7 things to think about in 2015

workstupidOooh! Aren’t we naughty?!  See question 7 below.

The following questions have been prompted in the past couple of weeks by many people – some are named at the end of this piece.

1: Are new currencies replacing money?

New currencies are proliferating.  We can use them to acquire things and access services, and we can use them as rewards and incentives. These currencies include reputation, sharing, relevance, participation and such.  We’ve all done “freebie” work projects in order to acquire reputation; and we have given the benefit of participation and training to others in exchange for their work.

But how will all this evolve?  Will these currencies become a bigger part of our lives?  Arthur Brock wrote that “Reputation currencies do NOT operate the same way as monetary currencies. Period.  If you find yourself in a situation where you need a reputation currency (and I would suggest more of you should be finding yourself in that situation than currently are), do not create your reputation system as if it is a monetary system. You do not spend or trade reputation. Once you earn it, it is yours.”

Sadly these currencies don’t pay the rent directly, but we are certainly finding that they appear in both income and expense columns.

2. Is information a material? An Information Age fill-in-the-blank.

In the Stone Age humans made arrowheads to hunt food – out of stone.
In the Bronze Age humans made axes and necklaces – from bronze.
In the Iron Age humans made scissors and kettles – from iron
In the Information Age humans make [fill in the blank] from information.

So…is information a material?

3. Are designers causing more problems than they solve?

Things that we design may beautifully meet a specific need or fulfill a particular function. But very often these results are accompanied by other effects: knock-on effects that we were not looking for and did not anticipate.

“This has been dubbed the ‘cobra effect’, after an anecdote about how a bounty for killing cobras in British India created a perverse incentive for people to breed cobras.” (citation: Wikipedia)

It is the responsibility of designers to use their ethical instinct to try and foresee what these effects might be and design to mitigate bad outcomes. They should lift their eyes from the proximate problem and consider the larger context.  “A designer is responsible as a civic participant on planet earth to ask themselves “Does this thing I am doing make the world a more or less good place to live in?” “

4. “What is the meaning of all this data?”

The data flood issue is still a huge problem. So companies are more and more hiring specialists whose job it is to explain the data and to contextualize it to the team.

5. So what is the new advertising model?

Every company has the opportunity and the obligation to be a media company.  It has to create a product or service that someone becomes obsessed with. Then it has to support that someone’s voice. That is the new advertising model.

6. Is the second screen for niches?

Speaking of the Stone Age, that’s where Paul Berry, CEO of Rebelmouse, says the second screen experience is stuck. He is looking for niche channels on the second screen.  When he’s watching that big game, he’s not interested in a feed that tells him Touchdown!!! but would rather learn from afficionados of the history and tactics of the particular play. He sees niche passions as the developing front – and he has put his money where his mouth is with The Dodo, which is a site for people seriously into the issues of endangered wildlife – the site is growing very fast.

Paul sees Vice as a niche site – “it was like the cool kids in high school – so cool it was dangerous – so dangerous that 1 in 10 would die – so we were curious and Vice flourished in that niche.”

7.  Is Pollock still going on about Company Culture? 

Yes absolutely!I have been seeing more and more companies making videos extolling the virtues of their particular culture.  Already I wonder if this is a signifier of something.  They do like to brag on their ping pong tables and their beer drinking and their camaraderie and their we-don’t work-too-hard-we-have-loads-of-fun vibe.  Then there are the big differentiators: you get your own graphic avatar for example. And that’s the same place where you can get your picture taken on an old orange couch. Woohoo!

All this really makes you wonder who some of them are recruiting?  I guess they’re not looking for people who care about creating their own individual identity – or who have friends already or  who want to strengthen their craft and work with brilliant co-workers and do great work and advance themselves and enhance their capabilities and maybe some day build their own business.   There are certainly many terrific companies that do chase these people: they tend to feature their portfolios rather more than their happy-campers.  So it seems there is a lot to be learned from these videos.

Finally – how about the adorably self-conscious irony of that corporate About Us vid that shows a huge close-up of a tote bag emblazoned Work is Stupid.

Thanks: People who have contributed unwittingly to these capsules include Paul Berry of Rebelmouse, John Abell of LinkedIn, Lockhart Steele of Vox, Eric Wattenberg of CAA, Craig Metros of Ford, Ingrid Fetell of Ideo, Allan Chochinov of SVA, and Steve Schlafman of RRE Ventures and Rama Chorpash of Parsons. And Gotham Media and IDSA. My thanks to them and to all of you who keep me on my toes.