31 August 2006

You Are Beautiful


You Are Beautiful is a simple, powerful statement which is incorporated into the over absorption of mass media and lifestyles that are wrapped in consumer culture.

This statement and the context in which someone finds it gives meaning to its message and purpose to this project. The intention behind this project is to reach beyond ourselves as individuals to make a difference by creating moments of positive self realization in those who happen across the statement: You Are Beautiful.

Intention is the most important aspect of the You Are Beautiful project in its idea of purity. Graffiti and street art are an act not a style, but stylistically large corporations have been copying and using the 'urban decay' look to sell products.

It all comes down to intention. Nothing is sacred. Everything that has a perceived value becomes commodified. Companies hire out teenagers to slap up stickers and posters, and pay their fines when they are caught by the police. This is not street art, but a marketing campaign.

The reasons why street artists are doing what they are doing, in the way that they are doing, is not simply to question their surroundings; but to provide alternative perspectives, meanings, or values to those of consumerism.

Advertising elicits a response to buy, where this project elicits a response to do something. The attempt with You Are Beautiful is to create activism instead of consumerism.

You Are Beautiful uses the medium of advertising and commercialization to spread a positive message. Projects like these make a difference in the world by catching us in the midst of daily life and creating moments of positive self realization.

28 August 2006

The Determining Factor is Absence

Black and white photography in its' simplest form.


23 August 2006

Winners of the "I Look Like My Dog" Contest

This is very funny! These people really do look like their dogs:


21 August 2006

18 August 2006

Vote for Your Favorite Mickey

Lists top ten rated Mickey or draw one and submit...

Visit: www.everybodyneeds2drawmickeyonce.com

17 August 2006

Colin Carruthers Paintings

Beautifully painted landscapes from Birmingham, England.

Visit: web.mac.com/colinbcarruthers

14 August 2006

09 August 2006

Terra Galleria

Online galleries of travel, adventure, landscape, and nature photography by Quang-Tuan Luong.


07 August 2006


Fantastic photography portal.


What does "Innovation" really mean?

How to insure a success with your clients
By Brianna Sylver

The term "innovation"— along with it's shopworn adjective, "innovative" and it's breathless verb, "innovate!"— has become the rallying cry of every product manager, the pursuit of every design consultant, the autocomplete of every press release writer. The word's been wrapped around everything from the Apple iPod to a new template in Microsoft Word. So how can one term be used to describe such vastly different things?

In essence, what does "innovation" really mean?

Technically, "innovation" is defined merely as "introducing something new;" there are no qualifiers of how ground-breaking or world-shattering that something needs to be—only that it needs to be better than what was there before. And that's where the trouble starts when an organization requests "innovation services" from a consulting firm. Exactly what are they really requesting? The fact is, innovation means different things to different people.

Understanding the motivation
It is critical to establish a baseline read of what innovation really means to the hiring organization (or client), so that the "innovation process" can be uniquely— and appropriately— tailored to address the specific challenges and requirements of that organization. But getting this foundational knowledge of what an "acceptable output of an innovation project" is...well, more difficult than one would suspect. It sounds obvious, but in order to define what innovation means to the client, the consulting firm contracted for the innovation services first needs to understand the client's motivation for seeking innovation services. Corporations typically seek innovation services in response to one of three situations:

1. They are currently engulfed in the flames of the "burning platform" (as Russ Ward, Director of New Product Development at IMP, Inc. calls it). Their profits are dropping, their products are not selling and they don't know what to do about it.

2. They have emerged from the days of the "burning platform" and have come to understand that innovation is not a start/stop process, but an evolving one that requires constant attention.

3. They are a leader in their industry and are determined to stay there. Failure is accepted within their organization because they understand and fully embrace the numbers game in product development.

Each of these situations generates a different definition (and role) for innovation within the hiring organization, and consequently defines a different landscape for how to manage the gig. For companies engulfed in the flames of the "burning platform," they've found innovation in a reactive mode. Speed is of the most concern, and "innovation" in this context often means taking the me-too approach to what their competitors are doing. For organizations that have recently emerged from the days of the "burning platform," their focus is on the quick hits and small wins— they're thankful that they have found some stability within their organization, but the days of job insecurity are too close for them to feel comfort in thinking "blue sky." For the industry leaders, they've usually got time— and the benefits of positive cash flow— on their side. They can think strategically about where they are today, and where they want to move in the future. They still need the small wins, but they can afford to think more tactically about how those successes contribute to a larger corporate strategy.

Understanding the tolerance level
So, why is it so important to understand their motivation for hiring innovation services? Because their motivation (derived from their situation) defines their "innovation tolerance," which in turn provides insight into the success criteria for the project. By understanding the level of innovation being sought by the client, it becomes easier to frame up the kind of deliverable that makes the most sense, and ultimately, that makes the most business sense. This kind of analysis helps determine if the project needs to be geared toward discovering the breakthrough, revolutionary product in its category (the iPod), or if the conservative, low/no cost solution is the more appropriate direction to drive (the new Word template).

We've all heard more than a couple stories of consulting companies taking a project and running with it, only to come back with fantastic, ground-breaking ideas that the hiring organization could do absolutely nothing with. The research, documents and prototypes become shelved, and everyone leaves the situation resentful. The hiring organization feels like they didn't get the value that they deserved for the price tag they paid; the consulting firm feels as though their efforts were undervalued, and that the client wasn't nearly as progressive as they had hoped (or promised).

Does each organization have a right to feel slighted? Perhaps, but the true lesson here is that the two companies weren't working towards common goals. "How would you approach this project without us?" is the question that MAYA Design, a design consultancy and technology research lab in Pittsburgh, PA, asks their prospective clients. David Bishop, the Director of Human Sciences, shares that "the question, while simplistic, reveals a lot about their client's psyche— how systemically the company views their operations and their capabilities for working across departments within their organization." Charged with this knowledge, MAYA can design a study targeted to align with their client's current innovation tolerance, while exposing them to strategies for progressing them along the innovation continuum.

So, for instance, if an organization responds to MAYA's question by stating that "some engineers would probably get together and develop the next version of the product," then it's quite likely that that organization has a product-focused, small improvement mind-set towards innovation. This contrasts with an organization that may respond to that question differently, by stating that in the absence of their services they would "put together a cross-functional team designed to represent the user, business and technology perspectives of the issue under discussion." This organization's ability to organize and coordinate that cross-functional team means that that organization has prepped themselves to entertain innovation initiatives that require more buy-in and support of other departments. The difference between these two viewpoints of innovation is the difference between taking an incremental versus paradigm shift approach to innovation.

Understanding the organization's culture
Of course, knowing a company's motivation and tolerance for innovation are two big hurdles in the race. But the third is perhaps the most critical: understanding the political infrastructure of the company, and the personal innovation philosophies of the executive management, are absolutely key to understanding the organization's readiness for change, and their ability and willingness to implement recommendations. Without this piece of knowledge, you can be a sitting duck.

There's probably a bit of dirty laundry here, but best practice is for the client to be open and transparent about how decisions get made within their organization, about the past attempts to solve the problem (both failures and successes, and everyone's respective understanding of why), and—here's the laundry part—about any individuals within the company that will likely try to sabotage the effort. Charged with this knowledge, consultants can better understand how to navigate the political waters with awareness, and will have a higher probability of creating recommendations and developing project deliverables that can gain traction within the hiring organization.

Likewise, it's imperative for a consultant to be made aware of the personal innovation philosophy of the executive management. As Jason Schickerling, the Director of Core Ladder Products at Werner Ladder Company, succinctly states, "The levels of risk accepted by the executive leaders of the organization define the level of innovation that a company is willing to commit to." If the executive management supports innovation holistically and fosters a creative climate in the organization, then recommendations and solutions closer to the revolution end of the innovation spectrum might be appropriate to share with this client. Conversely, an organization that defines innovation in a more compartmental fashion may experience extreme discomfort in stepping too far outside their existing product lines.

Hire a coach; conduct a workshop
Hiring organizations can help consultants get the lay of the land by assigning a dedicated project sponsor or "coach" to the project. This sponsor is the touch point into the organization for the consultant, and should be capable of providing the background information needed so that everyone is always progressing towards common goals. Additionally, the project "coach" should be of a high enough level within the organization that their sponsoring of the project ensures that the initiative has been defined as a priority within the organization. Ward of IMP, Inc., makes the valuable observation that it is often the high-ticket consulting projects that get the attention of the executive management— often being conducted with the large consulting agencies— while the smaller consulting firms often have their projects sponsored on more of a middle-management level. This doesn't mean that the projects conducted by the small consulting firms don't have equal value to offer to the organization, but it may mean that the project sponsor within the hiring organization needs to be keener at communicating the progress and output of the project across the organization. If a consultant is clued into the priorities of the executive management, they can better assist their project sponsor in positioning the project within the organization.

The team at Cloverleaf Innovation, an innovation firm located in Evanston, IL, understands that multi-disciplinary teams, comprised of members of the hiring organization, are the keys to making impact within an organization. For this reason, they conduct a "Discovery Workshop" at the start of each of their projects. This workshop engages all critical partners and stakeholders of the project together to think about the topic at hand. By soliciting multiple perspectives from the hiring organization at the outset of the project (and throughout the process), Cloverleaf is able to get a good read on what the innovation tolerance of the organization is as a whole (i.e. the spectrum of acceptable solutions to the problem), while creating an open and collaborative environment conducive to fresh thinking.

Final thoughts
Good consultants understand that no one knows their business better than those who live in it daily, and, as a result, take more of a facilitation role in helping an organization meld their internal and competitive knowledge with the expertise that they have been hired to bring to the table. They work toward understanding the environment, culture, and politics of the organization, and qualify the tolerance level of the organization for change. All of this requires an openness and a transparency that is hard to attain, but critical to insuring success. Without understanding where an organization is, and where they have come from, it is impossible to lay a path for the future without coming off as the stereotypical, all-knowing, flippant consultant ready to solve everyone's problems without having a clue about the internal workings of the hiring organization.

And after you've covered those bases, THEN you can talk about "innovation" in a way that isn't hollow and reflexive; that doesn't confuse the consultant's philosophy of innovation with that of the hiring organization.


Brianna is the founder of Sylver Consulting (http://www.sylverconsulting.com), a product innovation firm that assists organizations in finding opportunity sweet spots between their customers¹ needs, business objectives and innovation capabilities. In addition, she offers her expertise as an adjunct faculty professor at the Institute of Design, IIT in Chicago teaching courses in communication design and human factors.


Original article: www.core77.com

04 August 2006

Download of the Day: Tunatic and Tunalyzer

Free program Tunatic analyzes whatever audio is playing on your computer (whether through a microphone or your desktop) and gives you the artist and track title.

Ever thought ‘what is this song?’ Let Tunatic hear it and you will get the artist's name and the song's title within seconds. Tunatic is the very first song search engine based on sound for your computer. All you need is a microphone and Internet access.

Tunatic works pretty well with more recognizable songs, but can't always catch lesser known songs. However, if you've got a Mac and you want to contribute to the Tunatic database, give Tunalyzer a go.

Tunalyzer (when installed and enabled) scans your computer for music. When it finds a song that is not in Tunatic's database yet, it analyzes it and sends its audio fingerprint and metadata (title, artist, etc.) to the Tunatic server. Thus, that song can later be identified by other Tunatic users.

So essentially, the more people who install Tunalyzer, the better Tunatic will be for all. Don't you just love the democracy of free software?



03 August 2006

Workaholics struggle to say "No" to work

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sam used to sneak into his office before dawn so no one would know how many extra hours he worked. Charles goes on all-night work binges to meet deadlines, and Susan can't say no to volunteer projects, social clubs, bridge games, choral singing, lectures and classes.

Each one is a member of Workaholics Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program for compulsive workers based upon the structure of Alcoholics Anonymous. Each one opted to keep their identity secret.

"It's been called the addiction that society applauds," said Mike, a physician and member of the group known as WA.

"People brag about it and say, 'I'm a workaholic,'" he said. "But workaholics burn out and then you've lost them or they become very dysfunctional and bitter and cynical in the organisation and corrosive."

Workaholics Anonymous keeps no central count of members, but organisers estimate dozens of weekly meetings are held in the United States as well as in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Britain. The group also sells about 100 books about WA a month via its Web site, according to organisers.

WA's roots go back to 1983, when a New York corporate financial planner and a school teacher founded a group based on AA but designed to fight compulsive working.

WA identifies workaholics as people who often are perfectionists and worriers, derive their self esteem from work, keep overly busy, neglect their health, postpone vacations and overschedule their lives.

Workaholics don't even have to have a job; they can just be compulsively busy as they seek an adrenaline high, to overcome feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem and to avoid intimacy, it says.


The weekly meeting in New York draws an average of a half dozen people in a city that might be considered a hotbed of workaholism. Such meagre attendance invites the predictable joke that most workaholics are too busy to attend meetings, a quip that organiser Charles has heard a million times.

"People think it's funny," he said. "It's amusing until you hear the stories. There have been many people who have come, and work is destroying their lives."

Unlike alcoholics, who can measure recovery by their days of sobriety, workaholics have no quantifiable gauge of their problem, or their recovery.

"In my case, my boss was telling me I had to get my work hours down to 40 a week, and I couldn't do it," said Sam, a former senior project engineer in California's Silicon Valley.

"I was sneaking into work at 5 a.m. on a Sunday so I could get work done and be out of the place before anyone else showed up," he said. "I didn't want people to see how much time I was putting in.

"Now I'm more willing to try to do a mediocre job and keep my own mental health and sanity than to do the perfect job on everything I attempt," he said.

Like AA, WA uses a 12-step program for recovery from addiction. At meetings, members share their experiences and study the organisation's literature and guidelines.

"It really forces you to look inside and say, 'What's really going on with me?'" said Charles. "A lot of people don't want to do that."

Even if workaholism is hard to define, you know it when you feel it, said Mike, who has left his high-pressure urban job for work at a rural clinic where cows wander outside.

"After a while one gets a feeling of what driven, compulsive working feels like," he said. "There's a tightness to it. There's a lot of adrenaline surging. There's a lot of worry.

"There's a lot of preoccupation, which is different from just waking up in the morning and saying, 'Wow, I really love what I do'," he said.