sequence of events) and the latter a plot (causal, logical structure connecting events), the point remains–causality is intriguing, but more specifically, cases of human actions or occurrences causing a significant and relatable effect on some world-state.
I would say that grief, although a specific emotional implication in this example, can be generalized as the matchstick that begins to burn once we think about the relationship between the story characters and the people in our own lives who mirror them.But regardless of whether matches or sparks deserve further contemplation, my hope is to have outlined intrigue in terms that might lead to an even more universal definition; it is a force that focuses imaginative attention, not only on whatever is at hand but also toward vistas we have never before reached, with distant campfires waiting to be lit. —Eric Chuk

Published in S. P. A. C. E.