November 17: FLOW. Hit your peak productivity with this workshop in Malmö, Sweden

MOST IMPORTANTLY, what we care about most now is co-designing space with people in locales around the world. But not just any people. People who are interested in connecting in real life, connecting with one another, eye to eye so that we can have some good old fashioned human style conversation. It really is awesome when it happens. We get into it. There is a sparkle.

imageThis week in Malmö, Sweden, we are hosting our first-ever workshop on productivity. It’s called FLOW.

GREETINGS FROM SCANDINAVIA, ladies and gentlemen. DK is ambling about here for a spell, bumping into people and places so as to make space for real life. Workshops and conversation salons, that is, for people we are meeting in Malmö and Copenhagen.

(It seems pretty wacky to be writing that, but then again, it seemed weird to be hosting tweetups in Hanoi and esoteric salons asking, ‘Is the medium still the message?’, like we did with Aether, in New York’s Bryant Park, and other stuff. So much to share about past stuff, and how we are changing towards more conversation-space design in 2016, but the present moment is pressing upon us and so let me not get carried away reminiscing or projecting.) For now, it’s really about happening upon an insight: what we care about most now is co-designing space with people in locales around the world. But not just any people. People who are interested in connecting in real life, connecting with one another, eye to eye so that we can have some good old fashioned human style conversation. It really is awesome when it happens. We get into it. There is a sparkle.

ON FRIDAY, DK GOT TO MEET SS, a photographer lately taking images of airplanes. They’re supersaturated pics, because they’re printed on metallic paper, I learned. He told me this and a lot of other things, things I was enjoying more than what the previous art reception (larger, boxier), had to say about anything. Oh, and how did I get to SS’s show? I followed some people out of the other place, a fancy gallery, one of those that I once thought were really cool but now see as institutions. This person I struck up conversation with invited me to hop into the giant bucket attached sturdily to the front of his bicycle. Why not?, and there I was, climbing in just like a kid might. Room to spare in this. Viking country.

So nested, I asked, ‘Um. So, where are we going?’

‘I’m not sure yet.’

I like this kind of party, already.

But we are going to meet SS, I find out.

Who will talk about planes and photoshoots with musicians everywhere in the world, but in a light, nonpretentious way that makes me feel glad that I came to Denmark. Then we will go on to philosophize, of course, about how to find the flow and make work that is truly interesting. Creativity, productivity, flow. Call it what you like. Portraiture comes up. Selfies. Chuck Close. ‘I like that Chuck Close quote,’ says S, ‘about working on things.’

I think he meant this one:

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case. —Chuck Close

THIS SENTIMENT, interestingly, is also going to feature in our workshop this TUESDAY in Sweden. Who’s around? Stop by, say hi. 🙂 —DK

Flow Workshop
Foo Cafe, at the Media Evolution City building
Malmö, Sweden
‘Flow Workshop’ event page on Facebook > | Foo Cafe’s Flow Workshop registration page >


Resistance. Flaming. Will ‘N’ Bangkok work?

Click to learn more about 'N' Bangkok >SO THAT’S WHAT I’m finding out, in the responses coming back, some of them heavy-handed (‘There’s no way I’m paying you’), and some of them just weird (‘How do I tell my boyfriend? How do I know you’re not going to kidnap me?’) Uhhh…. What?

EMAIL. What a fantastic, weird space.

‘N’ is giving me a crazy unique perspective on how much things have changed since I last used email to get in touch with people I didn’t (yet) know. Those days, I was writing for a newspaper, so I often reached out to random people for quotes, for references, for corroboration, for more expert opinion, and for photographs or samples or other things that I could use to illustrate a particular story. Quotes, yes, I said that, huh. Good quotes, enlightening and to point, were gold.

The world as I knew it from my standard-issue reporter’s desk was an open book; Internet was a way to find the people I needed to connect with to discover, step by step, what a story ‘wanted to be.’ Much like painting, you made a foray into the unknown territory, then through hunches and gut-feel, and sometimes messing up, and sometimes hitting on ‘the happy accident,’ ie a thing you didn’t expect but somehow gave you a new inspiration, writing a story was about discovering the gem.

‘N’ is the biggest (uncommissioned) story I’ve taken on to write, and I’ve only just begun preliminary note-taking, observation on my hunch. I’ll tell you that in a second. ‘N’ Phnom Penh was the first round of searching, of seeking, something that I had a gut feeling about. Here it is. The hunch: Space is disappearing for people to be heard. I mean truly heard.

Let me say that again.

Space is missing. To connect, for real. That means, to feel you are being heard.

I think we need more than ever a way that’s low-committment and low-key and just light.

To be heard. To connect.  Quickly. So ‘N’ is short. And just once.

Creativity is inborn, everywhere

ASIA GETS A HARD REPUTATION for being ‘uncreative.’ But that’s not true. People just don’t value creativity, so they don’t practice. And they get stunted. That’s why you have Singapore (boring and plastic and dull) or fear of risk (ergo, boring and plastic and dull).

The creative in each of us is looking for new input, so as to put at bay some ennui. Because that which we are consuming online is far too skewed towards the bizarre (girl rolls down window to get picture of lion on a safari; is eaten), gross (video clip on autoplay about a guy who maims people and tapes it), or just plain dumb. I mean, really dumb. What about our brains? What about our hearts and hands?

As a person who has largely made a life and a living from creative work, I can’t stand by and watch this. I can’t deal with the way we are frittering and squandering the best of our potential; distracted by the likes of apps such as Invisible Girlfriend or games designed to manipulate and bend us to their will, a la Farmville.

So what to do.

Well, make ‘N’. Or, at least try.

‘It’s not for everyone’

Click to learn more about 'N' Bangkok >
Click to learn more about ‘N’ Bangkok >

A BIT OF LEARNING. Not everyone is into the idea of getting out of the box. So that’s what I’m finding out, in the responses coming back, some of them heavy-handed (‘There’s no way I’m paying you’), and some of them just weird (‘How do I tell my boyfriend? How do I know you’re not going to kidnap me?’) Uhhh…. What?

Rather than go into the long story about the oddness of internet exchanges (will do that in a private post—I feel like I’m finally able to relate to my friends who tell their horror stories about online dating), or expound on the exasperating feelings of the lack of quality on the internet, I will just share with you one quick response I gave to a person who said, very honestly, (and something that I welcomed was that honesty), ‘What is N? Seems abstract.’ Here is my answer:

As I get to talking to a lot of people about what it is (and try to go into why it matters), I realize quickly that something this unusual is definitely not in the mainstream consciousness. But it’s about mixing things up, meeting people you otherwise wouldn’t, and getting out of the silo of an industry/group. In America I hosted a lot of events that were far less designed like [DELETED] and [DELETED], in which I invited editors and bloggers and photographers in my hometown to get together and talk about what’s going on. They were surprised to find out how much they could learn in a very short time just by sharing their own take on a thing like ‘media, change, new media’. I like the efficiency of making a space where so much exchange can happen in a very compressed time. Who has time anymore?? That’s why there’s ‘N’.

Status of ‘N’ Bangkok

‘N’ CANNOT HAPPEN unless exactly 16 people join. We have 11.

Between now and the actual date, I’ll reconfirm with people. Tap a waitlist, most likely.

Or cancel.

If Bangkok is less open to this than I had imagined (and it is way, way less open than I had imagined!), I’m not opposed to cancelling ‘N’, if we can’t get to 16. I am totally fine with changing ‘Bangkok’ to another city.

Maybe it’s just not the right time, or the right place, or the right people.

Except: 11 people think it is. Can I discover the next 5? Can I make it happen for all of them? I’m going to try.

As always, I will do my best. Let’s see.

Next ‘N’ events: London, Copenhagen

ARE YOU IN LONDON OR COPENHAGEN? Request an invite at the bottom of this page >

‘N’ says: ‘Hej København’

'N' is coming.A SPECIAL GUEST post, ahead of ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. Coming here soon, from a friend in what he described at our first meeting to be ‘a small country, it’s called Denmark.’

'N' is coming.
‘N’ is coming. Read about 16N >
Read ‘N’ posts related to Copenhagen >


The way ‘N’ work is this.

When 16 people join ‘N’ we will fix the date, time, and place.

Because of this: it’s about the people. The exact set of 16 who will choose to join this conversation installation. It’s not really about anything other than the MOMENT in which we can align the stars (well, vectors), so that people converge. Once.

Yep. That’s what ‘N’ is—

‘N’ is about the people who choose to play.

How far are we from creating ‘N’ Copenhagen? 14/16ths of the way.

Looking forward, NEARNESS is our theme.

A special guest post, coming here soon, from a friend in what he described at our first meeting to be ‘a small country, it’s called Denmark.’


More about ‘N’ Copenhagen. More about ‘16N.’ —DK

Thinking of Bangkok

'Bangkok' January 2015. A zine by DK ‘Bangkok’ January 2015INVENTING DIALOGUE SPACE is sort of a lofty goal, I realize, but it IS one way for us to connect. I know that ostensibly meeting strangers in a short space can be great for networking for business, or just making friends, but it’s also… I’m not sure how to put this, but… it’s also a way for us to discover who we are, and begin to see that there are so many other ways of thinking about the SAME topic or idea. And that the ‘scholars’ don’t have copyright on thinking out loud, together.


THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED. Was talking to a lot of people intermittently through the last three or five weeks, about making ‘N’ happen, in Bangkok. Clearly things are different about Bangkok now that someone detonated a bomb in a shrine in the city center.

Trigger, for me. Bomb. A bomb that exploded in the underbelly of a particular plane, in 1985. That one. That bomb forever changed my existence. This was 1985. THIRTY years ago. And I’ve thought about it every day since—because that bomb took my closest friend. Finally put that story together, just in June. See KANISHKA >

'Bangkok' January 2015. A zine by DK
‘Bangkok’ January 2015

So it’s kinda insensitive-seeming, maybe, to zip right back to the project of ‘N’ when something like this happens. A bomb blows up and people are freaked. Of course. But, there’s this—

I remember when that happened in 1985. A bomb. And… the whole reason I made ‘N’ in the first place was in response to the things I have discovered are a way to combat the hate. The crime that happens because someone somewhere had a kooky idea or got brainwashed into thinking something. Without dialogue, so much goes awry. Without closeness and human contact (love, affection, friendship, community), people go crazy. They are seeing this happen in America, right? I mean, I think so. The hate crimes. Random shootings. Seething, under-the-surface stuff that is HARD to figure out, point at someone and say, ‘That. There. Take that person away, let’s not have any of the riffraff anymore.’

INVENTING DIALOGUE SPACE is sort of a lofty goal, I realize, but it IS one way for us to connect. I know that ostensibly meeting strangers in a short space can be great for networking for business, or just making friends, but it’s also… I’m not sure how to put this, but… it’s also a way for us to discover who we are, and begin to see that there are so many other ways of thinking about the SAME topic or idea. And that the ‘scholars’ don’t have copyright on thinking out loud, together. I love salons. In art school in New York (short-lived), I remember going to poetry slams for the first time. Cinematographic features and shorts. Architecture lectures. Game nights. Nightclubs. Everything for a lot of different kinds of stuff; all of it intriguing, all of it alive, because of its very uniqueness when juxtaposed to the thing just prior, just after. I loved this mix of New York. Back then, anyway. A time before I lived anywhere else, really. Asia, now. Asia again. Japan for a year—way back—and now Cambodia. Loooooong story.

The tickets for ‘N’ Bangkok were released today. That means we are making our way there. Even if there is going to be some worry about future attacks—you just don’t know what’s going to happen, ever. Risk, uncertainty. Conversation, connection. What do we have if we don’t have our memories? The time we spend together, in high-quality, deeply connected, even if that’s just for the fleeting NOW?

See you soon, BKK. Thinking of you and those whose lives were jolted this week. —DK

On the challenging nature of not-knowing

NTOLERANCE. EMPATHY. Sizing up the self and learning to connect deeply, with real awareness, to others. It’s self-actualization stuff. I know, top of the pyramid in the hierarchy of needs. But some people who might be reading this know: it IS a need. And that is why there is this project. That is why there’s 16N.

Read ‘The Man Who Discovered N’ >

THE INTERNET ISN’T CONNECTING on this computer (Dell, borrowed), but I’m okay with that. I’ve been meaning to write you for a while. Tell you some of what’s been happening, in the heart of the city where I’ve been living a year plus now. Seems weird. Phnom Penh. Cambodia?? Who knew.

I guess that’s part of what I wanted to share, today. The not-knowing but thinking, ‘Heck. Why not?’ series of steps that started as concept, vague and ambiguous, but caught form when you had to do something concrete, like buy a visa.

Things that you did and realized, with time, were taking you to a general new direction. Where things you thought, before, that were obvious and given, now you question, daily. With a critical eye. Like: Capitalism, sure. Politics? That’s about people caring about the greater good… isn’t it? Art and artists and contemporary galleries and the way it’s really about commerce, not beauty, not really, if you get down to the heart of it. And then there’s the whole regime of the school system, the work system, the things that Robert Pirsig synthesized into the mammoth work Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (imploring us to think about stillness and artfulness versus just the nuts and bolts of getting things done), that masterpiece that really in a big way was the prompting towards this thing that got started, this thing we now call ‘N+1’ work. well. All of it. It’s… different, when you’re away, especially for a long stretch, and you can see the far horizon from whence you’ve come, and kind of be glad you’re away.

Learning from crusty, gritty, and terribly wise people on The Road

THE ROAD TEACHES LOTS, and you can occasionally forget to notice its lessons. A guy in Gangtok with a hat in his middle years said, ‘Ýou don’t know what a trip’s about until it’s over. And even then, it takes a while.’ The work that I was doing here with Design Kompany changed after my 1-year amble around South and Southeast Asia. You could say I was looking for something, but I’ve done this thing before, a couple of times, so I knew, too, that the thing was always right here, right with me. And now I’ve found it. It’s ‘N.’

Related: 16N gathers 16 people who’ve never met for ONE moment of CONNECTION >

The making of space. For uncertainty. For others to experience that which we learn when we move, one step forward, into the territory of the not-known. It’s pretty fun, actually, when you start to get confident with it. It stings, too, (but less with age), when you meet with blank stares, name-calling, or the other thing: hate. America and other parts of the West have tremendous volumes of it, and I sense, even though I can’t know, I sense that the reason why there’s so much of a mess right now in the USA with regards to hate crimes is because no one ever really sat down with someone else (new, strange at first, seemingly so different) and just had a conversation, out loud. Real life is relegated to the realm of Guy Debord‘s Spectacle. He called it. So did Orwell. Damn.

Is there a way to ‘fix’ this? Tolerance. Empathy. Sizing up the self and learning to connect deeply, with real awareness, to others. It’s self-actualization stuff. I know, top of the pyramid in the hierarchy of needs. But some people who might be reading this know: it IS a need. And that is why there is this project. That is why there’s 16N.

Meet. Connect. Find the new.

This, this very opening, inspires the way to the Next.

Which, of course, is the point of everything. Who really wants the status quo? Not me, and not anybody I’ve learned to care about, deeply, and over time.

Related: ‘Relationships matter’ and what a systems thinker said about that, at our LinkedIn profile >


‘But are strangers REALLY that interesting?’

'N' Phnom Penh  // APRIL 2015SO WE WERE SAYING ALL THIS, and then I took a deep breath, and it felt like the Dream again and also reading Debord, and I looked at her and said, ‘Thank you for the great conversation! I really learned a lot.’

‘So did I!’ she said. And then, there it was. The answer to her question, the title of this section. Are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?

‘Yes!’ I cried. ‘See??!’

We laughed. Then she said, ‘I knew you were gonna say that.’

'N' Phnom Penh // APRIL 2015
‘N’ Phnom Penh happened at NUK Cafe. Now inviting guests for ‘N’ in Bangkok, London, and Copenhagen.

I TOLD HER the truth. I was a little dejected. Another ‘No’ for Bangkok ‘N’.

Slow going, this. Asking 16 strangers to get tickets for something they’ve never heard of, that asks them to pick a date together, that comes from ‘the internet.’

It works like this: 16 people, on their own paths, converge ONCE for a conversation about a theme that starts with ‘N.’ In a venue that has an ‘N’. In a city with an ‘N,’ too.

16 people x 16 cities.

Being interviewed about ‘N’ the concept

I MET A FRENCHWOMAN on her way home. She was fascinated with ‘N’, but she was also skeptical. ‘Pessimistic,’ she said. But she had me, when she asked a terrific barrage of questions. She is in marketing.

It went something like this.

You need a ‘speech.’

DK: A speech? No, no, that sounds like… no. this is just… This is just what I’m doing! ‘N’ is the thing I need to do! I don’t know. Oh, you’re saying I’m not being clear about what it is. About how to make it accessible? Oh, that. Yeah. I’ve been criticized for this. It’s kind of like jazz or esoteric theater, isn’t it? You know, I don’t want to be like that, though, even though I think jazz and esoteric theater could be messaged in a better way so more people see how cool it is to go out into the weird space of improvisation or just thinking deeply and connecting lots of threads in a thoughtful, artful way. Not like Mashable, you know? Anyway. I realize, you’re right: it’s about how well have I communicated what I’m offering, what I’m making, why I care about it, and why I’m inviting people. Okay. Hit me.

What’s in it for you?

DK: Connection. Just once. Nothing hard. Outside of work and family. Connection, yeah. I was in reporting and news for four years as a staff writer. And before that, I did a lot of independent traveling, on my own dime, from savings from jobs in architecture, cafes, the usual gamut of oddball things that one does if one is in their young years and learning about the world. And I found from all this learning that there is only ONE thing that really turns me on. Great dialogue. It doesn’t have to be smart, or overeducated, or labeled something. It just has to be GOOD. And you can design for that. You really, really can. I have a seven-point checklist now, that I developed when I met some of the greatest people who make you feel, quite quickly, at ease. So I took what I learned from all the conversations of my life and made ‘N.’

Related: Some years ago, this idea was foreshadowed in Ireland, in our 2003 short video, ‘Teddy O’Neill.” Watch it here >

Because the magic happens in the MOMENT, and it’s not about being prepared for it, or looking for ‘a website,’ or an app, or a ‘perfect person.’ It’s about right there, right now. Eye contact. Being in the same place at the same time. Sheer chance. For me, making that happen simultaneously for 16 people is a real achievement. It’s way more interesting to me than sitting about writing or drawing and trying to pitch my work to loads of people in the hope of ‘being published.’ This is being published, this blog, right here. You’re reading. If you weren’t reading, I wouldn’t be writing.

And it’s only because there is a RECEPTION that anything meaningful really happens. It’s only because the SENDER has a RECEIVER, and they are locked in a conversation that’s timeless and wordless because it hits on a sensation that only they can know. I know, it’s really big stuff here, what I’m talking about. I call this moment of reception ART. Everything else, when ‘artists’ go around the world talking about themselves but not caring who’s listening so long as the room is full, well, everything else is just public masturbation.

Why do you do this?

DK: Make space. For real. In a short, designed block (a volume?), and not get overwhelmed with the work of human contact. I know, it sounds crazy psychology kookiness. But sure, Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols informs this. So does Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. So does ‘Basic Writings’ by Heidegger, if you want to know, and all those guys who figured out that when you change the way you look at things on a quantum level, the things you look at change.

How do you choose whom to invite?

DK: Gut feeling. I’m looking for people who are: Open. Making. Doing. Sharing. Yet the invitation process is designed to let people self-select.

What do people need this for?

DK: The ones who balk at this are the ones who need it the most. But of course, I can’t say that. The reason people need this is because we have to get out of our heads sometimes, our usualness, to find out what’s really interesting. To go to the edge and see what’s there, and sometimes that’s just not what people want to do. One person put it this way: ‘I’m not ready to emerge a butterfly.’ Fair enough. But if you want to realize your fullest self, you have to push yourself to the edge, and break it.

But are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?

DK: EVERYONE is interesting.

Concept of ‘N’: One moment can change the vector of your life forever

AS I WAS packing my things and taking leave of this lovely new acquaintance yesterday afternoon, I was marveling at how the conversation lasted two hours. She is probably on a plane right now. She and I will possibly meet again but it is going to take a lot of coordinating so it’s not totally one hundred percent guaranteed.

Still, we had a connection. We talked about life, and what people really crave and how we just want to talk, and be heard, and then she told me about the meaning of someone she knows’ tattoo, and drew it for me in my notebook, and we talked about that. Action. Dialogue. Things happening. Things having mattered.

Confirming the reality of our own existence and its worth because we had eye contact, or if the SENDER isn’t alive anymore, (Guy Debord’s book Society of the Spectacle popped out of my bag during this conversation), then you can still have that CONNECTION even through temporal space. I told her about the red dress I got at a boutique right after seeing Dali’s Dream. The shopkeeper made a comment about something that she saw in me, (and I can share that, if I ever meet you in real life.) I stopped blogging at this site about my personal stuff because I realized it wasn’t being RECEIVED in a way that let me know it was being received. And I couldn’t ask, ‘How are you finding this?’ Even if that response is something crude or rude, it’s still a response. And you know, when you have people saying NO that just means you’re on your way to something very interesting, indeed.

So we were saying all this, and then I took a deep breath, and it felt like the Dream again and also reading Debord, and I looked at her and said, ‘Thank you for the great conversation! I really learned a lot.’

‘So did I!’ she said. And then, there it was. The answer to her question, the title of this section. Are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?

‘Yes!’ I cried. ‘See??!’

We laughed. Then she said, ‘I knew you were gonna say that.’

‘It’s not about being right.’

She knew I was gonna say that, too.

Read more about ‘N’

DK’s ’16N’ project gathers 16 people for ONE moment of conversation. See

The why of N

Click to read ‘The Man who Discovered N’ >

A COUPLE OF PEOPLE have asked me why I make ‘N’. Very fair question, especially if you’ve been invited by AS recently. If you like myth and fiction, this story, ‘The Man who Discovered N’ might be fun.

Urgency of NOW

FRAMING MOMENTS. The big idea for ‘N’ is to frame ONE moment of CONNECTION with 15 other people who are curious about what an ‘N’ event might be like to experience in real life, who dare themselves to take a chance on something so new it’s almost weird. This might be really scary for some people, because what’s the outcome? What’s in it for you, what’s in it for me, in other words, what’s the value?

Question: what was the value of growing up close to grandparents who cradled you when you were a baby? Or, what is the value of hearing natural sounds of birds, or of stepping onto a boat when you’re not sure where it’s going, or how, or what you have to do to keep it moving? What about when you take a chance on a trip, on a new relationship, or on another thing that will push you to challenge your own sense of identity, the very essence of who you really are?

Once we step out of our comfort zones, however, that’s when the real insights come into play. Ask anyone who’s done something really hard what they got out of it. Of course they will say, much after the fact, that they learned something. That they grew.
But it takes some designing. And that’s what ‘N’ is for.

Making space

PLAY. Play is such a big part of discovery, and finding the way to N+1 (more on that if you’re curious, but only 6 months after ‘N’), and learning, and most importantly, growth. Without play we get suffocated, and I feel like most of the way we are taught to do things is Western ideas (I was raised in the US) about how to argue one’s way to right.
What if there are two or three or five million ‘rights?’ Quantum science got me thinking hard about uncertainty and I got to do some cool projects that showcased how not knowing is a big part of growth. First step, and all. Risks.
And that’s what ‘N’ is for, too.


N. Making space. For a moment of connection. In a bounded box. Handled with care.

‘N’ is coming. Bangkok

Ad agency Hakuhoudo’s Masaharu Kato on creative thinking

Process of making.
Click to read about S. P. A. C. E. >

IN A BOOK called Kougu*, which in Japanese means “thinking tools,” author Masaharu Kato of ad agency Hakuhoudo offers a few tips to come up with fresh ideas. I’ve used them when coming up with ideas for our clients, and thought I’d share some of my favorites…

Tips on how to start concepting ideas

1. Know what you are looking for
Start with a clear idea of what you’re trying to come up with. A catch phrase? A new name, a logo? Once you identify your goal, repeat it aloud to yourself a few times, and engrave it on your mindscape.

2. Focus on the surface: color, shape, size, word.
You can gather ideas anytime–driving to work, taking a stroll, during your lunch breaks. When you start these ‘idea gathering sessions’, sometimes it helps to decide ahead of time that you’ll focus on something arbitrary, say the color “red.” Think about the problem you are trying to solve, and at the same time, focus on the color red. You’ll notice red things around you that you’d might otherwise ignore, just by being focused on that color. Tuning into these details can lead to unusual, fresh connections that help you solve the problem.

3. Write thoughts down wherever, whatever they may be.
The act of writing activates your brain and focuses your thoughts. Use anything – post-it’s, the back of napkins, or a sketch book, to write. The point isn’t to come up with perfect notes, so don’t worry about keeping everything together or too tidy. Don’t worry about whether your thoughts are “good” ideas, either. Just keep writing–sometimes that’s enough for something brilliant to pop up in your head.

Here’s an example.

SAY YOU’RE TRYING to come up with a tag line for your new product – a new condo complex on the waterfront. You are thinking about the condo – how big it is, what kind of amenities it has, your target demography, etc. Then, you go out gathering hints outside. Focus on something specific, like, for example, the color blue today…

The sky is blue (for once, in Seattle! Hey, maybe weather should play a role in this), so is this car (an SUV – what kind of cars do the prospect tenants own?), and a mailbox (maybe they can offer a concierge service for the tenants, drop-off points for mail, dry cleaning, packages, rented videos/dvds?).

Jot stuff into a notebook as you go, connecting dots and coming up with more random links. Get your head to work this way so you can get to really interesting ideas more quickly.

*Published in Japan by Hankyu Communications, 2003.

Get more like this

Get S. P. A. C. E., our eZine. Click to read more.

WRITING PROMPTS AND MORE are coming together at Design Kompany’s new weekly eZine. More here on S. P. A. C. E. >

What counts as remarkable, valuable, and real? VALIDITY is our theme for July and August eZine S. P. A. C. E.

Theme is VALIDITY for July and August series of weekly eZine S. P. A. C. E.
Theme is VALIDITY for July and August series of weekly eZine S. P. A. C. E.

WHEN I WAS A NEWSPAPER REPORTER, on staff at a daily in Seattle, my big day was Tuesday.

That was the day ‘my’ page came out. Page three. ENVIRONMENT, it said, right there at the top. My business card said, ‘Environment Editor.’ Showtime.

This was a trade journal, a daily. All week I would be working to gather just the right things to include, and only those that would be of interest to specifically the kinds of people who would pay for this paper, and that wasn’t everyone, not even a fraction of the mainstream, if you had to be honest about it.

Which is how I learned about niche publishing. How I got interested in, over the years, switching up from ENVIRONMENT to S. P. A. C. E. Maybe it was the architects DK (my after-newspapers and self-designed collective) worked for in Seattle, or the dreamers, artists, engineers, musicians, organization heads, and so many, many other people in the time since, but I got into it. Spacemaking. And that’s my newest, most favorite-ever beat.

Still gathering bits from people. Still getting wind of things through the Net. Trying to curate just the right set of stories, tips, resources and fine fragments, while also holding the safe space for true dialogue (the kind with a center, and not sides). Members of DK (who are those who pay dues) get S. P. A. C. E. every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. Today I’m gonna send one announcing the new July/August theme, VALIDITY.

That’s how things shift, isn’t it?

You find yourself doing what you know how to do (curate, edit, share), but for exactly the people who care about what you care about. Niche. It’s a real thing. Maybe S. P. A. C. E. isn’t for everyone, but what I learned from Seattle is that it totally doesn’t have to be for everyone, and it’s better if it isn’t.

So lately my ‘Tuesday page’ is S. P. A. C. E.

Of course it’s not mine at all. It’s members’.

It’s what you tell me, and what you say, and how that fits into the big thing, that 100th monkey idea plus collective unconscious and other things that connect us, even when we aren’t right next to each other, face to face. Wish we could be, but this is a way to keep the conversation flowing, and to keep it progressing. Hard, when we are inundated with feeds, tweets, likes, links, kids, spouses, work, our own hangups, friends, not-friends, and more. Pro-tip: Declutter the channels. Go with what you like. And just that. Niche.

How to get S. P. A. C. E.

S. P. A. C. E., Design Kompany’s eZine ($), comes out on Tuesday mornings. Don’t miss the July and August series on VALIDITY. Join today: here >

A snippet:

TALKING TO PEOPLE offline a lot more in recent days. Getting back out there, fraternizing, seeing what’s going on.

A particular topic keeps coming up: What ‘counts’ as ‘worthy.’

So this July and August, let’s explore ‘validity.’ That is, let’s take a round look at the ideas of: remarkability, weightiness, validity, quality. Already a few friends here in Phnom Penh are resisting, but I think the challenge is part of this space. More on relationships and why I believe great ones come from a mutually inspiring push and pull, in a bit… —Read more when you join here >

‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS. What’s remarkable? Why?

2015-05-17 22.58.14POSTS. TAGS. Tweets. Comments.

Handwritten letters. Memos. Novellas and plays.

2015-05-17 22.58.14
‘N’ ticket. 16 in total.

POSTS. TAGS. Tweets. Comments.

Handwritten letters. Memos. Novellas and plays.

How do people decide what to note? What to omit, where to expand, or how to refine even an instapic as a narrative?

What are criteria to decide, “This! This is worth making note of.”

How do we choose what’s worth giving focus and attention to, and what isn’t?

That’s the framework for the conversation installation ‘N’ London, set to take place later this year in that city.

Just 16 people. Invited personally. For a MOMENT of CONNECTION in a short frame of time. Details to be shared to registered guests only.

Curious? Say hi, request an invitation: Contact DK >

What’s normal? by ‘N’ Phnom Penh

NORMALITY. A quality that can only exist in reference to other things – the past, other people, abstracted rules. A quality of the self-conscious ‘I’ rather than the present ‘I.’ As a substitute for balance, it’s a quality forever at war with itself.

Editor’s note: Guests of ‘N’ in Phnom Penh authored this essay, together. Read more about the project 16N here.

IN 2015, GIRLS WEAR PANTS, suits, have pixie hair, tattoos and even chase men. These are now normal.

Other normal situations are validated only when backed up by science, like what is a normal blood pressure? The rest are subjective. As Morticia Adams quoted: “Normal is an illusion.”

But… is it? Normal is something that has already been done, many times. The more something has been done, the more normal it is. Actually, there’s more. Way.

THE NORMAL DISTRIBUTION CURVE IS A GRAPH which shows the spread of random variables, or behaviours, in a population. It centres around the mean, or average, which is the sum of all expected behaviours divided by the population. 99.7% of all values are within 3 standard deviations of the mean. Like this:

Normal Distribution Curve
Normal Distribution Curve

When very recently I met with and tried to explain this concept of “normal” to DK, it was, um, funny. She didn’t quite know what I meant.

She had, I think, her own idea about ‘N.’ She said: “You mean, like the normal vector? Like, 90 perpendicular to the horizontal? And then when 16 voices converge, wham, on a plane, like this, see this animation? Yeah, like that, so when wham, that happens, that MOMENT, that’s when, whoo, you go UP, into SPACE, like 3D, like up the vertical that is the “NORMAL” vector!!! OMG!!!!”

Not quite, DK, but, that’s cool.

Then I thought, Morissey.


MORISSEY SANG ‘there is no such thing as normal’; a statement I believe and find comforting, in that I repeat it frequently whenever the need arises.

However, in recent years I have become more aware that a CONSTRUCT of normality exists, and if you don’t neatly fit into this, then prepare for questions!

‘We don’t have to agree’

NORMALITY IS WHAT YOUR ENVIRONMENT expected you to do or think, the referent environment mostly has referent expectation. With that in mind, here’s a thought.

We don’t have to 100% agree to someone, as long as we can find a common ground that’s acceptable to both sides. You get yourself an agreement. They said it right when they said: “Better communication skills will get a better outcome.”

May I be frank? Okay, these are my random innermost thoughts. Ready? I’ve never met a person who feels normal. Abnormal is normal. Normal for who? Dehumanizing in any culture is not normal. I don’t want a normal job or relationship. Describe life as vibrant, sticky, juicy, challenging, fluffy… my ideas about normality are negative. Is that my “normal” thinking pattern? Hm. Now I’m wondering.

Maybe it’s this, though. Normal is when we can live simply. Read books whenever we want to without being tested on. Paint because we want to, not because we’ve got something to prove. Enjoy the moment with no place to rush off to. We just want to be, boundless and infinite… Or? I’m still thinking…


P.S. Some other things that came up after the event last Sunday, as I’ve been ruminating. Normality. Like the rest. Falling within a deviation determined by cultural narratives, science and, most importantly, perception. Normal shifts based on country, decade, household… Constantly changing, ever imperfect. It is those ideas and people outside the spectrum – that are abnormal – that are often responsible for greatness.

And this one: Normality. A quality that can only exist in reference to other things – the past, other people, abstracted rules. A quality of the self-conscious ‘I’ rather than the present ‘I.’ As a substitute for balance, it’s a quality forever at war with itself.

What do you think? What’s normal? Why do we think so?

How to become an expert in anything in less than four years

urlA snippet found by bicycle.

石黒 僕、カズオ・イシグロの『私を離さないで』っていう小説が好きなんです。そのなかで、大人になるっていうことは、小さい頃に分からなかった人とか心とか、そういった問題にテキトーな折り合いをつけて分かったふうなことを言うことだ、って書いてあるんですよ。僕は、その通りだと思います。だから「親の言うことを信用するな」ということをずーっと中学校とか高校で言い続けている。先生の言うこともですね、信用しちゃダメだ、っていうの。

わたしを離さないで (ハヤカワepi文庫)

―― なんだか……ここまでの話を聞いて、石黒先生がアカデミズムの世界にいるのが奇跡に思えてきました(笑)。どうしてそんなふうに自由に生きて研究者になれたんでしょうか。どうやら、石黒先生の個人的な体験とロボットの研究はかなり密接に関わっているようです。もう少しお話を聞いてみましょう。


―― 石黒先生は、もともと研究者になりたいと思っていたんですか?
石黒 いやいや、そんなことはない。僕は絵描きになろうと思っていたから、受験勉強をしていないんですよ。

―― え、そんなにパっとできるんですか? 絵描きから人工知能とかロボットの分野って……かなり畑違いじゃないですか?
石黒 俗世間を生きるための縛りみたいなものを持たないでいると、けっこうできるんですよ。僕、3年ごとに、全部研究テーマを変えているんです。普通の研究者っていうのは、分野とか、大学とかがあるんですけど、そういうのも持たない。要するに根無し草なんですよ。社会に帰属するポイントがないので、どうでもいいです。
―― なかなか普通の人はそういうふうにはいられませんよ。
石黒 余計なこと考えないで、死ぬ覚悟をすればいいんです。

―― いや、そんなの、たぶんみんな死ぬと思いますよ(笑)。
石黒 人間が唯一生きている意味はね、自分が生きている意味を探すということ以外はなにもないと思うんです。最初からある価値なんてないんだから、努力をやめたいと言う人は、死にたいと言っているようにも聞こえる。

―― 究極的な答えですね。
石黒 でもこう言うと、高校生なんかはすごく安心してくれるんです。小さいころは「人の命は大事だ」とか、「あんたの命は価値がある」だとか言われて育つけど、高校生くらいになると、自分に他の人と比べて能力があるわけではないことがわかるじゃないですか。だから「価値ある、価値ある」と言われても全然実感がないと。

Who is Hiroshi Ishiguro? Read about him here:

Jai Ranganathan: ‘Sharpen and heighten’

OFFLINE CONVERSATIONS lately are turning to the process itself, and, to take it further, discoveries that happen on the way to ‘making.’ Maybe it’s in the air? Looking back on what creative people have told me about this work of making, I recalled something I learned from science podcaster Jai Ranganathan. (Find him on twitter at @jranganathan.) We had met at a science conference in NC’s Research Triangle Park. That was the kind of place where bunches of people convened to share tips on making science interesting to a general audience, more or less, and I discovered Jai was set to instruct scientists at University of California Santa Barbara on how to use social media.

Conversations about sharing discoveries inspired this interview with Jai Ranganathan.

DK: What do you need to think about when opening a wide-open project like a podcast? That’s a pretty big blank canvas.

JR: First, define your purpose. Then, what’s your scope? Do you want to be a local brand? Have a national audience? If you want a large audience, people really go for video.

DK: OK. So if you know your purpose, then what? Any tips?

JR: Sure.

  1. Think about where can you add value. Ask businesses, ‘What’s a problem you have?,’ and then share, ‘Here’s how we might solve it.’
  2. Give your product away so people want to know more.
  3. You can do latest tips. Interviews. You could have seminars.
  4. Just get started. Do it frequently. Keep it short—2 minutes.

DK: Wait, so you just have to be prolific?

JR: You don’t have to be flashy, or always funny, or the best-looking. But you have to be compelling in your voice. Be engaged, animated, and interesting.

DK: But what about talent?

JR: Talent is overrated. You have to be interesting/entertaining first, or else it doesn’t matter what you have to say!

DK: How do you do that?

JR: Boring podcasts are that way because people are checking boxes off a how-to list, as opposed to doing something that’s really them. Anything creative like this—podcasting, video, or writing—is about deciding what you want to say, and what’s your way of saying it. How to make that your own is key.

DK: How did you get into this?

JR: I was doing my postdoc in conservation biology. If you’re not a scientist, your job is to write papers. I was disenchanted after a while. How likely was it that what I wrote would lead to action? So as a hobby, I started interviewing scientists. I’ve always really liked radio. Someone found me and offered to pay me to do this, so now I have $2,000 broadcast-quality equipment and I make a good living. But, I had hoped more people would listen.

DK: What can others learn?

JR: It takes a while to figure out what you’re doing and why the heck you’re doing it. Don’t make it too scripted. You can have a script, but don’t read it. Imagine somebody giving a talk and reading a script–it’s death! And you know, you have to like doing it. And keep doing it, that’s key. Don’t wait to get good. No one sprouts out of the earth fully formed.

First published in S P A C E