13 Aug, 2014 – 4 comments
I’ve been reading a lot of comic books recently (the iPad was made for it) and have been a lifelong Superman nerd. Here’s my own idea for a non-cannon plot. By the way, can you tell this site is just for my personal ramblings now? You should at this point.
It’s been years since Superman has had to save the Earth.
Luthor has been reformed. Brainiac is a distant memory. Doomsday is defeated once and for all. Darkseid destroyed himself and his own planet in the process. Even ordinary crime is down. Batman is in retirement (if you can call it that). The Green Lantern Corps has left the solar system to patrol other regions of the universe. Wonder Woman has returned to Themyscira to rebuild the Amazon empire.
If Superman were ordinary, he’d be middle-aged by now. He’s married to Lois. He no longer keeps up his secret identity as Clark Kent. The world has accepted him. He is finally coming to terms with no longer being the alien, no longer feeling isolated from those he protects.
Then, of course, things change. He wakes up one morning to the world burning down around him. Seemingly, a distant star has gone supernova, bathing our planet in gamma rays which traveled near the speed of light, scorching the thin layer of atmosphere around our rocky home before any warning could be issued. Like Krypton before it, the Earth is no more. Lois is no more. He screams but there is no atmosphere to carry his grief.
Superman stands now only among ash and rubble. No villain to fight. No justice to uphold. He is alone, now more than ever before. The God with the soul of a man, with all of his powers, finally realizes how powerless he truly is as he scrambles for some way to undo this event. Eventually, he realizes his fate and the fate of his doomed world are sealed.
So he leaves the Earth, the husk that it is now. He travels beyond our galaxy. At first, just to be far away from the memory of it all. Then, to find some place to rest, maybe some place to have a purpose again – a society to protect and to grieve amongst. He can’t imagine starting over, but his sense of duty, his sense of justice won’t let him stay unmoored.
After several tries, he finds a civilization amongst new stars. They are humanoid and thus, he can blend in. He lives his first few months there pretending to be ordinary, to understand the culture, the rituals, the new way of life. But of course, he is Superman. After his first feat of heroism, word spreads and the people declare him to be a God. Never have those words been more hollow to him. He begins to regret ever thinking he could settle into a new life. His guilt for being a survivor, twice over, consumes him. He imagines how he might fail this world.
And then he sees a familiar symbol. The Green Lantern Corps protect this region of space and make a routine clandestine visit. But they bring with them unimaginable news. It wasn’t a supernova which destroyed the Earth, it was an object in deep space with an intelligence even the corps can’t comprehend. Superman wasn’t the victim of a random force of Nature, he was the target of an assassin’s weapon. Dozens of Green Lanterns have already tried to reach the object and did not return. Meanwhile, turmoil on Superman’s new home planet has reached a fever pitch – society is struggling with the thought of a super being among them. Disorder and chaos ensue.
Superman now faces an impossible decision. Does he venture into deep space to confront the entity which destroyed the Earth, destroyed Lois, and likely perish in the process? Or does he stay and protect the people of his new home and attempt to undo the damage he inadvertently caused with his presence?
11 Aug, 2014 – leave a comment
In 2011, I proposed a user’s bill of rights for sites built upon the labor and networks of its users.
Since then, tech valuations have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, feature sets for many of these platforms have gotten simpler. It’s never been clearer that the value being transacted is in the users, the content they create, and the networks they bring with them.
I’d like to head to SXSW next year and work towards an explicit contract between a platform and its users – and a means to demand it.
To do that, I need your vote. Consider it, please.
02 Aug, 2014 – 2 comments
I am a 31 year old man, now nearly 32 years of age. I’m as shocked as you might be.
My 20′s were spent living what could best be described as bedouin isolation. I had the luxury to live in Austin, Chicago, Manhattan (then Brooklyn), Boulder, Florida, and finally Los Angeles. Well, my body made the trips. My mind, mostly, remain fixated on itself.
I am, as I said, in my early thirties, and my perception of life has changed much more dramatically since my twenties than I could have expected. I live in Los Angeles, married now to an extraordinary woman, who came with a dog that’s now part best friend, part child to me. Luckily, my days end and begin with the both of them. I’ve been in this apartment longer than anywhere I’ve lived since my childhood home. I even own pieces of furniture that came pre-assembled. I’m trying to jump start my own office of an established company (and in the process becoming more like my father than I could have imagined). I worry about sales and about spending time with my wife that isn’t colored by my worrying over sales.
I’ve been jotting down random thoughts lately on what this new decade of my life has asked of me that the last decade didn’t.
For one, maintenance. My body is a poor excuse for what it once was. If I allow myself to actually look below the neck in a reflection, I shudder at thoughts of the gym, time seemingly wasted running on a treadmill or in some other form of repetition. My relationships require maintenance, too. My closest and most sacred relationship, to the woman I married, is the one I stress most over. She is so incredibly important to me, and her own character deserves that I be my whole self in front of her. Possessions, too. I suddenly have things which require I keep them humming, or cleaned, or otherwise lubricated. I have to flip mattresses, vacuum under couches, and actually clean the microwave now. It’s intolerable.
Related to maintenance, I now find myself without a shred of discipline. In my twenties, I could make a snap decision and suddenly I was going to become a passionate expert in some new esoteric discipline, or decide to cut out some evil in my diet and would without trouble be one of those smug dieters. I could draw any line in the sand and easily remain on the other side of it. Now, I mostly want to eat the food that tastes good, drink the drinks that feel good, and do whatever sounds good. I just hope that in my forties, the firemen that cut me out of my home will do so with respect and discretion.
Presence. As I said, I lived my 20′s, mentally, in the comfort and, at times confinement, of my own head. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression most of my life. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed of that anymore. I see it as a chronic condition that occasionally flares up and demands more of my attention. I also see it as a part of who I am, it has shaped me in both positive and negative ways. It has taught me most of all to be kind to others, to understand that anyone I pass on the street is at war with their own emotions, that they could be injuring themselves with their own thoughts. With that in mind, I’ve recently begun a practice of mindfulness, as you do in LA, where I practice being present so that however long I have to be here with the rest of you, I can spend that time living the life in front of me, rather than my perceptions about what’s passed or to come.
As my practice has developed, I find myself at times whispering or thinking a short, non-theistic, prayer. It goes something like this. May I be present in this moment. May I be safe, protected from both inner and outer harm. May I be at ease in my mind and in my body. May I live in peace with the world around me, free from judgement and kind to whatever or whomever I encounter. Finally, with all of this in my mind and in my heart, may I be happy in this moment.
Don’t worry, dear reader, I am not about to start dressing myself in all white, hemp woven garbs, or cross the country with bare feet. I’m as weary of hippies as the next Texan. I simply want to be able to write a similar post to this when I turn 40 (assuming I’m still a living fourth dimensional traveler at that time) and it not be a sad retelling of a popular Talking Heads’ song.
Click that link, it’s a great outro. Otherwise, this post kind of sputters to an end. Life, though, goes on.
29 Jul, 2014 – leave a comment
It boggles my mind that, in my neighborhood, we monitor our heart rate, order food (and it even shows up), spend money frivolously to unlock new levels on games, watch any kind of pornography we can imagine (and some we never would), and get news from anywhere on the planet – all (simultaneously if you’re good) on our phones, devices themselves that are nearly unexplainable.
Meanwhile, in another neighborhood around the globe, for reasons too complex to truly understand, some people struggle for food, resort to eating monkeys and bats, lack a modern understanding of disease altogether, and face one of the deadliest pathogens our species has yet encountered.
Economic inequality is something we talk a lot about these days in my country. Perhaps we should also be focused on the widening, nearly-incomprehensible, and potentially destructive educational inequality in the world, too.
If not for the sake of the other neighborhood, for the sake of our apps then.
23 Jul, 2014 – leave a comment
This blog is at a fork in the road, and you dear reader are as well.
If you want posts at the intersection of technology, marketing, organization design, culture, etc – you might want to read and subscribe to Responsive.org from now on. Also follow it on Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads.
If you want posts that meander from topic to topic, mostly centered on me struggling to be a rounded (yet not rotund) human being, keep reading WhatConsumesMe.com and come back soon for fresh content.
That is all. You’ve officially been warned.
20 Apr, 2014 – leave a comment
With inaccurate reporting, salacious headlines, and rampant speculation, I decided to dig into what Nike’s departure from wearable hardware really means. Check it out.
08 Apr, 2014 – leave a comment
We just relaunched Undercurrent.com. Tell everyone.
31 Mar, 2014 – leave a comment
Readers, I’ve moved!
If you want to follow my thoughts, get thee to Responsive.org.
Our editorial mission is simple: find people across the globe that are struggling to change their organizations for the better and do everything we can to help them.
I might still post here from time to time, but it’s likely to become more personal.
24 Mar, 2014 – leave a comment
What if Elon Musk ran a major Hollywood studio?
What could Hollywood learn from design thinking, agile software development, lean manufacturing, and sociocracy? What do edge cases like Veronica Mars mean for Hollywood’s future? How worried should the movie business be about House of Cards, True Detective, and Breaking Bad? What about Oculus Rift? What about gaming?
What’s the studio of the future going to look like? How is the movie of the future developed and distributed? What needs to change and who is poised to win and who is destined to lose?
Do those questions tantalize you? Come help me answer them. I’m looking for 2-4 strategic brains to wrestle this topic with me over the coming few weeks. Geography is irrelevant. Entertainment experience is a plus. Tenacity and persistence mean most of all. An education in Responsive OS comes with the process.
Signup to help at Responsive.org. More details will follow.
13 Mar, 2014 – 9 comments
Three months ago, I quit the ad industry.
I withdrew from a talented tribe of makers and thinkers at my agency. I left a team of my own creation that stood out in the industry. I turned my back on a handful of accolades and recognition. After years spent banging the drum of invention in the ad world, I put my mallets down and walked away.
I was hired to champion and produce a new kind of creative output, but ultimately, my biggest challenge wasn’t better briefs, better talent, or even better ideas. With a team effort, the work got better. We hired some amazing people. The not-so-amazing people eventually left. My group, and our work, wasn’t always accepted – that’s true. Like a transplanted kidney, the organization struggled to not reject us. But still, this wasn’t really the problem that drove me out.
It was the clients. They were awful.
But it wasn’t their fault. Most of my clients were kind, curious, and generally optimistic people. Their organizations, though, were not kind, curious, or at all optimistic, especially about innovation or change. Processes and structures which valued consistency and control, even over adaptation and agility, killed good ideas before they could be tested. And with those ideas, the joy and excitement of invention perished with it.
There was the CMO who told us he couldn’t touch the physical store. The entire marketing department saddled with lackluster products, unrealistic sales goals, and no innovation budget. The operations staff who were told to do anything to save a company from going bankrupt, so long as ‘anything’ had nothing to do with changing their products. The brand team that was told they could only invest in ‘working media,’ even after earlier experiments actually grew their business. The legion of marketing managers given less budget and higher expectations year after year. Only on very few occasions, after months of sustained effort, did we ever carry an idea to term. Our clients simply gave up trying to win their own political battles. We were fresh inmates trying to convince resigned convicts to attempt escape.
Fortune 500 companies have such incredible power to reach the masses, do good on their behalf, and generally improve their lives. I’m still attracted to that scale. But if we want to do more with that influence than just fill a media space, if we want to reward more than consistency, if we actually want to be partners with our clients in the creation of something new and amazing that only continues to grow and improve, we must redesign our client’s organizations along with our own. And I couldn’t do that within the walls of an ad agency.
So, after a few weeks of poor sleep, stress, and guilt, I embarked on this new mission and opened Undercurrent, Los Angeles (returning to a company I loved and left). In just a couple of months, my hunch that bad orgs are a widespread problem has been wholly validated. Companies today are using an operating model that emerged alongside the national railroad system. Imagine if you could only send emails to your colleagues via Pony Express – that’s the level of mismatch of tool to environment that most companies are stuck with. The web has created a hot, flat, noisy, and connected world, a world of exponential change, and most organizations are stuck in the dried amber of a bygone era. Undercurrent has spent the last seven years studying the inner workings of a set of fringe organizations that have become mainstream (Zappos, Tesla, Twitter, Medium, Netflix, Valve, Google, and others), and have identified a series of practices and core values that make an organization responsive – able to do more and change faster in the face of overwhelming complexity.
These companies are lean, mean, learning machines. They have an intense bias to action and a tolerance for risk, expressed through frequent experimentation and relentless product iteration. They hack together products and services, test them, and improve them, while their legacy competition edits PowerPoint. They are obsessed with company culture and top tier talent, with an emphasis on employees that can imagine, build, and test their own ideas. They are maniacally focused on customers. They are hypersensitive to friction – in their daily operations and their user experience. They are open, connected, and build with and for their community of users and co-conspirators. They are comfortable with the unknown – business models and customer value are revealed over time. They are driven by a purpose greater than profit.
Our mission is to help every influential organization on the planet become a responsive organization. This will require new tools, new internal champions, new shared ideas, and new reserves of persistence and patience to be accomplished. First, we need to be able to measure this shift in order to affect it (you need a yardstick to know how far away from something you are). To that end, we’ve just published our first Responsive OS Audit using a company’s public data. Read (and please share) our open letter to Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer. We’re also testing and refining an internal survey tool to pair with this public assessment.
Soon, I’m going to retire this blog to focus my writing solely on the topic of Responsive Organizations. While I’ve fostered a small but incredibly supportive community of readers here, I’m now specifically searching for clients hungry for change, and change-makers eager to get their hands dirty. If you’re reading this and thinking, “THAT’S ME!” then please sign-up to join our mission at our interim site. If you sign up, I’ll let you know when the new site is live and how you can participate (potentially even working with us on projects).
Every new beginning comes with its own excitement, stress, and uncertainty. I could use all the help I can get toward our mission, and for all of our sakes, I’m not above asking for that help.