DK’s first zine in print, S P A C E || Battambang, drops today.
This was created from the first-ever of our new roving conversation salon-cum-zinemaking popups, Atelier S P A C E. That took place on 26 September, over P’chum Ben in Battambang, Cambodia. We are focusing on the zine idea because it’s simple, tangible, do-able, light, accessible, and easy to put together relatively quickly.
Here is what Atelier SP A C E is.
Ateliers made on the road, on the fly, based solely on chance encounters and the self-selecting guests, collaborators, and co-hosts who, together with us: help design the content, select the themes through the activities we provide to make that easier than it sounds, and make venue spaces available to DK for these programmes. DK go to a new place. See who’s around, talk in real life. That’s just how it always has been. But what’s new is the making something part, now. Of course we design, we write, we get people talking, so why not bring these skills to social spaces, engage us beyond the simple smalltalk and shallow conversations that become, very quickly, a bore? That’s the concept. Of making S P A C E.
PLAY. For a while now, we have been practicing this. What, exactly? How to design space to really get people talking, about you wouldn’t believe what kinds of things, and doing this together with total strangers. (Ask any of us about how). What’s fun for us is the shaping of this space, a kind of timebound and physical geometry. As designers we love to frame the thing, and let the play that happens just happen. Not overdirecting, letting things flow. This is how people hit on their magic moments, of ‘a-ha!’, which, really, can be hugely valuable if you are feeling stuck, bored, siloed, or otherwise disengaged from people right around you. Look up, now, see them, there? Also online, reading, checking. Like me and you. What if, though, we could be reading the same invitation, to show up, to meet, in Atelier S P A C E? See what emerges. See what develops. Themes, philosophies, sharing, and, in the case of BTB’s edition, confessions. What? Yeah.
Today the digital version of the zine S P A C E || Battambangposts in our weekly eZine, S P A C E.
DK: ‘A Nomadic Existence?’ asked one of my longest-term mentors. ‘What is it about, exactly? Can you name that? Can you paint a picture of what it IS? In other words, what is the content of your forum?’ Let me answer that. What IS it about. It’s about lots. It’s about the things that happen, magically, when we simply make *time* and *space* to converse, together.
AS: How does it work?
DK: I post on Mondays. We have a week to write a response. Then, on Sundays at 7PM ICT, I respond and craft the next day’s post. It’s emergent, one step at a time. It’s N+1. All of this is behind protected-page posts on this blog. Those who are taking part in the online forums are participant, see, and I truly mean are participating in the making of the content, as we go. We don’t have to know each other for a lifetime, heck we don’t even have to know one another for one hour. Or ever have met in real life. But… we show up together, and there’s a pattern of how this works, and what we can do with it, and you know? It’s a kind of community, without all the weird things that some communities turn into… I believe that this is a conversation space, and it’s also an exploration. I don’t know why I’m going into this much detail. Because I care so much? Because I lack editing skills? That’s where you come in, A. Thank you.
AS: Why is it interesting? What makes it different?
DK: We are looking for the a-ha. It comes, at times. I believe there is a way to design space for meaningful, magic moments. Connexion. Real connexion. I believe it has to be designed for, this kind of quality of truly well-collaborated, well-made space. There is design, but design is useless if it’s not inclusive and inviting and welcoming and made-by-the-collection of those who are there.
REGROUPING, here at DK World HQ. It has been one full month of looking through old projects, discovering connections between them, and having that very intriguing moment of insight when you just feel like someone turned the lights on. I didn’t do the things you would imagine that you should do when going through this kind of overhaul; there were no customer interviews (most projects end, and people move on, and it’s a little weird to go back in time and dig through old contacts and ask questions, all this time later); we have learned a lot about who we are and the work we do, both as a team and as individual members.
Everyone has a specific core competency, and this clarifies everything.
I didn’t know a month was all it would take to gain such insight, but I am very glad for it.
Learning from others…
THING IS, there are a lot (50? seems like a lot to me) of people I have been in close correspondence with through the interviews we are putting in S P A C E, and they are teaching me so much about… flow.
Not necessarily because they are experts, but just asking questions about their revelations, insights, and the things they did to ramp up to those moments has been a kind of study of, ‘How do you get to the next level? How do you “N+1” it?’ for me, here.
In retrospect a few interviews really stand out for me. First was the designer, a software engineer, who makes stuff in Germany and whom I found… on the internet, of course. We didn’t talk on the phone, but the email conversations were good, and they got better with the back-and-forth style of exchange that necessarily involves responding, listening, and asking more questions, the creative process itself is about walking out into the dark, and wondering if anything of interest might happen. Sure, the dark is scary, but so? (What is the point of staying in the box all the time, I feel, and in the interviews that were the most fun, I met others who happened to feel that way, too.) Other people I met and interviewed for the forums included: a woman in her thirties who quit her day job to travel the world and record it in a blog and who was connected with me through a mutual friend when she came to Phnom Penh; a poet who now does readings all over the East Coast in the US whom I met at an open mic in Durham, NC; a cryptocurrency expert who helped me understand bitcoin and why it’s important; a jujitsu fighter who talked with me about choosing how to make your move, or just… more honestly… feeling your way towards it. Like in the Book of Five Rings… have you read that one?
Other flashes of ‘wow, that was great!’ moments were in real life, conversations with tea shop owners (like in Sheffield, Bangkok, and here in Phnom Penh), or florists (one was in San Francisco, happening to drop a bouquet at the picnic table in front of Front).
Or… musicians… a lot of them, to be honest, have helped me learn about improvisation and making it up as you go. Especially jazz, sometimes it’s very interesting. Theatre people tend to be repelled by me; not sure why. Same with other designers. Still not sure. I work well in conversations with complementarily-skilled others, but who value and respect and can also crossover to the other side of the left and right brain divide.
Don’t have to pigeonhole ourselves.
We can play at many tempos, enjoy stanzas of all styles.
Creating new S P A C E…
TURNING OFF HAS BEEN a huge part of turning on to the things that are important to me, personally, and the things I want to keep developing for the emails to come on Mondays for our subscribers and for the people who are participating in our online programmes. (This month we are on to Work, Life & Relationships, next one will be more specifically on Work-Life balance, there are some good Q&As scheduled for the rest of the month, and I have a feeling we will all be able to learn something, together, as we go. (Whatever is the point of taking some kind of random course from a faceless, nameless university somewhere, just so you can be ‘accredited?’ I am of the school of thought that we can self-validate, and we can group-identify.
Surely there is some academic idea around this, surely there is jargon. But for me, the doing of it, the making of space for exploration and jumping off into the void, is the why of our whole being here at Design Kompany.) It isn’t new. But it is clear that the most enjoyable work to date has been with and for others who are also interested in this thing, this philosophical esoteric thing of self-actualization, through the application of thoughtful reflection and that doesn’t mean setting a goal and jumping at it and measuring all the successes, it’s about setting the intention towards a thing. The journey, that is the work. And the joy.
The journey towards arrival, at wherever you go, through drift and wander, but with the clarity of intent secure in your heart… that is it. That is N+1.
(Aside: I will not talk about the people who have helped me learn this, because some of their stories are a little sad. Chasing things that… ultimately, didn’t give them the feeling that something mattered… that there was… well. It’s sad. Performance and productivity-chasing isn’t, ah, satisfying, if the metrics aren’t set by you. I learned much of this during our event, Book of Time || S P A C E, here in Phnom Penh, at the start of the year. Know what we did? Visualized our lives, but backwards. Looking back you get a sense of what you are still carrying around with you. Only by squarely facing that, and you should have seen us, getting irritated at things that happened when we were six, or even four, and realizing, and with realizing also seeing the absurdity of it, but realizing, as I was saying, how those hurts (and resentments) have stayed with us. Crimping us from moving forwards. Again, N+1.)
MOST PEOPLE WHOM I have been in correspondence with through these ten, maybe 20 years, are going into a different category for me now. They are in the ‘Not interested in N+1’ box. And that means, as much as it feels strange to let go, I have to purge them. From my emails, from the correspondences, from so very much more. Mental space must be created so that I can move forwards, personally. As the R&D Director here at DK, it’s important. We are lucky enough not to have to write reports to donors who want us to produce something that is going to make them look good, like the NGO world has to do, here. For better or worse, we have no one funding us, no reserves of cash, and no idea where our next gig will come from. That means always pivoting, as they like to stay in the startup world, but it also gives us a sense of… confidence, now. We have been at this kind of lifestyle for 10 years, and it’s… fun.
Isn’t fun the point? I feel fun is the point.
Which I realized this month, while sifting and sorting papers as well as columns and rows on a certain spreadsheet, ‘Highlights of DK’. I found out something else, too. VERY little of interest (to me) was produced during the years that… guess what? I was in school of working for someone. Isn’t that… something? You do the things that move you when you don’t have to worry about showing up for someone else’s thing. I am looking forward to seeing what DB makes, moving forwards, after he wrote to me about this idea… about daring to try things, outside of those boxes of work and work-related side gigs. It’s hard. It’s good, though. It’s not as hard as it seems. But me saying that doesn’t make people go and do things. Retirement does. Or getting sick. Or losing someone. It’s very… ah. Reactive.
Where this is going…
THIS BRINGS me back to where we started, today. With intention setting. I used to put something here, when I was younger, about how you should sign up for our ___ whatever thing, and get to know yourself, and be more clear about where you are going. But you know what? I can’t make anyone do that. I don’t even care, really, about that, now. The people I care about are the people who are resonating with this idea of N+1, and moving forwards, and they know already that they have to set an intention, first. Who am I to say so? Me? I’m just writing because this was a big month, here at DK. We came up with a new tool, too. Life hacking. I know, here it is, the thing you should get, or whatever. But no. I’ll not tell you about it. The people who will be interested, they will find out, on their own. That is the magical and weird and a little bit awkward thing about internet. Everybody knows; you don’t have to say it. If I’m talking to you, and only you know that, then I’ll see you. See you there… See you in the up. —AS
LISTEN TO this interview Victor Jimenez, a seasoned entrepreneur and popular podcaster, did with DK’s own Akira Morita. The two are close friends, and talk regularly across the world about topics related to performance, learning, being better, and growth.
Today in S P A C E we’ll discuss. In a parallel conversation that may also take place on this day, we’ll open the comments for the topic of, ‘What is Design Thinking,’ on the comments pages below. Possibly also on facebook, depending on interest there.
Check in on 30 May throughout the day [ICT timezone], to see what’s unfolding. #designthinking
FOR A LONG TIME I used to be like most of the people I know who claim to want to write. I mean, I wanted to get picked up.
By some kind of an agent, or a publishing house.
Then, get toured around the world.
Splashy dinners, press conferences, lots and lots of people asking me about my stories… all admiringly but of course asking the same repeating questions.
Got in the way of that.
Not because of drive… I had a lot of drive, back then. I guess I’m a Gen X slacker in other ways, but I do like publishing and I will do it, and blogging is a kind of publishing, and even though I haven’t been writing here very much for the last three years it doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing and sharing.
Some of the time I wrote for newspapers, first freelance and then as a staffer. Then I got into magazine stuff. Then I decided it wasn’t for me, that piecewise thing you have to do (read: pitching) and not experimenting with the medium, which is way, way more fun. Thanks to a couple of internet friends scattered in timezones near and far, I’m able to connect more deeply through writing (but only with some people, of course. You can’t share intimately with everyone.) Maybe this is why I don’t care so much about getting famous, now. It just doesn’t matter. What matters is hanging out. The quality of the conversations. The people I meet, what we discover together, what we learn from each other. How we grow.
SO YES. IT IS TRUE.
I had this thought about fame, though. A lot, probably, through most of my early twenties. Back then, mostly in those big cities with yellow stuff pasted onto walls around subways, I picked up flyers about going to get my correspondence writing course started, and then, I left them behind. I don’t know why.
Someone I just met said, it’s human to want to be famous. I’m not convinced that this is so true, though. I think it’s narcissistic, sure. And yeah, the Western cultures have a thing about that. But living in Asia for three years (and counting) will do something to you. Will make you think, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Who cares?’
Next steps: writing and publishing
THINGS NOW ARE INCREDIBLY NEW, and the old-school model is still nagging at the artists. Why is this?
Ego? Who cares if it’s ‘popular?’
JS wrote: ‘Do what moves you.’ Something about pining for fame… (JS is famous, by the way)… as much as this is so normal if you grow up in a place where fame is worshipped,… But well, something about the pursuit of #1, and that alone, seemed dodgy, to me. Who decides on the criteria, for one? What do you consider to be interesting, intriguing, alluring, mysterious? Because most likely, it’s not the stuff that’s going to top the pop charts. Well, at least, if you’re like me. I’m into other things. Philosophical stuff, going to the edges (literally, sometimes), looking out and over, maybe even taking a jump (literally, again. Like in India’s Himachal Pradesh, at Manali.) Not saying you have to do it this way or that way. Paying attention to the way, though. That’s important. Because along the way you’ll find the things that add to your story, the Book of You. Voicefinding is underrated, you know. Taking time is, too. Discovering, messing up, finding your way, the way again, there it is. Why are the Westerners so outcome-focused? I noticed in recent weeks that I had this one outcome in mind about a thing, and it didn’t go exactly as I had pictured, and on the one hand I was so disappointed I teared up a bit, but on the other, we had something else in its place. We had a different kind of thing. Another way. And it was fine; in its own way, it was beautiful all exactly as it stood, unjudged and unexpected. Is that the thing, then? Letting things happen?
Finding one’s voice, I felt, seemed like the most important journey, to me, when I was watching everyone follow the pack. The herd mentality is pretty crazy. Human, of course. But we gotta watch that. What are we doing, and why? It’s necessary to pay attention to this. Intention. Even in my younger days, I knew that to experience life would be more important, than to try to make sense of what had happened, so far. There wasn’t enough of it behind me. I wanted to go. See. Learn, make, and do. Of course people said that was stupid. These were the people who later went into investment banking and got houses that are now ‘underwater.’ They also told me that I was a ‘free spirit’ and wasn’t that just lucky-for-me, but twenty years later they are still looking for a weekend off to ‘go and write my novel.’ Yeah. A weekend. F.
Traveling opened it up, though, got me away from those people and their poisonous don’t-can’t thinking. (Total opposite of N+1. More about that in a bit.) First job I got enough to save some to start this habit. That’s how I got traveling. To East Asia. Southeast Asia, South Asia. Europe, too, of course. Moved there, even. Started things out. Made it all up as we went along. Slowly, surely. One step at a time. It became a kind of method, a sort of dance. Go, see. Suss. Learn, then make the next decision. You know, the more I think about it, the more this isn’t just about a way of life that has nothing to do with wanting the praises and accolades that, I think, many many people that I would have known when I was, say, yeah, twenty-three, would have said they wanted. The thing is, I met a lot of those people, along the way. People who had made it. Were on the book tours. Were traveling the world, on other people’s dimes. But they didn’t have the one thing that I had, in so many giant waves and troves and uncertain amounts, seemingly indefinitely. They didn’t have time.
‘I know you think so, and maybe it’s true for you and for some of the people you’ve worked with through the ecourses, with the magazine… is it a magazine? Yeah, okay, yeah. So, like, what is in it for them? What do they get out of it?’
‘People like these.’
‘I know they like them. But do you know? What they are joining for?’
‘Weak. And you can’t prove it.’
‘No. Nobody knows you from anybody else, and you’re not famous, and you don’t aspire to be on Oprah, so you can’t go that route, you know? You have to be a real person who has a real thing that works for people. Remember what SN had said? Solutions to the right problems that users love to use. That’s design. That’s innovation.’
‘SN is so smart. We’re really lucky we got to learn from him, wow. Meantime I am learning from every single person I meet, who comes through these different salons and eWorkshops and stuff like that. I get it. I get it that people are looking for a new way to find new thoughts and to inspire themselves and that kind of jazz. And that most stuff is overdone, overprescribed and way too high-level commitment… I don’t know. Then you get just… well. It’s contrived. I think the opportunity for mixing to happen amongst groups is a big part of why I do these. Okay, you’re looking at me like, you don’t care why I do these. You want to know why they should care. I see. yes. I think I should really visit that. But… I think it’s because I personally invite them.’
‘No. That’s never it.’
‘Then, it’s because they want to actually get to their projects, but maybe don’t know how to start? Maybe they’re afraid of not finishing, or maybe not doing their work well…’
‘Now, that’s the start of something! Tell me more.’
‘Well, when I get going with these, I notice people say how they appreciate the reminders that float by every week, the ones that come from PayPal, even, that let them know they’ve committed to something. I mean, MH had written that, that there was this kind of accountability partnering that was good about it. This was 2014, so it was all still new, but it’s becoming more short-course stuff so people can feel like they are getting to things, and making progress, even though everything I send is designed to be complete-able within 20 minutes. Just that. It’s not a big ask to make 20 minutes of time out of your week to show up for something you care about, but is maybe in that ‘important but not urgent’ category. Know what I’m talking about? That quadrant thingy? Yeah… I think that is a big part of it. Finishes are tough to come by. But starts are even harder, for so many of us. There’s this paralysis, see, because there are so many options out there. That Q&A with MS recently, that was really great. I learned and saw how one person tackles the starting to start question, the how do I decide on where to begin massive thing that I think is daunting, for a lot of people… doesn’t matter who they are anymore… or where they’re coming from, or what their work is. Project management is constantly being intruded upon by messages blipping out of the aetherspace, commanding their attention. People worry that my projects with them online will take up even more time or be even more e stuff to do, but to be honest, ti’s like a project management kind of a thing for people, in the end. It’s a real person, prompting you to do the thing you’ve committed to doing. you’ve committed to yourself, to show up. And I see now that more than ever this is the crux of it. The pain of starting. The nudge is needed, to get going. Once you do, it’s much easier. But that first step, wow. People really want to do things like write and reflect and journal. Intellectually. Theoretically. But will they make the time? I don’t know about you but I find a lot of talking about this and very little actual doing, when I look around amongst the people whom, for the last 20 years or so, are talking about making but not getting to it. Not getting started.’
‘Know what I mean?’
‘Yeah. You’re the one that says, Okay, let’s do this. Let’s get started.’
‘That’s exactly what I do. That’s exactly who I am. But I don’t leave people after they join, of course. It’s a 1:1 dialogue for a while, and sometimes it becomes bigger, if and when people are ready for meeting and engaging with new and different others. For inspiration.’
‘Is that it? Inspiration?’
‘People who need inspiration? Yeah. That’s another whole group I can help. Definitely.’
‘But people would say they don’t need inspiration. They would say they don’t need help getting started. What would you say to them?’
‘I’d say, okay, great. Do it. But if you haven’t done it and it’s a year later, let’s talk.’ Making it up as we go >