Tuesday, November 22, 2016

We, The Basket of Deplorables (Understanding Omniculturalism)

Whether you voted Blue or Red, it is We The People of the United States who elected our next president. I want to offer a simple binary perspective to give us all hope that working together is possible. Unity may be within our grasp. When coming to terms with the staggering diversity in our country, there are two terms to help frame this great experiment. One is Multiculturalism, the other Omniculturalism.

Multiculturalism is understanding that not all people are the same, and believing that we must respect our differences. This seldom works, and is an artifact of failed policies such as "Separate but Equal" and behaviors and beliefs that led to the Great White Flight. Multiculturalism is an indication of the growing pains of the world that Thomas Friedman describes in The World is Flat and his follow-up book, Hot Flat and Crowded.

Omniculturalism is the understanding that we are all one people, with subtle differences that set us apart. Be it genetic mutations or language barriers, melanin count or country of origin, the human race is diverse, and the United States was born in the understandable process to comes to terms with the vast spectrum of our collective variety. The key to shifting the paradigm from a Multicultural to an Omnicultural perspective is inviting individual ownership of these differences.

By stating that it is We the Basket of Deplorables that elected our next president, I take full ownership of the red shift in our shared spectrum. The only way forward to any of us is to individually come to terms with all of us. If you are white, spend more time with the black. If you are black, I'm terribly sorry for the pain you have endured so far and pray that this pain will subside as we continue to pull together and pursue a more perfect union.

If you are in the millions of shades of gray in between, you are us, and We are the People. That is to say, We Americans have one thing in common, above all others. It is up to us to keep that in mind, and to get used to using the collective plural pronoun. Gone are the days of us and them serving humanity in any useful way. That is Multiculturalism and it is a failed experiment. The WE of Omniculturalism will serve to keep us all in check, and to treat our neighbors as ourselves.

Go hug an other. Embrace the old "them" to find the new "we". When we, whoever "we" are, come to terms with defining this new identity, we will shift into the worldview that can unite our divisions through empathetic dialog. Not Multicultural sympathy, but Omnicultural empathy. The view that "I understand your situation because I've done my best to stand in your shoes". Until we do that, we are all The Basket of Deplorables. One day the United States will finally become We The People.

We, The Basket of Deplorables (Understanding Omniculturalism)

Whether you voted Blue or Red, it is We The People of the United States who elected our next president. I want to offer a simple binary perspective to give us all hope that working together is possible. Unity may be within our grasp. When coming to terms with the staggering diversity in our country, there are two terms to help frame this great experiment. One is Multiculturalism, the other Omniculturalism.

Multiculturalism is understanding that not all people are the same, and believing that we must respect our differences. This seldom works, and is an artifact of failed policies such as "Separate but Equal" and behaviors and beliefs that led to the Great White Flight. Multiculturalism is an indication of the growing pains of the world that Thomas Friedman describes in The World is Flat and his follow-up book, Hot Flat and Crowded.

Omniculturalism is the understanding that we are all one people, with subtle differences that set us apart. Be it genetic mutations or language barriers, melanin count or country of origin, the human race is diverse, and the United States was born in the understandable process to comes to terms with the vast spectrum of our collective variety. The key to shifting the paradigm from a Multicultural to an Omnicultural perspective is inviting individual ownership of these differences.

By stating that it is We the Basket of Deplorables that elected our next president, I take full ownership of the red shift in our shared spectrum. The only way forward to any of us is to individually come to terms with all of us. If you are white, spend more time with the black. If you are black, I'm terribly sorry for the pain you have endured so far and pray that this pain will subside as we continue to pull together and pursue a more perfect union.

If you are in the millions of shades of gray in between, you are us, and We are the People. That is to say, We Americans have one thing in common, above all others. It is up to us to keep that in mind, and to get used to using the collective plural pronoun. Gone are the days of us and them serving humanity in any useful way. That is Multiculturalism and it is a failed experiment. The WE of Omniculturalism will serve to keep us all in check, and to treat our neighbors as ourselves.

Go hug an other. Embrace the old "them" to find the new "we". When we, whoever "we" are, come to terms with defining this new identity, we will shift into the worldview that can unite our divisions through empathetic dialog. Not Multicultural sympathy, but Omnicultural empathy. The view that "I understand your situation because I've done my best to stand in your shoes". Until we do that, we are all The Basket of Deplorables. One day the United States will finally become We The People.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Keeping UberX for Billions

Keeping UberX for Billions of Reasons - Removing UberX is Not an Option

The Taxi industry in Sydney is a broken system. Few profit, many suffer. I cannot vouch for Uber enough and celebrate the customer service solution Uber and UberX represents.

My support of Uber's services in the desolate taxi landscape could be the thesis of a five-year Philosophical Doctorate, but I'll summarise in three points for Transport NSW:

1. End users and paying clients have the final say

2. The share-economy is here to stay

3. Be a global example of success, not failure

1. End users and paying clients have the final say

As an end user, I will only pay for a service worth using. I have a boycott on Taxis after too many service failures to count. When a taxi doesn't show up when reserved (multiple times), shows up inconveniently late or early (always), refuses to take me where I need to go (often), and then charges more than these service failures are worth, only a sane person would say NO to this broken system and find an alternative solution.

Uber is that solution, and UberX specifically levels the playing field and forces Taxi drivers to provide a service that meets the demands of paying clients. As an Uber client, I can say every single Uber ride I have taken is an amazing win/win situation for driver and customer by comparison. Drivers are rated on performance and only good drivers succeed.

Mind you, all Uber drivers have been good drivers, as their use of the Uber service proves that they care about me, the end user that pays them, and we share that same value. I could go on but I'll move on the benefits of the driver and the share-economy.

2. The share-economy is here to stay

Airbnb.com has proven that the accommodation industry can be turned on it's head when a low-priced solution can offer rooms to travellers by trusting home owners and renters to open their doors and host their location on the Airbnb site.

These share-economy technologies are here to stay as the human race continues to grow in number whilst finite resources remain fixed. It's not only good business to provide more options for consumers through room-sharing and ride-sharing, but it's a moral imperative to preserve the human race if we are to consume our shared resources wisely.

Lastly and most importantly, with redundancies and lay-offs handed out to otherwise helpless workers in corporate down-sizing, UberX and other share-economy income-streams provide workers a transitional income whilst they look for new roles, or, by fully embracing these new technologies, become service leaders in their adoption.

3. Be a global example of success, not failure

Sydney is not isolated in the need for better transport options. Cities around the world with bad bus systems, lack of reliable trains, and overpriced taxis demand UberX as an option.

Cancelling UberX would stop the support for families of drivers like Ian, who gave my wife and I a ride from Circular Quay to our home in Marrickville.

We needed to find an alternative way to get home as our trains were not running due to track work, another Sydney transport failure that is known all too well.

Despite buying Opal Cards to take advantage of one solution to the problem of waiting in line to buy train tickets, the trains still failed us and we had to find another way home.

Like most Sydneysiders, my wife and I are on a very tight budget as a result of paying overpriced rent and unable to find adequate employment in our professions.

The result of high costs and low incomes for us means that our money is tight and time is limited. Taking a bus during track work is not an option, and taxis are too expensive.

UberX is the best option for us to get where we need to go when we need to get there, being treated well, valued as customers, and given the option to rate our driver in return.

Ian gave us a comfortable ride in a back Toyota Prius whilst we helped with directions as he is only driving UberX recently since receiving a redundancy as a corporate accountant.

Taking away UberX would devastate Ian's family, further frustrate Sydney commuters like me who want better transport options, and possibly force Ian to foreclose on his mortgage.

In summary:

1. Anyone in Transport NSW who denies UberX is ignoring the fact that end-users pay for these service options and should have the final say in what is available and for how much.

2. With the changing global economy, the share-economy is here to stay as a solution to corporates sacking workers who need creative income streams quickly to cover their costs.

3. Sydney has an opportunity to lead in this changing landscape. Listening to the users and service providers successes, private industries provide services like UberX to solve problems that governments and state agencies are not able to solve.

Let the Uber experts do what travellers have needed all along. Give the people UberX.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Meet Your Professional Mess-Tackler

Upon reading several Harvard Business Review articles about Design Thinking to fuel the relevance of a new and improved Marketing Survey, I came across an excerpt by Caroline O'Conner and Sarah Stein Greenberg of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.  The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design in Germany administers their campus in the United States as the Stanford University "d.school", founded by David Kelley in 2004.



Caroline (a lecturer) and Sarah (managing director) had an excerpt called "Tackling the Mess, One Step at a Time" in the larger article by Tom Kelley and David Kelley, Reclaim Your Creative Confidence.  While I can relate to the five items in the list as valid ways of testing the user experience of your own organisation, I relate even more to the whole concept (often greater than the sum of its parts.)


Tackling the Mess, One Step at a Time



1. Lurk in online forums.


Listen in as potential customers share information, air grievances, and ask questions—it’s the virtual equivalent of hanging around a popular cafĂ©. You’re not looking for evaluations of features or cost; you’re searching for clues about their concerns and desires.

2. Pick up the phone and call your own company’s customer service line.


Walk through the experience as if you were a customer, noting how your problem is handled and how you’re feeling along the way.

3. Seek out an unexpected expert.


What does the receptionist in your building know about your firm’s customer experience? If you use a car service for work travel, what insights do the drivers have about your firm? If you’re in health care, talk to a medical assistant, not a doctor. If you make a physical product, ask a repair person to tell you about common failure areas.

4. Act like a spy.


Take a magazine and a pair of headphones to a store or an industry conference (or, if your customers are internal, a break room or lunch area). Pretend to read while you observe. Watch as if you were a kid, trying to understand what is going on. How are people interacting with your offering? What can you glean from their body language?

5. Casually interview a customer or potential customer.


After you’ve gotten more comfortable venturing out, try this: Write down a few open-ended questions about your product or service. Go to a place where your customers tend to gather, find someone you’d be comfortable approaching, and say you’d like to ask a few questions. If the person refuses? No problem, just try someone else. Eventually you’ll find someone who’s dying to talk to you. Press for more detail with every question. Even if you think you understand, ask “Why is that?” or “Can you tell me more about that?” Get people to dig into their own underlying assumptions.



Plainly stated, I am a Mess Tackler.  It is consistent with everything I have ever done in my life.  Referencing the previous post on this blog about being the Happy Wanderer and Happy Wandering Artist, I draw a linear path through what appears to others as wandering.  I am a Lineaist artist , and a Lineaist is a mess tackler, connecting the dots (mess) into an identifiable outline (tackled).

I laughed out loud when I whole-heartedly realised that every day of my life is a mess, and waking up in the morning and facing another day for me is mess-tackling.  I may not have the most predictable professional path or business model, but that is indicative of this valuable work I was born to do.

I take the uncertainty of my own path in life, redefining my entire identity at least once every two years, as a foundation for subject matter expertise when I help my clients navigate changes in their own lives and with their businesses, using the best practices available like my colleagues at HBR.


Whether it's something mundane like cleaning up my housemates' garage to make room for incoming shelves and a system of order or something born of my own dreams comes true like working for The Difference at PwC, guiding Qantas Pilots through their own uncertainty, I aim to mess-tackle.

Thank you Caroline and Sarah, Tom and David for your work in tackling the world's messes and making Design Thinking a more organised system of processes and results.  I walk the messy path with you of taking my B-School colleagues into our D-School world.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Samag - Community Engagement: Philosophies and Practices

Community Engagement begins with an invitation, and Samag (Seminars for Arts Professionals) has invited members and guests to the Australian Council for the Arts to discuss how the arts is engaging community.  Technology officer Nisa Mackie manipulated Poor Lizzy Galloway's laptop, executing her role with grace and poise as each presenter took to the podium.  It was a packed crowd, like the last Samag event I attended, minus a few inevitable empty seats in the front row.  The front seats were empty, that is, except for a possibly homeless man that arrived, surprising us all at the end!

Fraser Corfield - started his community engagement career in youth arts programs in South Australia, where the population is the oldest per capita countrywide.  Work on an opera project in another language with his youth broadened their horizons and changed their scope of what is reasonable and possible.  Perhaps the most successful story of community engagement for Fraser is his mystery bus tour where kids covered themselves with fake wounds like Zombies and bonded with those in the neighbouring communities by scaring them half to death.  What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!

Lisa Havilah - "Being relevant to a community is being reflective of the community."  Lisa engaged in long-term 5 year strategies, resourced with non-arts partners and public housing communities.  It takes sustained efforts to conduct a program that is not too comfortable, near Campbelltown.  Projects and artworks developed reflect cultural protocols of the communities, ranging from Indian to Tongan.  Carriageworks, where Lisa serves as Director, is committed to long term relationships with artists and the local aboriginal communites in which the space resides in Redfern, the Black Capital of Australia.  The film "I am Eora" is one of the products of this cultural community engagement.

Khaled Sabsabi - Grew up in Auburn, with a background in hip-hop music.  Transitioned into work with youth prisons and NGOs, later through visual arts.  Development vs Engagement:  An artist or practitioner should understand the distinction between the two.  Artists don't choose communities; communities choose artists.  The situation in the community attracts and invites these people into their situation.  An outcome then forms from this process.  Like a legendary hero standing for what his represents, Khaled cut his presentation short to allow more time for questions at the end.

John Kirkman - "Community engagement is about risk.  People live and die about how they engage with community (and engage with technology)" he said, as the projector struggled to keep up with his presentation.  Working with communities is a transaction, as John put it, basically following a standard PESTEL analysis with Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal impacts.  John got my attention when he started talking about aspects of cultural community engagement in the Disco era, including a myriad combinations of sex and drugs.  "War & Peace: Memorial to Disco, Rock and Parramatta" is an archival memento named after a Parramatta dance club that he references regarding an Australian past and history through personal stories and archives as opposed to expert historical analysis.  When John's father drove past a Lebanese area of Granville, he was quoted as saying with disinterest, "Oh look, that's where the Lesbians live." 

Shakthi Sivanathan - Served as MC in a very gentle treatment of the speakers, keeping time and curating good conversation in the following Q&A.  One resounding question Shakthi asks is what can we learn about the engagement of institutions with the community based on the perspective of the panel?  Lisa at Carriageworks states that the organisation's ideas should reflect the ideas of others.  She went on to state that community issues can be content within the construction of community engaged work.  Unabashedly your author broke the ice with the first question from the audience, giving the example of Brett Dizney-Cook and his Face-Up Project with Duke University Center of Documentary Studies in the City of Durham, North Carolina.  This community arts initiative could be managed with bold vigour as past community leaders' portraits as the subject made it easy to align local labour and executed.  

Before the formal closing of the event, the last question came from our friend in the front row making a statement that was so profound the panel responded with enthusiasm.  The man's name is Peter, and his question was regarding the proliferation of popular culture drowning out local community artists.  He asked "Is the impact of popular culture on community art a good thing or a bad thing?"  Fraser answered that it is a useful conduit through which youth can be engaged and mobilised.  As an Elance Mobilizer, I have community engagement resources to share, and am interested in how peer-to-peer marketing programs can interface with the arts community.  This is one example.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A letter to the editor of Anthill magazine


Dear Mr. James Tuckerman,

Thank you for your response to my emails regarding my perception of Anthill as being guilty of defaming the design community.  Perhaps as editor in chief you have not had a rewarding experience to make you value design services.

With all due humility I aim to conduct my own design business in a way that increases the amount of respect our profession deserves.  I'm one of many active members in AGDA and DIA after being an AIGA member in the US before coming to Australia for an MBA degree.

The travesty of design crowdsourcing, like that which you mentioned in your article about facebook's use of such a deplorable service, is that it devalues the quality of the work and threatens the continuity from job to job as someone doing work for free is neither sustainable, nor legal.

The clearest message design crowdsourcing sends is a woeful misunderstanding of the value of design as a profession.  I would show an equal level of ignorance if I created an infographic showing how publications like Anthill would be better managed by crowdsourcing their editorial services.

If you think a graphic like this would be a useful addition to the Anthill publication, I am happy to offer my design services at the lawful award rate through Fair Work Australia, if not the rates my IP Lawyers Finn Roache drafted for $1K after a few hours of their professional service.

Regards,
Jonathan Blackwell, MBA
Lineaist Design

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cloud Computing and Co-working, Hand in Hand

As an independent design professional at the moment, I enjoy a lot of personal freedom.  With that personal freedom comes personal responsibility, and sometimes I struggle with that.  Luckily for creative workers like me, there are tools out there we can use to impose structure on our otherwise fractured and whimsical minds.  In my case, that tool is Elance.



Every since I was fortuitously granted a contract to work with Silicon Valley Startup Trymph, Inc on their word games Spell Me Right and Unscramble This, my work day has always begun with a little plug-in on my computer, Tracker, opening and inviting me to choose which job I will bill my time towards that day.  This program, like the little floating bit in TRON, hovers over my work, taking stock of my performance with regular screenshots.  This keeps me on task, and I know that the work I've done is the work I'm billing, and, more importantly, my client knows this too.



The only problem with working online and all that personal freedom, aside from the inevitable slump between jobs when one job is finished, before another is found, is the loneliness.  I sit in my room and enjoy loud music to overpower the construction going on outside my window, but the construction workers aren't the best company for my profession.  In the global flattening of the world Thomas Friedman describes, I can see a global realm of opportunities, and only perhaps at lower hourly rates to compete with my third world brothers and sisters in the healthy sibling rivalry that evolves in the age of cloud computing.



We come to believe in this realm of virtual servers, virtual desktops, and virtual workrooms, that we can live in a virtual wonderland of opportunity, given the realistic drop in value as the relative lower value of third world workers comes to be recognised as the equal service it may be in some cases.  While everything is going "to the cloud" with remote hosting, even the people are being co-located in the computational heavens, as Elance touts their online work management system of Startups and Freelancers as "The Human Cloud".  Someday we may all be living in the clouds together, but unfortunately I can't ascertain that at the moment.



In the meantime, we are still human, and no human is truly in the cloud(s).  We are in front of our computers (or hopefully away from the computers being inspired to return to the computers and share), and for long periods of time this experience can be quite isolating.  While the work we type, swipe and click away may take us further into our individual professional development, the worker in question must prairie-dog their head above the relative cubicle walls to analyse their surroundings.  Who in this office community will help shepherd your individual work in the right direction?



Because I have no cubicle walls to prairie-dog, and working alone, for me anyway, has it's limitations, I must engage in the community of similar workers with similar feelings and similar longings and needs.  This movement out of my home and into co-located desk space is commonly called the Co-working movement, and I embrace it wholeheartedly.  Going back to what I was saying about Elance as an online work management solution, co-working spaces like HUB Sydney are the other side of that fortuitous coin.



On one hand we have the global supply and demand of work through online platforms.  On the other hand with have inherent human needs for community and companionship.  People must come together to realise their full potential.  Anyone who has played in a team sport, sung in a choir, acted in a play, or served on a board of directors will tell you that.  We already know it.  It takes events like Marissa Mayer, CEO at Yahoo, repealing the work at home policy to get her workforce back together work as a team and pull the company in a new direction.



The exciting part of the coworking movement is that we don't know where that direction is going until we find that local office like WeCo and see what opportunities lie ahead that could not have been realised otherwise, "because working from home sucks".  The more I write this, the more I realise how important it is that we leave our homes as independent workers and join forces as co-workers in arms.  We can't even begin to realise the problems we will solve until we start sharing together and forming the common ground for their solutions.