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Welcome to Newsletter #5! I’m on a roll. 😜
Part 1 of the “Exploring Alternative Futures” report was released into the wild earlier this week. I sent two emails to all members with instructions on how to access the reports. If those emails somehow slipped by, I got ya covered: The ‘report’ is hosted (as an online ‘course’), so to access it you just sign in to Thinkific.
Part 2 of the report is in progress. Here’s a teaser: (Suspense!)
Save the date. Thursday, August 27th. Noon CST. I’ll be hosting a Q&A with John Willshire, as he shares not one but several frameworks that you’ll find absolutely fascinating. And useful. You won’t want to miss this! More details to follow…
Request for HELP: After Alternative Futures, I’ll be turning my attention to Polarity Mapping. Do you know of anyone who has worked with this tool? Or maybe you’ve experienced it? If so, I’d love to gather some first hand accounts.
Missing emails. It’s another week using Buttondown for this newsletter. While I love the ethos of Buttondown, some of you are not getting the emails. At all. Not in spam. Not tucked away in some hidden gmail tab. Nothing. Boo 😭. If I can get Part 2 of the report done earlier this week, I’m going to see about switching over to Ghost for email.
LEGO Computing Devices
“The UX of LEGO Interface Panels” made the rounds this week. I thought this would be a light-hearted treatment, but the article actually gets into the kinds of codings used to differentiate inputs and the information design used to organize these screens. This reminds me of what Christopher Noessel does with sci-fi interfaces, where he offers a critical assessment of various fictional UI’s from movies and TV shows. Speaking of LEGO computing devices, how did this new Nintendo Entertainment System almost slipped past my LEGO radar?!
The Future’s So Bright
In the first report, I mention how exploring alternative futures gave me a bit of intellectual comfort. Turns out I’m not alone in finding comfort from futures thinking. Jane McGonigal comments that “a well-designed foresight tool can help us feel better now, by lifting us out of depression and anxiety - especially during times of uncertainty and crisis.” Better yet, in this article from IFTF, McGonigal shares three specific questions you can ask now to spark hope. Oh, and speaking of self-care, check out these “Health and Wellness Choice Boards for Teachers and Students”.
Interested in systems and complexity? Here are four things you can glance at this week:
A Diversity Park?
If you have not yet watched Somebody Feed Phil, do yourself a favor—watch some episodes. It’s a simple premise: Phil Rosenthal travels the world trying new foods and making new friends. Part of the joy of this show is his interactions with people and his pure delight (or disgust?) as he tries new foods. Anyway, while enjoying his culinary adventures in Copenhagen (which I now must visit!), I learned about Superkilen, an “ultra-modern diversity park in Copenhagen, Denmark”. Built in 2012, this wedge-shaped space within the city is now home to 99 objects from 59 different countries. While building the park, residents (living in one of Copenhagen’s most diverse neighborhoods) were asked to nominate specific urban objects from their countries of origin, to be installed in this city park. This included reconstructing a star-shaped Moroccan fountain and an Octopus slide that represents Japan and acts as a play area for children. I found the entire concept exciting, that an urban space might be constructed with—and representing—an ethnically-diverse community. Imagine being a foreigner and seeing a specific urban feature transplanted to your new home. Or the reverse, learning more about other cultures by way of a representative urban structure. In a bizarre way, this kind of reminds of Epcot Center, only more authentic and embedded into a community.
It was a calm week, though one filled with distractions. While I should have been working on Part 2 of the report, I fell into a rabbit hole, a few rabbit holes actually: First, I became preoccupied looking at stands to turn my iPhone into document reader (‘for online webinars and keynotes, of course!’); later, I began seriously exploring alternatives to Slack (‘all for the Mighty Minds, of course!’). I also got distracted designing a logo for my son’s imagined coffee shop (‘for fun and relaxation’). While not a waste to time, none of these things were The Priority™.
On a more personal note, I did start the week feeling some serious imposter syndrome with my upcoming keynote at Euro IA. I mean, there are so many great speakers! Who I am to be taking a keynote slot? And why am I talking about things I’m not an expert in?! Fortunately, some of my feelings were sidelined when I got excited by the idea of turning my keynote into a game—a GAME!! (Which was another rabbit hole, albeit a highly productive one that happens to be related to A Priority™; oh, and Random Aside No. 1: I’ve learned to follow the spark of inspiration in the moment, and never later).
Further introspection on these feelings of imposter syndrome highlighted some deeper, personal musings: I don’t know that my role in the universe is to be associated with a wholly original idea so much as an original framing on existing ideas. I’ve created many original things (2 books, several card decks and toolkits, a bunch of concept models), but a common denominator of these creations is that they make sense of other things and concepts already in existence Example: My newest book is me working out how humans work with information, to make sense of any subject. I’m a synthesizer and sense-maker. And a teacher, sharing back my own understanding of things. And the more I lean into this role as teacher and sense-maker (and maker), the more whole I feel. And the more I can chase the things that energize me. Reframing my upcoming talk into a game was the result of me clearing my head to return to my mission statement: To make learning the hard stuff fun, by making things to think with and spaces for generative play. Returning to this foundation forced me to check myself: Have I taken these ideas (all related to ‘hope’) and turned into something fun and playful? Why not? If this is what I value, why aren’t I living out these values? Random Aside No. 2: Having written out (and thoughtfully considered) values, principles, and mission statements, personal or otherwise, is a great way to recheck and re-center yourself.
Of course, all this musing calls into question what it means for something to be an “original” idea… Do the things I’m holding up as original ideas (the person who coins a now famous concept, another person who leads a novel project in her city) seem original to the creators? I do align with the concepts of networked knowledge and combinatorial creativity, that all new ideas are simply the intersection of existing ideas (or tiny iterations on existing ideas), but… If we are defining original ideas in this more inclusive manner, as labeling a slightly differentiated framing on prior concepts, then I’ve got a few of those! “From Paths to Sandboxes” and “Facilitating Structures” might be candidates for ‘original enough concepts… Hmm. I’m stop now, a I’m rambling.
Where I’m netting on imposter syndrome: If you—you, YOU reading this—have a perspective on something (maybe the phrase ‘original idea’ is the problem!), then you should share that perspective. That’s how we learn and build upon each of our unique experiences.
Oh, and some upcoming personal “appearances”: Here’s are some other places I am or will be, virtually:
The DFW OD Network: is meeting (online) this Thursday evening (Aug 13th, 7pm CST), where I, along with Nancy Dixon and Pete Sorenson will be talking about “Reinventing Organizations for a Better Future.” My contribution is a short talk on “Just Enough structure, and No More”.
On Saturday, August 22, the DFW UX Book Club will be discussing my book Figure It Out, and I’ll be there to take questions! More info and registration information here
Podcast: (Live now): Karl (my co-author) and I sat down with Gerry from User Experience Podcast to talk about Figure It Out. Listen here.
And since I’m listing podcasts, be sure to check out these from previous weeks:
Many of the adventures you go on will not make sense to the people around you because the outcome is unknown. But journeys where the outcome is already known are not adventures, they are errands and you were created to do more than run errands. —Jon Acuff [source]